An Account On The Administrative Sovereignty Of NITR: Registrar Speaks
With the commencement of the new academic year, new budgets, plannings, structural and administrative reforms have come into being. Team Monday Morning approached our honourable Registrar, Professor P.K. Das to uncover some of the elements of the governance system of our Institute and make the Junta aware of the reasons behind some muddles which have been pestering us.
MM: How has been your experience as a registrar in the institution? What are the major challenges you are facing?
P.K. Das: To start with, I would like to let you all know that NIT Rourkela is my alma mater, I am a Civil Engineer graduate of the batch 85’. As we all know NIT Rourkela is a well known and reputed engineering institute of the country admitting bright kids through competitive exams like JEE for UG programmes and also has an unquestionable passionate set of teachers. The balanced combination of these two is indeed the fulcrum to our academic community.
In addition to a healthy student-teacher relationship, for a supplement growth of an organisation like us, the governance system should also be upstanding. Owing to automation, most of our work has already become fast and smooth but there still lies some challenges which need to be taken care of as soon as possible. The one major among them all is the wrong approach due to paucity of information among the students. It often happens that certain documents that have to be taken to a certain official land up in the wrong office increasing confusion and hence, the workload. For instance, a deputy is accounted for the PG scholars to take care of their scholarship matters in the Dean Academics office. There is absolutely no role of the registrar still at the beginning of my joining I was encountered with many such cases, students used to directly come to me taking all these matters where I could not do anything. For around 2 months I kept on observing things and then finally segregated it for PhD and UG, PG to streamline the present scenario.
During the admission process also, there always used to be a hustle and bustle in front of my office, students were confused as to which courses they should register and many other things. We set up a meeting with all the faculty advisors so that these hiccups remain to the departmental level. Everything we did was to make sure that the stay of students should remain comfortable throughout the course of their degree completion here in NIT Rourkela and we could prevent any blip under our control.
MM: Can we increase the timing for student visit in Assistant Registrar’s(Academic) office in order to reduce the crowd?
P.K. Das: My contact number is present on the website, students can talk to me over the phone, mail me on my email id or can even have a facebook interaction. I expect my students to tell me what flaws they find in the administration so that we could implement them for their own benefits. These feedbacks are always welcomed and we would try to work on them as soon as possible.
MM: On what basis is the budget decided on various things in the institute?
P.K. Das: Earlier in every government system, we used to have a scheme which had planned expenditures and unplanned expenditures under it. Pensions, salaries, scholarship, etc are some of the planned things as we know how many people should be given a salary, how many are rightful to pension beforehand but we do not know how much expenditure we will be facing over buildings, machinery and a lot more things, so they come under the unplanned expenditure. Nowadays in lieu of those planned and unplanned expenditures, we have 31 and 35. 31 is related to salaries and pensions, 35 is regarding the capital expenditure(new building, department).
Last time we proposed around 300 crores but MHRD cut it down to 152 crores. After some discussion with the director and MHRD officials, this time the budget is set to something around 200 crores. Talking about the budget, some expenditures and earnings are fixed but some remain vague, for instance, the Golden Jubilee Building. Suppose we plan to inaugurate it next year then we will have to look after how much money goes into making it centrally air-conditioned and other important things. We have to look after how much money needs to be invested in the painting of hostels, repairing worn-out roads, fixing machinery etc. These possible expenditures have to be foreseen apart from the fixed generation and expenditure of money resulting in the making of the annual budget.
MM: In view of the recent crunches of funds in the institution, how has the institute planned to raise or divert funds again?
P.K. Das: I can remember, just 2 years back the system was a luxury and the resources were spent prodigally which somehow set our mindsets to spend recklessly even in times of fund scarcity. Let's say, some department last year got 90 lakhs for the operational purposes and suddenly this year that amount drops down to 40 lakhs. It is nothing but a matter of surprise to them as till now they have settled down to spend amounts as 90 lakhs. There are certain things which need to be prioritized and here comes the role of the H.O.D.s of all the departments who have to keep a check on where the money needs to be spent.
The time is not far away when NIT Rourkela will have to bring about its own funds. The ministry may also impose on us as they have on IIMs in future to generate money through the admission process in the name of internal resources. IIMs do not get a big amount as MHRD provides to the institute’s coming under IIT structure.
The foremost thing we should pay heed on is to spend judicially and not as much as we want to be prepared for times when the funds won’t favour our spendings.
MM: Do we always get the same amount from MHRD or does it get varying?
P.K. Das: We have proposed to open two schools of Agriculture and Pharmaceutical which are already approved in the senate. The main objective behind it is to picturise the institute as a University. The approximate budget required for this project is to be placed as an agenda in the next finance committee meeting for its approval. So, basically there is no constant amount which we get from MHRD, it keeps on varying owing to the call of the hour.
MM: What about the medical college that was proposed to be set up in our Institute? What are the updates on that?
P.K. Das: Just like IIT KGP we also decided to have non-conventional subjects and degrees but the idea has been dropped due to some reasons which are not known to me presently.
MM: Owing to the recent crunches, will the student fees be hiked again?
P.K. Das: Fee hike has not been proposed yet but another proposal suggesting the collection of around ₹1500 has passed in the last BOG for the alumni funds which will be collected soon.
MM: How will the financial priorities of the administration change after the financial crisis has deepened?
P.K. Das: This 23rd we are going to have our BOG meeting in Mumbai. Our chairman has decided to have prospective planning for next 3 years, we have to decide which projects to be handled based on which we will present our plan before the ministry people who will be there as the members of the BOG.
We always keep in our consideration the civil and physical infrastructure but the IT infrastructure never becomes the priority, so we have asked the head of the department to prepare a proposal or a report for next 3 years on what is needed.
Energy consumption is also increasing for which students need to conscious about as 75 lakhs is a big amount to pay so we have decided to have a proper metering system in all the hostels and each department will also have the energy audit.
MM: If funds are less, can’t we start spending less lavishly on hall days, Grand farewell, etc and provide money to issue that matter like infrastructure and security personnel?
P.K. Das: We had a meeting recently with Chief Wardens and Dean Welfare, our director is very concerned about it as last year a lot of food was wasted which is not a good thing to happen in an institute of national importance. Some measures will surely be taken to ensure no wastage of food.
MM: What are the methods of internal resource generation you will suggest to the institute?
P.K. Das: As per now, we are not allowed to generate money but we have started with part-time M.tech, part-time PhD, part-time M.B.A. in some institutes they have regular courses as well as self-sustaining courses. This model may come in future.
MM: How do you feel about the governance structure of NITR? How is it different from the Institute of your previous appointment?
P.K.Das: I started my professional carrier in 1987 from OUAT, after serving for 15 years, I switched over to UCE Burla. I have been a part of a handful of universities each with the different work culture and in the process, I got acquainted with working in different administrative positions and gained expertise. I always prefer a decentralized governance system, where people have the freedom to take a certain decision. In NIT Rourkela, the governance process is well structured and automation is one of the reasons why this system is so fast and effective.
MM: The refund money of graduates is always passed or transferred pretty late, 2-3 years down the line. Why does it take so much time?
P.K.Das: When I joined the institute in May, the final year students were graduating and they faced a bit of problem as they were not given a clearance. The students didn’t get a clearance letter from the library section or the hostels, due to which there was a delay in refunding the caution money. Due to some lack of coordination between the academic section, library section and chief wardens office, I felt the students had to face a lot of inconveniences. This time we plan to resolve this issue and get a record of all outstanding dues of students beforehand so that there wouldn’t be much chaos at the end.
MM: Why has there been a cut in funds by the MHRD?
P.K.Das: This is a government policy and it would be inappropriate on my part, to comment on this. I believe the government must be having a specific plan for the development of newly established NIT’s, our’s being a well-established institute we can’t expect the same financial aid from the government, as not every institute is on the same footing.
MM: How do you plan to restore the loss of documents and data in the fire in the purchasing department?
P.K.Das: Just before I left VSSUT, we did a high budget project, that was the digitization of old documents. There is a National Academic Depository, which is working throughout the country for the digitization of mark sheets, certificates, journals, and research papers. The office of the Dean Academics has already started this process in our institute, we will also be looking to extend this project to the library documents and archives.
MM: There were reports in the press about CAG slamming NITR for gross irregularities in faculty recruitment. To what extent they are true. How do you see such incidents?
P.K.Das: I joined the institute in May, so I shouldn’t comment about things I wasn’t part of. But as per my knowledge is concerned, when the CAG came for inspection, we provided them with sufficient evidence in the form of documents. All the rules and guidelines were followed during the faculty recruitment process.
MM: Since the last two semesters the registration portal for semester registrations is not activated on time. How do you plan to make sure that such problems do not occur next time? Also the problems regarding fee bills being dispatched without considering the waiver.
P.K.Das: I’m not the correct person to answer this question, as this comes under the department of Dean Academics. We have six deans and each of them has a well-defined domain of work field. I shouldn’t encroach upon the domain of someone else. This is the Dean Academics dept. Duty to ensure the smooth functioning of the registration process. But I can be a passive observer to all these matters.
MM: The majority of the SAC Funds get unused and go to the Corpus Fund. Could you please elaborate on the expenditure of the Corpus Fund?
P.K.Das: Dean Student Welfare can give you a better picture in this regard. But this is a usual process in the financing, whatever amount has been allocated to a particular body if some part of it remains unused by the end of the session then that balance amount will be transferred back to the reserved funds.