The Close of another Saga

As another vibrant academic year comes to an end, one that saw extensive megaliths coming up all around the campus to hyper active security guards and the first open house discussion to some never-before-seen policies and speeds for the institute internet.

With the scorching Rourkela summers just setting in, Team MM caught up with the Director on the weekend as he let us in on the various plans for the coming year and how the one that is bygone had its own share of ups and downs.

MM: Regarding the girls residing in the dormitory, are they going to stay in there next year as well? What policy will be followed to shift the girls?

Director: The girls will become very rich next semester. The boys will return to their hall, within mid-May. We will get one month for the renovation and whatever repairs that are ready to make the hall fit for the girls to reside. Then, there is a problem of who will and who will not shift there. We wanted to squeeze in the girls in the C V R for some time, so that a new wing could have been constructed. But girls and construction won’t go well. Also, the financial situation does not permit us to go forward with the plan. So, we have decided to put that on hold. 

Also, regarding the new girls being accommodated in the K M S, we will try to evenly put them in both the hostels. We are training you for the future. So, we want you to be comfortable in the social circle, where you will have to co-exist with both your seniors and juniors. We want as much diversity as possible. We will have some kind of a lottery system on who will go and who will not. The girls will be given an option to go in groups. Your close knit groups can be allowed to move together. The ones who had suffered in the dormitory, will be given their own choice. They can continue in CVR if they want to, or can move to KMS. The decision will be in Chief Warden’s hands. 

MM: The alumni of the institute have asked for the restructuring of the curriculum to make it more market-friendly. They have also asked for more open electives and flexibility in the selection of subjects by the students. What is your take on this issue?

Director: The truth is that, people pick up some buzzwords from the street (chuckles). It doesn’t work that way. When someone asks our alumni to restructure their companies, they don’t do that. TATA Steel has always produced steel. So, the reality remains that, the alumni all over the country say that the engineers are not market-ready. When we ask them to take a couple of classes, they run soon run out of patience. And I understand that it is not their fault. 

We live in a very hypocritical world. Engineering, that the students learn here, prepares them for designing and creating products. For example, take the case of car industry. The industry consists of manufacturing partly, and the rest is marketing. So, they require high skills in marketing aspect. That is not the automobile engineering part. The mechanical/automobile engineering teaches you how to make the parts, the clutches and the pulleys and the brakes. But, all the industries import the designs. So, what will an electronic or a mechanical engineer do? If you are hired as a mechanical engineer and given a post in Marketing, they say that you are not market ready. Of course, you are not market ready. Because, you were not taught to be a salesman. 

We are producing engineers, hoping that someday, there will be make in India. But “Make in India” is an intermediate state. There must be “Design in India” and “R&D in India” first. We do not prepare our students to become a tail-end salesperson in a company. They can go to a business school and learn the tricks and trades of business. That is perfectly alright. Then, they don’t have to pretend to be a mechanical or an electronics engineer. The person has a specialized identity of a Marketing Executive. 

So, as a result when they hire engineers, their knowledge is not actually put to use. We are, anyway, procuring the technology from other countries. They come with the set of instructions. So, you don’t have to work hard on its operation. So, unless the government policies do not give a massive amount of emphasis on invention, innovation, design and sales: if an all-round approach is not given, then we can have nothing to do. 

The reality is that, when alumni talk, they talk about an imaginary superiority. The sad part is that, none of our alumni have written a book on technology, which can be used as a textbook. 

“People say that what is there in the books, does not happen in the fieldwork. But who is topping you from writing about what is happening in the field?”

And about flexibility of courses, we cannot fully allow that. We have the open electives and professional electives. If my courses were highly flexible and open, then you will realize that virtually no core courses will be taken. The market will come to know not to ask for mechanical or electronics engineer from NIT Rourkela, because they have not read that in the institute. If the degrees are not alright, then it will create problems for the students. When a student passes from mechanical engineering, he/she should have certain proficiency in it. 

MM: You have talked about dropping a core course for fully pursuing a Product Development Lab. 

Director: No, I have not said that. It is still there. The students of third year can drop two electives, not the core courses. They can take the product development elective twice, in two continuous semesters. You need not have the whole product in the end. But the efforts must be put in the product, in the market survey, making the design, consulting the right places, to develop the product. You can work on the product development and design to the fullest. You may get an Ex grade or F grade. But, if you have interest in it, you can definitely perform well.

MM: What is the status of the TIIR building? When can we xpect it to be fully functional?

Director: You must have seen the greenery in front of it. The garden and the grass part have been completed to some extent, though we would like to make it permanent. The PM did not come, so the money matters. Had he come, then he might have been a bit lenient in money matters. The air conditioning

We will be shifting the schhol of Management temporarily and the TnP, to populate the place. The A N Khosla TnP building will be renovated. We want the students to take up work in this field. We are working on a framework towards student and faculty business. 

MM: What decision has been taken on the Dual Degree students? Will they be getting two certificates or some arrangement will be made for them?

Director: Prof Bamdev Acharya has collected some data, on the dual degree programmes of different institutes like IIT Kanpur. We will be doing what others will be doing. You see, if the industry cannot figure out what the system is, there will be problem, no matter how great your system is. Though, I have not thoroughly put my mind on it.

MM: What is your opinion on the CGPA cut-off and the total isolation of the first year constituency for the upcoming SAC election? 

Director: I feel that the CGPA cut off has been kept concessional. We would like the higher pointer students to come up, but that would be grossly undemocratic. We have given the cut-off, so that the students do not fall on the verge of ruining their lives because of the student activity, by failing in the subjects. The cut-off is artificial one, and should not be there. If people come by choice and participate in the elections, it will be efficient. You cannot force someone to work. 

The 6.5 CGPA cut-off is highly undemocratic, but has been done to prevent the failing of the students. They become so much dedicated to the student activities that they do it at the cost of minimum studies. 

The first year constituency will be isolated, to prevent those zone issues. 

MM: In the Open House Discussion, you talked about the automation of the SAC website. What steps have been taken in this regard?

Director: We need volunteers for that. You can help in that matter.

MM Suggestion: A webmail can be sent to everyone to invite them for the development of the website.

Yes, this can be done. I will send the webmail. 

Also, the students will be receiving a webmail regarding the ISDC decision on the five students. They were expelled in the beginning of the year. But, they had appealed against it. They were convicted as a group. Then, they started blaming each other. On the re-hearing, the data has become worse. New information has come up that it was a well-established ragging machinery that was up throughout the year. I don’t consider the student as my enemy. The one who rags is also a victim of the system. We can save both the tormentor and the victim. The ragging is still there, but it was much more virulent previously. 

Now, the matter has gone into the Senate’s hand. I can join the students to save the careers of the boys. We can appeal to the Senate. It should be a sincere one.

MM: You recently gave an interview for The Times of India regarding the new system of admission process and seat vacancy. 

Director: (Laughs) Yes, but he reported totally opposite. I said that  nothing is going to happen out of it. 

The seats in the institute are determined by us. If we find that fifty five of sixty seat are getting filled, we can have the provision to admit sixty five people. The government tries to create an impression that the number of seats is sacrosanct. The government has created the seats. And there is no mathematical formula that the facilities are for a particular number of students. There is so much uncertainty. If you are worried about the 300 vacancies, then admit 300 more. 

We have a nation with classified society. There is no classless nation. The reality remains that there is class. The society has suffered because the right people are not on the right job. It’s actually narrow the gap. The IITian is the biggest loser in the overprotected environment. The common names for a range of institution is not helping.

Then he talked about the shortage of facility. I told him that nobody is willing to invest money and provide scheme for more faculties. It takes around half a crore to generate one PhD holder. If you think faculty is a useful, then invest. You are worrying about something you are not willing to invest in. this the problem in the government. Education is not cheap.  

MM: The students are facing a lot of problems regarding the Health Centre. Many a time, their leave is not being sanctioned. What can the students do in this case?

Director: this is a matter of a day. You know the number of leave you can take without being penalized. You have been given sufficient casual leave for unforeseen events. 

There are two aspects for it. The students can get themselves treated wherever they like. But the leave from classes is other one. You should inform your faculty advisor or the head of the department. If our doctors do not feel any foul play, they can even refer them. If you went home in the weekend and doctor advised to stay at home, you can inform. All these facilities have been provided to you. There is no option for retrospective leave in our systems. 

So, a person can now inform the Faculty Advisor/HoD/Warden about their absence. A doctor doesn’t approve your leave. The Head of the Department does. The doctors provides the medical angle to it. 

MM: What plans for the infrastructure do we have for next semester? 

Director: Not much. One, we will have the system to bring in fresh air from outside in to the mess area of the hostel. The dining halls are large. Also, we plan to install the sound absorbers in order to reduce the reverberation. The allowable reverberation time is 10-12 seconds. So, we will be putting some amount of sound absorption material. We plan to install water based cooling system. But that is not in the immediate pipeline; a bit later (smiles). The idea is to make the dining hall more comfortable. We have decided to procure a heat pump. That will consume one fourth the electricity required to heat the water. This will, hopefully, do away with the geysers. There are multiple benefits. First, the saving of electricity. Second, there will less maintenance issues. The biggest benefit is the improvement in psychology of the students in handling of the technology. 

Regarding the washing machine, we have some plan in mind. We have given a new washing machine worth 8 lacs to the dhobi. This can load up to 17 kg. We have loaned the machine to him. He pays for the machine every month. The uniforms of the mess workers are also washed. It may take up to 2 years pay for the machine. Now, there are three dhobis. The machine is expensive. So, we are trying to procure the cheaper alternatives. We might go for the Korean machine, which is inexpensive. They have to be given knowledge on the running of the machines. 

We will have a separate building for Architecture. The Architecture Council has a lot of control over the architecture education. The committee visited the institute. You see, they want the profession to grow with a separate identity. They got very insulted when we proposed a building for Civil Engineering and Architecture. But they would not accept it. We allotted 5 acres of land for the Department of Planning and Architecture. The work will commence from this year, with high priority.

If we get some alumni gifts, we can start the work of the new Student Activity Centre. The work of Departments of Mechanical and Industrial Design is expected to be complete within 2 years. The interior work will take time.