Bittersweet Fest: ISM 2k15

After lots of speculation and dilemma, whether at all the ISM (International Students’ Meet) 2015 is going to take place or not, the final fest of the academic year took place as mentioned in the institute calendar from 6th to 8th March marking the occasion of Holi, the Indian festival of Colours.

With lots of apprehensions over the fest being “international”, the convenors did a marvellous job within an immense short period of time to bring 100 foreign students from 13 different countries namely, Afghanistan, Nepal, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Iran, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Yemen, Ethiopia, Colombia, Syria, Mozambique and Sudan. However, it was dismaying to see only a mere 50 participants from India. Even the majority of NITR community were missing from the campus as they went home during the extended weekend due to Holi.

Delay in selection of Conveners
Unlike previous years, this year the conveners were selected approximately less than a month before ISM by Prof. Ramakar Jha (faculty convener of ISM) himself alone while the same was done in the middle of November by a mutual decision of SAC (Student Activity Centre) and Prof. Jha in the years before. Actually Prof. Jha was due to leave NITR at the end of the previous semester and if that was the case, he would not have been able to become the convener of ISM. However no substitute was decided at that point of time by the director. Hence Prof. Jha’s transfer was delayed due to some reason or the other and he will be heading towards NIT Patna on 7th May 2015.
Coming to the selection of student conveners of ISM, the process was constantly delayed owing to the various activities like Multi-Ethnic Fest, Innovision, Nitrutsav and many other activities. Finally, the responsibility fell upon Prof. Jha and he made the selection as soon as possible. But Prof. Jha defies believing that SAC is responsible for the delay or in other words he justified the delay by saying,

     SAC is overburdened with work.

However, it is tough to understand how the various fests and activities can burden the SAC if there are four different societies headed by 2 Vice-Presidents (faculties) and 2 conveners and 6 secretaries.

Shifting of date
The student conveners faced a lot of difficulties in organising the meet in such a short period of time after their official selection as conveners with the mid-semester exams scheduled in between. According to the student conveners, the date was not shifted in spite of requesting the director.
Prof. Jha explained that it was the trend to start the ISM on the day of Holi, being the national festival of colours, though last year was an exception. He condemned the idea of NITR junta going home as he strongly believes that the ones really interested in the meet would have surely turned up. He also added that the shifting of date was not a feasible option going out the academic calendar which is prepared in the beginning of the academic year in July-August. The calendar is disobeyed only in cases of disasters. In that case Prof. Jha feels that if the students have a proper vision as when it is to be organised to make the events a big success, they should convey their suggestions during the preparation of the calendar. A strong excuse for not shifting the date was that at the last moment if the dates were changed the participation would have been even lower especially from the foreign countries.

Low Participation
Bringing international students within a month’s time to NITR is indeed a big deal. Still getting a participation of 100 foreign students is a great job done by the conveners as they would like to put it compared to 130-140 in other years despite preparing for months. Initially 250-300 foreign students agreed to attend the meet but in the end only 100 turned up while others could not visit the institute in Rourkela for various reasons or the other, short span of time and exams being two of them. Examinations were also a major problem for roping in participation from NITs and IITs as well.
There were many complains of events getting cancelled especially the technical ones and many events suffered because very low number of participants. According to Prof. Jha,

     The purpose of ISM is to provide a stage to the Indian students especially the students of NITR to interact with the foreign students.

He feels that this year it was quite up to its aim unlike previous years where the participation increases by bringing in local students from schools and many private colleges. Similarly, as the foreigners were more interested in the cultural events, the participation was extremely low in other events specially the technical ones owing to the absence of Indian visitors and lack of NITR junta.

A combined suggestion was put forward by the student conveners and Prof. Jha, ISM could be organised in a much better and easier way if it is scheduled in January when the abroad students come to India to spend their holidays specifically from December to January. Otherwise the communication from Rourkela to other countries is quite a hectic journey.

Budget allocation and sponsorship
The glitch with last year’s celebrity night eventually ended in a heavy financial loss of the institute resulting in a mere allocation of INR 9 lacs for this year’s ISM. However, on requesting the director another INR 4 lacs were added to the account. This was one of the major reasons for the poor decoration during the fest and even the stage was prepared very poorly. Prof. Jha believes that there should be an annual enhancement of budget by 10-15%.
However, talks were on about E-bay and Line sponsoring the ISM, both of them backed out at the last moment and the fest was conducted without any sponsors. According to Prof. Jha, they could not end up in any agreement because of a perplexing MOU. He sent many mails to these organisations to get clear about the matter but there were no reply.

Prof. Jha did want the conveners to manage some local sponsors also. He believes:

     We are NITians and engineers. The students should not go and beg. After 10 years down the line, the students will be in some high positions in some institutions. So they should not beg. The sponsorship is not a very good thing.

Prof. Vamsi Reddy (Faculty Co-Convener) added,

     Of course we need sponsorships but this time due to time constraints we could not contact many organisations.

Miscellaneous issues
The team of ISM must be congratulated on the fact that all the reimbursements for the travelling expenses for the participants were cleared and their certificates were given at the end of the final day of the event.
Time played a major role in the preparations of ISM 2k15. The website was not completed in time with regular additions and deletions very late and registrations also started just five days before the event. Apart from this, another reason was that the access to the website was given to the conveners 4-5 days before the event by the Computer Centre which was the reason for shifting of the starting of the registration from 26th February to 28th February.
In conducting the fest wholly, the student conveners believe that they were given full autonomy by Prof. Jha otherwise it would have been not possible to conduct the ISM 2k15 within this very little span of time.

Prof. Jha agrees to the fact that it is a better way of organising fests in NITR by selecting a student body and a faculty to advise them rather than conducting it with the help of SAC where confusions arise due to difference in opinions.
With the NITR junta recovering from the drab ISM, they are now gearing up for the upcoming Celebrity Night. The expectation for next year’s ISM shall be very high with new faculty conveners and a spirited team.