CSA Reviews 2019: Mukund Rathi, General Secretary

Mukund Rathi won a tightly contested Gen-sec election and he promised to improve the campus experience for students. With an agenda including points such as the installation of washing machines in each hostels, he promised plenty. DoJMA caught up with him at the end of his tenure to find out how much has been delivered on the promises he made in his agenda.

DoJMA:  Coming on to washing machines, this was the key point in your campaign. what happened to that idea?

MR: I tried to contact the IFB for the same, but they weren’t ready to give warranty on these machines as number of users would be large. I communicated the same to the committee.  Actually, there was one very major issue that I had overlooked, that made this idea impractical. I missed out on the point that we do not get 24/7 water supply and that each hostel gets water in 4 different time slots and that too, in limited amounts. If washing machines are used, then students won’t have water to bathe. Due to these reasons, the CSA collectively decided on prioritising the reinstallation of the laundromat shop.

DoJMA:  You said that you will keep the students updated on the washing machine issue. What happened there?

MR:  I can’t be sending everyone emails but on a timely basis I have kept the interested parties updated.

DoJMA: So, what happened to the laundromat plan?

MR: One laundromat service provider has been finalized. There was a meeting in November regarding the same. There were 8 proposals for this project, out of which one has been finalised and construction is in progress, for the same and the laundromat will be fully functional by April end.

DoJMA:  You also made a huge point by committing to ensure UPI transactions at every food outlet. How has that been implemented?

MR: I believe that UPI is not accepted at Food King alone. The situation at Food King is tricky because the bank account linked to UPI is that of the owner. The owner is not always present there. So, there is no way that the worker will receive a confirmation of the transaction and they need to keep a record of all transactions in the shop. So, there will be financial issues and confusion in case UPI is used. At Gaja, the owner himself is present so there is no issue at all. At Mongini’s what has happened is that students use apps which show a false transaction page and also send a transaction message to receiver. Some students were misusing the facility. Hence, there has been a reluctance to use UPI transactions.

DoJMA: So, what have you done to tackle the situation?

MR: I have told them that they can accept UPI payments for small amounts. For larger amounts, they can ask the sender to show the transaction message from the bank. For now, this is the best solution I could come up with.

DoJMA: In the interview with DoJMA last year, you said that there will be regular technical updates on the CSA website but the last update is dated around November 2018. Why have there have been no updates on CSA Times, this semester?

MR: First of all, I would like to tell you that in the last two months or so, CSA Times has been down. Actually, there are two servers, one for Quark and Waves and other for CSA Times. We had planned to merge the two servers. While we were transferring data, CSA Times was shut down for around 2 weeks. After the transfer, there were some problems related to login and domain which were sorted out just three days back.

DoJMA: You also said that you will also post regular updates about projects related to technical clubs. What has happened to that? What about the contacts related to startups? They haven’t been put up either.

MR: The updates weren’t focused on the technical clubs, but more for projects related to cultural clubs. As you can see, the pages for Nirmaan and Abhigyaan, which weren’t there before, have been put up. We also put up pages for feedback and stats related to PU. Start-up members were not ready to give their contacts and hence their details couldn’t be shared on the website but information about the start-ups has been put up.

DoJMA: If there’s no HR, you directly communicate with the students of that hostel. But how are the people of those hostels made aware of the fact that they have to directly communicate to you for their problems?

MR: I am in a majority of the hostel (WhatsApp) groups for the first and the second yearites and Mohnish and the rest, coordinate with the third year students. So, if there are any issues, they directly tag us, voice their problems and ask us for the solution.

DoJMA:  You also made a claim that firsties will have reading material through the PMP. That didn’t happen as well. You had said that Geeta ma’am and DoJMA would be helping you in it and that you would be releasing it in the first semester of your tenure itself.

MR: I told everyone in the GBM that a book is being worked upon and that I would be helping them out if they needed me to. The design part is pending but the content is ready. Mostly, their media head will be releasing it soon. I asked Geeta ma’am if she could be available, in case of any issue. Since the content was already made, I asked the working team if they needed any help with the publicity aspect. But they denied assistance from me as they did not require it.

DoJMA: You also made a point regarding the quality of water and hygiene in SAC. Were there any complaints with respect to hygiene? Which one of the two, you or Aashutosh, dealt with the issue of water supply?

MR:  I didn’t specifically receive any emails regarding the hygiene issues. When I personally visited the SAC, I didn’t see any problem. Both of us were working towards solving the issues related to SAC, but ultimately, Aashutosh sorted those out.

DoJMA: You also said that new food items will be added to the menu. So, what items have been added? What is the status on that?

MR: If you ask me the name of the items on the menu, I won’t be able to tell you right now but, this time we have had several mess meetings, in addition to the official meetings for deciding the mess prices for Sem-1 and Sem-2 as well. This time, there new food items were introduced in the NCs. Also, the juice centre proposal has been officially approved by the committee, along with the proposal for boiled chicken being available in the mess. The proposal for boiled chicken was initiated last semester and currently, we are negotiating the price with the messes, to avoid exorbitant rates. This has caused the delay. It’s implementation, which is anticipated to happen shortly, depends on the messes now. Getting the approval for it, which is the more important part, has been accomplished and we are waiting for the messes to finalize the list of rates.

DoJMA:  In C NC, the new items are not available every day. There is no fixed schedule being followed. Why is that?

MR: There are different catering services for each of the messes. You can’t expect all the items to be present, on all days of the week. We try to be strict with them; even then, they cite reasons such as shortage of staff. Sometimes you will find that what is written in the mess menu is not what is served for lunch/dinner in the messes, and this happens because of the same reason. In Goa, it is not feasible to get everything easily, at the right price. It ultimately depends on the caterers to provide the items on the menu, regularly.

DoJMA: You mentioned in your agenda, that a forum of sorts will be formed, comprising of the faculty and students. Why hasn’t this happened yet?

MR: Initially, when I was in contact with the Humanities faculty, the plan was working out. Just a few days ago, I mailed the faculty. However, very few responses are coming from them right now. Officially, there are just six faculty members have responded and expresses their willingness to participate. Even though participation is less, we are still trying to work this out. I have talked about this with Shubham from Abhivyakti. We were planning to organize an event for the students and faculty, both. So, we planned events like open mic. I conducted a survey among the faculty, to gauge their interest. Mostly, we will have such a forum or something on which the student and the faculty can interact, shortly. This is still being planned.

DoJMA: But shouldn’t this have been covered in your groundwork?

MR: Yes, the faculty is still interested. They have expressed an interest to work and converse with students, but when specific topics for discussion were placed before them, their opinions got divided. That is why we have had the issue of not being able to establish such a platform, yet.

DoJMA: Why didn’t the event that you referred to previously, happen in first semester?

MR: So, in the first semester, initially, after having talked to the faculty members, I wasn’t aware of how to get things rolling. When I finally realized how this could be accomplished, I started having conversations with faculty on the selection of topics.

DoJMA: When you were doing the groundwork, how many faculty members did you talk to? And did they all agreed to participate in this sort of thing? For a specific topic that is? What happened then?

MR: I talked to nearly 6-7 faculty members. They were interested in having such type of conversations with students on campus. Initially, I personally went to the faculty members and tried to finalize the topics for discussion. I tried to pick the topics for discussion myself. I realised that I should not do this all alone since I lacked the expertise for the same. So I contacted Abhivyakti for this. Abhivyakti liked this idea and reverted back during this semester. So, I spoke to Shubham and other members of Abhivyakti, about the same. Shubham and I approached Professor Arnab Banerjee again. We sorted some points out and then I mailed the faculty, asking them about the things that were looking forward to. This kind of event can be organized even without holding a formal position of responsibility. So, my plan was to take an initiative to improve the interaction between students and the faculty.

DoJMA: The guitar classes/workshop idea was already taken up by the Gen Sec a couple of years ago. So, how was your idea different?

MR: Yes, Sarvajot had done the same thing. I spoke to him to get the contact of the concerned party. I initially shared a form regarding the same to gauge the interest of the students. However, the cost for music classes is very high and the number of interested students was on the lower side. Thus, I planned to organize music and sports courses through the CTE. Aashutosh looked into the sports courses and I looked into the music classes. I first approached the interested members of MuSoc. Since playing an instrument is different from teaching it, I got a confirmation from them if they’d be able to teach and also asked them about the experience they have had. Next, I went to the CTE members . When the formalities were completed, guitar classes were introduced by CTE at nominal fees, which attracted a lot of students.

DoJMA: You were also going to promote department outing/dinner; What have you done to achieve this?

MR: This was aimed at promoting faculty-student interaction. In the beginning, I thought department dinner is a good thing to work on. However, we noticed that the EEE/EIE department dinner did not boost the said interaction. So, we personally asked a couple of department heads and also some faculty members for their ideas.

DoJMA: So, before you included the above discussed point in your agenda, did you do any groundwork?

MR: Yes, I did.I had met previous department heads and asked them the reasons for not having other activities during department dinners. What I realised later on is that the situation is not improving. So, working towards improvement, I thought of organising talks between different departments.

DoJMA: You said that you would be present in the CSA room at particular times. How was this carried out? How would the students know when you were going to be present? Was there a fixed schedule that you followed?

MR: In the first semester, I had made it clear on several occasions that I would be available in the CSA room. I realized, at the beginning, that students are not coming to the CSA room. I did not send an official mail about my schedule. However, I tried to be available during peak hours and students contacted me on WhatsApp or through email. Usually, most of the issues were sorted out on WhatsApp. If someone required my physical presence, I would arrange a meeting in the CSA room.

DoJMA: So apart from what you mentioned in your agenda and other than what we discussed, what else would you consider as a success in your tenure?

MR: After being elected as General Secretary, I saw the real picture of the state of affairs. Once my tenure began, I realised that not all agenda points are feasible and that I should work on the ones that are practically achievable. I organised the fresher’s party for the first year students. The second thing I did was to include a section for solved previous year paper. I shared a common Google drive link with all the department heads and I asked them to upload the respective question papers and handwritten solutions.  

During compre, I organized the spectacles repair facility. I am also working on having a free eye check-up camp for  the students on campus.

Wi-Fi routers were installed in almost every hostel that was facing connectivity issues. We brought up the idea of making LT3 available for study during examinations, in a meeting with the Director. I also looked after the gate logistical issues throughout and during fest. I also ensured the installation of western toilets in hostels which did not have these.

The passport camp was not in my agenda was also completely taken care of by me,right from the initial stages to police verification. I also helped during all the fests. These are some of the small things that I have done.  Since there were complaints about spam mails, I resorted to sending out event updates in a bunch, under the heading of ‘Upcoming Events’

The bus service was a part of my agenda. The administration is very positive about it. I tried to organise different bus services for students with the help of CSA, from BITS to Dabolim and Bog.

DoJMA: The bus service is available on weekends only. So, is it going to continue?

MR: Initially, it did well. But I personally incurred monetary losses as the bus last weekend had only 4 students showing up. We have to pay for the bus even if students don’t show up. So this did not run as smoothly even though I tried to keep the price as low as possible. But we couldn’t even break-even. Currently, I’m looking to find a solution to this problem

DoJMA: How would you judge your tenure based on your agenda and what all you did?

MR: In my opinion, I have been consistent throughout the year. I realized that I needed to work on those points that benefit the students but aren’t on my agenda. I can say that I stopped working on some of the points in my agenda. I understood some issues to be not so important and not feasible enough. Sometimes things are feasible, but they do not garner much positivity. I won’t regret about having missed out on something in my tenure, in the future.