With three contestants, a post-dinner crowd, some technical glitches and the unintentionally appropriate background noise of badminton practice in SAC began the soapbox for the position of Institute Sports Secretary. The diversity that came with a PG male candidate, a UG female candidate and a UG male candidate was one of the better things about the rather chaotic soapbox. The candidates were given 8 minutes each to present before the questions began. The soapbox was moderated by Chaithra Navada, Chief Commissioner, Student Ethics and Constitution Commission (SECC). The proceedings were overseen by Dr. Thyagaraj, Chief Election Officer. Meena Chockalingam reports:

Presentations

Rohan Lal, an MS Scholar from the Department of Electrical Engineering was the first to present. Calling the state of affairs of sports in insti quite good, he went to present his initiatives to make it better. He proposed to introduce Kabaddi, Kick Volleyball, Pool Table games, Kho-Kho and a horse-riding club in the institute. He talked about risks that skaters face when they practise alongside footballers in rush hours and proposed to create a safe practising environment for them. He also proposed online and offline booking of sports fields and courts slot-wise, training sessions for new learners and all other students. To improve the hostel sports scene, he talked about meeting hostel sports secretaries regularly and having a transparent selection procedure for tournaments and a feedback mechanism to improve events.

He moved on to propose infrastructural advancements such as replacing old gym equipments with new ones and installing wooden badminton and basketball courts. He proposed the introduction of ropes for easy recognition of boundaries, digital display boards in place of the existing analog display boards and lights to enable the use of Chemplast cricket ground at night. He sought to improve the quality of grass on fields, install boundaries (through fencing) around the hockey field and construct washrooms near football and hockey ground. He ended with a proposal to improve lighting and revise timings of Manohar C Watsa stadium. First position in the 41st KVS Regional Sports Meet – Cricket, Mumbai Region was listed as his only credential at the end of the presentation.

With more people trickling in, crowd support increased as Shrinath Bhat, a third-year undergraduate student, began his presentation with his vision of bringing in a conducive and inviting environment for students to ensure inclusivity, accessibility, and transparency. With regard to inclusivity, he proposed the introduction of gymming and fitness club, women’s powerlifting and para powerlifting competitions, exclusive football and cricket camps for women, splitting of NSO program into two batches, certified programme for postgraduate students, a channel for PG students to practise along with NSO UG students and an institute-wide MADrush race.

In order to streamline activities and systems, Shrinath proposed the creation of a grievance management portal to collect grievances and suggestions, earmarking of Tuesdays and Fridays as Sports Days of the Week (and organising sessions accordingly), digital certificates for all sporting related events and a lending system for non-marking shoes. Under his ‘Nurture’ initiatives were incentives such as Institute Orange Tag and refreshments during morning sessions, introduction of an elective course to handle game pressure and designing of nutrition charts and workshops by dieticians.

Multi-storey building with a synthetic badminton court, table tennis court and a new gym, a sand track for strength and and endurance-building and portable cricket nets in the stadium, vending machines for snacks and refreshments in Gymkhana and SAC and arrangement of a discount system in all sports outlets around insti were his infrastructural initiatives. Under outreach, Shrinath proposed the creation of a YouTube channel exclusive for IIT-M sports, introduction of a Web-Ops team under Sports Organising Committee that would handle his initiatives in and maintenance of the sports website, creation of an alumni sports donation portal and database to receive donations inn the sporting sphere, exclusive T-shirt sales as a branding initiative for different sporting clubs and a collaboration with US-based EUSAI to commercialise sports, bring in free merchandise and live-stream matches.

He concluded with his credentials – Hostel Sports Secretary (Godavari Hostel), Finance Core, Sports Organising Committee, Institute Athletics Convenor, Media Coordinator, Inter-IIt Sports Meet and Saarang and the title of Mr. NSO – and signed off to a cheering crowd.

Keerthana, a fourth-year UG student from the department of Mechanical Engineering, began her presentation with her vision: to celebrate our sporting culture, promote sports as an experience for all, and develop and inclusive sports community by  including diverse sets of people and facilitating their growth. She sought to include people through hostel-wise beginner camps, PG initiation week at the beginning of every semester, a para-sports representative, NSO sport change option at the beginning of odd semester, NSO football and cricket for girls and sports calendar that will be published at the beginning of every year in the IIT-M Students App and sports website.

To create channels to facilitate and nurture talent, Keerthana proposed active player groups, flagship events for each club, visual footage for important matches to improve performance, player-wise fitness score cards that will be maintained through the year, introduction of classic chess in Shroeter to hone talent for the inter-IIT Chess Meet and opening of women’s gym in Sabarmati with a female gym instructor in place of the existing inaccessible timing of 3.30 to 5.30 pm in the insti gym.

She emphasised on the need to celebrate sports history in orders to inspire other students to join. She sought to do that through compilations of Inter-IIT match highlights on social media, sharing tales of Inter-IIT (that are currently restricted to the sports community) through The Fifth Estate and Chennai 36 by the SOC PR team, media coverage of Shroetor, creation of a wall of fame in SAC to showcase Inter-IIT silverware, legacy exhibits that display a particular team’s logo, motto and tallies, insti book of records that will document both sport and fitness records, and digitized record keeping of scorecards and ladder systems.

In order to make sports and experience for everyone, she proposed branding sports merchandise in insti and generating revenue for SOC,  conduction of traditional sports league along with Sabhas and Samitis to revive traditional games, non-competitive sports league for snooker and foosball as an avenue for recreation and developing team spirit and match screenings of cricket, football, tennis and other sports will be made more regular.

In order to achieve all the initiatives listed in her manifest, Keerthana explained her strategy that involved restructuring SOC and redefining the responsibilities of clubs such that they stay in the sports system even beyond her tenure as sports secretary, if she were to be elected. She listed the different representatives and teams under SOC and mentioned that their additional responsibilities are listed in her manifesto. Club responsibilities will primarily be to make new students take up the sport and conduct competitive and non-competitive events. A clear demarcation of responsibilities between the club convenor and the captain will be made at the beginning of the tenure.

She concluded with her credentials:  institute tennis team captain (2 terms), team member of institute tennis when it won one gold and two silver medals, Sharavati sports secretary and PR Coordinator of SOC.

Cross Questioning

Round 1

Rohan asked Shrinath for his views on introducing pool table in inter-hostel competitions, to which Shrinath said that last year, Kishore had proposed this too, but not all the hostels have pool tables; introducing this in Dean’s Trophy right now is therefore not possible but they can include this definitely when every hostel is equipped.

Rohan asked Keerthana to share her views regarding providing ropes or digital display in Chemplast ground-there is only analog display now. He added that there are also no facilities for night matches. Keerthana said that firstly the authority to use Chemplast ground doesn’t solely lie with the campus but also with Sanmar and so any infrastructural changes should be done after consulting them.

Shrinath asked Rohan about his plan to install floodlights in Manohar C Watsa stadium and inquired about whom he consulted for this. Rohan said that he had talked with many hostel Sports secretaries who said that most students are free in night hours and would like to practise in the stadium. Currently there are strict closing times in the evening and the timings can be extended only if there are lights. As a follow-up, Shrinath said that everyone feels the same, but approval needs to be taken at the level of the Director which he, Rohan has not sought and suggested he get to know whom he should be approaching. Rohan thanked him  for the suggestion.

Shrinath told Keerthana that there is women’s gym already in Sabarmati and that DoSt and Sports Advisor said that they won’t be providing a female instructor. Additionally, he said that rules cannot have female students of other hostels entering through the hostel main gate. He asked her about her plans for a female instructor. Keerthana said that the women’s gym is well equipped and that right now, DoSt and Sports Advisor do not want to fund a female instructor there because it is in the hostel zone and maintenance of these gyms comes under the budgets of the hostel secretaries. She said but if you consider the basic pay of Rs.16,000 monthly for a gym instructor, it will take Rs. 48,000 from every hosel every year or say, an even bigger cap also-1 lakh rupees per year, half of each hostel’s budget-for employing a gym instructor. When she brought this up with the Dean of Students and the Sports Advisor, she said they have reconsidered expecting hostel secretaries to pay for it under their budget and asking Gymkhana to pay instead when girls are also paying Rs.1000 per semester as Gymkhana fees. Shrinath told Keerthana that Sabarmati hostel is not willing to pay from their budget. She said this is exactly why it needs to be under the Gymkhana budget and thanked him. Shrinath then said that both the DoSt and Sports Advisor are against this. Keerthana said that when she talked to them, she split the budget like this: Rs.10 per student per hostel to fund a female gym instructor out of a hostel sports budget of Rs. 20. Upon seeing it in this light, she said, both the DoSt and the Sports Advisor were willing to consider paying for it from the Gymkhana budget. Shrinath then said that she should have contacted the Finance core of SOC about its feasibility. Keerthana replied that she didn’t see any reason to when both the Dost and Sports Advisor are in agreement.

Keerthana brought up Rohan’s idea to improve the grass on football and hockey grounds and asked for a semester wise or year wise plan for it. He said Chemplast ground has better grass and provision of sprinklers, while the other grounds don’t and that he plans to facilitate it.

Keerthana asked Shrinath about his proposal to build a multistorey building with gym, synthetic courts etc. She said that firstly, she had spoken to the Dean Planning who has told her that the land near the swimming pool where Shrinath plans to have the building built comes under the deer corridor and no construction can happen. She further said MHRD has mandated that there is cap on the area under construction on the campus which is currently saturated. Secondly, she said that Dean Planning had told her no new construction proposals will be entertained until certain other constructions are implemented and completed. Rohan said he had actually planned to have the building inside the compound which comes in the footprint itself and Dean had agreed about it. Regarding the timeline, he said it will come up after the indoor court which Kishore had proposed. When further asked for the approximate time it will take, he said his job is make the proposal and Dean Planning will take care of the rest. Keerthana said that she believes she had read that the building will come up near the swimming pool in his feasibility report. She then asked where he plans on acquiring funds. He replied that institute will be funding it.

Rohan asked Shrinath about his views on bringing Kabaddi into the sports scene  in the institute to which Shrinath said that it is not allowed since it is a contact sport. On being pressed further, he repeated that it is not allowed according to the rules.

Rohan told Keerthana that as the badminton courts are almost always congested and asked her if she has any plans of improving the infrastructure facilities. She replied that in order to increase accessibility of sports, we needn’t always resolve to constructing more buildings. Instead she said, we can plan on improving the efficiency of using these resources which is addressed by two of her manifesto points-sports calendar and active player groups. Rohan repeated that people who want to play badminton in their free time are not able to do so. Keerthana said that her answer will remain the same and that resources are always limited and we should focus on using them better.

Shrinath told Rohan that he would really like to have horse-riding in the institute and asked him to bring it as soon as possible. Rohan talked of the Madras School of Equitation located in Velachery with whom they can have a collaboration to learn horse-riding. When Shrinath inquired about its feasibility, Rohan said that he did not consult anyone.

Shrinath told Keerthana that when he talked to the Sports Advisor, he was told that if it would be a tradeoff between number of girls and boys in NSO if they were to have football and cricket for girls as the total cap is fixed. As a consequence, he said, number of boys getting into NSO will be reduced. He asked her opinion on it. She said that because of the supernumerary quota, the intake of girls has increased. Just by that logic, she added, there needs to be an increase in the number of seats for girls in NSO. She said when she brought this up with the Sports Advisor, DoSt & PTIs of the sports, they didn’t seem to have a problem with it. Shrinath then emphasized again his point that her plan might have the consequence of cutting down on the number of seats for boys and that beginner camps for football and cricket will be a better option to which Keerthana reiterated they have disagreeing information. The current Institute Sports Secretary Kishore Yadav intervened to say that the cap will be the same as from his conversation with the Sports Advisor. Keerthana then said there is already a football interest group which has more than 50 female participants. She said she cannot see what new can be done with a beginner’s camp that wasn’t done already. On the question being clarified by Chaithra, Keerthana then mentioned what Kishore

Yadav had told her about several seats falling vacant in other sports for girls. She suggested compensating for the increased seats in football and cricket with the vacant seats in other sports.

Keerthana then asked Rohan if he had budgeted for the construction of a wooden badminton court and who had been consulted for approval of the same. Rohan replied that many hostels have badminton courts constructed improperly and so he would like to have them made over into wooden courts. Keerthana argued that it didn’t answer her question of how it is budgeted.

At this point, Chaithra asked a GSB member to leave the soapbox. EC members Vamsi Krishna Mula and Kirshor Yadav approached to have a word with him. There ensued clapping and booing for sometime after which the soapbox continued.

Rohan said the solution is to have more number of courts and that he hadn’t asked anyone about it.

The chief election officer asked the students to be cordial and maintain decorum.

Keerthana asked Shrinath about his plans to split NSO into two batches and also include the program for PGs which would result in nine sessions per week and sought clarification regarding this. Shrinath said she got the count wrong; there will be one combined session for both the batches and what he had mentioned in his manifesto is that the program will be open to PGs.

With the example of Football NSO, when asked about the efficiency of the combined sessions where the total count will be doubled, Shrinath said he had not mentioned anywhere that the cap on the total NSO members will be double the present count. He said he had made the timeline such a way that the combined sessions will not clash with institute practice.

Round 2

Rohan asked Shrinath whether there could be an improvement in how Sangam ground is used simultaneously by football players and skaters to which Shrinath replied there is always a constraint on infrastructural changes and what they could do is arrange different timings for the sake of safety.

He then asked Keerthana her opinion on online and offline booking of slots for different courts and grounds. She said it is a great initiative to provide for booking slots online. On further clarification of the question she said that she that there is no booking system as such for the various grounds on campus and that Chemplast is used for tournaments and so there isn’t much control over its booking.

There was a second interruption with Chaithra asking an unidentified GSB member creating a disturbance to step out of the venue.

Shrinath asked Rohan about his plans to put ropes in the Sanmar ground and asked if Rohan knew why they currently do not do this. Rohan replied that they currently use only white chalk and it must be because no one came up with this idea. Shrinath continued inquiring if he knew who to contact regarding permission. Rohan replied when it is implemented it will automatically come into act. Shrinath replied that incharge for Sanmar ground is Ajay and they don’t use ropes for the safety of fielders. Rohan thanked him for the information.

Shrinath then asked Keerthana if she was aware that there is already a sports calendar with Sports Organising Committee(SOC). He added that SOC doesn’t use it because they cannot fix on a proper calendar at the start of the semester. Keerthana replied in the affirmative and said that her sports calendar will be a dynamic one and slots will filled as the semester progresses so that one will have an indication of when competitive events are going happen. Shrinath further insisted that the existing SOC calendar does what she proposes and to provide that information is not a manifesto point of a Sports Secretary as such but a responsibility. Keerthana replied that her sports calendar will be released at the beginning of the semester itself and every student needs to know the sporting events that happen in the institute. She was then told by Chaithra to stick to the answer. Keerthana added that access to information is key and that is what she is trying to achieve through her calendar-better access to information. Shrinath repeated that it is not a manifesto point or a new initiative. Keerthana replied that if one wants to break down every point based on why it is there, everything boils down to be the responsibility of the Sports Secretary and that her point is about improving accessibility.

Keerthana asked Rohan about his plans for maintaining a grievance portal and addressing the complaints it gets. Rohan took the example of inter hostel matches and talked of making information online. Keerthana then who are the stakeholders who will create the website and who are going to address the complaints. Rohan said he will first talk to the captains conducting the events and plan accordingly. Keerthana asked if he thinks the role of the team captain is to address the complaints of the student body. Rohan then said there will be a complaint panel independent of the captains that will report to the Sports Secretary.

Keerthana then shared some rough calculations that she had done based on Shrinath’s manifesto points: for splitting NSO program into batches, the budget for the coaches turns out to be around 8 ½ lakh rupees and for non-marking shoes Rs.96,000, for weekly refreshments Rs. 79,000 and the dietitian’s sessions Rs. 25,000, around 10 lakh rupees in total. She asked where he plans to source this amount from. Shrinath asked a question back to her saying where do NSO coaches’ fee comes from. On intervention by Chaithra, he mentioned that he was Finance core for Sports Organising Committee and that the Sports Advisor did not find a problem with the budget. On being asked if his total was different from Keerthana’s calculation, he said that she had not accounted for the 24 lakh rupees for new equipment previously budgeted for by Kishore Yadav which he plans to use and noted that his budget is less than what Kishore had proposed. Keerthana sought clarification on the figure of 24 lakh rupees which Shrinath provided.

With that, cross questioning came to an end.

Continued in the next page

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