Thursday, September 07, 2006

Positive Vibes

Something has changed.

When I came to IIT Kharagpur four years back, the system was rotten like hell. It took nearly one and half hour to withdraw money from my bank account or post office, and three hours to get the semester registration done. Letters to professors/deans never got replied, and I got the scholarship money nearly two months after it arrived in the institute. No wonder, I wasn't happy about it.

Since then, four years have passed. The banks and post offices had been computerised at least one year back, but it only worsened the situation as everything was now duplicated. The academic departments were re-furnished, but that can hardly be linked to change in mentality of the workers. Till the end of fourth semester, everything was same.

I saw the first difference during registration for fifth year. We were required to pay the fees at the undergraduate section. I knew that this process would take at least two hours, as the work involves copying of all the fees receipt, verifying, signing, and what not. On reaching there, I found that there was only one counter, and that too did not have any queue. The person simply took the fee receipt, tore off a part and returned me my half. (Time taken: one minute)

Thinking it as a one off case, and considering there aren't enough student registering for the fifth year, I went ahead with my life. The second incident that shook my faith in the incompetency of the system was with regards to payment of stipend to fifth year students. Last year, the fifth year students got their first installment of the stipend in October/November, while the stipend is given from the month of May. I was expecting a repeat this time also. But I was shocked to learn that the first installment is being disbursed as early as August itself. I and Suman decided that we will collect the scholarship later, avoiding the first day rush. Aditya decided to brave the odds and collect it on the opening day itself. In the afternoon, he came back to tell us that the transactoin didn't even lasted two minutes, and again, there was no queue. I went to collect the money the next day, and had a similar experience.

The next incident was my visit to the dean's office to get the address of an alumnus. I was expecting a lot of bureaucracy, form-filling, detailed explainations, repeated questioning, etc. But when I went to the office, the same lady that earlier took half an hour to compose herself before starting any (half-hearted) work, simply asked what I was looking for. I told her that I wanted the address of an alumnus, and gave her the name. She immediately recognised the name (the person was from 1955 batch), and took out a register. She also told me that his mobile phone number is wrongly stated. Meanwhile, it took her only 10 seconds for her to get to the address from the register. She told me that I can try getting the updated mobile number/e-mail address from the Alumni Office, though she doesn't think he uses an e-mail. Her in-depth knowledge about an alumnus puzzled me. Anyway, I went to the Alumni Office, and told the lady sitting there that I am looking for the contact detail of an alumnus, and told her his name. She too recognised the alumni and told her apprehensions about his mobile number being outdated. She opened a database, quickly located the alumnus concerned, and gave me his contact details. These incidents were marked different from my understanding of the bureaucracy in the IIT system. I also had to e-mail the duputy director of the institute twice for helping with the IIT article on Wikipedia, and on both cases, I received the reply within hours. Compare that to my letter to the dean (academic affairs) in my second year of study, where my genuine complaints about the course curriculum were un-answered.

No wonder, my experience with the IIT system this year has been pleasant; and I hope it remains that way. The only major problem remaining is with the mess food, and it appears that this too is on the track of getting fixed. Azad Hall's mess has been privatized, and others too are now in the line. Probably the change would come after I pass out of the institute, but I am really looking forward to it.


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