Accommodation Impossible

Our Institute is going through a very complex and knotty problem of accommodation shortage which will take at least two years to stabilise. This issue arose because of the reservation rule that came into effect three years ago which led to an increase in the intake of students to accommodate 27% reservation for OBCs without reducing the general category seats. This coupled with the introduction of UG program in the Energy Sciences department has led to the UG intake increasing from approximately 570 in 2007 to over 875 now, without the necessary increase in infrastructure. InsIghT went on a fact finding mission to delve into the history and investigate the future action plan that was formulated to deal with this shortage.

Look back
What was the initial plan 3 years ago to deal with the increase in students? Was doubling fourthies a part of the plan? The plans to lay out the new hostels had been a constant concern and in fact, the upcoming hostels 15 and 16 were planned immediately after the reservation policy was announced, but it took 2 years before the construction actually started.

General Secretary of Hostel Affairs, Abhishek Agarwal (Monty) says, “The approval for construction of H15 and 16 was overlooked till very late. Thereafter, the tenders were floated and construction began early this year.” He says that the institute had the foresight to realise that if no new hostels come up till the next year there will be no space at all to fit in everyone, yet it took two years before the go-ahead was given. Even after the go-ahead was given, construction started very late. The reason cited for the delays is that the BMC had not approved the felling of trees at the hostel site, without which the project could not move forward.
Wasn’t the problem with girl’s accommodation foreseen 3 years ago? If yes, what was the action plan? What happened that such a shortage resulted? The girls’ accommodation had always been sufficient in IIT and it only became a problem since the last 2–3 years because the percentage of females taking admissions increased disproportionately. As a result, the institute was caught unaware when the problem struck.

Current Issues
What is the current scenario of accommodation?
Currently all the UGs are doubled except for 4th year B.Tech and 5th year DD students. Special thanks must go to Prof. Anindya Dutta (Chairman, Hostel Coordinating Unit) for going out of his way to ensure single rooms for 4th year B.Tech students (as stipulated by the GSHA), which was a very tough task. Among the PGs, all the Ph.D. students are given single rooms from their very first year, typically in Hostel 12, 13 and 14. All the Master’s students (M.Tech, M.Phil, SOM etc.) are given double rooms in their 1st year and single rooms in their 2nd year.
The situation is far worse when it comes to girls. All UG girls live doubled up, except for 5th year DD students. Fortunately, the new building in H10 has big double occupancy rooms, so it’s not as problematic as it is for boys. The real issue is that 36 students are living triple in H10 and 17 are living in groups of 4 when the rooms are meant for double occupancy! Moreover, most 2nd year Ph.D. students and 2nd year master’s students have to live double in girls’ hostels unlike their male counterparts.

What is being done currently to deal with the accommodation issues of boys?
Currently, the construction of Hostels 15 and 16 is on and if one of the hostels is completed by next year, most of the issues will be resolved. They will have500 double occupancy rooms each and one will be for UGs while the other for PGs. PG accommodation next year for boys is not a big issue as there are already buffer rooms in 12, 13 and 14.

What has been done to alleviate the problems of girls? What is going to happen with respect to girls’ accommodation next year?
Temporary rooms have been made available in the old Hostel 10 mess area which is accommodating 36 girls right now. Most PG fresher girls have been doubled in H10 and the vacated rooms of H11. Also, 42 rooms (168 possible seats) in QIP quarters, currently under construction, will be allotted to girl students by January 2012 which will ease the situation a lot. These will continue to be allotted to PG girls until H10’s old building has been reconstructed. Girls have been promised 1/6th of the rooms in H15 and H16 which will house them temporarily. This will allow demolition and reconstruction of old H10 to create single rooms for girl students (UG+PG) before December 2013 (1.5 years is the projected construction time, after relocation of occupants of old H10 wing to H15/H16). After this, girls will be shifted back from H15/H16 to the reconstructed old H10.

When will H11 girls be moved out of H8? What is the strategy for that?
It is completely uncertain right now and depends highly on the status of Hostel 15 and 16 next year. Since, old H10 needs to be vacated for reconstruction, these girls have to be shifted to H15 and 16 and PGs to QIP quarters. Depending on their strength, H8 rooms may be vacated next year if there is enough space for girls. However, if the proposed demolition and reconstruction of H8, after completion of Hostel 15 and 16, is agreed upon, then there will be no need to reclaim the old H8 wing from H11 and it may or may not be retained as a part of H11.

How much work is left in H15 and 16? What factors will decide the completion of H15 and H16 on time?
Major construction is left in both the cases and the work is running significantly behind schedule. The progress was marred by the onslaught of monsoons which wasn’t really taken into account earlier. The GSHA, Abhishek says, “As of now, the possibility of completion of H15 and 16 by June next year is rather bleak. We are going to come up with an alternate plan of accommodation for next year very soon in case it doesn’t get done.” With H14, we had learned painfully that contractors may leave associated amenities like lifts, toilets, wiring etc. unfinished till the last moment, which makes living there impossible. If H15 and 16 are only partially completed, he was of the opinion that we may be unable to occupy them.

The Future
What is the long term action plan for resolution of all issues?
The institute is considering a variety of options. Once 15 and 16 are done third year students will be able to get single rooms. Thereafter, one wing in the new hostels will be given to girls so that the old building of H10 can be vacated and demolished. It will then be replaced by a multi-story building like the new H10 and will eventually solve all the problems of female accommodation. After the completion of H15 and H16, the institute may consider construction of hostels 17 and 18. On the other hand, Prof. Anindya Dutta (Chairman, Hostel Co-ordinating Unit) and the GSHA are of the opinion that new hostels are not needed. Instead, they propose that older hostels starting from Hostel 8 be demolished and replaced with new multistory buildings one-by-one. However, the final call on this will be taken only by the end of October.

Case Scenarios of 2012
With the increasing intake, the current accommodation is completely exhausted, and if –

  • Hostels 15 and 16 get completed by the next year, which is an improbable situation, all freshers will be sent to these hostels including the old wing H-10 girls. Moreover, there will be the possibility of even sophomores getting a single room.
  • At least one of the hostels is completed, then also all freshmen will be shifted to H15 and all the third year students will get a single room. Moreover, the expected time of completion of H16 is only 2–3 months after H15 is completed. So once that is done, old H10 will be vacated and a new building will be constructed in its place. As soon as both the hostels are occupied the institute will be able to provide single rooms to sophomores as well.
  • If both hostels are partially completed, then Institute will try to get three floors done in each of these buildings. However, it is unlikely that people will be able to shift in a partially completed hostel because all the associated amenities will not be in place and we may have to wait till completion for relief. Moreover, all fourth year students will be doubled up till then as there are 300 extra UG freshers coming in next year over and above the number of UGs leaving. Similarly, freshers will have to be tripled for at least a semester till the construction is completed.