Shaastra and Saarang: Are they really worth it?


Raymond Joseph covers the Colloquium debate on the issue.


Colloquium attempted to open a Pandora’s Box of student related issues on the session it held last Thursday. The Cores of Shaastra and Saarang, Prof. Parag Ravindran from the Electrical Engineering Department, the Students General Secretary, two students from the Stella Maris College  and a host of other IITians debated on the the value-add effected by the two well-established fests of the campus. Open-minded spectators were able to appreciate both sides of the case in the course of these arguments.

The offensive was begun by the lobby questioning the utility of the fests. They pointed out that several projects in CFI and other on-going ventures like iitm-sat offered better avenues for technical innovation compared to to Shaastra. In response, the CoCAS pointed out that Shaastra was actually promoting these ventures. He mentioned that money of the order of 5 lakh rupees was siphoned off from the Shaastra main account towards these ventures.

Then the question of coordships was discussed. It was pointed out that Shaastra and Saarang coordships were often taken by those who wanted a quick means to score resume points. This would undermine the quality of both fests, given that the applicants may not possess a predisposed interest towards the subject applied for. Such short term goals marked by personal interests was argued to make the fests inanimate. This was, however, fiercely contested. It was pointed out that the co-ords drawn in for the fests comprise generally of second and third years. Academic pressure is very high in these stages. It was pointed out that one would not devote periods as long as 6 months to score a single resume point. The possible influence of Shaastra and Saarang adversely affecting the students’ academic progress came to attention next. This was met with the rebuttal that academics must not be the only yardstick to judge a student. The claim that Shaastra and Saarang schedules have a substantial effect on academics was also challenged.

An interesting argument was brought forth by one of the Colloquium Coordinators. It spoke of the abysmal participation scenario in both Shaastra and Saarang. In quite a few events, just participating is tantamount to winning. This has necessitated the inclusion of school children. The Cul-Sec (lit) added, “We are certainly aware of this problem, which is why we have scored out the ‘bigger’ clause, we are making it ‘better’.” In this regard, the number of events in Saarang has been reduced from 65 last year to 50 this year.

One of the students from Stella-Maris College enquired about the environmental impact that each of these fests have. “Shaastra or Saarang for that matter, produces four tonnes of waste.” She questioned how such an environmental drawback was being allayed by the organising mechanism. The unpleasant issues of inordinate politics and financial accountability ushered in by these two fests were brought up. Pointed out by a previous Saarang Village Coordinator Arun, the mention of these issues evoked applause in the audience. He went on to cite references of how he was privy to a number of malpractices which seemed to unjustly profit some of the Co-ords and Cores. These, he pointed out, included inflating the financial costs by procuring fake bills and a host of other such practices. Favouritism and various other considerations in selecting coordinators were also brought to light. The core teams casually accepted that the system is subject to human flaws. Malpractices pertaining to finance cannot be totally eradicated. They added that they will fight hard to minimise it as much as possible. The suggestion that the entire Shaastra and Saarang audit should be made public was met with a quick reply that it has already been made public and can be obtained at the Dean, Students office.

The core team dealt with inordinate politics in coord selections along similar lines. The Co-CAS pointed out that the viewpoint was fundamentally erroneous. According to him, this should not be viewed as politics but as trust. He said, “Even to move chairs, if there are two people – one of whom I trust much more than the other, whom will I entrust the job with?”

A highly debated topic that acquired the spotlight for part of the discussion was GA and FR volships. It was pointed out how GA and FR volunteers in Shaastra and Saarang are given a load of menial tasks which they would otherwise not have been willing to do.When questioned on outsourcing these jobs, the Core team said that it makes the conceited IITian down-to-earth and that he tends to become independent and practical over time. The session saw active participation from all quarters. For most of the time, the debate spanned evenly. Many interesting views and interesting perspectives were brought forth. It ended with one of the Colloquium coordinators rendering an unbiased conclusion.

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