Ashutosh Tripathi scored a massive victory last year to become the Vice President of BITS Goa for the year 2018-19. While majority of his promises never saw the light of day, some (such as the vending machines) are still being worked upon and we might see them happening soon. DoJMA caught up with our Vice President to analyse and discuss his work on his agenda. Read on for a comprehensive dissection of the SOP and their progress.
DoJMA: How did you like your tenure?
Ashutosh: It was challenging. Very challenging, in fact. When I was contesting for this post, I didn’t know how much work I’ll have to put in. No one really does know. It was a good experience though. If you want to work, it’s challenging. If you don’t want to, it’s not.
DoJMA : How will you rate your tenure on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the lowest performance and 10 being the highest performance. How do you think you fared against previous Vice Presidents?
Ashutosh: I’d say around 7.5 to 8. If I were to go with the general opinion, a couple of Vice Presidents before me didn’t have a good image, and I’ve maintained a good image, in the least.
DoJMA: What was the vision that you had in mind when you applied for the post of Vice President? Do you think that vision was successfully achieved? What was the best part of being the Vice President of BITS Goa?
Ashutosh : When I decided to contest for the post of Vice President, the basic idea I had was that there are a lot of clubs in our campus that have a huge impact on the culture of our campus. Since I was in a lot of clubs in my first and second year, I wanted to do something for the clubs. That was my initial idea. The agenda points that I had were quite vague because, and I’m being completely honest here, you want people to vote for you. Consequentially, you want a lot of agenda points which are appealing to people. However, the basic vision that I had in my mind was to change something for the clubs. One of the points that I had in my agenda was to re-allocate the budget of the clubs, and that, we accomplished. In the amount of time required to achieve this in the second semester, I would have been able to accomplish 5 – 6 agenda points. In my first semester as well, we gave 3 to 4 hours to each budget meeting, followed by 2 rounds of meetings and 2 more meetings this semester were called, because we wanted the majority of our budget to be used wisely. In that way we have been able to bring about a change.
DoJMA: We talked to various technical clubs about the Foreign Mentorship Program, Alumni funds and Club coordination meetings. The response was fairly negative. Could you elaborate on the purpose of the club coordination meetings and why they were not held in time.
Ashutosh: Before you get into the CSA you know very little about it. That was the case with me as well. I had the idea to keep frequent club coordination meetings. However, only one was needed for the purpose of explaining the financial working of the clubs. We told them about the way in which to use their funds so that they actually get their refunds and discussed the dates and deadlines that they should be keeping, to claim reimbursements. That is what is needed to be told, in a general CoCo meeting. Apart from that, I had a lot of meetings with the coordinators and that was done separately. We had two club coordination meetings last semester and none this semester.
DoJMA: What about the Foreign Mentorship Program?
Ashutosh: Nothing came out of that. I talked to Mr. Narendra Nath Ghosh. He’s the IPCT Associate dean. I talked to him and he said that since our college has a tie up with a lot of colleges it wouldn’t be wise for me to approach them directly as it could have either a positive or a negative impact on the college. I haven’t followed up a lot on this point during my tenure, maybe just 4 to 5 times, and he has said that nothing is working out.
DoJMA: Didn’t you have an email from the North Western university already?
Ashutosh: Yes, I did have an email from a guy called Rohan. He was my direct contact there. I gave it all that I had. I had another by the name of Sandrine Magzimillian. She was my direct contact for Fablabs in France. We wanted mentorship from Fablabs for Sandbox. So I gave her contact to him(ERC Head) since he wanted to approach her by himself but nothing worked out.
DoJMA: The first two points of your agenda, the setting up of vending machines and improvement of the laundromat services, never came to fruition. Will they happen?
Ashutosh: The vending machine proposal has been sent. Mohnish also floated a message on (WhatsApp) groups, saying that everyone in the Contracts Committee Meeting decided that Vending Machines were necessary. There is a plan to set up six vending machines.
DoJMA: Don’t you think that it is a little too late at this point in time?
Ashutosh: Yes. The Contracts Committee Meeting was convened at the end of last semester, for the first time in our tenure, in which we proposed the idea of vending machines. The proposal was approved in the second Contracts Committee Meeting, which happened at the beginning of the semester and they approved it unanimously. Our part in these meeting is to represent the students. After we propose the plan, there are a lot of things that the Registrar handles, like the legal aspects, over which we have no control. The same thing happened with Subway. Abhinav Gupta (ex-president, CSA) got a negative image for Subway specifically because he promised it and then it didn’t come. I talked to Mohanty sir about this too, and this promise was going to be delivered, but the Subway guy had goofed up at his end and that’s why it couldn’t be done. So, a lot of things don’t happen because they are infeasible or beyond our control.
DoJMA: And what about Laundromat?
Ashutosh: The laundry guys already have pick-up and drop services in the A and C side. I had talked to the laundromat guy a month before the elections and he had a pick-up service in the C side, so we implemented that for the other laundries as well. However, he had pending dues of over one lakh and he wasn’t interested in paying them back and continuing this in our college and that’s why his services were stopped. In the next semester, the entire Meeting body had plans to expand the laundromat area and remove the second laundry. There are plans to build an L shaped laundromat service to cater to the whole college nicely. Thus, they were looking for vendors who are willing to bring in 40 machines or 50 machines and have finalized the vendors themselves. The contract is finalized now and they are now constructing the new laundromat space near AH7/AH8. Next semester, when we return back, it will be there.
DoJMA: What do you wish you had done differently in your tenure?
Ashutosh: This sounds very small; however, it is a very big thing (to do). The last time we had a total CSA budget of X lakhs (true figure hidden to maintain confidentiality) out of which around 68% was used and the remaining budget was lapsed. We had some fests which suffered losses and there, the money was used, in a way. We need to use that money wisely as everyone is giving 450 rupees from their SWD accounts for these clubs to use. Clubs haven’t been able to utilise that money since a lot of their allocations have been done at random, due to which SWD scrutinized their bills out and they couldn’t be reimbursed. So, we made sure to familiarize them on how to present their budgets so that their bills get reimbursed and I’m quite sure that this time, the budget utilisation will be over 92%. We still don’t know how much will be reimbursed since the these will happen around 14th of April. Another thing is that if there’s a new club then budget allocation for it is a challenge. In the budget plan, we usually give them around Rs. 10,000. However, you actually need to be very strong in your finances to know that a particular club needs Rs. 30,000 despite being a new club and a particular club doesn’t need money even though it is an old club. This time, when you see the budget you will notice that there have been drastic changes. You will notice that there are certain clubs whose budgets have been brought down to zero. There are 2 such clubs. There are clubs whose budget have been brought down to half. Last time, they had used 10% of their budget and this time they have used 100% of their new budget. We have been strict about the budget in the second allocation to ensure that they don’t get money merely because they are good negotiators and then end up wasting it. The residue amount after cutting down of budgets of some clubs has been allocated to the technical clubs. My thought process was that even though cultural clubs do need money, the technical clubs need it more as the technical culture is waning. Thus, we have allocated a lot of money to the technical clubs.
DoJMA: A few of the technical clubs still face problems with project funding, and cultural clubs aren’t reimbursed for travelling to places and representing BITS. How do you justify that?
Ashutosh: Last time, Quiz Club had a budget of Rs.26,000 and they still haven’t received a rupee of that. The reason for this is that the previous CSA didn’t tell them that travel expenses won’t be reimbursed by SWD and they had submitted travel bills which weren’t approved. SWD won’t reimburse travel expenses as they have to go through audits, etc. Hence, we asked them not to submit travel bills. Last year’s Quiz Club coordinator Rohan Walyat is still in talks with me as his travel expenses, to the tune of Rs.21,000 are still not reimbursed. Clubs aren’t aware of how the money is reimbursed, but we are. When I tell them the money isn’t going to be reimbursed they think that I’m the one who won’t give them the money but that’s not true. SWD won’t give it eventually and they will lose their money. I may appear bad in front of a lot of people, but the truth is that I’m saving a lot of money for them.
DoJMA: However, don’t you think that travel money for cultural clubs, which are representing BITS in various places, should be reimbursed.
Ashutosh: Yes, that is done through the facilitation fund and the felicitation fund. We can’t include this in the club budgets, as they (SWD) don’t approve it. So, we kept aside separate funds for this purpose, which was, in fact, Kuldeep’s idea. Kuldeep didn’t announce this till the GBM though, and people couldn’t receive it. This time we have announced it, and Ayush (Treasurer, CSA 2018-2019) sent a mail about it as well, two weeks ago. This fund is completely for reimbursement of travel and other expenses incurred while participating in events outside campus. We have already informed SWD that this slab will be used for it and they have to provide reimbursements for the same.
DoJMA: Instead of following the application process, couldn’t the travel budgets be reimbursed through the facilitation and felicitation funds?
Ashutosh: The thing is if you count all the travel expenses, it will amount to a lot of money since a lot of people participate in inter college events. Instead, the way in which this thing works is that participants submit an application detailing why they deserve the money; and if we feel they deserve it, we reimburse them. Let’s say we have 10 people applying and have funds for only 5, then the top 5 people will get it. We have a shortage of funds. We cannot reimburse travel for all the participants, so we try to ensure that the best out of them get it. We also consider the cases of improvement. For example, our dance club might not be able to win against the professional dance clubs of other colleges. If they approach us saying that last year their rank was 10 and this year it has improved to 5, we understand that. We give them the money. We consider everything.
DoJMA: Recently, DoJMA did an article on the amount of waste that was being generated as people littered the grounds and the pathways instead of properly disposing the garbage in the bins. The Green Campus Initiative that you mentioned in your SOP could have been one of the ways to spread awareness. Why wasn’t it taken up?
Ashutosh: We have, actually. We made sure that every place has two dustbins – a green one and a blue one. People don’t really throw the right waste in the right dustbin. Also, we got to know that there is no wet waste that is being generated in our campus. The green dustbins and blue dustbins are for segregating wet waste and dry waste, as dry waste can be recycled and wet waste cannot be recycled. There is a segregation plant present in campus – near the D side. Hence, there is no use of this actually. The segregation plant is being improved. We stopped this initiative as there was no wet waste in the student occupied areas. In the faculty areas, it is still being implemented.
DoJMA: The elections for the new CSA are closer than ever. Any words of wisdom for the candidates and the voters?
Ashutosh: (For the voter) It’s not possible to do research about the candidate’s agenda. It is very difficult. I have already told the candidates that their SOPs need not have a lot of good points, but the intentions matter. I’ve told the candidates very nicely how much work the post demands. I advise the crowds to not get influenced by very cheesy agendas. To be honest, I had to work on the vending machines as I had included it in my agenda and it was a very appealing point. A lot of people might have voted (for me) because of it. However, this is not the Vice President’s work. If people are voting for it, then they are encouraging their candidates not to work in the right direction. If you ask them to improve the things already present, they will include it in the agenda and work for it. I understood this. People might hate me for not accomplishing my agenda, however, I will not hate myself, after my tenure ends. The one point which I thought won’t be so important (re-allocation of funds) turned out to be really important. It will prove to be beneficial to the clubs. I know this for sure. I didn’t prioritise the other points as I felt they weren’t as beneficial as this one. There are a lot of things on a CSA member’s plate. If you want to work, the fests alone are such a burden that you cannot have an 11-point agenda and accomplish it, practically. That’s my advice for all the candidates. The same extends to the voters as well. You should not vote for a candidate with an agenda full of promises, as those are not going to be fulfilled entirely.