Dissecting the Megalith: VS Hall of Residence
Situated amidst a scenic backdrop on the southern fringes of the campus and adjacent to the Naga pond, the Vikram Sarabhai Hall of Residence is the second largest hall of residence at NITR. The hall houses around 990 boarders in a total of 1024 rooms. The hall seems to be a half-maze, half-prison behind the uber-glossy façade for those who visit it rarely, owing to the perplexing clusters of blocks and dinghy corridors all over the hall, but is also one of the most intricately designed hostels of NITR. Team MM takes a sneak peek into the issues related to the general state of welfare of the mega hall and brings this hall review for the readers.
The Hall Executive Council is the core team which looks into all the affairs of the residents of the Hall. Led by the warden Prof. S.C. Mohanty (ME) and assistant warden Prof. D.S. Nimaje, the HEC of VS Hall has two caretakers and six elected student secretaries. It is the primary administrative body and supervises all maintenance affairs and events taking place in the hostel. The details of the members are given below:
|Members||Position of Responsibility||Mobile Number||Room Number|
|Prof SC Mohanty||Warden||9437686748||-|
|Prof DS Nimaje||Assistant Warden||9437943121||-|
|D Karthik Reddy||General Secretary||7978313691||B305|
|Kalamati Sudheer||Mess Secretary||7978239805||B025|
|Vivek K||Environmental Secretary||8122590382||F019|
|Abhishek Kumar||Sports Secretary||8280040487||G030|
|Rahul Gangwar||Maintenance Secretary||8596048372||E313|
|Chendi Venkatesh||Cultural & Entertainment Secretary||9490901330||F126|
The hall consists of eight blocks, each having 32 rooms on each floor, in a ring of 4 groups of 8 rooms each. There are in total 4 floors, including the ground floor. The sophomores are allotted double seater rooms whereas the pre-final and final year students are allotted single seater rooms. The room allotment is completely random, but some boarders have exchanged their rooms, in mutual understanding with other boarders, and consent of the warden since last August. With effect from next academic year, all the boarders will be allotted single seater rooms in VS hall.
Like last year, this year too the boarders might be asked to vacate the rooms in the summer vacation and leave their belongings in a 'more secure' common room where it would be guarded and kept locked. This will be done to accommodate the incoming summer interns as well as to facilitate the annual maintenance work. The problem that happened last year due to a short notice order won't repeat this year, and the belongings would be safe, the warden reassured.
AMENITIES AND GENERAL ENVIRONMENT:
The hall has a proper day and night canteen. There are as such no complaints regarding it, as the rate chart there has been fixed since a long time ago. The hall has a fully functional gym with satisfactory equipment. There is also a music room and a reading room. A stationery shop located on the ground floor deals with all the general requirements of the boarders.
A striking feature of the hall is a flamboyant and well-decorated garden in the huge open space at the front which leads up to the gate. The garden is decked with plenty of flower pots, well-pruned, and well-watered shrubbery this spring, that appeal to the aesthetic sense of any onlooker. The gardens also have pathways and benches for a general boarder’s retreat after a long, hectic day. The other open spaces in between and behind the hall have also been well-utilized with badminton, volleyball and basketball courts which also have benches and floodlights to illuminate the compounds. All the nets and outdoor lighting were found to be spick and span, save for the basketball hoops, which require a replacement net.
CLEANLINESS AND SANITATION:
The boarders reported team MM about various cleanliness issues that they face on regular basis. Firstly, unlike other halls of residence, there is no weekly door-to-door cleaning of rooms. Boarders have to call sweepers for cleaning of rooms. Moreover, the washrooms are reported to be cleaned with water only, and not with the use of any disinfectants. Team MM questioned the Maintenance Secretary, Rahul Gangwar regarding this, to which he responds:
As per my knowledge, the bathrooms are cleaned regularly with phenyls and soap itself. Complaints like these are baseless and it is a section of miscreants themselves who deliberately make the toilets dirty.
Upturned dustbins and stained walls especially on the top floor corridors make it not only unhygienic but a sorrow sight for boarders of the hall. While a section alleges that the dustbins are a handiwork of few miscreants, another points out that stray dogs breeding in the hall might be the culprits. Nevertheless, like other halls, dogs were quite abundantly sighted in VS too as they smartly posed for us during the time of review. The General Secretary, while admitting this to be a long-standing problem which he had taken up to the Chief Warden Office in the past, maintained that students not feeding or encouraging them might be the only solution now, for civic authorities in Rourkela do not have the manpower to capture the mongrels, and would probably kill them if called upon. Here is what the Warden has to say regarding this issue:
Dogs do keep entering the hostel from numerous unguarded entry points, especially at night. I plan on getting some nets installed to partially cover the bare grills in the ground floors. Dogs also enter as and when the students feed them, show them affection, or even create makeshift shelters for them as I learnt. This is strictly forbidden.
The boarders of VS hall find themselves luckier to enjoy better mess food as compared to the food served in other halls of residence. The mess menu was frequently changed or reshuffled, and a meeting with the boarders was held last in the month of August. The boarders have complained a shortage of cups for tea during working days. On this, the mess secretary, Kalamati Sudheer tells team MM that:
Though this is true, I have found that it is a section of students who actually take away the steel cups and throw them away, in dustbins or elsewhere. I have tried to strongly advise the hostellers against doing so but it is a part of their mannerism and upbringing. Besides it is not quite feasible for mess workers to be vigilant all the time.
Team MM strongly appeals the boarders of the VS hall, to refrain from indulging in such uncivilized activities.
The air cooling ducts in the mess are completely dysfunctional. Last summer, the ducts did not work, reasons being the requirement of some repairs and lack of personnel sent from the authorities. Team MM asks the Hall Warden regarding this, to which he says:
This year I have sent a request to the concerned section of authorities (under estate office) to undertake the repairing and maintenance work of cooling ducts, which has been due since last year.
The mess caterer also arranges for drinking water during the days of power cuts. Some boarders reported team MM that the serving speed of the current caterer is slow and suggested that the plate-picking staff should be diverted towards the serving work. To this, the mess secretary was quoted saying:
I will definitely look into it. But again starting this system overnight would cause a big nuisance; as in the past, students used to leave their plates on the table after the meal and it used to remain there for hours.
Besides the multiple floodlit playing courts inside the compound, there are also well designated indoor playing areas, mostly in the expansive hallway entrance. These comprised of two Table Tennis boards on the ground floor. Apart from table tennis, there are two badminton courts and one basketball court inside the hall. Abhishek Kumar, the hall sports secretary tells Team MM that:
The worn net of the basketball court will be replaced within next few weeks. New sports equipment for the intra-hall games has come but is yet to be verified. Some equipment in the gym needs a replacement but due to the GeM (Government e-Marketplace) policies, we are finding it difficult to procure it.
The major concerns regarding internal maintenance were dysfunctional or broken water coolers/aqua guards. Several boarders pointed out the absence of a functioning water cooler over long stretches sometimes extending to multiple floors or blocks. The B-block 1st and 3rd floor coolers are lying dysfunctional for instance and boarders have to constantly go to the adjacent blocks or another floor to fetch water. Regarding this, the warden stated:
Coolers come under the purview of HMC. For now, we have to depend on the Chief Warden’s Office for any repair work, and it is not feasible to keep a technician at all times. Requisitions have already been made to purchase more water coolers. I plan on installing a minimum of two water coolers on each floor.
The mosquito nets, windows, curtains and tube lights in corridors though are well maintained and promptly repaired in case of a fault. There are two regular caretakers in the Hall and according to the Maintenance secretary:
It is very insufficient given the size of this huge hostel with so many boarders. Problems arise due to lack of technicians, especially when there is a serious issue—like the malfunctioning aqua guard in B block last month, which took weeks to resolve. This year, a budget of 3 lakhs INR was set aside for maintenance, and was primarily used to construct rain sheds to prevent water accumulation in the 3rd-floor corridors.
A few days back, a boarder from the HB hall of residence, in a drunken-state attacked a boarder of the VS Hall. The victim pressed for a disciplinary action, but his complaint was not addressed and somehow the entire case seemed to be closed. Team MM highlighted this issue to the warden of the hall, to which he says:
The issue has come to my notice. A student from HB not in a 'normal' state had came one night to meet his friends here and fell into an altercation with a student from this hall. We have taken the statements of the victim as well as the alleged perpetrator, and forwarded it to the Chief Warden's office. As far as I know, the issue is not closed, the father of the offender has promised to keep the student at an off campus location for the time being. As such my responsibility is the safety and security of my boarders, I don't have the authority to punish the offender.
One issue that was resolved recently was the absence of contact information of the various post-holders of the Hall, albeit HEC elections being completed by August last year. The board with the information is placed beside the entrance now and any administrative or maintenance support for the boarders is only a call away. There were also talks of assigning prefects floorwise during the last HEC meeting, and according to the General Secretary, this would greatly facilitate any complaint redressal from the boarders’ side.
New kitchen equipment has been recently purchased and will be installed shortly, out of the 20 lakhs odd budget that was allocated this year. However, the warden was unable to disclose a full break-up of the financial statement, and only said that overhead expenses from last year plus a reduced budget this year by almost 10-12 lakhs makes it difficult to include any major plans; and with only 6-7 lakhs remaining, a supernumerary allowance might be requested soon to meet the expenses. The core team of Secretaries is known to coordinate effectively through social media groups, although General Body Meetings with the overall populace of the hall is not very regular. However, the secretaries did point out that it was the responsibility of students to approach them for specific problems/suggestions which he promised would be looked into.
The warden also welcomed suggestions from boarders, like the ones that helped during the splendid makeover of the front lawns with a bountiful mass of flora this spring. Lastly, the warden also reminded that it is the responsibility of boarders to keep the hall neat and clean and added:
The way you project your hostel is the way you project yourselves.
On a concluding note, Team MM found out that with its own share of USPs and problems, VS hall is very much a colony in its own way. We wish now that all the issues are brought to notice, the same would be resolved soon, and with the efforts of the boarders and authorities, the hall would continue to thrive as a model hostel of NITR.