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Navigating the Holy Trinity: Decoding NSO, NSS, and NCC for first year students

March 24, 2024
- Aaditya Agrawal, Madhupriya K M, Raunak Gupta, Vansh Dhiman, Aastha Khaitan, Vansh Mehra

As freshmen step into their college lives, they are greeted not just by academic challenges but also by a myriad of extracurricular opportunities. Among these, the choice to join one of the following three clubs on campus - NSO (National Sports Organization), NSS (National Service Scheme), or NCC (National Cadet Corps) - stands out as a significant decision. However, recent discussions within the students have raised certain concerns and queries regarding these clubs, prompting a closer examination of their working and importance of these for the first yearites.

We conducted primary research by circulating a google form on 23rd January 2024 to understand the experiences of first year students. This form received 102 responses. On the basis of these responses we identified two major issues. The first issue was the lack of clarity around the selection and grading procedure of these clubs. The second issue was related to time commitments and compulsory attendance in some events associated with these clubs.

Through this article, we aim to tackle these issues by trying to get information from members of these clubs as well as the Faculty Advisors of these clubs. This article will serve the dual purpose of answering these questions and will also act as a repository of information for future batches.

A brief introduction to the clubs

NSS: National Service Scheme; embodies the value of “Not for me, but for the Nation”, with a vision to proliferate social harmony. It aims to develop students into accomplished social leaders & administrators. NSS IIT Roorkee is an organisation comprising over 1000 active & dedicated members striving for the betterment of India by fully indulging themselves in the service of mankind.

NCC: National Cadet Corps; is a youth development movement focusing on promoting overall development of the youth through values like duty, commitment, and discipline. NCC IITR falls under the unit 3 UK Composite Technical Regiment National Cadet Corps of the Indian Army and is one of the oldest NCC units in the country. It offers diverse activities emphasising social service, adventure training, and leadership cultivation. Positioned as educational, not military, this student unit of NCC nurtures character and leadership, preparing youth for diverse leadership roles with its motto “UNITY AND DISCIPLINE.

NSO: National Sports Organisation; is a Government of India backed scheme, launched in 2007-08 to spread awareness of physical fitness and importance of sports among students. Its operation is handled by the Institute Sports Council (ISC). Encouraging active participation in sports, NSO enhances individual growth, camaraderie, and sportsmanship, shaping well-rounded individuals for academic and personal success. It also improves infrastructure, sports management, and coaching.

Some insights from the survey

We received a total of 102 responses. Here are some stats from the responses

  1. Which clubs do the respondents belong to?

Of the 102 respondents, 47 belong to NSS, 29 belong to NCC and 26 belong to NSO. This is in line with the usual trend every year.

  1. How many students chose the club voluntarily?

Of the students we surveyed, about 1 in 5 students did not choose the club voluntarily and were assigned a club randomly.

Common concerns raised by students

  • Compulsory Participation in NSO, NCC, or NSS

In adherence to the curriculum of 2023, students are necessarily required to choose one among NSO, NCC, and NSS during their first year. Selection processes would vary, with NSO focusing on sports capabilities and NCC employing its own criteria.

While students in various clubs encounter a plethora of distinct challenges, certain shared concerns permeate their experiences. Notably, the commitment of time beyond regular academic obligations is a common threat, evidenced by NSO students dedicating 2 hours, 3-4 times a week, NCC students allocating 2-3 hours, 1-2 times a week, and NSS members being called upon as needed for events. Additionally, equitable workload distribution poses a common challenge, with certain roles or verticals within clubs burdened with heavier tasks compared to others. NSS operates on an event-driven basis, with students called upon as needed. Other than big events, students from NSS or NCC are not called with a strict schedule.
Some students reported that whenever an event for the club neared, they were forced to come every day. If they were not able to attend because of prior commitments, they were threatened with failure in this course.

On mandatory attendance within these clubs, the students responded as visible below:

Regarding the same, Ankit Dhaka, General Secretary (Sports Affairs) mentioned:

The presence of students in any one out of NSO, NSS, NCC is akin to a formal curriculum for first-year students, hence their obligatory attendance. This also explains the enforcement of attendance regulations for NSO. First-year students allocate more time to technical clubs than to NSO, NSS, and NCC activities.

  • Random selection procedure

Several students mentioned problems with the selection procedure of these clubs. According to some students, they were assigned the club at random and different from the choice that they initially opted for. This led to students having to work in an area which is different from their interest for almost a year, defeating the purpose of compulsory participation in these clubs. In addition, some students reported glaring flaws in the selection process within these clubs with some students being preferred over the others because of good relations with seniors.

This was especially reported by students who are a part of NSS where according to them, favouritism is prevalent. Selection in NSS was done through interview but this was not uniformly followed for all cells with some cells not conducting interviews at all.

  • Lack of clarity regarding credits associated with these clubs

Students complained of being threatened to attend practices and meetings of these clubs otherwise they would be “failed” in this subject. It is however unclear how credits for these clubs will be evaluated. In the mail sent by ADOSW Prof. MV Sunil Krishna, it is mentioned that compulsory participation in either of NSS, NSO or NCC will count for Non-Credit Elements (NCE) of respective courses, which have been introduced under the New Education Policy. This will be assessed by respective mentors and faculty advisors. A minimum of 4 and a maximum of 8 non credit elements are allocated for these clubs.

  • Irregular Time Commitments

Out of 102 responses for the question regarding time commitment expected for their vertical in NSS/NSO/NCC, about 35% students mentioned that they are required to be present 1-2 times a week. 33% of students are called 3-4 times a week, while 19% have commitments less than once a week. The remaining 13% students had mixed responses.

Such extreme disparity in the time needed to be allotted caused a lot of confusion among fellow students. Watch Out! raised this concern to the respective stakeholders in NSS, NSO, NCC.

  1. Ankit Dhaka, General Secretary (Sports Affairs) for NSO:
    While we acknowledge our demands on their time, students haven’t dedicated sufficient time to these activities. Only a handful of sports, such as hockey, receive adequate time allocation by students.
    When questioned about why certain sports required more time, he responded, “It’s part of the curriculum, so we have the flexibility to manage it as we see fit.”

  2. Professor Diptimayee Nayak, Faculty Advisor NSS, NCC:
    When asked about a section of students who didn’t join any of the three clubs in their first semester, Prof Nayak responded, “It’s the responsibility of students to join and also engage themselves actively in the activities of these clubs. Many of the students would just want to enrol but would not like to take responsibility by being members of the group.”

Verbatim with Professor Diptimayee Nayak, Faculty Advisor NSS and NCC

Based on the data collected from the responses of first-year students, we interviewed Prof. Diptimayee Nayak, Faculty Advisor of NSS and NCC regarding the common issues faced by them. The section below provides the perspective from the head of NSS and NCC.

Watch Out!: Why is it a compulsion for students to join one of the NSS, NSO, or NCC in their first semester? If a student is not interested in any of them, should they still be compelled to join one? What measures are taken to ensure every student has joined one of the three groups?

Prof. Nayak: The students should have holistic development. Since the beginning of IIT, it has focused on the complete development of students rather than just academics. When you were joining IIT, why did the students join those branches even if they didn’t want to? They chose something within the options available to them. This is something similar. It’s also necessary for students to engage in extracurricular activities. If a person is interested in sports and fitness, he can choose NSO. NCC helps build discipline and patriotic feelings among youth. A person who does not wish to engage in physical activities like those involved in NSO or NCC can opt for NSS.

Watch Out!: Is it possible for a student to switch from NSS to NCC, or vice versa?

Prof. Nayak: Yes, it is possible to switch between these clubs. It is based on seat availability. Students are given the freedom to choose their preferred club.There are less than 300 seats in NSO. In NCC the seats are around 200-250. The remaining 600+ students come under NSS. NSS offers no physical constraint and more freedom compared to the other two. To shift between the clubs, they need to drop mail to both the faculty advisors. The club that they want to join and the club they are already part of, mentioning that they would like to switch their club from one to the other. There’s no specific deadline,but it won’t be feasible if it’s too late.

Watch Out!: NCC becomes hectic for students at the time of Republic Day and Independence Day, and NSS at the time of the Social Summit. Are there any significant activities of these clubs other than the mentioned time?

Prof. Nayak: There are many significant activities in NSS, but they are not as familiar or popular as Social Summit (in this, all students are involved, which is not the case in others). There are annual events such as blood donation camps, medicine donation drives, and cloth donations, especially during the last week of October, the 1st week of November, and April end, the 1st week of May (some of the students also stay here for some days in their holidays to distribute the collected clothes). They also work in the women empowerment cell,in which they visit villages (Hastinapur) and train them in e-trading for handicrafts or other things that help them sell and earn money. They also visit orphanages, where they act as education tutors or encourage students in cultural and artistic aspects and provide assistance to them by providing required materials such as brushes, paints, etc. They also engage in voluntary teaching. NSS works on the environment, health, education, etc. They are also active in the JEE cell, where last year 5 students could crack the JEE exam without any coaching from the guidance of IITR students. Even the students were physically called here for guidance. Last year, during the flood, students were called for assistance (there was a call from the army containment head to the faculty). Within three days, students ran a campaign and raised the donation, and they were also responsible for distributing the raised money. They collaborate with NGOs, ministries, and health departments as well. Only 50–60 members are actively involved in the group. Messages regarding the activities would be put in the group by faculty and other heads, but it’s the responsibility of students to actively engage in those.
On the other hand, NCC is directed towards incorporating discipline and patriotic orientation in students. Every 6 months, there will be a blood donation camp, one by NCC and another by NSS. They run awareness campaigns and half- or full-marathons.

Watch Out!: Do you think it’s fair if the students have to miss lectures for practice drills and groundwork for Summit during these times? Could you also share insights into the considerations behind this scheduling and whether there are measures in place to support students in managing both their external and academic commitments effectively?

Prof. Nayak: Most of the work is scheduled only after the classes, i.e., after 6 p.m. During Republic Day practice, as there would be a shortage of time and the evenings are very chill, the practice can’t be held after 5 or 6 pm, and hence it becomes necessary to call the students. As there is a unit in IIT Roorkee, it becomes necessary to conduct the parade; otherwise, it would not have been. So as there is an extra 25% of attendance available for students, they are requested to attend the practice.

Verbatim with General Secretary Sports Affairs

Watch Out! Interviewed Ankit Dhaka, General Secretary (Sports Affairs) to gain clarity on student concerns with regard to NSO.

Watch Out!: Many students have mentioned that attendance in NSO is strongly emphasized. Please elaborate on the significance placed on attendance within NSO activities, and what factors contribute to the mandate? How does NSO ensure that this attendance requirement aligns with the overall experience and development of the students involved?

Gensec Sports: During the initial stages, particularly during the trials, we communicate to individuals that commitment to NSO activities in the upcoming year is necessary. Attendance tracking serves the purpose of fostering connections among first-year students. Moreover, our commendable track record in inter-IIT competitions in recent years reflects our commitment to excellence. Our consistent performance allows us to achieve high rankings, highlighting the importance we place on attendance to ensure first-year students’ establish meaningful connections with us.
Additionally, there has been a recent change where credits were removed from NSO. Previously, NSO was structured as a proper course, evident even on the portal, and attendance was mandatory up until the batch of 2018. This established culture continues to be upheld.

Watch Out!: Many students, despite their proficiency in sports, refrain from enrolling in NSO due to the demanding practice schedule. Is there a consideration of potential measures to address this concern and ensure that talented individuals are not deterred from contributing to the campus sports group?

Gensec Sports: In such instances, we encourage individuals to simply come and participate. It’s not obligatory to be part of NSO to join inter-IIT competitions. For those students, we advise them to join in and play; if their skills meet the team’s standards, they’ll be considered for selection. However, there’s a significant portion of students who require time to learn and improve before participating.

Watch Out!: How does the credit system operate within NSO? What specific conditions/ criteria are considered for the allocation of credits to students? Does it weigh somewhere in calculating the final semester grade point?

Gensec Sports: Due to the extensive scheduling of events of NSO in February, the grading will primarily rely on these events as well as past attendance. Essentially, the coordinators of each sport will oversee this process, which will be primarily divided between attendance and the level of commitment shown on the field. The allocation of credits for each sport will vary, and this determination will be made by the respective coordinators.

Watch Out!: Why do students in NSO, no matter their sport, all have the same exercises, like running? For instance, even chess players are asked to do activities that might not relate directly to their game. Could you provide insights into the reasoning behind this approach?

Gensec Sports: We seek commitment from individuals. While those participating in inter-IIT competitions may not necessarily need to focus solely on fitness due to the comprehensive facilities provided at the camp, we do expect them to demonstrate discipline in return for these amenities. This same expectation of sincerity is upheld here as well. Additionally, these sessions occur only once or twice a week, totaling around 7-8 times overall, which is manageable.

Verbatim with Deputy General Secretary of NCC

In order to understand the workings of NCC better, we engaged in conversation with the Deputy General Secretary of NCC, Himanshu Ranjan. Through this discussion, we gained valuable insights.

Watch Out!: How are credits distributed? What are the new changes that have taken place because of NEP? How will the grading take place, how many credits will it be worth?

Himanshu Ranjan: There were no credits for NCC/NSO/NSS before. But, after the implementation of the New Education Policy, credits have been assigned for participation in these clubs and it is mandatory for the students to join any one of them. The reason for making it mandatory is to develop the overall personality of the student, and to engage them in group activities. That’s why credits were introduced so that the students give it some importance as they give for academics.

Watch Out!: Why is there a discrepancy between the number of students who are in NSO and NCC versus NSS?

HR: There are only 202 vacancies in the NCC in IIT Roorkee so only 202 students can be accommodated in NCC. This year, a total 260+ forms were filled but due to limitation of the vacancies only 202 were taken into the NCC. And this vacancy is maintained by the Govt. of India. It is not in our control.

Watch Out!: How are recruitments for NCC done? Some students complained of not being informed of the recruitment process in advance. By what means students are informed about the timing? Additionally, it’s unclear how information about the timing and requirements for recruitment is communicated to the students.

HR: For the student body, recruitments are done just by filling the form. For cadets, a basic physical test and an exam is conducted by the NCC unit. A proper intro talk was held in the chemical auditorium in the first semester where around 300 people gathered and all the details regarding the recruitment were informed. Also an email was floated to everyone by the ADOSW to all the students.

Watch Out!: A lot of students in NCC feel that it is quite hectic and students are forced to drill for the preparations of Republic and Independence Day against their choice. Many feel pressured to attend both NCC and manage Club Activities/Recruitments. A student even said that he was asked to skip lectures to come for drilling. So, don’t you think that you should deploy a more flexible system of attendance for students so that they don’t feel too swamped and are able to manage their academics simultaneously with NCC?

HR: There are 4-5 classes a month for NCC which are 2 hours long. Here, a generic knowledge about tactics and instruments is given. Along with that refreshments are also provided. During Republic and Independence Day, not all cadets are forced to join the parade (60-70 among 202 are needed), so not all were forced to come.

These are days of national pride as well as college importance and it is the responsibility of an NCC Cadet to be available on such occasions. It was only for a couple days when students were asked to leave classes and attend the parade. It was the final rehearsal with band before the 26th of January.

Watch Out!: Certain students experience boredom as a result of the repetitive nature of drills in their routine. In addition to parades, are there any recreational or sports activities available for students to engage in? Don’t you think introducing a variety of activities beyond drills can contribute to a more dynamic and engaging experience for students, fostering a more enjoyable and well-rounded environment.

HR: During the NCC camps a lot of focus is given to recreational activities. Students are given 3 hours to play and explore other physical activities. Also, Inter NCC cadets’ sports are organised to build competitiveness and sportsmanship in the students. We frequently keep in touch with the NCC Cells of other IITs to keep ourselves and our systems up to date.

Watch Out!: Are there any verticals in NCC like other campus groups?

HR: There are various teams and verticals in NCC like any other club. They are Design, Web Development and Operations. Professors are also assigned by the NCC Unit to the college cadets for any query or doubts.