Homi Bhabha Hall Review: Growing, but Smaller or Slower?
Situated at the easternmost end of the Scholar’s Avenue and closest to the back post, the Homi Bhabha Hall of Residence is a quaintly nested abode for almost 350 odd boarders. Hidden behind the gleaming façade with a riot of colours is a sordid tale of a long-neglected dinghy coop with narrow, shabby corridors and tiny rooms to house a single person. With piles of neglected trash all around, dogs in the corridor and stinky bathrooms stalls, the hall rivals some of the lowest forms of living conditions in terms of general hygiene and aesthetics. Team MM conducted its annual review of the hall last week to assess the current predicaments of the boarders as well as gauge the developments that have taken place since last year.
The Hall was converted to an exclusively single-seater one catering to all students except the freshers since 2016. The hall is spread breadth wise across both sides of the central entrance, to constitute 2 blocks—A and B on either side. The blocks are also connected by a single-flanked C-block from the back. The A and B blocks are each made in a square loop structure, spanning 3 floors. The rooms are single seaters, furnished with a cot and a table, 2 sockets and a LAN port. The mess and common room are on the ground floor, along with the Warden’s office and a store on the opposite side.
Unlike its brothers, the HB hall does not have proper tile flooring, despite raising this issue repeatedly in the past HMCs.
The General Secretary quoted,
A written application has already been sent to the Director. The fund has not been released for that as well.
Due to its poor placement, the rooms of particularly the B block have forever remained at elevated temperatures, aggravating the situation in summers.
The HB Hall is well-known for having perhaps the best Night Canteen among all hostels and is situated at the end of a short alley on the right of the Hall. There is also a shed attached cycle stand on the right, though cycles are also amply parked by the entrance area at all times. Inside the premises, there is a well-stocked stationery shop and the day canteen. There is a TV and games room which is also the main common room and includes a Television, sound system and sufficient chairs. Above it, there is also a reading room, albeit with no chairs, one dilapidated study table, and no newspapers. The gym has been operational since 2011 and has always lacked many types of equipment. There is also one extra dorm room in a ramshackle condition with dusty and broken cots and currently serving no purpose. There are two water coolers with aqua guards on two floors, and three on the third, at the extreme ends in the two blocks, and one in the mess, thus making 8 in total, all but one operational. The ground floor balconies have been fitted with grills and wire meshes to keep dogs away, but they still seem to gain entry somehow, as we found one sleeping peacefully right outside the mess.
The major eye-grabber of the HB hall is its garden. The hall boasts of a well-manicured garden with flowering pots, aesthetic shrubbery, and external lighting.
The budget received this year by HB was only 8,40,000 INR. It was the usual allotment this year too for HB, calculated on the basis of the number of boarders and their requirements, which is less than other halls.
According to the Warden, Prof. H.M. Jena--
We could only spend around 40% of the amount spent by SD for the Hall Day, which was 88,000. I had initiated an expansion plan. I requested for another small block in the vacant land if possible. Our mess has that seating capacity. But this takes time, and approval of Finance Office, the Building Works Committee, the board and all. It is government money after all, there are many procedures to be followed. This proposal for the 3 crore sanction was sent in last September or October, till now it awaits approval. We are expecting work to start this year.
HEALTH AND HYGIENE
The most common complaint is the accumulation of filth and stained walls all over the hall, though dustbins were provided and door-to-door cleaning was also done in regular periods. The most probable cause was that there hasn’t been any up gradation or large-scale maintenance work carried out over the last year. The rooms of boarders who subscribed for whitewashing were provided with the same in the last semester. However, the corridors were not provided with the same. There were also several broken windows all around the stairwells and corridors, and missing tube lights at certain places. General Secretary Akash Kumar was quoted saying,
The system of the cleaning staff goes by the rating. If the work done by them is not up to the mark, their rating is reduced which forces them to work efficiently the next time.
Insects have been a major nuisance in the hall since ages, with open breeding areas in roofs and balconies that have piles of garbage and scrap. Bathrooms and corridors (especially the B block) get overcrowded with insects posing a huge problem for the boarders during rush hours. The spacious stretch of shrubbery behind the hall is thought to be the major reason behind the insect nuisance. Insecticides are rarely sprayed inside the halls thus worsening the situation day by day.
When asked about the insect issue, the General Secretary Aakash Kumar was quoted saying,
When the insect infestation issue came up, we contacted the Chief Warden Office. The workers visited the hall and sprayed insecticides once and that has solved the insect issue up to a great extent. Only a single round of insecticides has been sprayed and more will be sprayed eventually.
Regarding the problem of insect infestation, the Warden said—
Insecticide sprays are done every 15 days in the drainage and bathroom area. It is a long problem now. When one insect was found in mess food recently, we sent a written warning letter to the mess caterer. If such things happen further, we will penalise or remove the caterer.
Dogs are seen across the hall all the time. They have been observed along with cats in the mess as well. The installation of grills and meshes on the ground floor has not proved fruitful as the dogs always manage to gain entry somehow. The wastebaskets that are placed on the floors in the corridors are the main reason for the dog menace. The installation of overhead bins could curb the dog menace.
But by far the problem of ill-maintained toilets surpassed all these. There were numerous problems, naïve ones like broken mirrors, to defunct urinals, flushes, and broken-hinged doors. Below is a compiled list of the general problems in each of the 18 washrooms in the Hall---
One completely broken mirror
1 flush defunct
1 broken geyser and 1 defunct urinal
1 broken flush
1 broken flush, and 1 defunct geyser
2 flush, 1 geyser defunct, broken mirrors
1 unusable basin
All urinals defunct, unusable latrines, broken tiles on the floor
B-Block (all central water heating, no individual geysers)
1 bathroom door defunct and 1broken flush
3 doors and 3 flushes defunct and 2 bathroom doors broken
2 broken bathroom doors; 2 doors and 2 flushes defunct.
Missing showerheads, 1 defunct flush
1 flush and 2 urinals defunct
1 flush and 1 urinal defunct, broken mirrors
1 flush and 1 urinal defunct
1 flush and 1 urinal defunct
(*There are 3 washbasins, 2 urinals, 3 bath stalls and 3 latrines in each washroom)
The General Secretary was quoted saying,
The institute had received a fund of 3 crores. So whatever issue, be it sanitation, flushes, doors of bathroom etc will be solved using that money. The work was supposed to be completed by December. But the process got delayed due to the tendering. As soon as the tendering gets finalised, every issue related to the bathrooms will be solved.
The food that is currently being served, though edible is not of a very good quality. However, repeated instances of dogs and cats inside the mess have now forced the boarders to reconsider the quality of the mess. A couple of incidents in the past like the discovery of metal objects, dead insects in the food have further intensified the situation.
We had recently put a fine on the mess and the quality has improved ever since.
The common room on the first floor boasts of huge tables but unfortunately has just 2 pairs of sofas causing a lot of inconvenience to the students during study hours. Another issue in the reading room are the fans, with the room having no fans at all.
The warden had written an application to the Estate office for new stand fans but no response has been given yet.
On being asked about this, the Warden said—
There are fans installed in the TV and Games room as per my knowledge, we had dinner there. As for fans and chairs, our hall does not receive a sufficient budget allotment to make these purchases. With many boarders leaving for newer halls like SD, and only 350 boarders now, not a huge amount is collected to make a notable upgrade. Nearly 50 rooms lie vacant now.
The Hall, unfortunately, is the only hall which does not possess its own cycle pump. Despite repeated complaints from the boarders, no solution has brought to it yet.
We are the negative side when it comes to the budget. We are heavily lacking in funds. All we can do is send proposals and wait for more funds.
say both the Warden and Secretaries. Prof Jena hoped to revive the gym and install a compressor pump provided any surplus fund is there after meeting all the routine expenses.
HB Hall is also notorious for a superlatively lackluster interior, with untiled floors and graffiti-coated walls that take away all the colour of its front façade. Commenting on the general aesthetics of the Hall, the Warden said—
Absence of tiles is one of the reasons why many students do not opt for this hall. After being reduced to single-seater, the Hall generates only enough money to barely sustain the needs of Hall Day, salaries of CRB and the guards etc. Recently we struggled to install a single garden bench for our well-maintained lawns. We have submitted requests for tiling, repair of broken windows etc, to the Estate as Chief Warden’s office cannot do the maintenance; hopefully the work would be done soon.
Looking over the plethora of problems, the HB hall with its single seater rooms and a good night canteen is one of the most attractive choices for sophomores wishing to have their own rooms. However stinky toilets and old, dirty interiors still seem to be the major issues plaguing the boarders for over a year. All criticisms aside, Team MM sincerely wishes these problems will be weeded out on a priority basis, and all the improvement take effect sooner rather than later.