The fourth annual edition of SoapBox took place from March 27th- 28th, 2018 from 5PM to 8PM at the EEE Auditorium. This initiative of TaskForce was started to revolutionize the election culture in our college. The main aim was to provide a platform for the contestants to present their manifestos and to enable the student population to make informed decisions. Day 1 of SoapBox 4.0 included the PG Secretarial debate, Additional PG Secretarial debate, and the Joint Secretarial debate, while Day 2 witnessed the General Secretary debate, Additional General Secretary debate, Vice President debate and President speech.
SoapBox starts with a presentation of the manifesto by each candidate, following which the panel members can ask the candidates questions based on their manifestos. The candidates are also allowed to pose questions to each other. Finally, time is also allotted to allow questions from the audience. Candidates were encouraged to keep the debate professional.
This article reports the speeches made by the candidates, and debates and Q&A sessions held at SoapBox.
3.Gallery of Manifestos
The panel for the PG SoapBox consisted of Mrs. R.Shoba, Mr. R. Dinesh, Mr. Jithin Joseph and Mr. Anoop Jain.
PG Secretary, Open
The Joint Secretarial post was contested for by R Harikrishnan from Production department and C Ashwin Kumar from MME department.
First to speak was R Harikrishnan, who spoke about the water wastage due to RO purifiers. He suggested using the existing facilities effectively and having a dedicated technician for the water coolers. He also suggested empowering the mess committees. Regarding the stipend delay problem plaguing the PG community, he proposed enhanced coordination amongst the various stakeholders and promised to ensure the release of stipend by the 10th of every month. His manifesto highlights many other points such as newspapers for public reading in recreation halls, having annual maintenance contracts for ACs, providing floodlights in badminton and volleyball courts and starting on demand battery vehicles. He said that being an active member of HumaNITTy and other clubs have helped him establish a better connect with the student society.
Mr.C Ashwin Kumar
The second candidate, C Ashwin Kumar, talked about his vision to create a student friendly community by being the voice of the PG students. For this, he had a three-pronged approach – student body involvement, better utilization of resources and digitization. He proposed the creation of a PG students’ association and also promised to encourage more interaction with alumni through this association. With regard to stipend regulation, he suggested the formation of student representatives (SR) whose duty would be to ensure that the stipend section receives the attendance list by the 1st or 2nd of each month. He also proposed the digitization of our campus using the barcode on each ID card. His other suggestions include converting the GJCH to a multipurpose stadium, providing better lighting and shed facilities at the main gate for cycle parking and separate hostel premises for final year PG girls.
Panel Discussion and Debate
Through the questions posed by the panel, the audience could gain more insight on where the two candidates stood on various issues. Both the candidates were opposed to RO purifiers citing different reasons. Mr.Harikrishnan quoted economic reasons, whereas Mr.Ashwin had the view that RO water was injurious to health. Mr.Harikrishnan’s strategy to deal with the stipend issue was to get personally involved to ensure that the process happens smoothly, while Mr.Ashwin was of the view that delegation and getting more people involved would be the better course of action.
PG Secretary, Girls
The candidates contesting for this post are Ms.Rashmi from Production engineering department and Ms.Mona Nikkila from DOMS.
The first candidate Rashmi talked about her experience as a hostel representative and why she decided to stand for this position. She believes being a Joint Secretary would provide her greater reach to authority, unlike the position of the hostel representative, which involved great responsibility but very little power. Her main focus was on the mess facilities, which she claimed has unsatisfactory management. She proposed the formation of an online mess feedback system, access to library and Octa to girls after curfew, and provisions for coffee machines inside the hostel. She also spoke about setting up more WiFi routers, enabling access to groceries and fruits inside Opal, installing ACs in recreation halls, automating roll call, and creating a larger, more monitored cycle parking space.
The next candidate for the post of joint secretary was Mona Nikhila, who spoke about integrating all women and helping them reach greater heights. She aims to establish a symbiotic relationship between the student body and the administration and to work towards the common cause of creating more opportunities for all. Her experience at DoMS taught her how to get optimal results from minimal resources. Her aim is to use the women alumni network to create an exclusive portal to showcase it. She also talked about how learning new languages is essential to foster the cosmopolitan environment of our college. To that end, she suggested the creation of a common platform where students can come together to teach and learn from each other. She also suggested creating a grievance cell, cycle pooling for common use, water inspection ledgers and allocating separate rooms for final year PG girls.
Panel Discussion and Debate
Both the candidates were questioned on their plans to effectively communicate with students from all PG streams.They were also questioned on their plans to tackle the issues of sexual harassment on campus. Further, the candidates answered questions pertaining to points in their manifestos.
Additional Joint Secretary, Girls (UG)
The post of Additional Joint Secretary was contested by Ms.Deeptha Mahesh from Instrumentation and Control engineering department and Ms.V Teja from Chemical Engineering Department, both first year B.Tech students.
The panel for the UG Soapbox consisted of Mr.Jittam Bhattacharya, Mr.Koushik Sampath and Ms.Bhavishya Tejavath.
Ms.Deeptha commenced her speech by stating her key goal: sorting issues out. She further added that her role as a Class Representative would make her well suited to perform duties as an Additional Joint Secretary. Ms.Deeptha’s main goal is to improve the existing facilities in Opal, and highlighted 2 issues. The first being, the cleaning of water purifiers and the second being, installing more routers. She proposed introducing partitions for parked cycles in Opal. Her agenda also included the need to repair geysers, set up vending machines, improve the computer rooms and battery cars to ferry girl post-curfew.
Ms.V Teja highlighted her qualities as: being compassionate, bold and unafraid to lead. In her manifesto, she conceded that it is not possible to extend curfew, and would rather ensure tighter security. She proposed introducing a few measures that would make the female students feel safer namely – introducing a women’s hotline number and selling personal safety devices such as pepper sprays. She would also look at ensuring regular electrical maintenance checks for geysers in the hostel and make roll call, sign out and room allocation all done through an app. Additionally, she suggested for a forum for discussing ideas and using water wasted from dispensers in a productive manner. She also promised the introduction of an online portal for feedback. She further suggested a few things that needed improvement such as sanitation of corridors in hostels, Opal gym, and speeding up the installation of mosquito nets.
Panel Discussion and Debate
The panel first sought the contestants’ views on academic issues faced by the students to which the contestants discussed repetitive courses and also wanted to make reference material more available. Candidates further talked about the lack of buses to ferry students from hostels. They were asked to elaborate on the forum for posing complaints, the questions further extended into debating the need for such a forum when a Facebook group exists. Finally, the debate went into WiFi issues and campus security issues. While a query regarding curfew was posed to the audience, Mr.Daksh Khanter, Student President explained that the institute was in a public zone and not in a prohibited zone, hence the Admin can’t restrict entry to outsiders. Thus curfew was imposed to ensure safety.
Joint Secretary, Open
The Joint Secretary debate took place between four candidates from first year B.Tech, namely: Mr.S Gururagav from the Department of EEE, Mr.Shekar Sahu from the Department of Architecture, Mr.Hari Chandan from the Department of MME, and Mr.T.R. Rengadeva from the Department of EEE.
Mr.Shekhar commenced his speech by assuring the audience of his honesty and if elected, no problem would go unnoticed. He then moved on to his manifesto, where he spoke about the need of an ATM inside Opal, the requirement for proper common rooms in hostels, extending library timings, enabling live location of electrical ferries, and reforms concerning Amber Hostels.
Mr.T. R. Rengadeva
Mr.Rengadeva then took the dais, elaborating as to why he would be a very suitable candidate for the post. Having been an Aaveg Organiser and a Hostel Coordinator, and having discussed with his Aaveg Core members, who gave him a lot of valuable input, he firmly believed that he was both technically and organisationally fit.
Mr.Rengadeva then moved on to his manifesto, which raised the need for more ferries around campus, a cycle repair shop near Amber, bus routes with a proper schedule, avoiding burning of garbage, a greener campus via plantation of saplings, and so forth. He concluded by mentioning that he would be very receptive to suggestions, and that progress can only be made if we (the students) work together.
Next in line was Mr.Hari Chandan, who stated that his purpose to stand for the JS was in order to be the voice of the unheard. He spoke in detail about the points listed in his manifesto, primarily focusing on maintenance of water purifiers in Amber, installing mosquito meshes in all the Amber rooms, ensuring 24*7 constant and strong WiFi speeds, installation of floodlights in the sports grounds and improving the digital library.
Finally, Mr.Gururagav took centre stage, stating, “A good leader is one who turns vision into reality”. He spoke about the various issues that his peers faced, that turned up as key points in his manifesto. He proposed to have the library open 24*7, repairing and renovation of the A Halls, installation of a suitable file sharing system like dc++, creating a greener path from Amber to Orion and rectifying the malfunctioning PCs in Opal’s computer labs.
Panel Discussion and Debate
The panellists first raised the question of whether mosquito nets were installed in Amber. The candidates said that not all rooms in Amber were equipped with mosquito nets. Mr.Shekhar’s point on establishing an online app for attendance was discussed; the candidates were asked for their opinions on what else could be done via an app.
Mr.Rengadeva’s point on installing a food canopy similar to IIT Madras’ was discussed. Mr.Hari Chandan’s point about the bus schedule was countered by mentioning that it is in fact, clearly stated, and if not followed, a hotline number is available for registering a complaint. Mr.Gururagav’s mention on slackening the dress code was taken into consideration. Mr.Koushik from the panel then questioned the candidates as to their opinion on drug abuse and their plan of action, if someone is found guilty. Mr.Rengadeva suggested that counselling can be done, and the other candidates nodded in agreement. Mr.Gururagav’s idea for issuing ID cards for borrowing sports equipment was then spoken about.
The panellists for Day 2 of SoapBox were Mr.Daksh Khanter, Ms.Anu Komeswaran, Mr.Jittam Bhattacharya, Mr.Sasi Kalyan and Ms.Suman Raj.
Additional General Secretary, Girls
The clash for the post of Additional General Secretary is between second year B.Tech students Ms.Yamini and Ms.J. Ramadevi of the Department of Civil Engineering.
The first candidate, Ms.Yamini presented her manifesto to the panel. She discussed her plan to open more stationery shops near Orion for convenience. She focused on improving hostel facilities across the college, and more specifically Opal, including cool roof housing, a grocery store and delivery of food and groceries to Opal. Her plans included installing more TVs and computer systems in common rooms. She also mentioned her plans to stock more brands of sanitary napkins in Opal and improve the courier delivery system for Opalites.
The second speaker of the day, Ms.Ramadevi, pivoted her speech on the main features of her manifesto. She promised initiatives to develop the campus, hostel facilities, academics and achieve digitalization. She also expressed her opinion on how the student body should and will improve its reachability in her tenure. Emphasis was laid on the necessity for change in the procedures prevailing in the institute. Her speech also featured a method of getting sign-out forms via the intranet. Several other plans such as bicycle sharing, internship programmes by Pragyan and better student correspondence were put forth.
Panel Discussion and Debate
The panel began questioning the candidates with respect to the MIS issues. Ms.Yamini suggested by saying that an MIS application could be outsourced for development. Ms.Ramadevi further added that news related to NITT like notifications about change in procedures should be included. This would mean better reachability to the student community. Ms.Anu then posed Ms.Yamini with the question of how she would go about white roofing in hostels, to which Ms.Yamini replied that using white paint which is cheaper would resolve the issue. Mr.Daksh then asked the candidates to opine on the issue of mess food. Although both candidates had complained of the bad quality of mess food, no further action had been taken. This was then followed up by a question to Ms.Ramadevi regarding an Academic Council. Ms.Ramadevi responded that the council would contain a representative from each department and the issues regarding minors would be handled by this council, including internship opportunities.
During the debate, Ms.Ramadevi sought clarification on the matter of water hubs proposed by Ms.Yamini, to which she responded that mud pots filled with water could be installed in summer around college to provide clean drinking water.
General Secretary, Open
Two candidates stood for the post of General Secretary: Mr.R Jayaprakash, a second year Production Engineering student, and Mr.Ashish Katna, a second year ICE student.
Mr.Jayaprakash started off by explaining how he believed that he would be the apt person for the post he is contesting for, given his previous positions of responsibility. He is an active member of the TaskForce, Festember and NITTFEST Organizing Committees, Pragyan Public Relations and Hospitality, and has been a Mess Representative for two consecutive years.
Jayaprakash then moved on to how his manifesto would improve the current situation on the campus. He spoke about digitalization of transactions within the campus, purchase of more battery cars, clearing old bicycles in hostels to ensure more parking space for the new ones, extending library timings and organising shuttle vehicles for transporting girls after curfew hours to access the library. He also mentioned installing sanitary napkin dispensers in Opal Hostels, akin to the social responsibility initiative by Pragyan.
The next candidate, Mr.Ashish Katna, explained his reasons for contesting in this election. Not having handled any positions of responsibility in the past, Mr.Ashish decided that it was time he stepped up – to become the voice of the students and to make a change for the better. Mr.Ashish then elucidated a few important points in his manifesto. His suggestions included implementing a system similar to dc++ for sharing files, increasing the copies of textbooks in the college’s library, ensuring the accountability and transparency of the Student Council’s activities, regular checks on WiFi connectivity and speed in hostels, free laundry, food vending machines in every hostel and extension of Sports Centre timings.
Panel Discussion and Debate
The panel discussion started off with Mr.Daksh expressing his disappointment over the fact that both candidates were unable to attend the SoapBox debates held earlier in the evening. He gave special attention to the Additional General Secretary Debate, as the future General Secretary would be working with them and it would be good to hear their ideas and opinions. It would have also helped them avoid re-discussing redundant points in their manifestos.
Mr.Jittam mentioned that the Course Registration cannot be integrated within the NITT App due to technical reasons, to which both the candidates agreed in unison. Ms.Anu then explained the technical difficulties behind organising a vending machine system with the help of Admin, and Jayaprakash suggested that the Social Responsibility teams of major fests could help in the initiative. The panel then spoke about a variety of topics in the discussion, including the installation of mosquito nets in the hostels, the course fair, the new MIS system and the recent issues faced during course registration, water in hostels, faculty feedback and so forth.
During the debate, Mr.Jayaprakash had also questioned the idea of free laundry proposed by Mr.Ashish, as there would be a lot of electrical consumption and not many people would use the facility. Mr.Ashish said that it would be convenient for students if they use this service and in order to gather sufficient funds, the fee for electricity paid by students could be increased by a very small amount.
The panel then gave both the candidates a few situations and enquired to how they would approach the situation. Both candidates had opposing yet interesting views on how they would handle these situations. Situations involved how they would tackle students performing various illegal activities, such as drug abuse, using motorcycles without permission, etc.
This year witnessed two candidates running for the post of Vice President: Ms.S. Priyadharshini, a third year MME student, and Ms.Vyshnavi Machavarapu, a third year Production Engineering student.
“Leadership by service, service by leadership” is what Ms.S. Priyadharshini believes in. Her manifesto comprised of promises mainly revolving around finding a solution for the persistent problem of women harassment. Her key points included the extension of library timings, industrial collaboration, strengthening of alumni relations, relaxing the ban on heavy electrical appliances and improving the status quo of sports in the campus. She believes that her experience in various teams including Festember Media Relations, Pragyan Publicity and AIESEC will guide her through her sojourn at the council.
“Do what is right and not what is easy”, said Ms.Vyshnavi Machavarapu. Her speech encompassed all the major points in her manifesto and gave an insight into how she is set on tackling day-to-day problems. She began her speech with a statement about the improvement of hostels and went on to talk about the introduction of dhobi services. Her promises include the proper functioning of the Opal Clinic, the commencement of printing services from the morning, furnishing common rooms with LAN connections and computers, hiring a trainer for the gym, optimisation of transport, cashless transactions, internship databases, rented bicycles, and grocery stores.
Panel Discussion and Debate
The panel discussion commenced with Mr.Daksh questioning both the candidates as to why they were absent for the preceding Soapbox debates. Then, the panel proceeded to ask the candidates as to how they were going to tackle the issue of women harassment. Ms.Priyadharshini opined that more girls from UG and PG should actively participate in the functioning of the Women’s Cell. Ms. Priyadarshani suggested the inclusion of HoDs, Deans and other staff in the Women’s Cell. Ms.Vyshnavi opined that a biometrics system with helpline number which is open 24*7. Ms.Priyadharshini was then quizzed upon her proposal of lifting the electrical ban in Opal.
Mr.Shivam Sharma of third year Civil engineering department was elected unopposed as the Student President of NIT Trichy for the 2018-19 year. In his presidential speech, he mentioned that his experience of being a part of all 3 fests, the founding member of 2 clubs and coupled with 3 years of experience as an NCC Cadet would make him a person who could lead the entire college. His tenure as president would lay on 3 pillars namely – approachability, prompt response and constant feedback.
His manifesto was based on a survey he did in Garnet and parts of Opal. 44% of the students who took the survey felt drinking water was an issue. Upon consultation with a professor from his department, he suggested growing ‘hypophyte’ plants that would use the rejected water from the RO water which is otherwise unusable. These plants would also provide a good ambience as well. He also suggested having a cupboard in each hostel containing sports equipment, where each student could sign a register and submit their ID card before using the equipment, which is followed in IIT Bombay. His next point was about the need to have washrooms and drinking water supply in SCIEnT. He had also suggested having newsstands for each hostel, as a solution for the papers that are “stolen”, with one common newspaper fixed to the newsstand. Finally, he stressed on the need to improve the MIS facility which had been facing issues over the past semester.
These questions were primarily aimed to not only test his knowledge about various happenings and issues in campus, but also help him familiarize himself with the challenges that could stem during his tenure.
The panel questioned Mr.Shivam Sharma on how funding is carried out for various activities on campus. Then he was further questioned on why he insisted on bringing toilets and drinking facilities as interest in doing projects would be a leading factor in increasing students’ participation at SCIEnT. He was further asked to discuss his plans for greenery on campus to which he replied saying he had spoken to the Dean of Planning and Development regarding this and spoke of student committees that would help in increasing and maintaining the green spread on campus. He was also questioned on the functioning of a WiFi portal he had proposed and Mr.Shivam was confident that this initiative would span well over time. He was then posed with queries regarding his plans to provide curfew extension for girls as this was an effort every Council had worked hard and strived to achieve. Mr.Shivam Sharma proposed for a system similar to that followed during fests on campus. He was further asked to opine on the hierarchy system followed by the administration, club activities and how to tackle ineffective clubs. The panel finally congratulated Mr.Shivam Sharma on becoming the Student President. The panel further asked him to take care of his academics and presidentship responsibilities without losing heart.
The audience enquired if Mr.Shivam Sharma would increase the transparency of Student Council progress, to which he replied saying he would work on that and would use NITT app for the purpose. The audience also asked him about increased UG-PG interaction and his plans for a squash court.
Gallery of Manifestos
Here are the manifestos of all the candidates as posted on the NIT Trichy Calendar Notice Board and presented during Soapbox.