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Work in Progress

May 24, 2023
- Aastha Khaitan, Khyati Joshi, Gauri Garg,


Himalaya Bhawan, the third Girls’ Hostel in IIT Roorkee, was established to accommodate the increasing number of girl students on campus. Whilst the supernumerary seats did good to the females by allowing them to fully utilize these institutional opportunities, the campus wasn’t prepared to host them all. The existing two Bhawans, Kasturba Bhawan and Sarojini Bhawan, are the two older girls’ hostels of the institute. However, owing to the sudden surge in the number of girls to be accommodated immediately after COVID, the rooms in these two bhawans had to be partly converted to triple sharing rooms as a temporary solution, and they have been running over-capacity for 5 years. Finally, after reusing the same excuses for over 2 years, the institute decided to be cognizant of the cramped living conditions the girls had been forced into- and began construction of a new hostel Himalaya Bhawan, located behind the new Mathematics Dept.. It was expected to be fully ready for use by the end of 2022, or so they said. The new hostel can house approximately 800 students, distributed over 4 blocks. Right now 260 girls (from PhD, Mtech, MBA and MSc programs) have already been shifted there, while the remaining parts of the hostel are still under construction. It is truly perplexing that despite being a compelling, time-bound issue, the Bhawan is taking so long to go under full operation. Watch Out! Decided to talk to all involved parties- the residents, the council, the Administration to assess the situation; and what we now present is a timeline of events as they occurred, and what the residents have been silently going through all this while.

Who all were shifted to HB and in what setting?

~Into the last few months of 2022

Around October 2022, with the influx of the new batch of B.Tech girls in Sarojini, close to 125-130 girls belonging to PhD, MSc, MBA and some from Mtech programs (previously living in Sarojini) were to be moved to the newly made Himalaya Bhawan. However, it wasn’t ready enough to host new residents. So, the then Dean of infrastructure, signed on the promise that the new hostel would be ready by the start of 2023. Taking his word, those hundred or so girls were shifted to Himgiri Apartments IITR for 2 months. Himgiri Apartments being located outside the campus led to problems of its own. Towards the end of December, when Himalaya wasn’t anywhere close to completion; the authorities sped up the making of 1-2 blocks at least, enough to move the Himgiri girls to Himalaya by January as promised. The word was kept, but at what cost? Making students live with constant construction noises and all other problems that are associated with ongoing work is not a trade-off the administration of IITR should’ve made.

“This bhawan is still under construction and some issues are hence unsolvable”
~The response often received by the concerned students, January 2023

As corroborated before, the residents were asked to occupy one block of the Bhawan while the remaining three blocks were still under construction. To add to it, none of the basic necessities other than the rooms and washrooms had been mobilized by then. The washrooms had some glaring issues, although it was next to impossible to identify and solve them due to ongoing construction in the vicinity. One primary example highlighted by the residents was about the erratic water supply and problematic water lines to the washroom. It was, indeed, an extremely difficult issue to cope with everyday; but upon talking to the Bhawan council, in an attempt to understand the root cause for the delay in addressing this, a need for mutual understanding between the residents and the council was seen. The council told us that despite calling a plumber to check for the issue, it was extremely tough to zero in on the issue because the other 3 blocks under construction were hampering a complete diagnosis of the matter and establishment of a permanent solution. Moreover, areas surrounding the Bhawan too had ongoing construction work, which complicated things further. This issue required a shared understanding between the residents and the council members about the underlying blockages caused by ongoing construction. The gap between the parties seemingly created greater disparity. More directly speaking, this situation mostly also applied to other problems in the Bhawan, in context of the living conditions of the residents, thus established here. The following article will be presented keeping in mind that the above facts are reinforced fairly.

Work in progress, hmm?
~January 2023- Mid March 2023

Mess issues

The new occupants of Himalaya Bhawan had to face a new complication. In January 2023, although they had been allotted rooms in the hostel, the hostel authorities had made no provision for a functioning mess. The Bhawan didn’t have the necessary licenses for mess functioning due to delays from Admin side, neither were the other preparations ready. As a workaround, it was decided that the food for the residents will be brought in from Azad Bhawan for every meal. Whilst this was a pretty good temporary solution, the same situation continued well into March. The residents were absolutely fed up with the daily delays in food arrival, food being cold, quality not up to the mark and other issues inherently accompanied with transporting food from another mess. Since only limited food could be brought in at a time, the food finished up before the mess timings ended, and people coming later often didn’t get to have a meal in the mess. Especially on Special dinner days, the food would always finish up very early and take long periods of time to refill. This mostly occurred because the Azad mess was unable to make a ballpark estimate of the food requirement, Himalaya being a newly established Bhawan. The situation was overall very shabbily handled and became a daily nuisance.

“Even though the timing is 7:30-10, the food gets over by 9:30 on most days. Even if we wait for it to arrive from Azad, it takes them ABOUT 20 mins to bring it over to our mess and waiting for so long each meal leads to frustration.”

Bhawan inhabitants demanded a change in the way the mess was being handled, but no quick action was taken. Moreover, since Azad made the food, the residents of Himalaya didn’t have much say in deciding the mess menu. There was a lack of healthy breakfast options.

“Breakfast is not at all healthy. Maggi, pasta, bread pakoda, fried/oily items, junk food should Not be served as breakfast”

During breakfast, the residents complained that they used to get only one item out of banana/butter/egg. This greatly restricted them and no reason was given for this arrangement too. In the mess seating area, no hand wash basins were provided. The infrastructural facilities of the mess were not good enough and caused daily annoyance to those living there.

“The food quality is fine, but they don’t wash utensils well. There’s no proper mess in Himalaya, and the food comes from Azad. So there’s a lot of delay in transport of food from there to the Himalaya mess. Especially on days they have chicken, we have to wait for over 20 mins for them to refill containers.”

“They don’t wash utensils properly. We can see white residue on plates and sometimes even tea leaves are found in washed glasses.”

Maintenance issues

There are certain extremely necessary utilities one needs to fulfill daily living activities. Access to a clean, functioning washroom with the necessary bathroom fittings and continuous water supply is something that is paramount. Sadly, the occupants of the newly made Himalaya Bhawan were deprived of most of these. They had to use the barely cleaned washrooms which almost always had erratic water supply.

“Aunties dont use cleaning brushes and Harpic to clean toilets. They just put water everywhere and wipe it with a mop. I’ve seen pee and period stains on toilets even after several cleanings. bathrooms aren’t cleaned properly.”

The water supply used to stop a lot of times for the entire night; and would resume only much later the next day. In such situations, the girls had to go to other wings in the middle of the night to use washrooms, causing severe inconvenience. Moreover, there was no provision for a separate wash basin for washing utensils; leading girls to use the same basins for washing their hands and for utensils. This clogs the pipelines and overall keeps the basin dirty, making it tiring for the cleaning lady too.

“We don’t have a separate space to clean the utensils. It is unhygienic to wash basic utensils in the wash basin area in washrooms. So, at least one sink should be provided on each floor, for washing utensils and such stuff. “

The washrooms didn’t have proper geysers inside the bathing stalls. A common geyser was installed for the entire washroom and that caused problems in the winters since one bucket of warm water is rarely sufficient.

The drinking water situation too didn’t bring much respite to the residents. Despite complaining about the unclean water from the water coolers, no real step was taken to solve it. The residents continued to look for alternate ways to get something as elemental as purified, accessible drinking water. Water coolers were also not cleaned on time and food leftovers clogged the water cooler drains. There was an imminent need for a strict cleaning schedule of the coolers. This problem had been explicitly told to the supervisor multiple times, but no satisfactory move was seen to solve it. When the issue inflated to a level that the girls faced actual health problems, and yet nothing was done to address it; rage among residents against the Bhawan authorities was justified.

“The main problem is regarding the water purifier. Water literally tastes like cement here. On boiling the water cooler water first, there were white sediments in our kettle. The given purifier doesn’t work at all. So I go to the hospital to fill my bottles which has a proper RO and a purifier, hence tastes better. Many girls complain of having abdominal problems because of such unclean water in their own hostel.”

“Installing proper water purifiers (RO+UV), as the water from our purifiers have high amount of calcium, consuming which may lead to serious health problems”

There were multiple other smaller problems faced by the residents, which should’ve been immediately addressed.

“For the entire wing floor, there is only one small dustbin for all waste. There should be separate dustbins for food waste, sanitary waste and dry waste etc. to maintain hygiene on the floor.”

These demands weren’t something extra that the residents were demanding for a comfortable stay there. It was something duly expected of any decent living area. The authorities should’ve actively interjected whenever there were such crucial issues, and responded accordingly. Residents had also mentioned that their electrical complaints weren’t looked into at times, nor did they receive any heads up on the status of completion of their registered complaint. This indicated a lack of interest and/or improper communication, which is very troublesome especially when the hostel is already under construction.

Technical and other miscellaneous issues

A proper WiFi/ LAN connectivity was extremely necessary for the students living there. However, the LAN ports’ provisions in the room weren’t functional yet. Neither was the WiFi good enough to rely on. Work was often interrupted due to irregular internet connection, and complaints regarding the same were shoved away with a “WiFi connection is unstable in other Bhawans too, we can’t really do anything about it”, and the good ol’ “the Bhawan is under construction”

‘This corner of the campus doesn’t have a network. Or else very poor network and even then the Wifi situation hasn’t been sorted. Every now and then wifi disappears, we raise tickets with ICC, they fix it then they mess up again. The power system/grid fluctuates a lot here. They still haven’t stabilized that so the UPS gets disturbed’

For recreational purposes, the Bhawan severely lacked any sort of respite. There was, (and still is) no sitting room or common lounge where people could have meetings or just casually interact with one another. Common rooms like study room, cyber room, etc. were not available. Some other comments that the residents made on miscellaneous issues are:

“Girls have to make a register entry at the hostel gate after 12:00 a.m.”

“Because ours is a new hostel, we don’t have any facilities like a stationery shop, canteen, fruit shop etc; while other girls’ hostels have parlors too. We’re missing those basic facilities. Nearest canteen to us is Govind Bhawan and even that’s quite far away. During exams, they couldn’t go there for late night snacks because GB being a boys hostel restricts entry to girls post 12am.”

“Only half of the hostel has been made, 2 wings are still under construction. We hear a lot of loud noises all through the day and it’s really difficult to study for MTEs. Moreover, it leads to so much dust coming into the rooms. They told us in January that construction work will be over in 3-4 months; but it’s already March end and I don’t see any major progress.”

Reorganisation & the making of a new Bhawan Council

~Mid-March 2023 onwards

Around mid-March, a new Bhawan council was formed, and they tried hard to reorganize, arrange and get things up and going in the Bhawan to the point of normal functioning. There was finally a hiatus in the chaotic life of the Bhawan occupants. The council mobilized all available resources, sometimes by pulling a string or two; to ensure comfort to the residents. We talked to the new council members in April’23 to gauge their side of the situation, what it took to organize an undeveloped Bhawan, and the blockages that continue to remain.

-Via the Mess Secy, Himalaya Bhawan

  1. On managing the makeshift mess, & the food that continues to come from Azad Bhawan. We’re well aware that this arrangement of food being transported from another mess to ours thrice a day is bound to cause problems, and was supposed to be a temporary solution. But the mess area, being under construction, is not usable at the moment. We are hence using our canteen area as a makeshift mess. Moreover, we haven’t been granted the fire regulations safety go-ahead from the admin, and unless we are handed over the mess area, we can’t make food in the bhawan. A roti-making machine was brought in and installed, ensuring that the occupants at least got warm rotis, while the other food was still being brought from Azad. As for a permanent solution, the admin has told us that we’ll be permanently given our mess by the end of May, after which we can make permanent and better arrangements for food. We do understand that it’ll be 5 months that the occupants are living with this, but with a part of the building being under construction, we too are puzzled about a solution to this. “The food coming from Azad leads to delays often caused by slow transportation. This becomes unacceptable if it happens daily.” This issue did exist prior to March, however, we have now organized these things better; calculated the exact requirements of the Bhawan so that food shortage and wastage is minimized. On non-veg days and special dinner days too; we have estimated an approximate inflow of students to accordingly cater to the needs on those days. Moreover, I have chalked out the entire transportation plan for the food with the Azad mess authorities to ensure that food reaches Himalaya on time. The delays seldom occur now. We also sat down to chalk out the timings at which the food must be ready in order to reach Himalaya before the start of mess time- because of this Azad also had to make some adjustments. Regarding the food getting cold, we now have a heating system in place, so the incoming food is first heated before it’s served.

  2. On the food quality and other logistics. “Food quality is fine but the menu is repetitive, and the utensils are unclean.” Earlier, students weren’t able to give feedback about the food menu since there was no contact between the Azad mess and the students. We have now started using the mess doors as our temporary notice-board; where we stick Bhawan and specially mess related notices. Recently I put up a QR Code there that links to a google form that takes in the residents’ feedback regarding any issues with the food or the menu. We then compare the feedback from both messes since a common menu has to be prepared. One shortcoming is that incase of clash of interests, Azad mess isn’t that accommodating to our needs and usually doesn’t change the items. I can’t really argue with them on it since we’re the ones who need their help. Breakfast is now healthy, and we have restricted the amount of fried items, and maggi etc have been completely removed from the morning menu. Thus, each complaint is paid heed to and acted upon.

  3. On the existing makeshift mess and its infrastructural problems. Regarding mess infrastructure, makeshift basins have been made using standing water tanks. Soap is also kept nearby and that’s the most ideal temporary solution we could see. We’re in talks about opening a night canteen of sorts that’ll keep packed food until we can get fire safety standards and can cook hot food there. It will ensure that during exams, girls don’t have to go to other bhawans for snacks. The tender for the same has been received and we’re actively looking into it.

-Via the Bhawan Secy, Himalaya Bhawan

  1. On the maintenance issues of the hostel amidst the construction work. I’ll address all issues one by one. Starting with drinking water- water coolers are being cleaned properly, and there’s a thorough check up. Right now, based on my check 4 days ago, each and every cooler of the Bhawan has been cleaned, and I have been ensuring that it happens every week regularly. As for the availability of warm drinking water, a list for the requirement of warm water dispensers has been sent to DoSW a month ago, since this is a hostel that’s under construction- it is bound to lead to a few delays. Water pipe installation has been done in one block, but the other still has some construction work left. Until that’s done, we can’t really solve this issue. The water purifier installation issue follows the same blockage, of the list of requirements already sent to the admin. This was part of the list of urgent requirements sent by us. One additional point I would like to highlight is that all the pipeline connection related problems will see some delays, because two blocks are under construction and thus additional line installations cannot be made unless the basic ones have been made in the other blocks. The sequential nature of the construction work and delays associated with it is also a roadblock to which we don’t see a solution at the moment. Regarding the washrooms and their cleaning- I have been regularly checking the cleaning of washrooms, and they’re now cleaned 2-3 times a day. They’re also cleaned with proper liquids and I have ensured that there is no mess up here. I make sure that the bathrooms have undiluted hand wash for each floor, and it is refilled timely. The problem of a separate geyser for each bathing stall and the fitting of a basin for cleaning utensils cannot really be addressed currently since that also requires setting up new water lines. We have spoken to the plumbers and the work will be done once a certain level of work has been finished in the rest of the Bhawan. One geyser for the entire washroom was put up as a temporary solution keeping in mind the harsh winters of Roorkee. Moreover, I am well aware that the residents have complained about no clothes stands being available, the need to access the terrace to dry clothes, unavailability of mirrors in the room, or a common mirror in the bhawan. And for this too, I’ll reiterate, that all these requirements have been considered and are already included in the list of needs sent to the Admin; we’re just awaiting a yes from their end.

  2. On the time taken to resolve residents’ complaints. Since this is a massive hostel that is too undeveloped currently, it makes it difficult to identify and solve such problems. We have called the engineer to look into the matter each time there was a complaint, but many times it has happened that even after inspecting for more than an hour, it wasn’t possible to identify the issue and there was a good chance that it was caused by the partly constructed building. I have tried my best to also revert back to the complainant after the technician visited the site.
    Regarding the LAN and WiFi connectivity issues, almost every time a complaint has been made, we have made sure that it gets resolved. We have also talked to ICC to ensure this issue does not repeat.

  3. On the male workers entering the Bhawan premises unaccompanied by female workers. Multiple girls had complained about this, so we started making sure that a female worker from the Bhawan accompanies the male workers at all times. However, sometimes it is difficult to track if someone enters the hostel late at night after the working hours of the female workers; because nearby areas of the Bhawan are also under construction and they aren’t subject to limited working hours. One night I received a complaint about a male worker being spotted inside the Bhawan. I myself went to assess the situation and later found out that he belonged to the other construction site. However, we are still trying to curtail the complete entry of male workers unless they are accompanied by someone from the Bhawan.
  4. Additional note: This Bhawan is under construction. We hear of issues faced by the Bhawan residents almost everyday, but most of those are not in our hands, it is something that goes along a site under construction. One more major pain point is that there’s another ongoing construction behind our hostel premises, probably the extension to VK. That adds to our problems and makes it even more difficult to identify and solve them. This is something the IITR admin should understand and take rapid action. The residents should also acknowledge this fact that we are actually trying to help them but some things really are out of our control. The shared understanding would help us all. Also, each and every requirement for the bhawan based on the needs has been carefully noted, reviewed and then sent to the admin. If they’re delaying this process, what can we do

The current, and the way ahead.

~May 2023- now

We tried to assess the current overall situation of the bhawan by talking to a resident, and got the following points:

  1. The drinking water is unpurified and gives white residue on boiling. Aso there are no provisions for hot drinking water.
  2. They are still dependent on Azad Bhawan for outsourcing their mess food. They still face delays in food refill and arrival to their mess and the food always seems to finish up early due to the Azad mess possibly sending less quantities of food than the bare minimum required to feed all residents.
  3. The expected end date of construction told to them is about 2 months from now.
  4. Absolutely nothing is there in the name of facilities even till now, like- fruit shop, stationery, canteen, tapri etc. Packaged food is also not sold. They still have to visit nearby boys’ canteen for snacks at night, however even there girls are not allowed entry post 12 AM, adding on to their frustrations.
  5. They do not have a laundry room, they just have 2 washing machines installed in all washrooms being used by all the occupants.

What the Bhawan secy had to say about the existing problem:
On March 15th, we had sent the final list of requirements to DOSW, which encompassed most of the needs mentioned by residents. We are not aware of any meetings or discussion happening on the above mentioned list. We had a discussion about it in the Bhawan only a few days ago,and came to the conclusion that till now nothing had been sent by DoSW, but we’re expecting a response from them soon.

From the DoSW: On the bhawan getting ready for optimal living conditions, they said the initial moving in date for himalaya bhawan was supposed to be 15th june, and they expect the bhawan to become fully functioning by June 30th.

Regarding the list of requirements that you mentioned, we have taken note of it and will be soon acting on it. We’ll probably be done by 30 june and we will see to it that the mess also starts then. We have already initiated the purchasing process of utensils.