Blueprints for Planning and Development: Prof. Japes Bera
Team Monday Morning recently had a conversation the newly appointed Dean of Planning and Development, Prof. Japes Bera from the Department of Ceramic Engineering who was previously the head of his department as well as the Student Activity Centre. In his conversation with Team Monday Morning, Prof. Bera provides answers to various pertinent questions related to the infrastructural domain of the institute, thereby clearing many apprehensions. Here are a few excerpts from the interview:
Team Monday Morning(MM): Team Monday Morning congratulates you for taking up the position of Dean, Planning, and Development(P&D). Being one of the senior-most faculty members of NIT Rourkela, you have held several responsible positions and have extended your services. Please tell us about your journey as a teacher and a mentor.
Prof. Japes Bera(JB): I have greatly enjoyed this transition from position to position and day to day during my stay at NIT Rourkela as a professor. However, I am still primarily a teacher. I take theory courses, sessional course and work with many Ph.D. students thereby taking the full academic load in addition to the administrative roles. All of this has given me a lot of experience and acquaintance which I have started relishing now. I have learned to manage my time and distribute it wisely to provide justice to all the position of responsibilities I simultaneously hold. I work on my sponsored projects, guide my Ph.D. students and also make time for my family.
As a professor, it is important to manage my time and resources judiciously for the proper functioning of various offices I hold.
MM: What are some plans underway for the development of the institute? How has the infrastructure on campus improved since you’ve taken up the office of Dean, P&D?
JB: I have taken over the position of the Dean in the month of July 2017. After this, no new project has been taken up. We have received an order from the Ministry of Human Resources and Development(MHRD) that no new project should be started without the completion of the existing projects. Right now, Shapoorji and Pallonji who have been given the contract, are taking care of the construction. The budget for the ongoing construction is INR 302 crores out of which the work amounting to around INR 240 crores is already done and the payments have been made. Although the projects have started a long time ago, the lack of allocation of budget from the central government has slowed the work down, especially in the fiscal year 2015-16. Now, we have sufficient funds, so the projects should soon come to an end.
MM: What is the current status of the LA-II and Mechanical Sciences building? By what time can we expect them to get finished with its construction. How can your office subsequently increase the infrastructural activities that have been observed to move at a rather slow pace?
JB: The Lecture Annexure-II and the Mechanical Sciences building should be handed over to us by March 31st as most of the work has actually been done. One issue that has now come up though is that when the agreement was initially drawn up, an AC plant was not mentioned. However, all the ducting and all the equipment needed for AC to function i.e. low-end equipment has been included in the buildings. Without an AC plant, however, we cannot test the low-end equipment without the high-end equipment. Hence, we cannot take the building without testing this facility. To rectify this, we are trying to procure equipment for the AC plant which would cost around 50-60 crores. However, the government is opposing as they feel this project is being dragged and will only issue the funds once all existing projects are finished. We are still trying to convince them. On the 28th of March, we have a meeting with the Building Works Committee(BWC) and we will put forth our stance and propose the installation of the AC plant. If given the nod, the AC plant will take around 6 months to be completed. As of now, nothing has been confirmed but we have invited several experts to give us a solution. Another possible solution is that we currently have an AC plant, although it is not working to its full capacity. So, we can take chilled water from this plant and test the equipment in the LA-II and the Mechanical Sciences building.
MM: What is the status of the much-awaited Golden Jubilee Building?
JB: The Golden Jubilee building is well on its way to completion. However, an issue that has been raised is that although the entire building contract was given to Sapoonji & Pallonjii, this contract did not include the partition walls within the building. Although the beam and slab structure is there, there is an issue with the construction of rooms on the inside. However, the problem has now been resolved as Sapoonji has agreed to take on the construction as an additional work.
MM: What are some of the other ongoing projects in the institute? When are they expected to be finished? Also, when can we expect issues like the elevator in the Main building to be taken care of?
JB: The same contractors are also taking care of a 2-bedroom housing project, a 3-bedroom housing project for faculty and a hostel for married students. The 3 BHK flats have already been handed over to the institute and some faculty is already occupying it. Everything is going on smoothly, except there is an issue with the elevators in these buildings along with the Golden Jubilee Building. The elevators were not included in the agreement with the contractors. So, NIT Rourkela will have to take care of the elevators. Although there is a cavity in the building for an elevator, the elevator itself is not included. There are a few things that are pending which the contractors have agreed to do with time. Likewise, the 2 BHK flats will be handed over to us in the coming week whereas the hostel will be completed by July 31st,2018. This may take a little bit of time as the official process is quite long and time demanding. The machinery for the elevators is already there and installation is happening in the 2BHK and 3 BHK flats.
Similarly, the elevator in the Main building has been dismantled and the new one will be installed after the completion of the work in the flats. This will most likely be done by the month of April. After this, the lifts will be installed in the Golden Jubilee Building.
MM: What about the construction of a new hall of residence for women, given the lack of rooms and space in the present two halls.
JB: We have already negotiated a loan worth approximately INR 300 crores with the MHRD. One-third of the budget i.e INR 100 crores will be used for instrumental facility upgradation, while the rest INR 200 crores will be used up in refurbishing the infrastructure facility on campus. The new buildings which were mainly propounded are:
- Two one-thousand seaters hall of residences (each one for men and women)
- An indoor sports stadium and
- An outreach center at Bhubaneswar has been sanctioned a sum of INR 21 crores.
The funds supplied will be in form of a loan, and a small amount needs to be repaid on a regular basis for a long duration of time. Henceforth, this proposal will be presented on 28th March in Building Works Committee which will then be further confirmed in subsequent BOG meeting
MM: There has been a lot of talk regarding the construction of an indoor sports stadium. What is the status of that project?
JB: The Indoor Sports Stadium is currently in the pipeline. When a new proposal is made, it must be first approved by the BWC in the institute. We have proposed a budget of INR 30 crores and the BWC has passed it. After this, the Board Of Governors(BOG) have passed it as well and the MHRD representative in the BOG has told us that we can start the work after the existing projects are all completed. So, meanwhile, we are taking care of other procedure. We have decided to give the jobs via the Central Government Public Works Department(CPWD). The CPWD has agreed to do this job and we are currently in the process of signing a MoU. There was a meeting on the 12th of March with the CPWD and the details have been finalized for this stadium. The work will start as soon as the existing projects are completed.
MM: Very often, it is found that the number of classrooms allotted inside Chemical Department is meager for the proper functioning of classes and often clashes take place.When can we expect the Department of Food Processing to get a separate building of their own since the space shortage is hampering the procurement of machines in laboratories?
JB: I agree with this fact, and we understand the spatial crisis Food Process Engineering Department must be facing. Although it isn’t present in our current BWC agenda, I would at least propose its relocation in the meeting. As the Mechanical Engineering department will soon be vacated, it may be feasible to shift the Food Processing Department there.
MM: What steps are being taken to increase the feasibility for physically handicapped students in various departments, especially LA and halls?
JB: The new buildings under construction will all have lifts to get it approved by the government auditors. The lifts will get installed even in G+3 buildings to make it feasible for the physically impaired students to attend their classes hassle free. In the halls of residences, students will be allocated rooms on the ground floor to make their overall stay at NIT Rourkela comfortable.
MM: Are any steps being taken for the improvement of the present state of the lawn tennis court, Basketball court, the DTS with regard to sprinkling facilities, construction of a boundary wall in the periphery of the PT USHA complex. What about the renovation of the STSC complex, the floodlights which face major maintenance issues, courts for news sports, etc.
JB: A budget of INR 60-70 lacs has already been sanctioned to renovate lawn tennis and basketball court.Along with this, a new basketball court will also be furnished in the upcoming indoor sports stadium. Likewise, the Saching Tendulkar Sports and PT Usha Complex renovations do not require huge funds hence can be completed soon. But, I understand they will be of great help to the students and I will ensure it is done as soon as possible.
MM: As the mercury level is slowly rising, students along with faculty have a hard time in the classrooms. When can we expect the ACs to be installed in LA and be fully operative?
JB: They will definitely be installed in a span of one month. Due to the delay in some office procedures, work orders are still not received by the estate office. However, we are trying to get the work done at the earliest possible.
MM: There has been a lot of maintenance issues both during fests and in an old building in general. Many students have also complained about the lack of cooperation from the Estate Office. How can these conflicts be solved?
JB: The main issue in solving maintenance troubles on campus is due to acute shortage of non-teaching staff. The shortage of manpower leads to the hiring of the workforce on contractual basis at various levels in the institute. We’ll be filling up the vacancies of non-teaching by advertising during summers this year since we now have adequate funds to caters the needs of maintenance staff owing to the huge campus and facilities in NIT Rourkela. We are also in constructive talks with BWC to give contractual jobs for an entire year to a single party. The maintenance departments, also called, estate offices are responsible for supervising the infrastructural development but the actual groundwork is done by contractors who cause the major delay be it during fests or in general repairments.
Halls of Residences already have been directly alotted with civil and electrical contractors to avoid delay via estate office procedures. In a similar way, contractors will be allotted to Sports Officer in SAC to fasten the process.
I will personally make sure that the contractors strictly adhere to the guidelines and report regularly to the concerned personnel.
MM: Hostel area faces power issues too often, even during exam time. Can’t your office do something on this aspect?
JB: Power cuts are not the internal fault of the institute, it is the power station located outside which are actually responsible. We have a provision for power backups in the entire academic area but the same cannot be implemented for the residential area though we still have power backups for street light there.
MM: What is your vision for the office of the Dean, P&D? What aspirations you have about NITR’s Development while taking up the office of Dean P&D. What unique and innovative projects he is trying to implement.
JB: After joining the Planning and Development office I found that many ongoing projects were delayed due to transaction and fund issues. Files weren’t getting passed and transferred due to delay in payment. I have been trying my best to make this process smooth by the administration under my jurisdiction.
I am trying my level best to finish all the existing projects so we can start the new ones at the earliest possible and take the infrastructure of NIT Rourkela to new heights.