Coffee with Feeds: Rajat Sanklecha and Hemapriya Jagadeesan

At year’s end, hindsight reigns supreme. For many, especially those leaving the campus for the last time, it becomes a period of introspection. One would probably recall several instances in time that he wishes he could relive one more time. For the students who bore the highest responsibility in the college, the student council president and vice-president, such a feeling is no stranger.
But the thing about hindsight is that it is often pragmatic. No matter how countless situations played out, there is a sense that one would look back, and change not a single thing. Countless hours of effort was expended by these two individuals working towards a common goal of representing the interests of the student body as a whole. Now, they leave behind them a legacy and a standard of excellence for student councils of batches to come, to strive for.
Here, Feeds brings to you, the final interviews of Rajat Sanklecha, the outgoing student president, and Hemapriya Jagadeesan, the outgoing student vice-president.

 
What were your goals when you first became student president?

My goals were what I mentioned in my election manifesto. My first priority was getting money from the admin to the students. We had heard from a lot of clubs that obtaining funding had been a problem in the past years. For example, club members always used to spend money out of their own pockets for costumes, travel etc. Since we pay Rs. 1600 annually to the administration as institute fees, that comes back to the students as the budget for various clubs.
Next was regarding alumni. The institute cannot provide everything that the students ask for but alumni can do, that too just in a flick of time. That’s one thing that I’ve learned over the last year. So making sure that we were well connected to NIT alumni was another priority.
Third, I wanted to focus on facilities. Anything that made our lives easier. For example, getting food at night, easy availability of drinking water, air conditioning and so on. I wanted to make changes to those as soon as I entered office. I wanted to establish something as soon as I was elected. Every year a president comes and makes sure that he leaves some sort of legacy in the college. For example, Rajat Goyal helped establish the night canteen, Gaurav Kumar made access to the administration easier, Sivas Subramaniyan was responsible for CCD and Sudan helped establish connections between the institute and the police force. So I wanted facilities like Naturals’ Hair Salon, Ice making machine, AC common rooms to be my mark upon college as I left.

Was there any initiative that you wanted taken up but weren’t able to do so?

There was one initiative which I had mentioned in my manifesto but I was unable to implement. I had proposed that the institute go cashless by means of an e-wallet. Every student would obtain a smart card to avail any service across campus. However, this wasn’t supported by the administration as they feared that students would excessively spend it in a very short amount of time.

What have you learned personally during your tenure as the student president?

What I’ve learned is that if you get connected to the right people, things get done very easily. If you know them, any process becomes smooth. Even if any problem arises and needs to be settled, the right connections will ensure that things get taken care of. Even if you are the student president, if you take the effort to get to know people actively instead of others seeking you out, it helps immensely.
Another thing that I’ve learned in detail is how a government organization works. I feel that that is something everyone should learn if they are going to stay in India. There are so many procedures and a certain hierarchy exists. Looking at all these procedures makes you realize a lot of things.
Lastly, the past year has helped me grow a lot more mature. I can say for sure that had I not been president the last year, I definitely would not be as mature as I am today. As the president, I met a lot of interesting people (especially alumni) from whom I learned a lot.

Can you name some of the most interesting people that you met over the past year?

The first person that comes to mind was the Governor of Andhra Pradesh (Shri. ESL Narasimhan). He was a true gentleman. The speech that he delivered here was excellent and very inspiring. Truly a great man.
The next person has to be Dr. S. Sundarrajan, our beloved director Sir. He is a person I will really miss after college. He has been so helpful and accommodating over the past year.
Another person of note was the DIG of Police from Trichy (Shri. Senthamarai Kannan). He headed the Special Task Force that was responsible for capturing and killing the notorious brigand Veerappan. He worked as an undercover agent for the entire operation. He had come to the college during the Orientation program. When he first came, none of us knew about this apart from director Sir. Sir then requested him to narrate his experiences during this operation. It was really exciting to hear that. One great thing about him is that he is still in touch with me today. Only last weekend he called me and asked as to whether we could meet sometime.
Apart from that, there have been many great alumni from our college. Take for example Mr. B. V. Ramanan from the 1981 batch. The 1981 batch trust was pushing for the IoT (Internet of Things) laboratory in our college for a span of six months. A lot of difficulties were being faced. Yet after Mr. Ramanan entered the picture, the whole laboratory is set up within a span of just 15 days, fully furnished. Actually, he imposed a deadline of 15 days, but finished everything within 13 days itself! So on the 15th day, we were able to inaugurate the lab. He has so many connections that he can set up anything he wants instantly.

Have institute policies ever affected whatever goals you’ve tried to achieve as the President?

Yes, they have in both good ways and bad ways. For example, institute policy states that whenever something is to be procured, certain procedures have to be followed. Any purchase above Rs. 15,000 requires quotations to be made while any purchase above Rs. 1 lakh requires a tendering process. Say if we need to purchase new furniture, we can procure it directly under a DGS&D contract without having to go for quotations and other processes, this is an example of how these policies can be helpful.
However as a student, if you ever need anything done institute policies will certainly affect you. This is especially true if there are big initiatives to be taken or new things to be set up. And it is because of the sanctions of the institute that we have delays in certain initiatives- it took us 6 months to set up the Naturals salon in our campus.

So do you think any administrative changes should be made to make the job of the student council easier?

Our job could be made easier by the administration, it is true. However, we serve by and large as a link between the administration and the students. So our role almost entirely depends on us. If we choose to slack off, we can relax and do so anytime.

Lastly, do you have any advice for the new student president?

I would tell him to make good connections with people quickly in order to initiate any long term initiatives if any. Even if he needs small changes made in the university on the hostel and institute side, he will need to know a lot of people. For example, we had huge support this year from the hostel office’s side especially from Sreekanth Sir, our faculty advisor. So the right connections can help him go a long way, because one thing he should have in mind is Director sir won’t be there next year for him.

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What were your goals when you first became student vice-president?

Well according to my manifesto, I’d promised that I’d get some of the hostel issues sorted out. We were having problems with the night canteen and that was one of the things I wanted to see through. In addition to this there were some major things I wanted to accomplish like getting a gym ready inside Opal hostel and also try for a campus curfew instead of a hostel curfew. One of the points that I took from my opponent’s manifesto was the option of finishing your final semester project outside of NT Trichy. While that hasn’t been possible for our batch it certainly should be implemented for the junior batches.
Another thing that I really wanted to accomplish was my involvement in various activities that took place in the campus. The vice president has always been seen as this super hostel representative who doesn’t involve herself much in the other decisions like club budget allocation but I really wanted to change that.

How many of those goals have you seen achieved?

Some of the important hostel facilities that have been brought are the night canteen, stationery and Xerox shop, washing machines, separate messes for the girls, and the beginning of the gym tender process. For the gym I’ve had to run around a lot. In fact I started the entire process in June itself however due to some setbacks, it’s been delayed a lot and now it’s back on track.

What are some of the most important things you’ve taken from your time in the student council?

One of the things I’ve learnt during my time as student vice president is that you can’t be an open book everywhere. You have to be in the good books of professors and those in power. Also as in most bureaucracies, everything happens very slowly. So I’ve learnt to go with the flow and not get frustrated at times.
Being in the position to approach those in power has taught me how to work diplomatically with higher officials. As the student vice president I am like a bridge between students and the administration. So, at time I’ve had to field a lot of difficult questions from my peers especially when they ask why things are not getting done or why something cannot be done. It’s definitely not an easy job but you do what you have to do and always think for the greater good towards the end. It’s demanding to consider all the opinions of various people so at times when I make a decision it’s hard for me as well as others. While I wholeheartedly wish that I could cater to the student’s wishes, I have to work within the constraints of the admin. So in addition to learning to compromise between student and admin ideals, I’ve learnt to be patient while dealing with it all.

Do you think there needs to be any kind of administrative changes that needs to happen so that your job is easier?

Everything happens according to the rules. It’s not a bad thing but at times it can be restricting. Sometimes there are genuine cases that need urgent attention and at times like that I think the higher authorities should make concessions. But it doesn’t happen as often as it should since while some of them are okay with bypassing certain rules, there are others who are not.
The Director has been a huge help with regards to getting things done fast. However there is one major hindrance that I feel has affected not only me but many other girls on campus as well and that is curfew.

What were some of your most memorable moments as student vice president?

I do not per se have great memories but one of my most cherished memories is when the Student Council along with the Election Commission tried to create a human chain to spread awareness about elections. We didn’t expect a great turnout but what we got was worse than miserable. At that moment I could have chosen to panic because it was a situation that definitely warranted some amount of panic. We had collaborated with so many prominent officials. We had called the district collector as the chief guest for the event. It would have been very bad had we not in some way scrounged up something to salvage the situation. However, it all worked out in the end. This event brought me in close contact with various government officials and I was privileged to be able to organise such an event.
Apart from this, I always received an immense amount of satisfaction when something I had planned went accordingly and came to fruition. The successful installation of hostel facilities like washing machines, night canteen, and stationery shops made me feel on top of the world.
One major disappointment was the campus curfew implementation. I know how restricting it can be for girls when they have to be back in the hostels by 9pm. In a way I feel that girls are denied head positions in the various clubs because of this set back. I tried as much as I could but to no avail. I sincerely hope that things change in the coming years.

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What advice would you give to the new student vice president?

I would like to tell her that holding a position as girls is not an easy job. In a male dominated world, it’s easy for your voice to get lost. Make sure that you make your stand and that your voice is heard. To ensure that, you have to have your finger on the pulse of all the activities that are going on in the campus. Do not stay idle. Get involved in all that you can. And if possible, do that one thing for which people will remember you and then try to emulate you. Do not be just one more girl representative. Try to be the voice of change.

Interviewed by – Vignesh and Vyjayanthi

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