New Ventures and Old Elucidations
With the end of the academic year fast approaching, Team MM got a chance to meet up with the Honorable Director, Prof. Animesh Biswas for the last edition of Director’s Desk for this year. Given below is an extract from his interview regarding the latest proceedings in our institute.
MM: There was a plan to increase the mess fees by 20 INR per day to improve the quality of the food. Is it going to be implemented? If yes, by when will it be done?
AB: I want to open a national level tender in order to attract better caterers. At present, all the caterers are local to this area and there is no competition among them. I think more competition among caterers will result in better quality of food for the boarders in halls. I also want to implement a centralized mess menu. On the top of this, if students want extra food, they will be given the provision to purchase it. In order to make this happen, students need to pay a bit more than the current mess fess. I am planning to do this from the beginning of the next session.
MM: What are the plans for the indoor sports stadium? When is the construction set to begin? And what inspired to take up the new project?
AB: I would like to finish the construction of the indoor stadium within the duration of my tenure, which will end in 2021. The MOU is set to be signed very soon for this project. The Building and Works Committee has already approved of the construction and it has been passed in the BOG meeting as well. The only condition given by the BOG was that this construction can begin once all the existing projects are finished. All of the existing projects are expected to end by the end of July.
MHRD has also changed its process of funding. Instead of giving the sum of money at once as a grant, they are now doing it project-wise. MHRD will now fund the entire project. The money for this stadium will be sanctioned in two months. The design for the stadium is completed and it has also been circulated among students to know about their response. The indoor stadium will be equipped with top-notch facilities such as the squash courts, badminton court, basketball courts and even rock climbing and roller skating arenas. The plan also includes entertainment rooms where concerts or sports matches can be screened. There is an open-air theatre as well.
MM: In your last interview, you had mentioned that you wanted to make the dispensary available 24*7? What is the progress with that? When is it going to happen?
AB: The plan to make the dispensary 24*7 available is one of my top priorities. Right now there are only three doctors and it would be impossible to run a 24-hour service with them. Earlier I had proposed the conversion of some vacant posts (like a technical officer) to the post of a doctor in the dispensary. By doing this we can get more doctors but this proposal was rejected in the BOG meeting. However, I will be proposing this idea once again because it’s very crucial for an institute like ours to have a 24x7 operational dispensary.
MM: With the end of the academic year approaching rapidly, do you think the initiative to change the curriculum has been successful?
AB: I have heard that the first-year students have not fared very well in the last semester. But I believe that the remedial classes conducted by the Counseling Cell were of great help for the students of the first year. We need to understand that for any change of this scale, especially when its made for a large number of students and professors, a bit of time is required to make the entire process smooth.
However, students should be happy as the system is more flexible now. New options such as branch change and minor degree have also been made available for them.
MM: A plan was proposed to put more emphasis on the research for Under Graduate students starting from their second year? What are the recent developments in the plan?
AB: In our country, we have a huge talent pool, but our universities don’t break into the top 100 positions in the world rankings. The Government of India is giving huge scholarships to push research among students, especially in NITs and IITs. Now, coming to our institute a plan was proposed to put emphasis on the B.Tech. project from the 2nd year itself rather than focussing on it only in the 4th year. But, I had another idea in which I wanted to make the B.Tech. thesis optional. By doing this we will ensure that only those who are really dedicated will work for their thesis. This idea was however dropped after discussion with the committee and we are yet to reach a conclusion on this.
MM: The institute’s NIRF ranking has dropped to 15th as opposed to last year’s 12th? What do you think has played a factor in this? What can be done in the upcoming year to bring the ranking back up?
AB: Although our rank has dropped in the engineering category, our rank has improved in the overall university rankings. These rankings are just a bunch of numbers. From what I have seen, we lost the most number of points in perception category. However, we gained a lot of points on the research front. No NIT is even close to us in terms of research, including NIT Trichy. At the end of the day, I can only give the best infrastructure and facilities but it is up to the faculty and students to push NITR to a good place.
MM: Some complaints have been raised by the students about professors not showing up to classes? Can a check and balance system be implemented to ensure that this doesn’t happen?
AB: Over the past one year, I have tried to change this scenario a lot. I do random checks on a regular basis and each time I find that some professors are not present in their classes. But as one person, there is only so much I can do alone. I think the situation has improved starkly over the past one year. I don’t expect every faculty to be a good teacher. Those who have a passion for teaching will always fare to be better teachers. But it is essential that all of them come to the class regardless of their interest towards teaching as it is their duty.
MM: What is the update on the railway concession form?
AB: There are some logistical issues with the railway concession form. We are supposed to go to Chakradarpur which is quite far away and a remote location. So, this process isn’t happening very smoothly. We will still try to make it happen. I have requested the Registrar’s office to look into this matter. They keep telling me that the location of the office is leading to a lot of issues, but I will make a follow-up on this.
MM: There has been a plan to set up CCD on campus. When will this happen? And what’s the progress as of now?
AB: The students, as well as the faculties, want to have a CCD on campus. The committee dealing with this has identified the location and decided upon the infrastructure required for the construction. The project has been approved by the BWC as well as the BOG and I anticipate that its construction will begin as soon as the prerequisites are fulfilled. It is supposed to come up near Moksha Express and will be catering to the NITR junta with items available at subsidized rates.
MM: When can we expect the completion of the ongoing infrastructural projects like the Golden Jubilee building and the Mechanical Sciences building?
AB: I have insisted them to complete the construction of the Golden Jubilee building by 31st July. If things go as per the plan, it will be completed or else it will definitely be completed by the end of October. The Mechanical Sciences building is also supposed to be completed by the end of the month of July and coming to the one bedroom apartments, we are hoping that its construction will be completed by the end of April.
MM: There have been no updates on the SAC website so what is the status of that? Also, many clubs have expressed problems with the complex reimbursement of funds. Can some initiatives be taken to make the process more smooth sailing?
AB: I think you should ask the SAC President about the dormancy of the website. The reimbursement of funds is not a complex process provided the procedure is followed properly. The students do not adhere to the guidelines due to which they face problems to get their bills reimbursed.
MM: During exams, it is often found that the reading room of the library is quite crowded. Is an expansion possible? Also, why isn’t the library made 24*7 accessible?
AB: I have already talked to the librarian about it; we plan on breaking a portion of the wall in between and thus using the adjacent rooms to expand the available space. I will propose the idea to make the library accessible until midnight during exams in the board meeting and then act accordingly.
MM: What is the current status of the Central Laboratory that was under the jurisdiction of Prof. Mukesh Gupta? What facilities will be available in it?
AB: The Central Instruments Facility (CIF) is an initiative to make the high-end lab equipment available to all the students in the institute easily; rather than making them go through the professors in order to use them. We have tried to procure high-end equipment and we plan to install them in the TIIR building. An entire floor will be reserved for this purpose. It will take about two months to get the funds sanctioned from MHRD.
MM: When NBA visited last time, they had raised objections about the state of undergraduate laboratories. Did they comment anything when they came for evaluation this year? What other observations did they make this time?
AB: The NBA team came only to evaluate the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. We did well in their review. The only issue they pointed out was with the faculty-student ratio. They gave us a time cap of two years to better the ratio, fulfilling which we can get a five-year accreditation.
MM: What is the status of the improvement of the unkempt perimeter of P.T. Usha Sports complex?
AB: We will be having a common boundary wall for the volleyball court and the lawn tennis court. We are planning to extend the lawn-tennis court boundaries. A plan has also been approved to modernize the lawn-tennis complex and inculcate better sporting facilities. The idea to extend the boundary wall of P.T. Usha Sports Complex is also a part of this plan.
MM: A fund of 3 Crores INR was allocated by MHRD for hygiene and sanitation. How is it utilized?
AB: The funds were allocated only for the hostels. Its utilization will start soon. To the best of my knowledge, tendering has been completed or is in the final stage. The work will probably start during the summer holidays.
MM: A food inspection committee was set up, which was assigned with the duty of investigating the hygiene standards in different hostel mess and eateries on campus. What was the outcome of its investigation and who was a part of the committee?
AB: The report hasn’t been sent to me yet. Once I receive and analyze the reports, I will let you know about the outcome of their investigation. Prof. Rupam Dinda is the chairman of the food inspection committee.
MM: Currently feedback is taken from the students at the end of the semester. Can this be done in the middle of the semester so that steps can be taken in the course of the semester to solve the problem?
AB: It seems like a good idea. You can talk to the Dean (Academics) if he finds it feasible enough he will propose this in a Deans and HODs meeting.
MM: Recently there was a change in class timings for the summer months, owing to the hot weather, but this plan was rebuffed after a day of its implementation, why did that happen? Will we have the proposed timing for next year, with more thought going into it?
AB: A lot of difficulties were pointed out by the students with regard to the timings being changed. It wasn’t thought about in a proper manner. One of the points put forth by the students was that they were worried about the subsequent effect on the mess timings. In the case that we change mess timings, we would be forcing students into a difficult food routine. So, on the request of the students, we shifted back to the usual timings.
If we can make the LA complex air conditioned next year, then I don’t think a change of timing will be desired.