Excerpt 2 from Karthik Varada’s interview
by Arasu Arun
Me: Lemme move on to the next part of the interview. You had to deal with not only the students, but the management as well. There are many aspects to that – budgets, funding, permissions, etc…
This year, we’ve had quite a bit of problems with those, especially budgets. I’d like to know about your Gymkhana.
KV: Funding is always a sensitive issue. Being a new institute, we’re a bit tight and we’ve gotten tighter over the last year and the Director wants to have a close watch on everything happening for now.
Me: Is it always necessary to go the institute for approval every time? Can’t we freely spend from within our budget?
KV: Yes. It’s the system in all IITs. This isn’t exactly something we can debate over. I do agree that it impedes the flow of a lot of our activities – considering that there is often a lot of delays in the process. Frankly, the institute just doesn’t trust the students to handle in on their own, sometimes. But, there is definitely scope for improvement.
Me: Okay.. I don’t know much about the rules behind it. But, it sounds very inefficient. I’d like to know about your suggestions, too.
Me: Anyways, just wondering. Is it possible to crowdsource cash? In the Agenda presentations, some candidates also gave interesting ideas like a deposit fund system and getting sponsors.
KV: Remember, we’re a Government institute, and we have an image to maintain. We actually don’t need to go outside for cash.
In fact, we get most of it from the students themselves. Every semester, Rs. 500 ** is paid by each and every student as part of the fees in the name of the Gymkhana. Given the approximate population of 1700.. that’s like…
Me: Rs. 17 lakhs!
KV: Yup. Our budget comes from that.
When you tell me the budget wasn’t approved for the wrong reasons, I feel very bad. The Gymkhana and the secretaries have the responsibility to get it done. The Director doesn’t expect much from us, so we should definitely deliver whenever he wants.
I have to admit that the SciTech budget wasn’t approved in my tenure. We had a full inventory and didn’t feel the urgency push for a new budget. In the end, it got a bit delayed and due to our mistakes, we didn’t get it approved.
This year, the affected clubs will have surely been crippled by the lack of funds. Many student activities depend on a healthy budget and the quality of events might have been downscaled, which doesn’t bode well for the image of the Gymkhana or the institute as a whole.
Me: Yeah.. I can feel that. Anyways, what do you feel about the current system to avail funds. We have to submit the proper paperwork, wait for it to get approved and then only, can the money be used. How are the systems in the other IITs?
KV: Yeah, that is roughly the system in the other IITs. But the impeding difference in our college is that most permissions are sent straight to the highest authority and sometimes even the director. This causes unnecessary delays.
[BUDGET SYSTEM IN OTHER IITs]
In other IITs, there are some levels of hierarchy when it comes to gettin money. For a sum of money up to a certain range, the respective faculty coordinator has freedom to accept the funds. Above that, it goes to the Dean of Student Affairs, and even above that, it goes to the Director.
[VARADA’S ANALYSIS ON THE CURRENT FUNDING SYSTEM]
But here, I feel that many of the faculty advisors are dodging any responsibility and are playing things too safe. They forward many requests to a higher authority and even small permissions are sent to the Director.
I feel that if we followed the system of the older IITs, things will go much smoother. Faculty advisors should use their power properly and grant funds themselves.
Me: Hope our system develops soon.
By the way, what do you feel about the institute’s intervention in our college fests? Many people feel that the institute puts quite a bit of constraints on the fests.
[VARADA ON THE FESTS]
KV: As our fests are quite nascent, our Director feels that it needs proper guidance from the institute. Also, the institute doesn’t really trust us much with the money and feel the need for a close watch. This isn’t only for the fests, but for the Gymkhana as a whole.
After the fests develop and they become quite stable, the leash will be loosened, I believe.
And if you think about it, IIT Hyderabad is the biggest sponsor for Elan, so it does have quite some right to be strict.
Another big factor is the alumni one. In older IITs, these festivals have been run for many years and they have several experiences and examples on what can go wrong, or right. Its not our case. So, some guidance and oversight from experienced faculty can be helpful. This oversight however, can sometimes be frustrating and painstaking.
Me: Speaking of the institute managing you guys, how did you manage among yourselves? I heard some stories of irresponsibility among your Gymkhana members.
KV: Haha.. yes. It wasn’t easy for sure, but I had a good team to think and work with. Most of us were very proactive and took extra responsibilities. We made up for each other’s work, which is what a good team must do, of course.
We did run into some troubles. Our Cultural secretary wasn’t really working up to the mark and the rest of us had to put in some extra effort. We ultimately kicked him out of the council.
** Check the documentation of the fees payment.
— Arasu Arun