By Sanket Warad and Akash Garg
The Students General Secretary Soapbox was the second soapbox on Day 2 of the Institute Soapboxes, held on 9 March. It was preceded by the soapbox for the Hostel Affairs Secretary, which had a single running candidate. The contesting SGS candidates this year are Sai Kiran G L and Dheeraj Kumar Reddy. As per standard Soapbox procedure, the candidates presented their manifestos and corresponding visions for the Institute.
As expected, both the contestants had their own supporters who were hooting and cheering for them. Sai Kiran, who began the presentations, proposed 5 verticals which were at the heart of his campaign:
- Accessibility: Elevators in CRC, for improved accessibility especially for the differently abled, and 24*7 pharmacy
- Infrastructure: Better facilities like unisex salon, canteens, cobbler and laundry shops
- Safety and Security: Workshops for self-defense, biometrics at the institute gates and ease of C-CASH complaint process
- Insti Life: Initiatives like ‘Passport mela’ and dustbins at more places
- SGS teams: E-cell internship portal, workshops for design and similar skills and centralised complaint system
This was followed by Dheeraj’s presentation which reflected his vision for making the campus more ‘student friendly’. The major aspects of his manifesto were:
- IITM IVRS: a centralised app connecting students with MITR and administrative services
- Imprint: Setting up a PR team which would document various achievements and aspects to showcase insti in a better light
- RuTAG: internship opportunities, working together with I&AR
- Discovering India: A pan-IIT programme to work for social causes in rural areas
- Regular faculty advisor-student meetings to be ensured
- Digital Insti: Online room vacancy portal, online gate-pass system, online bona fide and transcripts and an online grievances committee
- Civil Study Circle, Hospital committee, RF-ID tracking, electrical backup room, replantation drive, additional buses to Saras and Tapti, etc.
Q&A between the candidates
The presentations were followed by alternate cross-questioning between the candidates with a maximum of one follow up question being allowed.
- Dheeraj first questioned Sai Kiran’s plan of reconstructing existing SFCs into a multistoreyed building, stating that even Dean Planning thinks of it as Vision 2030. Sai Kiran countered this by saying that he could, at least, start the process and push admin towards this goal and that once the idea is passed, it could become a reality in few years.
- Sai Kiran then questioned Dheeraj on the response time and the overall feasibility of the IVRS app. This was answered by Dheeraj, who said that the cost of the IVRS would be as low as Rs. 2 per student per year and that the app would be helpful for people coming from outside insti for Saarang, Shaastra, etc.
- Next, Dheeraj asked Sai Kiran whether there was a need of biometric system at institute gates where an identity card would just suffice. SaiKiran responded by saying that one can forget their identity cards but not their fingers
- Following this, Sai Kiran asked Dheeraj about the reason for the closing down of the previous insti PR team, to which Dheeraj responded by saying that we need to showcase our insti in front of the freshmen by initiatives like ‘IITM campus tour’, which the previous PR team failed to do.
Open Q& A
Venkataraman Ganesh, the outgoing Speaker, began by asking the candidates about their plans for water shortage issues that insti may face anytime in the future, given the expected droughts in Tamil Nadu. Dheeraj proposed the idea of Push Taps implemented in Jamuna, while Sai Kiran responded by suggesting holding drives and encouraging people to save water.
The Speaker then asked the candidates their views on sexual harassment in campus and how they would handle this issue, being CCASH members. Dheeraj suggested changing the structure of the support system so that complaints can be heard promptly. He also suggested developing an offline app through which victims can lodge complaints of sexual harassment. The Speaker then pointed out that the structure of CCASH cannot be changed as its setting up is mandated by the central government, and that CCASH cannot accept complaints through Apps.
The next discussion point revolved around the question of dealing with substance abuse and rehabilitation on campus, and their consequences. Dheeraj’s opinion was that these issues should be taken up through Medall counselling. Both the candidates were in favour of pardoning first timers and leaving them with a warning, as strict punishment could ruin students’ careers. They were heavily criticized on this point by several outgoing EW members, who pointed out that such a pardon would amount to ignoring illegal activity.
The outgoing SGS, Purab Jain, brought up the candidates’ manifesto point regarding revamping colloquium and reminded them that it was closed due to lack of applications the previous year. He also asked them how they planned to revamp it this year. Sai Kiran responded by saying that he plans to involve freshmen and PG students in the organising team, which was criticised by Purab who said that involving freshmen in organising positions won’t be a good move.
Purab also asked the candidates about their plans for C-CASH; Dheeraj said that he plans to collaborate with Life Skills course taught to freshmen. Purab again questioned the possibility of such a plan as freshmen were never found to be involved in gender sensitisation issues.
A member of audience directed a question towards Dheeraj asking if any groundwork was done to support his idea of providing bus service to Tapti, arguing that the roads are smaller than the smallest buses insti has. Dheeraj said that we can do trials for a few days and a decision would then be made based on the result.
Both the candidates were also criticised for including manifesto points that cater to the domain of the Sports secretary.
Finally, a GSB member asked each candidate to mention one point from the other’s manifesto which they liked and would implement if they became secretary. Sai Kiran mentioned the electrical back up idea from Dheeraj’s manifesto, whereas Dheeraj commented that he would implement the ideas from Sai Kiran’s manifesto if he found a proposal feasible.