COVID-19 and Insti: Part 2

2020 huh? Need I say any more? Only 6 months in and half of Australia has burned, America has experienced some of the worst riots in recent memory, and a pandemic has brought our world to a standstill. It just keeps getting worse and worse, but with human resilience emerging victorious, there’s a silver lining to all this madness, and it’s only a matter of time before things get back to normal. 

In due course of time, airports and train stations will reopen, large social gatherings will become more and more acceptable, and finally, insti will reopen. Amidst this period of social isolation, have you ever wondered what the future of insti holds? Or how COVID-19 has affected it? 

In this article, we take a closer look at how COVID-19 has affected the extra-curricular sphere, and what steps are being taken in light of the situation by secretaries, cores, and other concerned students.


Shaastra and Saarang

It was a funny assumption – What would happen to Shaastra and Saarang if insti shut down? It was a fictional scenario we played around with, cut to two weeks down the line and we realize the entire insti is being vacated… What’s going to happen? Well, we aren’t sure.

– Cultural Affairs Secretary (Literary)

Saarang and Shaastra are two of the most celebrated college fests in India. They’re a symbol of pride and a badge of honor to the great legacy of student-run events in IIT-Madras. What started out as small, far-fetched dreams, have grown over the years, and in the latest edition have earned over 2.5 crores in combined annual funding. 

With the sluggish economy, and sponsors on the decline, Saarang and Shaastra have a long journey ahead of them. With the organizing committee at the mercy of these unprecedented circumstances, it’s been a challenging task answering these pressing questions – When will these fests be conducted? Will they be conducted at all? 

In this pursuit of knowledge, T5E reached out to Vishnu Sanketh, the cultural affairs secretary (literary) and Mukund Khandelwal, the co-curricular affairs secretary. They have made it abundantly clear that with the given situation, there are no concrete answers and that everything should be taken with a grain of salt. Having said that, let’s dive right in:


What have both teams done during this lockdown? What new events have been introduced? 

Behind the scenes, both teams have been hard at work, with the release of The Saarang Encore: Lockdown memoirs, consisting of the QuaranTunes and the recent QuaranTalks, and the Shaastra Spotlight @ Home lecture series, which hosted talks with some of the most influential people of our times over a span of 45 days.

With the tremendous feedback we’ve received, these events have snowballed into something much bigger than we’ve expected, and we’re thrilled to announce a lot of exciting events coming your way. So stay tuned, and follow our respective Instagram and Facebook handles. 

Will Shaastra and Saarang even be conducted? 

Both events are usually conducted in the first few weeks of January, and with an entire 6 months ahead of them. It all depends on how the situation unfolds. With the next semester completely online, chances of an early reopening are slim to none. With these dreary circumstances and a complete lack of clarity, are we in any position to predict the future? 

As it stands now, these events aren’t completely out of the picture yet. Optimistically, this means there’s a pretty solid chance they’re going to be conducted, but when? To fully answer this question, we take a look at the possible scenarios that might arise, and how they would play out: 

Scenario 1 (Most likely to happen):  

  • Insti reopens in the even semester during the usual dates of mid-January.
  • Medium-scale group activities are allowed and encouraged.
  • Based on the situation, the higher-ups deem these events feasible.

In this case, both fests are going to happen in the even semester. With Saarang speculated to happen at the end of March, and with no concrete information regarding Shaastra. 

With companies trying to survive by limiting their expenditure, most sponsorship funding will significantly reduce, causing a noticeable downsize in both the events. Similar to the economic recession of 2008, both the organizing teams will have to adapt and squeeze out as much as they can from the limited budget.

When we take a look at the financial aspect, there’s a yearly trend of reduced sponsorship funding, which is usually compensated by an increase in the number of tickets sold. This increase in sales is in tandem with Saarang’s ever-growing popularity, and this latest edition will be no different. With over half a year of self-isolation, separated from friends and colleagues, students are not going to pass up an opportunity to get together and socialise. With the previous years’ sales in mind, it’s safe to assume that the upcoming ticket sales will form the bulk of the budget. This should push Saarang’s budget to a respectable total.

With these adverse circumstances, drawbacks are inevitable. First off, with the event speculated to happen in March, and not during the winter vacation, there would be a shortage of rooms for participants and outsiders who would ideally want accommodation on the campus. Secondly, a large chunk of the already thin budget would have to be allocated to hygiene and security. Finally, adhering to the strict social distancing rules, fewer people would be allowed to view the live shows, leaving interactive nights such as EDM night (if it’s not conducted online) to consist of groups of friends awkwardly dancing away from each other. Play that out in your head for a good laugh.


Scenario 2 (Not very likely to happen):  

  • Insti does NOT reopen during the expected dates, but may reopen a bit later.
  • Group activities are NOT allowed and encouraged.
  • Based on the situation, the higher-ups deem these events impractical.

Based on the situation, the higher-ups would decide if these events are going to be postponed or canceled. If they do get postponed, all the above points would stay relevant, and if they get canceled, it would be in the best interest of the students.



The collection of all the artistic clubs in insti, Sangam is the heart of the cultural scene. With all major events under its control, we take a closer look at how it’s been affected :

During this lockdown, what problems have you faced? What have you done to overcome them?

The biggest problem we faced was a delay in the selection of the cores. The 3 cores were selected late, hence the conveners, who are usually selected by the end of April, were selected later than we had expected. This pushed the selection of the coordinators further ahead.

 A vital cog in the smooth functioning of the clubs, the cores are usually selected at the end of March – right after the insti elections, and are chosen based on their application and their performance in 2 comprehensive interviews. 

With insti closing right before we could conduct the usual interviews, we had to think fast, and we finally decided to shift the entire selection process online. For an organization with 16 clubs – each with around 2 conveners, this is easier said than done, but we were able to pull through.

What is being done during this lockdown? Have you introduced any new events? 

With 16 individual clubs, each producing their own set of unique events, we’ve had the pleasure of engaging a wide variety of students with our interactive events. Here are a few of them:

  • Sangam – Share your indoor talent
  • Music clubs – Playlist of the month series
  • Lifestyle club – Share your recipe challenge
  • Design club – Share your best design work
  • Photography club – Quarantine Nature Photography contest
  • Anibaddh – an online event celebrating the Classical Arts
  • The Inter-hostel Online talent showcase program

With the tremendous feedback we’ve received, we’re thrilled to announce a lot of exciting events coming your way. So stay tuned, and follow each clubs’ Instagram and Facebook handles. 

What is going to be the biggest impact on the cultural scene? What steps will Sangam take to minimize it? 

The biggest impact will be our inability to spread cultural awareness to the next generation of freshies. The freshies and the freshie orientations are a huge part of the insti cultural scene, as they form the young talent that’ll carry our team later on.

We have to make them aware of the various clubs and activities they can be a part of, and we do this through the club weekender – one of the highlights of the freshie orientation. It’s a beautiful display of hard work and talent, and it serves as a stepping stone to new hobbies and interests.

Given the circumstances, the club weekender is likely to be significantly delayed. To compensate for this, we have planned for an online club weekender – which would consist of a series of online club orientations, where students can learn the necessary fundaes of the clubs they’re interested in. When insti finally reopens in the even semester, we’ll arrange for some kind of on-ground club weekender and/or freshie night.


Due to the ongoing pandemic, social distancing has become the norm. What impact will this have if it continues after the reopening of insti?

With the new trend of social distancing, extra care has been taken to ensure that participants and viewers of various cultural events are in safe hands. To do this, we have to ensure hand-sanitizing stations throughout the venue, socially distanced seating arrangements, an abundance of disposable face masks, beefed up security, and trained medical staff on standby.

When insti finally reopens, it would imply that the situation has been controlled to some extent. So, small group events such as quizzes and debates would go on as normal, but larger group events such as Queen of Sheba or Litsoc dramatics would have to adapt to meet the above requirements.





With laziness becoming the new normal, it’s important to realize how integral sports are to our physical and mental well-being. With a newfound appreciation of our time in insti, we realise that fitness was seamlessly integrated into our day to day lives – be it cycling to classes, the mandatory NSO, or the sports in the hostel grounds. In a time where exercise is the least of our concerns, we take a look at how the insti sports scene has been affected, and what is to be expected when insti finally reopens:

The following are excerpts from a conversation with the Institute Sports Secretary, Breasha Gupta.

With the sudden lockdown, Who do you think will be the most affected? How will this affect the Sports scene?

To many people, sports and exercise is a crucial part of their day – it’s a fun and tiring activity that requires a lot of effort to turn into a daily routine, but with the abrupt closing of insti, this routine is broken.

With everyone stuck at home, people can’t access the necessary equipment to train, nor do they have the same motivation they did before. This has severely affected the training regimes of the insti contingent athletes, as well as the people who strive to keep fit.

Apart from a broken routine, insti sporting venues have shut down, gyms have crumbled, and people aren’t allowed to gather and play. This has effectively turned insti into a ghost town. One in which the sports scene is virtually nonexistent.

What were your priorities during this lockdown? What programs have you released?

During this lockdown, I’ve had 2 priorities – sorting out the SOC affairs and trying to promote as much physical activity as I could. So my first step was to select the coordinators for the upcoming tenure, and this entire selection process was done online – from sending the applications to conducting the interviews. After this, we conducted the prestigious Gymkhana week 2020, where the ‘baton of responsibility’ was passed on to the new team captains.

Apart from this, I’ve also conducted numerous fitness challenges such as the Ultimate Fitness Face-off, the WIN India campaign, and the ‘Make Insti Fit’ challenge to promote some kind of physical activity during this lockdown.


What new programs do you plan on releasing, and what’s going to happen to the programs that were affected?

As of now, we have a few things in mind, such as a poker and rummy tournament (if it’s permitted by the dean). We also plan on conducting an online Schroeter for both the alumni and current students, which would consist of online events such as chess and bridge. 

As for the Schroeters, IDLs, and mentorship programs that were cut short, we’re pretty optimistic that they’re just going to be postponed, and that they’ll continue on as normal once the insti reopens. Apart from this, Keep your eyes peeled for our ‘Social Campaign’ event, which is going to be the most ambitious and rewarding event so far. To stay tuned, follow all our social media handles.


When do you plan on reopening the Manohar C Watsa stadium, the swimming pool, and the various other courts? Will these reopen immediately after insti reopens? How will events be conducted in these venues?

Since most sports can be adapted to comply with all the social distancing rules, all the courts and stadiums will open immediately after the insti reopens. Apart from this, the number of students on the courts and in the stadiums is way lower than that of a typical classroom – so there isn’t much of a concern. To be extra safe, we also plan on regularly disinfecting all the sporting equipment.

At the same time, we also plan on reopening the gym, but with stricter conditions than the above venues. Just to be safe, temperature checks will be mandatory before entering, hand sanitizers will be easily accessible, and the frequency of the cleaning staff will also increase.

Since the virus transmits through water droplets, all it takes is for a single infected person to jeopardize the safety of the entire pool. So, the safest decision is to close the pool until further notice.


How will this affect the upcoming inter IIT sports meet and the agrata fest?

After discussing this with the sports secretaries of IIT-Delhi and IIT-Roorkee, we’re very confident that this year’s Inter IIT sports meet is going to take place, and although it might get postponed, we’re hellbent on seeing it through.

Similarly, we also expect the Agrata fest to be conducted, but it’ll most likely take place in the even semester. To ensure the safety of all the participants, we’ll be following all the protocols stated in the previous answers.



Disclaimer: Information in the article is as accurate and per policies confirmed up till the date of publishing [6/7/2020]. In such a highly fluctuating scenario, these policies are liable to change depending on changes in the situation. 

Designed by Shreethigha Ganeshan
Edited by Amrita Mahesh and Anna Dominic

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