An Exemplary Warden: Prof. Manish Okade
Almost everyone adores Professor Manish Okade for some reason or the other and creating a similar student-friendly image in such a large campus is no easy task. As the Warden of MSS Hall of Residence, Prof. Manish Okade has taken numerous steps to ensure comfort and well-being of the boarders. With only three months left to his tenure, he wants to share his views as the warden and as a well-wisher of the students of the campus:
His interview is presented to you in the format of a letter to all the students of NIT Rourkela.
When I joined as the Warden of MSS Hall of residence, I was still a new guy on the campus. Many senior professors could have become the warden, but Prof K.K. Mahapatra suggested my name to the Director saying, "If you give a task to this man, he will get it done." Although there were other speculations for the decision, I decided to pay no such attention to such talks and instead took up my new duty. The state of halls in which the students were thriving wasn't enough to provide them with the requisite standard of living. I didn't have prior experience as Assistant warden before becoming the hostel warden of M.S Swaminathan Hall of Residence.
I am that kind of a person who believes only in hard work. It is my perception that there is nothing called luck but only hard work matters. On the first day of my wardenship, I didn't have a clue about Hall's location. I went around in my car looking for MSS, and it was raining. Finally, I reached, and everyone was anxious to know what kind of a person I am. I had been given a responsibility out of turn, and I had to prove myself. I have had almost six years of living in a hostel. More or less, I had an idea about the problems faced by the boarders.
Everybody was sceptical about me. There was a point where there was no or least communication among the other wardens and me. So I took it as a challenge. There was almost nothing in the name of hall facilities before me, and a few equipment present were old and of no use. Except for the last two-three months owing to some conferences, convocation work and other important duties, I have been active since day zero of my wardenship. Before MSS I was not a known guy, but now for the efforts that I have put in, I think I will be known for Basic Electronics Classes as well as my wardenship.
A warden's duty is to overlook the stay of the boarders in the Hall and fulfil their requirements. Not all boarders have the same requisites. There is a diversity in the type of residents. A good warden is one who listens to what the students have to say. Every year there are a lot who come to warden's office proposing a change of room. One way to answer them is to avoid them, and the other way is to listen to the problems faced by the student and why he wishes for a change of room. The latter way is what needs to be administered by a warden. There is a great hostel management system here where both the students and administration is a part of it. The students can put up their views too. To work with them as a team is what needs to be done.
These two years of my tenure as the warden of MSS Hall of Residence, Chief Warden was there to back me. All of the accomplishments have only been possible with his support. I never run behind any post or having power in my hands. A post has been entrusted with me, and I have to prove my mettle. I go ahead with this kind of mindset. So a warden is also someone who acts as a bridge between the administration and the Chief Warden. All in all, a warden has to put up a balancing act- be sensitive with the students and also be cordial with the higher-ups.
I have hardly three months left as the warden of MSS. I recently installed four washing machines. They weren't available to the students for the last ten days to prevent damage to the washing machines due to washing of Holi clothes. Due to the Coronavirus scare, the hall day got called off. So we have some budget left, and I intend to use that for increasing the seating capacity of the reading room with steel benches. Chairs will be substituted with steel benches with wooden planks to provide a bit of headrest. Such a move was decided to prevent the misplacement of chairs by boarders. I also had a plan for an indoor badminton court; however, due to the budget constraints, I wasn't able to pull through that idea.
I have always believed in giving out to students as much as I can as the warden. When I got a budget approval of 3 ACs of 2-tonne capacity, I could have installed one in my office in MSS and 2 in the study room. But I had an idea. I took a part of the old mess of MSS Hall and converted it to a Multi-utility room where students can study, have group discussions, conduct HEC meetings, use it as a music room and much more. I installed the third AC in that room which can be used anytime now. Other than this, I have been trying to implement Diesel Generators for all the boys' hostels which is now a necessity as, without electricity, most of the work of students will stop, and some accidents may also happen in the darkness caused by the blackout. Improvement of gardens, building a platform in the new badminton court, concreting of the borders to help prevent waterlogging were materialized under me as the warden. Internally developing the study room, installing a multi-utility room and painting of the existing badminton courts with the replacement of the nets with new one were done as well.
A role or responsibility comes with a parcel of problems. And I have tackled them with ease. But the main problem that I faced was from the mess. The contractors have been here for long, and they have a mindset that they can allure the wardens by giving them special treatment, and in return, they will overlook the problems. This doesn't work out with me, though. All I want from them is a good treatment for my boarders.
Currently, we are moving in the direction of revamping the mess system of NITR where it will be a pay and eat system designed like NITRIS where students can log in and eat in whichever Hall they want to. What this will do is create a demand-based scenario in the different mess of NITR, and the mess contractor will have to keep up with the quality of the food if they want more students to come and eat at their Hall. This will also drive out the influence of contractors on the mess system of NITR. We will start on an experimental basis with small hostels and expand with good results.
I don't expect much from the students. The students aren't at their home. Everything changes with their stay at hostels. So one can't ask much from the boarders. The only thing that I want my students is not to get involved in drinking, smoking and drugs. NIT is a national institute, so there is huge diversity. But I don't want the students to get into groups based on geographical boundaries and follow Groupism/Zonism. Everybody should get along with each other. If the students want to enjoy a drink on a special occasion, then they can but making it a habit is what I strictly forbid. Ultimately I would say you don't get into bad company and bad habits.
There have been many cases like this where I stand with students and strive to provide them with the facility that they want. But there are some scenarios in which we cannot give the freedom that you want. One such example is the Late-Entry rule which is implemented for the safety and integrity of the students themselves, and although I respect the individuality of a student, this is where we draw a line. There have been disciplinary cases which could have been avoided if students have abided by the late entry rule. Other than the safety point of view, the Late Night entry rule doesn't have meaning because the productivity of students is not defined by a clock. If someone wants to complete some lab work or have a discussion with his friends, he/she needs that freedom to move in the campus late at night. But we cannot trust everyone that they won't misuse the freedom given to them.
Talking about the freedom, I have seen students who want to have Co-Ed hostel facilities in NITR and if this happens, it will be a step towards modernization of the Hostel systems in NITR. But again the question of security comes in. The stakeholders in this debate include parents of the boarders too. We have to make sure that the parents are comfortable with their students staying in Co-Ed hostels. What we can do right now is make common spaces in hostels like common rooms or study rooms where all the genders can interact but under a watch. Likewise, girls can come and eat in the boys' mess according to pay as you eat system.
Coming to a conclusion, I will say that there should not be any competition among the halls in terms of facilities or food. If a student wants to use a facility which is available in MSS hall but not in his Hall, he is most welcome to come and use it properly. I have travelled to many places- in India and abroad, and I have seen the hostel and mess facilities there too. And I would like to say that you are residing in one of the best institutes of the country and you should be proud of what you are a part of.