The following article has been submitted, upon our request, to T5E by the current Students’ General Secretary, IITM. The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of T5E.
Vigilance inspections have been a contested ritual in the Hostels of IIT Madras. The nature and the attitude of these inspections have raised many concerns regarding their legal validity and implications on the rights of students as individuals.
This is a brief note of my observations.
Both as a student experiencing and understanding what vigilance means and also as a student representative who is working closely with the administration, these are what is practical according to me. My motive is only to lay out all sides of the issue with facts and to open up a discussion on what can be possible solutions as we look ahead.
Why does it exist?
Vigilance is currently the prime tool for rules enforcement and identification of violations in hostel rules. Yes, as adults and grown-ups, we have our own rights, but there needs to be a line drawn with regard to the exercise of free will in society. On-campus, they get calibrated based on the nature of the institute: an academic space. The rules are laid out in the Hostel Management Manual (which is currently under review).
The purpose of ‘The Vigilance’ here is for identifying the crossing of these rule-lines by the residents and to report the same to Hostel Councils to have a corrective action. They are not the ones who draw the line. Repeatedly reported instances of gross violations of institute rules make it a necessary instrument in the hands of the hostel councils (which includes student representatives) to ensure the welfare of students and smooth functioning of the Institute. Given the non-availability of any alternate mechanism to identify illegal activities, this becomes undesirable, yet necessary. Without a check-point, the proper function of hostels (through hostel rules and regulations) will be in question given the nature of the ecosystem we might land into.
Needless to say, there exist challenges in the way that vigilance has been working.
These are clearly identifiable (as a tool of surveillance, snooping into privacy, random checks, no clarity on penalties etc.). The following are changes that could be brought about and are under contemplation for implementation.
- Inspections to be based only on evidence or credible suspicion which is brought to the notice of members of the Hostel Councils and authorities
- Vigilance officers to be instructed on a regular basis on the best practices by the Chairman/Vice-chairman of Hostel Council/Disciplinary Committee taking into account the Right to Privacy. A handbook of the same would be made public.
- There is a schedule of penalties prepared by the Student’s Legislative Council, approved by the Dean (Students) for violation of rules which is followed in all disciplinary proceedings. It is to be reviewed on a regular basis.
As students, we are always welcome to contest and appeal the vigilance inspections and reports. The origin of the schedule of penalties itself is from the Student’s Legislative Council, showing how students can bring about constructive solutions. We have student representation in all Hostel Councils and at the Executive Level where constant changes are made.
An introspection on procedures of various institute processes is always welcome. These discussions can be made among student groups and taken to visible forums for constructive discussions. But the impact to make the changes in institutions ultimately requires an investment of efforts and engaging with stakeholders. The student representative structures are in place to enable these efforts to ensure students’ welfare and smooth functioning of the Institute.