In The Times of Curfews: A Sequel to Security Review
“Safety and Security is not a luxury anymore but a necessity.”
In an institution such as NIT Rourkela, that has been growing not just by population or academic ventures, but in terms of social awareness, it has become highly imperative to question the existing rules. Are they plain obsolete or do they require a change to adjust with the societal norms that have been reshaping itself regularly? Any question on the safety of the students of NITR is directly related to the quantity and quality of security the Institute provides or is ready to provide. In such a scenario, sudden changes in security rules, which appear to have been made overnight but claimed to be a result of extensive debate and discussion, are not welcomed with much enthusiasm by the NITR junta. A string of opinions and actions follow, much similar to the butterfly effect, and Team Monday Morning takes the initiative to present all the facts in front of the Junta.
Causes and Changes:
The Central Government has cut down on it's funding to the Institute for the fiscal year 2019-20 starting from the 1st of April 2019. As a result, the budget for safety and security has been reduced from around 6 Crores to 3 Crores. The security office, therefore, decided to reduce its expenditure by doing away with a third of its security personnel which resulted in eventual closing down of gates, crucial waypoints into the Academic complex. The repercussions of these were imposing curfews through late entry rules yet again. But before we get into that let's look into the changes that have the reduced budget brought upon:
The number of security personals has been reduced from 186 to 122.
The Security Office would be shifted from its position near the Electrical Sciences building to that at the entrance of the Main Building.
Out of the 7 gates to the academic section 2 gates ie. the BM/BT gate and the TIIR gate would be closed down permanently.
Mangla Mandir gate and LA 2 gate will be closed from 6:30 pm to 7:30 am.
Main Academic gate of the institute will be closed from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am.
FRA/FRB (Faculty Residence Area) Complex will have one guard in each shift.
LA will not have any security personnel and hence all activities beyond the working days and after 7:00 PM are not allowed.
The underlying problems and explanations:
Closing down of the gate to LA 1 or the BM BT gate has been a major issue since this is through where a major percentage of students traverse throughout the day for their class at LA. These people now have to take the way around through the Ceramic gate.
When inquired about why is LA 2 gate being open and LA1 gate is being closed down the OSD SS, Suman Dutta conveyed that it is also not meant for students. The decision has been made for the convenience of Shapoorji Pallonji Constructions so as to facilitate the ongoing construction work, while we were not presented with any strong argument to keep the LA 1 gate closed permanently. This decision has led to the entire region of LA, LA lawns and BM BT without any security personals which would otherwise have at least 3 personals.
LA would not function beyond normal hours. This has posed a major problem to the functioning of clubs which primarily function from LA. While the institute imposes sanctions and rules but provides with no alternative. The present infrastructure at SAC isn't sufficient to host club activities of numerous clubs on a daily basis. It seems like the institute is on boycott without ‘swadesi’. We could not get any solution to this problem from the authorities who kept putting the blame on others.
How will shifting the security control room from one existing infrastructure to the other help cut down on expenditure?
To this, the security office conveyed that the security control room originally hosted 2-3 security guards but shifting will help them do away with all of them.
Yet Monday Morning witnessed renovation work undergoing in the new security control room.
If the academic section is left out, the Hall Management Council has made sure that there is no reduction in the number in the hostel areas. As a result, the OSD SS Suman Dutta is convinced that the students are completely safe against the general sentiments like “you are responsible for your own safety” and “of curfews and cages”.
The institute is coming up with new infrastructure. LA 2 and Mechanical Sciences buildings would be functional by next year. Also, the Verghese Kurien hall of residence would be functional soon, the question remains how will the security office manage? To this, the security office conveyed that they too are under immense pressure to manage with the present resources but it depends on ‘as and when the situation improves’.
NIT Rourkela Of Volatile Memory:
A review of the recent developments shows that the institute has quite a volatile memory. It forgets the mishaps quite quickly, be it fire incidents, accidents or fights.
The surveillance infrastructure hasn't improved since, yet the institute decides to cut down on the budget for security. This also questions the implementation of plans in the pipeline to install around 150 CCTV cameras. However, the security office has conveyed that the plan is under due consideration.
Apart from providing fire extinguishers, substantial plans are there to upgrade the fire safety infrastructure and to make the institute fireproof.
For details regarding safety and security infrastructure refer to the earlier article on MM “As safe as Hogwarts: the tale of safety and security”.
Late Entry Fiasco Yet Again:
Late Entry has time and again forced its way into every security decision that has been taken, of late. It has become the bone of contentment between the authorities and the Junta. A sudden mail imposing a fine of thousand rupees on late night entries for girls in CVR appears to be a desperate move to make up for the latest funding crunch. Although when asked about how decreasing the number of security personnel affects rules such as late entry OSD Suman Dutta claimed,
Those rules still exist. Late entry rules, back post timings haven’t been affected. We have only decreased security in the academic area. When we were curtailing the security personnel, chief warden strictly told us not to decrease the security in the hostel area.
It is a common scene to see clubs work in LA in the evening. Club works start after 6 PM, so they are being affected by this new rule. These days LA is not available after 7 PM and it has become quite tedious to find a proper place to continue club activities. Suman Dutta clears the air,
We are not manning the LA. The LA authorities do that. Since we don’t have security guards deployed at LA, this might be the reason for early closing of LA.
All that is apparent are problems, the students complain, the authorities complain back, it has become a vicious cycle. All that is being told is students are the ones who should be giving ideas and suggestions to the higher authority. The question here arises, will those ideas and suggestions be actually be taken into account?.
Coming to improvements in fire safety, earlier the fire extinguishers were placed haphazardly in the academic area. Last year 237 new fire extinguishers were purchased and placed in departments as per the requirements. Hostel fire extinguishers are taken care of by the hostel management committee.
About a week ago, there had been chaos at the main gate. There have been many speculations about what had happened. Team MM urged the OSD to throw some light on the incident.
The son of one of our staff (Sushil Pancham) was driving roughly and was about to crash on one lady professor at the gate. They were stopped by the security, but being drunk, they furiously abused the security personnel. Ultimately we submitted an FIR at the police station; the wife and son of Sushil Pancham were sent to jail. Presently, the investigation is going on.
He has confirmed it has nothing to do with the change in security rules.
The common notion of the authorities has been that if the students do not listen to the rules made by the institution, then obviously it will be very difficult to ensure their safety. They are advised to strictly follow them. The authorities have to look after their security, primarily as parents have sent their children here with faith in the security system in place at this Institute. They claim to have also faced a lot of cases involving students not obeying rules, hence they are always very cautious. In case the students ever face a problem, they are advised to share it with their parents, warden or professors.
Whenever something like this happens in the security, other problems follow and the students have to face it. The common explanation of the authorities being,
When the students neglect or violate rules, in extreme cases, we have to inform the concerned authorities and they are bound to take necessary action.
Whether the administration is able to find a solution that resonates with the NITR junta is yet to be seen.