Democracy and the Pretense of it all

Disclaimer: The views expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of InsIghT, IIT Bombay. They are the personal views of the author.

We have all been crying ourselves hoarse on democracy and the lack of it in the institute. There are major flaws siding with an idea which at best is only half-baked. The deans, directors and the elected representatives of students thoroughly believe in the propagation of democracy, not in an organic way, but almost thrust upon the student body like a drug to remove all ailments. Here are the reasons why I feel democracy will not work in the institute:

1) Lack of a uniform opposition stance: The primary facet of a democracy is an opposition. In our case, we have something closer to an elected monarchy. Candidates get elected knowing that they are representatives of the students. But unless there is information that can point out flaws in their working, keep their powers in check and even uncover gross misconduct, there can be no government. In fact, while the dean and in special cases, the director have assumed the responsibility for keeping a tab on the representatives, we all know they can be curiously defensive of the system and individuals they have instated. The only way the system can work is having the famous two-party system, with representatives of the party in every hostel, concept of majority decides the government, active opposition throughout tenure etc. This in turn translates into ugl’ier’ elections which, let’s face it; none of us has the gumption to see through.

2) Elected Representatives being an agent of the institute administration rather than the student body: Let’s take a count here. How many times has a policy been passed without a referendum from the students itself? How many times has the voice of the institute been heard rather than the views and policies of the administration? How many times, have we been caught being okay with a system that at times is grossly negligent towards students? Let’s face it; the elected representatives are mere facilitators of the administration’s will. How can this be reversed? Give the elected representatives more power, in fact, power that really makes sense, rather than a power that just makes you accountable for what you can do and no accountable for duties that are far beyond your reach.

Imagine if the UN were to dictate our country’s foreign policy. Would it be fair if the prime minister comes and informs you that the new policy has been framed and that he is trying his best to haggle with the UN to make it look better for the country? It would be demeaning, cheap and unwanted. We want to vest our rights in a responsible government which is directly accessible to us. Now this is a key marker, directly accessible. Not second hand policy making like the system we see currently. Is this possible in the institute? Frankly, no. I wouldn’t want to give such duties to an individual who has been in the institute for as long as I have approximately and decide the fate of it all. So why pretend any of it even matters?

3) Arbitrage of Information and bad dissemination of institute affairs: At times it feels I’m simply being a peeping tom into the institute affairs. I have no say in it, I can’t build up enough steam to correct anything, and all I’m hearing is curiously twisted misdirected information of wrongdoing. Even in a small place like the institute, there is no information dissemination and the correct facts and figures are placed with higher ups who use this arbitrage of information partly to protect themselves and partly because they’ve been instructed to do so. Case in mind: I have been waiting for the SAC to be redeveloped more in line with our humongous strength. I’ve heard that something of the sort would be done. The GSs’ told me last year it would be started. Has anything been done? Where has the redevelopment stopped? Who is stopping it and why? What is the timeline? Who do I hold accountable if the timeline is not met? How do I hold him accountable? All I’ve heard are hypotheses and theories regarding the same. This same grotesque arbitrage makes itself felt during the election season, where votes are won more on personal favours and malcontent than any real reason and information.

4) The lack of a media body that investigates: We do not have a media body that investigates different beats of IIT life. We wouldn’t know when something goes wrong, only when it directly hits us do we see a pittance of an article. Our media bodies do not incentivise students to write (it’s voluntary, which is ok) but then we cannot expect any story that nips a storm in its bud.

5) The relevance of meritocracy: Now this is the worst possible ailment that could have struck us as an institute. We have students running for elections and winning them less on credentials or work experience but more on hearsay. As a small body we could implement meritocracy to have nominated bodies at all levels, which makes sure that the nominating body itself keeps a thorough check on the individuals as a body of equals, an absolutely democratic ideal especially keeping in mind the flaws that have already been pointed out previously. Smaller bodies make more efficient bodies, as long as there is logic and rationale, clearly an assumption. An assumption I’m ashamed to admit, fails most of the time, especially during elections.

Lastly, where is all the fun and enjoyment of doing it all anyway? We have been relegated to base individuals without rights and a voice. Realelectiondope was shut down… as if that was influencing votes. What can I do now?

Sailesh Mohapatra
4th Year Student
Department of Chemical Engineering

For the DoSA’s view-point on the same: IB Heads’ Selections