The Chief's Outlook: Director's Desk
With the commencement of the new academic year, Team Monday Morning got a chance to interact with honourable Director, Prof. Animesh Biswas. Given below is an excerpt from the interview, where he spoke about the plans for the current academic session. He shed some light on the existing programs like the establishment of the solar photovoltaic plant, aims of Vision 2025, admission to the first batch of executive PhD and part-Time M.Tech / MBA Programs and other notable projects. Prof. Biswas also addressed the problems persisting in the campus including poor internet connectivity, girls hostel requirement, 24*7 operational dispensary and many more.
Monday Morning(MM): What are your major focus areas for the session of 2019-20 with regards to the Institute?
Director: We have already developed a state of the art academic curriculum. We have consulted with a lot of experts twice and designed this curriculum, which I feel is a very flexible one. We have introduced minor degree courses and have also increased the number of branch changes. From this session onwards, we have started a new executive PhD program to attract several industries and researchers. The teaching-learning process has been functioning well. I'm always keeping a check on the academic performances of the students and making sure that the curriculum is functioning effectively enough.
MM: What measures is the institute taking to convert Vision 2025 plans and proposals into reality?
Director: Our alumni association has helped us to design the vision 2025 plans and we have identified eight pillars for our plan of action. We are working on the proposals and trying to assign a group of members for a particular pillar and get financial assistance from the government. We are in talks with Siemens and are planning to set up a Siemens Center of Excellence in our campus. The plan is still in progress and we have already identified a suitable location for setting up the excellence centre. It will be a high budget project and will take about three years to take shape. We are in talks with Vedanta for collaborations in different sectors of work. They have visited the campus and have identified certain areas of work, but still, it is in the negotiation stage. Unnat Bharat Abhiyan under the Prime Minister's Scheme is another area where we are planning to work on. As a part of the community, we must look after the well being and upliftment of areas near our campus. We are also planning to extend our health centre services to the nearby villages for regular health check-ups and awareness programs. Organic farming and improvisation in farming techniques is another field where we are currently working on.
MM: E-learning platform Edureka entered into a partnership with NIT Rourkela to prepare the future workforce in Big Data engineering. When would this course be started? And how many scholarships would be provided?
Director: For all the updates on these programs you can consult the Head of the Department of C.S.E department And besides, we are advertising for the second phase of faculty recruitment and non-teaching staff. Recently we have Prof. Pradip Kumar Das as our new Registrar which I feel is a big step.
MM: BOG chairman on his interaction with the students had promised better internet connectivity almost a year back during his visit to the institute. What initiatives has the institute received from his end in this regard?
Director: I have assigned this responsibility to Prof. Bibhudutta Sahoo. I have told him clearly that this is my priority and I want good network connectivity on the campus. The problem is our internet network has not been established correctly, so that's the main problem behind the poor internet connectivity. But I'm personally persuading him to work on this issue on a priority basis. Students are facing a lot of difficulties due to this and I feel bad about that. But I am sure he will be coming up with a quick solution. And adding to that, we have many budget constraints which are also a major issue.
MM: How satisfied are you with the response from the alumni network in the last academic year and what are your plans to increase the alumni networking?
Director: Before I joined, the alumni interactions were in a dormant stage. I believe that a strong alumni network is essential for an Institute's development. Alumni are like a mirror through which we see ourselves: if they do well it implicates the glory of the institute. Presently, I am really happy with the alumni response but I believe the alumni associations should extend more support to us on the economic front. The alumni network is expanding and I believe within a few more years it will scale greater heights. With the support of the alumni, we have a tie-up with Nalco to open up an ETBI (Emerging Technology Business Incubator), which is a big step for the growth of our institute at the incubation and training fronts which was possible only because of alumni help.
MM: Verghese Kurien hostel has been operational since this year but is partially filled. On the contrary, there is an urgent requirement of Girls’ Hostel due to increased Female strength on the campus. When can we expect another functional female hostel?
Director: We have a shortage of faculty quarters, besides, we have students from abroad and we have a limited capacity guest house which mostly fails to cater to the needs during rush periods. And we are heading for faculty recruitments soon, so it is a big question on our part to assign the hostels according to preferences and priorities. We have applied for the approval of certain projects like a 600- capacity girls hostel, a sports complex and an extension centre in Bhubaneswar. We have already presented them with the budget and plans, but it's a long process that will hopefully be successful.
MM: Because freshmen students have the provision of taking courses from NPTEL/SWAYAM which can contribute to their usual credits, do you have plans for extending the plan to the senior batches as well?
Director: It's not my decision, the senate has to take a call on this. And if this proposal comes up to the senate, then definitely there will be a discussion over it.
MM: On holidays or weekends whenever a faculty takes a class, most of the students face difficulties as they make prior travel arrangements for going to their hometowns or have some other plans. As a result, they mostly miss classes and face serious consequences due to that. Don't you think it is unfair on their part?
Director: It is difficult for me to comment on this. But I do agree this should not be done, I have instructed to not take classes on days of religious functions. I will take some measures to ensure that this doesn't happen in the future.
MM: Why was Joz and Amul Parlor closed? And what is the progress with regards to CCD (Cafe Coffee Day) coming to the campus?
Director: Joz and Amul have been called off due to some personal issues and complaints. We are in talks with some of the local food chains of Rourkela, to set up their counters on the campus, hopefully, it will be done soon. The CCD plan is on and we are communicating with them.
MM: What exactly is the role of junior research fellows being taken this year? How would their projects impact the research footprint in NITR?
Director: The main objective of this step is to increase our research activities. The only difference between the junior research fellows is the amount of scholarship money they receive. All of them are research fellows working on some particular research activities.
MM: Solar Photovoltaic power plant was installed in the institute this year, How important do you think will be the role of green energy in the future of this institute? Are there any such similar plans to be undertaken?
Director: The installation of a solar photovoltaic power plant in some parts of the campus is a big step that we have undertaken and we are planning to extend it throughout the campus and strive for green energy methods. We are the first NIT in the country, to take such an initiative and we are saving a lot of finances due to this step. And in the future, we are planning to implement more initiatives like this to emphasize the role of green energy.
MM: When can we expect updates in the curriculum which were suggested in the previous year? Is the provision of industry-relevant courses like Big Data and Machine Learning still in consideration for UG students?
Director: These courses are department-specific; the HOD's for respective departments will be able to answer this. We have made the structure flexible to incorporate such subjects but the final decision on the subjects to be taught is decided by the experts of the department and I cannot comment on that.
MM: There were plans for expanding the dispensary opening it 24*7. What is the update in this regard?
Director: We will shortly advertise to recruit two more doctors because opening the dispensary 24*7 with just three doctors is next to impossible. Once we have five doctors, we can make the dispensary services 24*7. In addition to that, we have tie-ups with hospitals like Care hospital (Bhubaneswar), AMRI (Bhubaneswar), Birla hospital( Kolkata) and Rai Clinic( Rourkela), we also plan to have more tie-ups in Ranchi and Visakhapatnam.
MM: There has been a major cut down in the security budget of the institute. But we lavishly spent money on Garden Fests, Celebrity Nights and other such events. Should not be safety and security be prioritized over this?
Director: Celebrity Night and other such events are funded by the SAC budget and the security budget goes from the budget that we get from the MHRD. Since we have got lesser funds from the MHRD, we have reduced the security budget as a precautionary measure. I will keep a check on the budget for such events as well but we need to understand that such events are also very important for the students as we cannot expect students to do only academics related work throughout the year.
MM: Infrastructure for sports in this institute is in bizarre condition, especially the tennis and basketball courts. What measures are being taken in this regard?
Director: The board has already approved the proposal for a tennis court. We have given a quotation to CPWD (Central Public Works Department); once the budget made by CPWD is approved the work will be started.
MM: Recently the OSRTC bus service from our institute to Bhubaneswar was stopped; can you shed some light on it?
Director: I am not aware of this, probably they aren't getting enough passengers but this is news to me.
MM: What is the status of air conditioning in LA1?
Director: In some classrooms, we have installed tower AC's and in some more rooms we are planning to install air conditioners. The main problem is funding; since the budget for our institute was reduced by the MHRD this year, installing ACs is difficult until we receive more funds from the ministry.
MM: What is the status of the railway concession form?
Director: I was expecting students to help me in this regard but nobody turned up. Every year you ask this question but Monday Morning never came up to tell me which authority to approach for this, I'm ready to do this but students have to help me.
MM: We have a database of On-campus placements, but we don't have any records of students/alumni who eventually go on to pursue opportunities other than those from campus placements, like higher education and research, off-campus jobs. While this database will be helpful for even the students of the institute, it is also essential for better rankings. Is there a plan for developing such a database for the students?
Director: Once students pass out from the institute, they get busy with a lot of engagements and hence the communication sometimes becomes a challenging task and then they realize the importance of the institute after 10 years when they are interested to know about the careers of their friends, as a result, we lose a lot of data. If somebody can take the initiative and give us such information then it will be of great help. Unless students come up with ideas to get such data, the institute cannot do anything about it.
MM: In the previous interview, you were expecting LA II and mechanical building to be functional by this academic year. What updates do you have in this regard?
Director: Handover has already taken place for the Mechanical building. Keys have already been given to them and shifting work is currently in progress for both the Mechanical and Industrial Design departments. Similarly, the handover procedure has also taken place for LA 2 building, but the air conditioning has not been done. The problem is that the building is built with a structure such that it can't be functional without air conditioners.
MM: Since the SAS assistant officer, Purnima Joshi left the institute, the position of swimming instructor is vacant and all the sports activities have to be managed by one person himself. What measures are being taken to fill this vacancy?
Director: We will be advertising soon for that post and the vacancy will be filled in due course of time.
MM: Since the Public Relations Officer, Mrs Itishree Singh Rathaur has left the institute, are there any plans for appointing a new PRO?
Director: We will be advertising soon for the post and the vacancy will be filled soon.
MM: The institute invited applicants for admission to the first batch of executive PhD and part-Time M.Tech / MBA Programs to be offered under the Self Financing scheme. How has the response been to these programs?
Director: The part-time M.Tech program failed to gain popularity, as a result, we had to drop this but the executive PhD and MBA programs have managed to get a good response.
MM: What message would you like to give to our readers at the start of the academic year?
You must enjoy life and at the same time focus on academics. Once you start correlating these two, you will start enjoying both of them. Never consider academics as some kind of pressure, rather enjoy it by giving importance to both extra-curricular and academic work.