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Manifesto Review - GS Hostel Affairs

July 6, 2021

Watch Out! presents a manifesto review of the General Secretary Hostel Affairs (HA), Manu Garg. We have also quoted the ex-GenSec (HA), Shivam Chopra, as we ask this duo a few issues faced by the students in the past year and their plans for the future.

Note:- By GS (HA), we’re referring to the new General Secretary Hostel Affairs, Manu Garg. The information and opinions that the GenSecs have conveyed are put forth solely at their discretion. Watch Out! does not hold any responsibility for any of their views and consequences hereafter.

WO: The biggest challenge of your tenure would be to initiate the safe campus-return process and ensure that all the guidelines are followed meticulously after a secure onboarding. With the start of your tenure and the new semester fast approaching, this month is crucial, and it’s necessary to propose a proper SOP(Standard Operating Procedure) for a probable campus return. You’ve mentioned this as the very first point in your manifesto. Proceeding with the same, what’s the latest update on the campus return process? When can we expect the admin to release their plans for the same, similar to other IITs like IITB, IITH?

Manu: Firstly, I would like to clarify that my tenure would officially begin after a meeting with the Director scheduled on 9th July. As clarified in our FB post, the admin has limited its interaction to the previous SAC itself. As of now, the only update that I can give is that the Uttarakhand State Government has restricted the opening of any Educational Institute’s Campus in the state following an extension in the curfew till 13th July [1]. Citing a frequent change in the state guidelines, our admin cannot reach a final verdict on the campus-return initiation. We expect things to be a bit more clearer in the upcoming days. And as far as the reopening of other IITs is concerned, we have to realize that our Institute is officially shut down and would need proper state guidelines and support, which lacked the last time resulting in a temporary closure of our Institute. True, the active cases in a state like Uttarakhand are negligible compared to Maharashtra. However, we have to consider the state’s readiness and ability to respond to extreme cases like the erstwhile upsurge in the Covid cases a few months back before comparing the scenarios in other Institutes.

WO: Last week, we received an email stating that several services, including home delivery, will be resumed immediately. Firstly, which services are currently active on the campus? Although the admin seems apathetic towards our queries, unwilling to make an official comment on the onboarding, should the students take this notice as a probable reopening of the campus and expect an official reply soon?

Manu: Until last week, the entire Institute was under complete lockdown. The resumption of a few services such as courier and home delivery, along with the opening of the Pedestrian Gate, is a series of our pilot tests conducted to observe the spread of the virus post a viable campus reopening. Backed with strict guidelines, all these services are monitored by the SAC and the authorities diligently. Along with this, we’ve also started conducting surveys to collect the data of vaccinated students. The admin has already floated a form for the Ph.D. students [2], and the same will be done for UG+PG students in the upcoming days. We believe this will help us make strong arguments in future meets and aid us in refining our SOPs.

WO: You mentioned a meet scheduled with the Director and the SOPs put forth by the SAC. Firstly, is the admin properly monitoring all the things, how frequently do they seek updates from the SAC, and what SOPs have been put forth by the council as of now?

Shivam: Right now, ensuring a safe campus return is the first priority of the entire SAC. We’ve already submitted our proposed guidelines to the admin, which focuses on the Ph.D. students for the time being, and will be followed by people from other programmes. We would also like to add that our initial SOP only focused on fully vaccinated students instead of splitting the campus return process into phases based on their academic degrees. However, most of the deans intervened and revisited the proposed SOP stating that a majority of the violation of Covid guidelines on campus was done by the UG students last time, as observed by their’ investigation,’ blaming them for the surge in cases. Of course, we realize this isn’t true, considering the PhDs and profs were the early contributors to the spread of the virus, and the intake of UG students coincided with the second wave and misproceedings in the state. The SAC has already brought this fact to the notice of our admin, and we’re still awaiting a reply. In no way does this suggest that only PhDs will be favored in the call-back process. The admin is still unclear about its plan for campus return, and we must offer them sufficient time considering the recent proceedings in the state. But rest assured, we’ll try our best to convince the admin and ensure minimal loopholes exist in the final action plan. We only expect the students to adhere to slightly stringent norms and assist us in identifying and penalizing those who violate them in the future. After a few meetings with the admin, discussions would resume on the following SOP: Any student who has been completely vaccinated (both doses) will be able to apply for campus return, following a 21 days gap after the 2nd dose. We’ll start calling them in batches of, say, 50 students initially, after checking their RTPCR report. Since we’d only call the students who’ve taken both doses initially, we suggested it won’t be necessary to send them for voluntary quarantine in Saharanpur or other campuses. If things proceed properly, we’ll increase the intake, considering the hostel vacancy. Also, keeping in mind the misproceedings that occurred last time, we would implement strict guidelines, like complete lockdown of 10 days and restricting the movement inside campus starting from the hostels itself. Such approaches would be carefully planned and might seem painstaking, but we assure you they won’t be pedantic. Our admin is continuously monitoring things and seeking constant updates from the medical and state authorities and is yet to comment on our submitted proposal. A special 3rd-wave committee has been established that submits their observations of the 3rd wave and the recent Delta strain of the virus on a timely basis to the admin.

WO: One crucial thing to consider is the efficacy and the duration of the vaccine doses. Several students still haven’t taken the 1st dose yet, and there are some vaccines like the Covishield, for example, which has a more considerable 2nd dose duration than its counterpart. The submitted proposal assumes students have taken both doses before they proceed with the slot booking. Considering this will further delay the process, don’t you think the Institute should aid the students by organizing vaccine drives?

Manu: I would like to restate that the admin is still going through our proposal on campus return and are yet to comment on the same. However, this doesn’t imply that the guidelines will be the same in the final SOP. The admin will definitely make amends and consider all the possibilities before reaching a final conclusion. That being said, we realize it’s equally essential for the Institute to help the students by procuring the vaccines. A vaccine drive was organized for all the campus residents above 18 years of age, including the workers and professors, on 26th June in the Convocation Hall. There were still a few Bhawan workers who hadn’t even received the 1st dose yet. We have ensured that nearly the entire campus is 1st dose vaccinated. And as far as conducting a vaccine drive for students is concerned, we realize that it’s essential and inevitable too, considering it’ll take a lot of time for students to get fully vaccinated. Although we can’t assure anything, we’ll try our level best to instate such campaigns. As stated earlier, the SAC will hold a survey soon to collect the data of all vaccinated students based on which further proceedings would be decided.

WO: The first few months after the prior campus return was essentially chaotic for all the students. There were multiple loopholes in the last SOPs, which finally led to a temporary closure of all activities in the Institute. What are the plans for ensuring safety after the onboarding this time? More precisely-

Several students complained about the admin not paying heed to the student priorities in the slot-booking process. A few students approached us, claiming that their first two preferences were ignored, which resulted in a closer than expected date to reach the campus (Saharanpur and Noida). Then there were multiple discrepancies in the Wellness Centre System. We observed numerous reports of students making their way past the Wellness Center process, depriving the needy ones of this service. While it’s understandable that all the student preferences cannot be considered while scheduling the slots, will the admin and the SAC ensure that such instances would not frequently occur this time and that there will be a quick grievance redressal?

Shivam: I personally supervised the entire slot-booking process, ensuring all preferences are considered before scheduling the final slots. In most cases, we offered a sufficient time of around ten days to reach the Quarantine Centre. I even handled those cases where people had personal emergencies or couldn’t meet this deadline on an individual basis. However, again, we received multiple baseless requests from some students, like shifting the slots since their friends are present in some other quarantine center or some relaxation in campus movement restrictions. Now such cases definitely can’t be paid heed to. Students must realize the significance of this voluntary return to Quarantine Centres in Saharanpur and Noida campuses and act wisely. Again, multiple issues involving funds were tackled by the SAC, like arranging for the food at a low cost and a stay free of charge. Testing was free in the Saharanpur Campus. We had to compensate for all this deficit by putting in our SAC funds so that the student return would be cost-efficient, thereby putting a financial burden on the Institute.

We would refrain from commenting anything on the discrepancies with the Wellness Centre because SAC doesn’t have any official representative in Wellness. We had raised this issue of students bypassing the process to the admin since we identified many such cases ourselves. The SAC even suggested that a proper survey be conducted to collect the data of students who genuinely face issues and that an appropriate committee should be set up to investigate the student background, similar to those adopted in other IITs. We were even ready to lay down 4-5 solid plans for the same and assist the admin with all the planning and administration stuff. However, the admin insisted that they’re handling this ‘properly’ and would punish the perpetrators later on. Besides, it’s totally irrelevant to comment on this system since we are not aware of the entire process, and in scenarios where even a single serious case is missed, we would have to face the repercussions later on. But one thing was pretty straightforward: the admin allowed ten non-deserving students to enter the campus at the leverage of 1,2 genuine ones.

WO: The CMO approved government hospitals in the state to treat the Covid +ve patients who were totally unequipped last time. Several issues arose, which were ignored by the medical authorities, initially causing distress to several students. Has the CMO refined this list of approved treatment centers, and more importantly, are proper SOPs being proposed this time to counter this loophole?

Shivam: Firstly, the list of Government Hospitals was compiled by the District CMO and not our Institute CMO. Our Institute authorities don’t have much say in these things. When a student turns up Covid+ve, our CMO only has the authority to assign the treatment center depending on the severity of the case. The power to declare any hostel/department as a containment zone and isolate the same lies in the hands of the District Magistrate(DM) Roorkee. The same goes for uplifting the imposed lockdown. At the recommendation of the DM Roorkee, our authorities had to shut down the campus temporarily. The Centres identified last time lacked even the basic facilities. There were issues related to proper sanitization and food distribution. One thing to note here is that such problems are still prevalent and need to be considered while taking a stance on the campus opening. There’s a lot that can be and needs to be done, like contributing to proper infrastructure management and ensuring good facilities are provided in such centers for our students by providing adequate funding. In my opinion, this is where our admin clearly lacks, as it believes it’s the sole responsibility of the state to manage all these things rather than assisting them with the same.

WO: While it was evident that IITR hospital is devoid of Covid treatment facilities, absolutely zero efforts were made to upgrade the basic ones. The previous guidelines stated that any student who reported Covid+ve would be directly taken to the CMO-approved hospitals. Lack of infrastructure and proper SOPs resulted in several hostels being converted to Quarantine centers. Frequent changes in the SOPs each day gave rise to a plethora of problems, including the non-availability of doctors to treat patients inside the Quarantine centers, improper food supply, frequent testing characterized by delayed reports citing incompetency by the testing lab authorities. Lack of proper attending resulted in the most tragic incident where an M.Tech student lost his life. So, what measures will be taken this time to curb such issues regarding the lack of proper infrastructure and timely attending of all the students?

Shivam: Times then were chaotic, yes, but that was because we were still in the process of making the SOPs and refining the existing ones. Things took an unexpected turn once the Covid cases started rising. When we began sending the Covid +ve people for treatment in the government hospitals, we found out there were terrible facilities therein. Also, when we started converting the hostels into Quarantine centers, things were awful. We arranged all these things at the student level; the admin wasn’t even aware that such problems existed. I ensured that oximeters and thermometers were made available in Rajiv Bhawan and proposed the authorities do the same in all the Quarantine Hostels to check on the students so that any mishap doesn’t occur. When we raised these issues, the admin made arrangements for doctors two days later, but no efforts were made to make the instruments available for treatment; this was the reason for the lack of treatment in quarantine hostels. The issue related to testing and delay in their reports was negligence from the lab’s end. Most of the accredited labs were assigned to handle the rising cases due to the Kumbh. Our admin just assigns the remaining labs to a particular zone, leaving the entire menial work of monitoring their operation to the GenSecs. With the assistance of Deputy PG, I had to personally accompany each lab member to confirm if proper testing was done. In cases of negligence, we discontinued the lab’s working and made sure competent ones like Tata provided their services to our students via my personal contacts. We had several meetings with the CMO and relevant authorities where we questioned them for the disregard from their end. However, we’ve still not received any satisfactory answer for the delay in responding from their side. They directly shrug off the responsibility, putting all the blame on the state. We’re trying our level best to raise all these issues to the admin and are hopeful that proper arrangements are made this time to tackle these issues.

WO: Having approached the previous Gensec and the authorities regarding the incident of the student’s tragic death, we were told that the review committee is making a report on the same and that we would be notified soon. The IITR admin clearly demonstrated its inhumane nature and callous attitude in handling this tragic event by reporting the incident in national media without giving a proper explanation, keeping everyone in the dark, and not even holding a condolence meet. Are there any updates on that report?

Shivam: A Facts Finding Committee(FFC) was set up to make a final report describing the series of events that happened to Mr Prem, 10-15 days prior to his tragic death. A condolence meeting was arranged in the Cautley Bhawan premises a day after his death by a small gathering of students attended by the DOSW. However, we would refrain from making any further comment on this at the request of the victim’s family.

WO: A few students complained that the hostels and the departments were not properly sanitized, especially after multiple cases were reported on these premises. What would you comment on the same?

Shivam: We ensured a proper and timely sanitization of all the hostels. In some hostels like Rajiv Bhawan, it was done around four times daily; the washrooms were cleaned twice. Technically, the Dean Admin and Dean Infra are responsible for ensuring the cleanliness of the departments and labs. Even for the MAC, there’s a committee, MAC council, but we made sure it was also properly sanitized and cleaned since it was open to students for recreational activities. So technically, outside messes and hostels, the SAC isn’t responsible, but we made sure we raised these issues to the relevant authorities who failed to react. Also, profs and their families continuously went out along with the students, so even that resulted in an upsurge. We even suggested they impose full lockdown for ten days like IITB for everyone; then, things would slowly get back on track. But no one agreed to this. I even mailed the Director when the cases began rising suddenly, but they kept saying we’ll get complaints from students if we impose stiff regulations. We even said we’d handle all those complaints, but they didn’t agree.

WO: A significant rise in the Covid cases was observed when the students were allowed to leave the campus premises for specific periods. Students leaving for trips and frequent gatherings violating social-distancing norms was a typical scene last time. First off, do you think the admin should be blamed for this, considering no pilot tests were conducted on this obvious problem, and the campus gates were opened quite early as compared to other institutes like IITB, where strict regulations were imposed, and students were forced to undergo quarantine for slightly longer periods?

Shivam: Not just the admin but the students were equally responsible for this. See, for pilot tests, we had proposed this: Before a complete lockdown, in each hostel, we should set up two guards who will monitor the premises 24-7 at the hostel gates itself and not just Institute gates. Also, we would put restrictions on the entry-exit, say only one exit from the hostel each day, that too for 2 hours. We believed that if we’re able to control the spread from the hostel itself, we can curb the instances of students going out of campus. And those who didn’t follow the protocol should be penalized in the hostel itself, or a suitable warning should be given, and still, if they don’t comply, they would be forced to vacate the premises. We proposed this system even before complete lockdown. Again, no one agreed to this, although we made sure such policies were adopted in Rajiv and a few other Bhawans. We shared this provision with each of the Bhawan Council representatives and advised them to impose this locally. However, many students, especially the PhDs, kept rejecting this, citing that such a restriction would create numerous problems. Despite the departments under complete lockdown, several profs demanded that their PhDs be present in the labs and continue the work going against the guidelines. Eventually, we received multiple such claims from several hostels, and since the DOSW didn’t sign an official notice, we couldn’t force the Bhawan Council members to impose such restrictions.

WO: Having discussed this issue with Shivam, we observed that CCTV-based surveillance was done throughout the campus, and the same was used to identify individuals violating the norms last time. However, there were apparent loopholes, the most important being the lack of cameras set up throughout the campus. In addition to this, the conventional method of keeping track of the students leaving the campus using a manual entry in the registers was followed. This process has several inbuilt flaws, as it is difficult to keep track of all the students using the same. So, did the proposed SOP also focus on this issue, and do you think Rfid cards would’ve been easily able to solve this issue? Because there hasn’t been any update on the same since the last inauguration two years back ( and neither you nor the GenSec Tech has included this in your manifestos.

Manu: I was a part of the Thomso organizing committee as well, and even then, we faced these CCTV surveillance-based problems. Apart from a difficulty in identifying the individuals, there are apparent problems of lack of proper funding and theft of these cameras. Although these issues were raised to the admin, there were not such obvious workarounds over these. We proposed a penalty system; we would penalize 10~20 such people, force them to leave the campus, and expect that people would start following the norms out of fear. And actually, we did proceed with this, but due to the time and resource constraints, we were unable to contain this issue. RFID cards would’ve definitely solved this issue, but there hasn’t been much progress after the inauguration in 2019. Data collection is still pending. In fact, both of our RFID cards contain wrong info, like our Date of birth is incorrect. In around half of these issued cards, there are discrepancies with the data. We have a QR code feature in the newly issued E-ID cards (, and currently, we’re aiming to exploit the same. MDG has been developing an app for this purpose for a year already, and GenSec Technical Affairs is also involved in the development. Basically, we want to put up tablets outside each hostel, department, and the main gate to digitalize the entry-exit using QR code. The SAC has proposed this initiative a few months back to the dean, saying this will be better in terms of security and entry-exit in the future as well. The guards will have to ensure if people are scanning whenever students leave the premises. We’re currently in talks with the dean to fund this initiative as it would significantly help curb the loopholes in this system.

WO: The issue of soaring hostel and mess fees was discussed since the beginning of the pandemic itself. Firstly, can you justify the current fee structure, and can the students expect some relaxation in the same next semester?

Shivam: The fee structure gets updated, and there’s an increment in the mess fees every two years as per the official rule stated in our document. It was last updated during my tenure, which began in October 2020. After the increment in the mess fees, usually, there’s no change in the mess menu. But since last year, to counter this surge, we revamped the entire menu. Previously we only had fruits 3,4 days a week, but now it’s made compulsory each day. We’ve also removed the payment restriction on non-veg food, which will now be served free of cost. Desserts are now offered five times a week; curd items are increased; in general, the mess menu is made heavy. Students currently not present on the campus don’t have to pay any food advance fees. Hostel, electricity, and gymkhana fees have been reduced. The mess establishment fees are essential because that charge is used to compensate the salaries and pension of the mess workers. So, besides the mess establishment charge of 9k, we’ve tried our best to reduce the fees by analyzing all loopholes possible [3].

The SAC doesn’t have much say in the Institute fees. Our current fee structure is similar to IITK; the only difference is that instead of taking the mess establishment fees, they held a donation drive and compensated the deficit. However, this isn’t very feasible in our case. Besides this, as stated earlier, we also compensated the prices like those of free stay in quarantine using SAC funds to ease the student return. Even the issue concerning the fees of 1st years who haven’t even visited the campus was raised in the meetings. We suggested a different fee structure since there will be two batches of such students. However, the admin didn’t show the approval citing uniformity in the fee structure, and thwarted our proposal. Besides all this, multiple factors need to be taken into account like fee-waivers before students question the fee structure. And as far as the further relaxation in fee structure is concerned, we would refrain from commenting on the same since the actual meeting for the coming semester is yet to happen.

WO: Coming to the next point in your manifesto, regarding the Bhawan app and the grievance redressal portal, what’s the status on the same, what’ll be their structure, and how will you ensure speedy grievance redressal?

Manu: Both the Bhawan app and the Grievance-Redressal Portal are currently under development. I am a part of the Operations Team and have been monitoring the progress for the past year. By deploying the Bhawan app on Channel-I, we aim to digitize the manual registering of the electricity and other complaints in each hostel, thereby reducing its inconvenience. Enabling the students to keep track of his/her complaints, we would make sure all the supervisors resolve student grievances quickly. Proper and timely monitoring of this centralized system from SAC would ensure fast redressal. We expect to launch the Bhawan app by mid-August.

A Feedback and Grievance portal is the need of the hour, considering we don’t have a centralized system for the same. Most of the time, students are unaware of the recent updates, and it becomes difficult and time-consuming to address the same queries. A few months back, this issue was quite serious when SOPs were getting updated each day, and it was menial to convey the information to all Bhawan inmates. A few queries are raised in the FB forums too. We aim to establish better communication between the GenSecs and the students through these portals and amass the feedback in a centralized system. This will ensure that all SAC members are able to solve the issues quickly, thereby maintaining a high level of transparency. We’ll try to launch this portal by September.

WO: In our last conversation with Pranav Rai, the GenSec Hostel Affairs in 2019, he highlighted a few problems concerning the implementation of multi-messing. The issues related to biometric, teaching the technicalities of the process to the mess workers, internet issues, and collecting the data itself were a few important points raised during his tenure. How do you aim to tackle all these issues in the upcoming year?

Manu: A few modifications were actually made last time around in the Appetizer app, and beta testing was scheduled around March-April 2020. However, the same was delayed due to the Covid. We’re not sure if we’ll be able to work through some of these issues. However, this isn’t our priority for now, and we would like to focus more on the campus-return process.

WO: You’ve made a new point on the Standardization of Bhawan facilities and Centralization of Bhawan Purchases and Canteen tenders. This issue has been overlooked a lot before. Can you shed some more light on the same?

Manu: Centralization of Bhawan purchases is actually very important because it’s a frequent practice that all the different vendors purchase the Bhawan goods at different prices, and there’s a non-uniformity in the prices and quality of the goods purchased. Some of the vendors cannot match the quality of goods procured by the private ones due to lack of funding, leading to persistent complaints by the students of some hostels. A similar problem is observed in the canteen products as well. We believe that giving the canteen tenders to private caterers at a central level will help with uniform pricing and set a high bar when it comes to food quality.

WO: Finally, before we conclude, how would you address the IITR junta whom the admin has constantly ignored regarding their campus return and other queries?

Manu: I would advise all the students to continue raising their voices and pressurize the admin until we receive a positive reply. However, it’s equally important that we do so ethically and responsibly. Public resentment is obvious; however, the students must rein their impatience and act wisely. Students have to overcome the stigma surrounding different individuals and the admin. Continuous bashing of the SAC won’t be fruitful to anyone. We realize that we haven’t been giving any updates lately on the SAC IITR Discussion Forum. This doesn’t imply the GenSecs aren’t working in the backend. The SAC or Watch Out! will post important updates as and when necessary. We don’t want to unnecessarily raise your hopes only to dash them and see our plans getting foiled. We will strive hard to recoup the trust losses and continue to work hard for the betterment of the student community.

Manifesto Review and further remarks:

Manu has clearly specified that the entire SAC is striving hard to ensure students are called back to the campus soon. So far, it has become evident that it would require a gargantuan effort from the SAC and the admin to put a brake on the prolonged student appeals and employ a working SOP. Implementing strict guidelines and conducting several pilot tests is a clever move to pressurize the admin by laying down strong arguments. The division of projects led by responsible deputies as per their priorities is a sensible approach. But clearly, it’ll be a long way to proceed, considering the SAC couldn’t succeed in implementing strong guidelines and convince the admin in several crucial aspects last time out. And of course, student support, and by support, we mean their willingness to adhere to strict guidelines to tackle austere cases, is extremely crucial at the moment. Sure, everyone can proclaim they’ll follow all the rules properly by signing the papers; however, how many actually adopt it in principle?

Although it seems even he’s unclear about when the campus return is going to start considering all the prevalent issues, maintaining norms inside the campus and keeping track of all the issues will be the biggest challenge, and it’ll be interesting how SAC overcomes the same. His vision of digitizing the age-old conventional methods is indeed worth applause, and it’ll be interesting to see how well these are implemented. Being involved in the operations team of all these initiatives, he will have a clear picture of the shortcomings of the process, thereby making him the best candidate for its plausible implementation. Besides, the new provisions of standardization and unification of tenders and implementation of multi-messing by overcoming the long-drawn problems will be worth observing, considering significant progress has not been made in the past two years.

We hope the new SAC works on the lack of communication issues raised by the students over the past few weeks. It’s time our GenSecs sieve through the administrative hoops and end the student despair once and for all.

General Secretary Hostel Affairs(UG) Manifesto:


Watch Out! has always been in touch with the SAC & admin since last semester, seeking constant updates regarding campus opening and return. However, since we didn’t receive any consent from all the parties involved, we refrained from commenting anything on the same since it was likely that an untimely spilling out of the information would have undesirable repercussions in the future. With the guidelines getting updated every single day, it is not easy to keep track of every bit of information. Having made these issues public, we will approach the admin and seek official replies on the same.

The above conversation has helped us identify several critical flaws in the system, such as underscoring the admin’s double standard play while treating the PhDs and other students and their reluctance to supply sufficient funds to make infrastructural changes. Having already shared a thoroughly compiled questionnaire with the DOSW and relevant authorities, we would like to reiterate that we cannot publish any piece of information without receiving proper consent from the sources. We will continue to monitor the progress of these GenSecs throughout their tenure and raise relevant questions as and when necessary.