'SAC'king up for a better year:The SAC Elections 2019
“Somewhere inside all of us is the power to change the world.”, aptly proclaimed by Robert Dahl, a British novelist and a short story writer who has influenced millions of people around the globe with the refined notion of political legitimacy, confluence of people and institutional bureaucrats and had instilled among the denizens the sense of wittier thinking and right decision making. The power to assess the authority, the power to drive the amendments, the knowledge to reciprocate the answers to some burning issues are what the entire NITR junta flaunts to have a firm grip over. NITR encompasses the Student Activity Center, popularly known as the ‘SAC’ that fosters four societies under its umbrella. Each society harbours various clubs from different domains that function impressively throughout the year. The SAC has been the backbone pertaining to a student’s interests and welfare, that safeguards the realms of the entire NITR junta. It constitutes a hierarchy of post-holders who are accountable for the smooth functioning of the events conducted under SAC. The post-holders who represent the societies are elected through annual SAC Elections held every year at the end of the academic session. With hustle and bustle all around, people forget the election conundrums that the institute has to go through at the time of the election.
Filing of nominations:
Defying the tradition, the SAC Election 2019 was scheduled to be conducted this year with the commencement of the new academic session i.e. on August 2, 2019, at LA from 4.15 PM to 6.15 PM. The notice for the conduct was intimidated to the students about a couple of weeks prior to the election day. With the inception of the new academic session, a sense of elation and inquisitiveness was spread among the students on who would be the next deserving one. There were frequent debates among the peers on whom they wish to see being nominated.
The nomination portal on NITRIS was made open on 23rd of July and the evening 6 PM of 25th July was set to be the deadline for submission of the nomination. Interested candidates were supposed to fill up all the necessary details and provide a brief description of their accomplishments in recent times. Ultimately they had to submit the print-out of the final nomination form at the SAC office in person latest by 6 PM of the same day positively. The candidates were also allowed to withdraw their nomination online if they wished to by 26th July 2019, 6 PM. The names were scrutinized and the final list of candidates was declared on 26 July 2019 at the SAC notice board.
This year the SAC election was remarkable and worth appreciating as both the election for the post of secretaries to SAC and the post of Fest Convenors for Innovision, Nitrutstav and Vriddhi were conducted simultaneously. This made the process not so tedious and absolutely straightforward.
The nomination for the following 4 constituencies was invited from the eligible students as mentioned in the table:
Here is the final list of the nominees after scrutiny:
Making our voices heard, Awaaz-E-SAC:
Awaaz-E-SAC, the 3-day soapbox for the SAC elections 2019-2020; managed and moderated by Monday Morning and overlooked by a panel comprising Prof.Seemita Mohanty (SAC President), Prof. S.K Patel (Dean SW), Prof. SN Alam (Election Officer) and Vice Presidents of SAC; was the reincarnation of the earlier version of Soapbox. The event served as the step towards bridging the communication gap between the voters and their leaders to create an interactive environment to promote healthy discussions and argument. It gave a platform for the junta to inquire the representatives of their motto and vision for the following year, something which they couldn’t perform in the prior years. Opinions were placed before the students hoping that the fallacies committed last year were not repeated. The event’s turnout and participation surpassed all expectations, making it a big success.
A big shoutout to Prof. SN Alam, the election officer who took a crucial decision of getting the candidature cancelled of all the nominees who didn’t turn up for Awaaz-e-SAC. The decision was widely applauded among the entire audience. The nominees whose candidature got cancelled were as follows:
1.Ravi Gorli (PG & Research)
Arts & Cultural Society
2.Somdeb Ganguly (2nd year)
3.Ajay Khannduri (4th & 5th year)
4.Tarun (2nd year)
5.Jashaswi Jena (2nd year)
6.Ashutosh Kumar (4th & 5th year)
2 August 2019,4:15 PM
All hard work, campaigning and appeasement boiled down to one day, the day of voting. The morning started with candidates trying to gather the last few precious votes using social media, posters and Whatsapp. The voting was scheduled to be held in the computer labs at LA. The system arrangement was as follows:
Allotted Room Number
2nd year (UG, PG and PhD)
LA 308, 309, 310
3rd year(UG, PG and PhD)
LA 208, 209, 210
Rest of the students
LA 108, 109, 110
The footfall stood at around 2000 against the expected tally of 4500. First-year students were not eligible to vote. Rules required all the students to carry their identity cards along with a pen. First, the students were asked to report at the designated rooms. Each room had a chart pasted outside which listed out all the technical assistants and faculty members assigned to it. After showing their id cards and collecting the OTP, the voters could use the computers in the lab to log in to the NITRIS portal and vote. On being asked about the voting process, Anurag Panda, a sophomore from Mechanical Department said
I feel that the process was fair and transparent. Using an OTP makes the process secure.
Prof Seemita Mohanty also shared her views about the elections. She said:
I believe the election process and the soapbox (Awaaz-e-Sac) were well organised. Kudos to Monday Morning for co-ordinating the event smoothly. Several candidates had very strong and in-depth proposals. It's good to know that they are informed about what they are contending for. I feel bad about the existence of zones. It seems politically correct to support a candidate from your zone but it’s morally incorrect. But this year, there were many positives too. We should strive harder on that front.
Speaking about the arrangements made for the election, Prof SK Patel said
We had arranged 52 counters that could work parallelly for voting and there were at least 4 counters in each room from where students could collect their OTP. We expected around 5000 students to show up but the turn-out was disappointing. This year the election was properly arranged and there were no notable instances of indiscipline. I would suggest the students to treat voting as a duty rather than a burden.
Results were out by 6:30 PM on the same day, way earlier than the expected date on 3.08.19. Here is a list of all the candidates who emerged victoriously.
SAC Society Elections
Arts and Cultural
PG & Research
Partha Pratim Sahu
Akash Kumar Sahu
Sumit Kumar Bharti
PG & Research
Sports and Games
Rashmi Ranjan Tandi
Praveen Kumar Nalla
PG & Research
Vannam Naveen Kumar
PG & Research
Kethavath Naveen Naik
Fest Convener Elections
Kakumanu Sai Reddy
Cultural Fest (Nitrustav)
Manish Kumar Panda
Annual Sports Fest (Vriddhi)
A bit of disappointment arose among the voters because of insufficient candidates contesting in this election. There were 7 seats that were left uncontested. This was mostly found among the PG and research students where a single candidate contested for a particular post and obviously emerged victorious.
To get an idea of the euphoria of the victory, we reached out to Armandev Puhan, the newly elected secretary of Games and Sports society from the 2nd-year constituency who said:
The last few days were all about publicity and campaigning. I thank all my friend and fellow batch mates for trusting my vision. The soapbox helped me deliver my ideas to the NITR junta. As an elected secretary, I promise to work towards the fulfillment of all goals set by me.
Newly elected Convener of Innovision, Debaprasad Badajena said:
I am very impressed with the role that the soapbox played in our campaigning. It helped us interact and understand our voters. As far as the immediate plans are concerned, I will meet with President Ma’am and Dean Sir on Monday to discuss the agenda. I want to launch the four design and technical teams immediately since there isn’t much time left for the fest.
Team MM also talked to Prof SN Alam who has been the election officer for SAC elections since 2017. While talking to MM he said:
I have conducted the last two elections too. Unlike this year, students voted from their rooms in the previous two years. We had a few concerns about that. Seniors or other students could easily force a voter to change their vote. There were around 1800 to 2000 voters yesterday, in contrast to the 2500 voters in the past year’s elections. Students seem to have a callous attitude towards voting. Crowd control was easy. Only 50% of the voters turned up. We had arranged security personnel in case of any disturbances.
He also added:
This election seemed like a proper election. But I still feel that a few weeds such as zonism are prevalent. Zonism is there, regardless of how much we deny it. NIT Rourkela is a national level institute and students from all states are here. The creation of zones is unfair since some students are in larger numbers. This puts students from some states at disadvantage. Voting should be done based on a candidate’s talent and not on their ethnicity.
The Silver lining
The proposal of conducting the elections in LA and holding the elections for the Society and Fest elections at the same time along with the idea for SoapBox was given to Prof. S.K Patel by Sainandan Mohanty (Ex-Inno convenor), Swapnil Sahoo(Ex-NU convenor) and Monday Morning.
Swapnil Sahoo had the following views about this year’s elections and his expectations from this year’s elected representatives:
The elections held this time were fairer to some extent but there were many loopholes like many nominations were withdrawn and some people didn’t attend the soapbox. Girls should also come up to the forefront. The government is doing a lot for them. I know that they are asked to step down even if they nominate themselves but the extent has decreased. I can’t really tell how it’s supposed to happen but we need to think about the execution as it’s a very lengthy process. Sainandan, Abel and I had this concept of Soapbox in mind and we approached Prof. S.K Patel with it. He was very humble and approved of it with great enthusiasm. Talking about the overall SAC and not just the elections, a lot of reforms need to be made and eventually, they will be done over time. The newly elected representatives need to be cautious as this institute is very reputed and of a national level so any mistake might wreak havoc. For the overall development, the elected people along with the president and vice-president should scrutinise things with the best of their abilities.
Introspecting deeper into the structure of SAC and elections, Sainandan Mohanty had the following to say:
When you conduct elections in the hostels, people accumulate IDs and passwords and get unfair votes and there’s always a trading business when it comes to votes. All of that’s still there but it has considerably decreased. The representatives after getting elected get overwhelmed and forget the essence of their manifesto. I understand that somethings in your manifesto might look unattainable and good on paper but you must always remember why you were elected and try to work towards your goal. Also, in the current SAC structure, there are too many post-holders who have no roles to play and are of no utility, they get elected and they disappear for the rest of the academic year. I think we should merge constituencies and decrease the posts. We should also compel all the students to come and make it compulsory for them to vote as it would reduce zonism as the zones can’t influence all the students.
NITR: Democracy or De-mockery?
Amidst the wave of nominations and the excitement of elections, there were a few candidates who questioned their candidature or withdrew. While several speculations were going around about the reasons for withdrawal, Team MM felt that it should be the candidates who should answer the question. Pre-final year student Rahul Sasmal said:
I had applied for the post of Convener in tech fest but I withdrew. My parents were not comfortable with the idea. They asked me to stay away from elections and stuff. I was personally interested, but I had to respect their decision.
During the election, no real malpractices were noticed but many people were shouting their zone’s slogans. We met many people who said, “You know whom to vote for. Vote for xyz.” and then immediately realised we were from MM and stayed aloof.
Whose ‘Awaaz’ in Awaaz-E-SAC?
While many candidates were grilled for their manifesto and were rendered answerable to the audience, some just sat on their high horse and dished out scripted answers to questions that were pre-planned. These contenders had planted their ‘well-wishers’ in the audience who asked them easy questions which helped strengthen the contender’s case and made them win applause for their ‘spontaneous answers’. The soapbox, intended for the students to ‘know, hear and question’, where the contenders ‘knew’ the majority of the questions that were asked; where we ‘heard’ what they wanted us to hear, they mugged-up answers droning on in a one-tone robotic voice made us ‘question’ if politics has become synonymous with dirty lobbying.
‘Who runs the world? Girls. Who runs the SAC? Boys.’
Looking at the nominations, it won’t take a genius to notice that SAC is a ‘sausage party’. The lack of female representatives is alarmingly discernible considering the increase in female students because of the increase in their seats.
Joshua Thomas Benoy (a Second year) had the following to say about the lack of female candidates:
I’m not sure if girls want to stand. I don’t know if people will support them or not since voting in SAC elections are done mostly on alliances and boys always have a majority. So even if girls stand for elections, they might not get as many votes as boys as girls don’t stand for elections in groups. However, when some of them do contest, people discourage them and they withdraw their nominations.
CREDITS: NITR DOPE TALES
Girls, generally, don’t stand up for elections but when they do, they are shut down and the environment isn’t welcoming for them so they prefer to stay aloof.
Rashmita Pulsam (a third-year) who was thinking of taking part in the elections got negative feedback from everyone and had the following to say about it:
They told me that if some guy stands instead of me, he’ll get more votes. Although the advice was small, I got to hear it from a lot of people so I chucked the idea for contesting for it. I don’t blame anyone but all of this let me down and the environment wasn’t supportive at all.
Smruti Sudha Biswal, an undergraduate from Life Science Dept. had very strong opinions about this issue:
“There has been a severe dearth of female representatives and many of my friends who have been willing to stand for the posts were suppressed by people and were blatantly discouraged by telling them that no boys would vote for you and it’ll be a big insult to you. So it’s better if you just don’t stand for the elections.”
ELECTION MARRED BY ZONE-ISM?
NITR, being an institute of national repute, is cosmopolitan in every other way as it harbours a diversified group of people from all around the globe. The people always prefer that their community is equally presented in the social mainstream that guarantees them with equal stature as others. This concept has boiled down to such an extent that zone-ism has bagged an inevitable significance in every other SAC event. Appraising the gravity of the present scenario, there has been found various evidence of campaigning types pertaining to zone-ism. Earlier there have been instances where a particular fest being managed by a particular community. This year for the SAC and Fest Convenor election, the campaigning was done in such a way that a particular linguistic/regional community bags the highest vote counts with a clear majority over the other.
There were instances where the supporters were made to share sticky notes enlisted with the names of candidates from a particular region and persuaded the people to cast their votes for that particular group of candidates. A week prior to the election day, the entire social media handles of the NITR junta was overflowing with posters in a set of four depicting the four desirable candidates to vote from the four societies. There was the evidence of digital posters with similar kind of designs that reflected the coalition among the candidates who desired to see those particular set of candidates emerging victorious.
Team MM wishes the newly elected representatives best of luck for their new journey and hope they’ll learn from the mistakes committed last year and make the upcoming year a grand year for the NITR Junta.