General Body Meeting, Phase II – GS Cult – Version 2.0

Comments on Version 1: Version 1 was an opinion. It could have been leaning towards the other side, but it wasn’t because that is so with opinions. Either way, you can choose to agree to it or ignore it. In case you have a differing opinion, please send it to – We shall put it up. In case of multiple entries we shall put up the most exhaustive version. This is a public platform as always.

The second phase of the institute GBM was a rather unusual one. Presented below is an account of what happened at the GBM, followed by an opinion from the Editors.
Harsh Jhaveri’s (General Secretary, Cultural Affairs) GBM started at 8:30 PM in the presence of around 100 people, which seemed to be an unusually high number, given attendance at institute GBMs in general and the attendance in the first phase of the GBM in particular. The attendance of 6 nominees from every hostel was made compulsory for the GBM which could account for the increased numbers.
Harsh began by presenting the cultural report with genre-specific details which was followed by other work done by him throughout his tenure. The Question & Answer Session followed and was led by an agitated group of students questioning Harsh on all his Manifesto points. Specifically, the following concerns were raised-

  • Rahul Shankar Bhardwaj, the Film and Media Secretary, was questioned regarding the planned radio show Comedy Central. The audience pointed out that Rahul had not consulted Film Club seniors for the event.     <Ans> He stated that announcements regarding the same were sent on student notices but to no avail and that eventually it was scrapped due to a lack of entries. He also claimed that he approached the Film Club seniors but they didn’t show interest.
  • Harsh was questioned on the social outreach section of his manifesto. He was also quizzed on the points pertaining to collection drives, cultural exposure for underprivileged children and showcasing of institute street-plays. The Cult Council also faced a lot of flak for the point of organizing street plays for social awareness. <Ans> Two street plays were done. However, the discussion revealed that they weren’t actually raising social awareness. One was for McKinsey and another was done in Hiranandani, in which Cult Council’s contribution was simply to provide logistics.
  • The Main GC Dram, a much debated issue, was brought up, with Hostel 3 representatives unhappy with the outright disqualification penalty imposed on them for exceeding the stipulated time limit. Also, representatives of H5 objected to the fact that the judges did not give them any feedback. Representatives from H11 wanted to know why they were not awarded a position at Main GC Dram even when there was no negative comment from the judges on their performance.                                                                                                                                                <Ans>The Cult council maintained that the disqualification of H3 was on legitimate grounds. They also stated that they have no control over judge’s comments and decision.
  • It was also raised that the time provided for preparation for Standup Comedy GC was insufficient and that the event was not videotaped. There was also discontent amongst the audience on the point that rules relating to vulgarity were not in place, and a pre-screening of scripts was not done, as the show had descended into a lot of vulgarity.                                                                                                                                                                                                      <Ans> Hardik, the Debating Secretary, replied that the rules were quite clear and that he had tried his best to enforce them. He also stated that a 14 day notice was given to the hostels and the rules were put up 6 days in advance. The audience was still unhappy about the short notice and mismanagement to which Hardik accepted that the event could have been handled better.
  • PAF Rulebook: Cultural Councillors were unhappy with the way PAF teams were made this year. In a deviation from past years, the teams were finalized this year in a different way that was not agreeable to some hostels. Only two meetings for the same had been convened. Monty and Sameer Mishra alleged a lack of groundwork on Harsh Jhaveri’s part before implementing the rules according to the rulebook.                                                                        <Ans> Harsh stated that he had spoken to several other seniors, and that it was the Hostel General Secretaries’ duty to do PAF groundwork with hostel seniors, not his, and that he had given them 4 whole months (after the first meeting in August) to do the same.
  • The issue of FA Room not being ready yet was also raised.                                                                                                    <Ans> The Cult council stated that they had not received the possession of the room yet as the estate office hadn’t handed over the key to the room to them. It didn’t satisfy many people and they alleged non-pursuance of the issue.

The GBM took a nasty turn with Rahul Yadav revealing a snippet from a private conversation with Harsh in which Harsh had downplayed the usefulness of GBMs. It later degenerated into an unsavoury argument with current and past GSs (GSAA-UG Manas Rachh, GSS Vijit Jalan, Ex-GS Cult Rahul Gaur) stepping in to defend the Cult Council.
The GBM then headed for an Impeachment Motion with the crowd demanding an apology from Harsh, where none was forthcoming. Finally, the motion was raised by Abhinav Agarwal from Hostel 3.

The Dean’s Appearance:
Once the impeachment motion was introduced, the DoSA was called to the OAT to mitigate a potentially explosive situation. The DoSA is the de-facto chair of GBMs, but can delegate the responsibility to a GS (in this case, GSAA-UG Manas Rachh). This intervention saw the Dean cautioning the angry crowd to not use the platform of the GBM to settle previous scores, and reminding students that if there was such dissent in the student community with respect to Harsh’s work, they should have brought it to his attention over the past year. The Dean’s intervention was called undemocratic by the proponents of the impeachment motion. The Dean also stated that, from a personal viewpoint, he felt that Harsh’s work was certainly not amongst the worst he had seen over the past 6 years and that an impeachment motion this late in his tenure was uncalled for.

In protest to the ganging up of the students, Manas Rachh (GSAA-UG) and Devashish Sethia (GS Hostel Affairs) submitted their resignations to the DoSA, stating that “this student community does not deserve to be served by us”. The resignations were not accepted by DoSA eventually.

Impeachment Procedure:
The impeachment motion has to be raised by 1 nominee and supported by 12 other nominees. The nominees have to be a part of the ‘General Body’. This body consists of all elected student representatives of the gymkhana, UG/PG Cultural and Sports nominees and the 6 nominees from each hostel.

As per SAC constitution, the following are possible grounds for impeachment:
(a) Failure to perform basic duties.
(b) Conduct unbecoming of an Office-Bearer.
(c) Failure to abide by the rules laid down in the Constitution.
(d) Absence in a GBM without sufficient reason (in which case, he/she is impeached unconditionally)

There was a long discussion on the actual grounds of impeachment before it was finally tabled. It was decided that the impeachment motion was raised on point (b) (conduct unbecoming for an Institute GS) Rishabh Gupta, a Hostel 9 nominee, further stated that the motion was being raised “because all the points on your manifesto are either not done or in process. You have done everything that is not on your manifesto.” Another member from the audience shouted, “Are you satisfied with what you did to the IBs”?

Vijit Jalan (GS Sports) and VSK Murthy (GSAA-PG), the new Chairs to the GBM process, followed the Impeachment guidelines and asked Harsh to defend himself. Harsh responded by saying that he has given his “mind, body and soul to this job and could not have done anything else.” The Q&A (major issues being PAF teams, Senate proposal, Mail moderation) was followed by drama on how to determine the exact electorate for voting.

During this discussion, a member of the audience also stated, “Don’t you think that the time you spent on the Senate could have been better utilized in the discharge of your duties as GS Cult?” It was felt by many present that Harsh had no mandate to go ahead and institute a change in the system. In reply, Harsh said that he couldn’t have increased the number of people who filled the survey, but from the ones who did, 70% were fine with it.

In the midst of all this, the General Secretary of Hostel 13, Monty, interrupted the Impeachment Motion and addressed the nominees, stating that they were taking things too far and penalizing Harsh unnecessarily. He said that his insistence on the idea of compulsory attendance was to spread awareness about GBM and Impeachment procedures and not to create a cruel situation like the one at hand. Harsh retorted, “It was the GSs who told the students that the GBM will give the option of impeachment in case of dissatisfaction and not you. Do not make this a public display of knowledge.” The nominees were further aggravated by Harsh’s unapologetic attitude and the proposal of dropping the impeachment motion in case of an apology was dismissed by Harsh saying that he had no reason to apologize for.
During this time, certain nominees and elected members, mostly from the sports council, who were absent during the entire GBM, came to exercise their voting rights. Stuck in an ethical dilemma, Vijit asked all General Body members to rise up and leave on-their-own if they were missing throughout. 7-8 members left the Voting area. Voting commenced soon afterwards, ensuring a total of 103 voting members. After counting in front of DoSA (who stayed inside SAC but out of sight of students), the results were:
39 – In Favour of impeachment
64 – Against
Harsh Jhaveri is still the General Secretary of Cultural Affairs, IIT Bombay.

And thus ended one explosive evening.

From the Editors’ Desks
These were the facts of the case and they are undisputed. However, what transpired at the GBM needs a closer look, for there were many undertones to every word said and every word left unsaid. A cursory glance at the manifesto reveals that most of Harsh’s points have been worked on and reasonable explanation was given for others, except a few. Going by the past standards and accounting for a reasonable deviation from the manifesto over the year due to roadblocks and permission problems, one would say that Harsh had certainly done an average job, something that was certified by the DoSA too.

So let us look closely at the possible reasons for impeachment. Harsh had performed his basic duties throughout the year quite satisfactorily. The next ground, conduct unbecoming of a GS, is arguably meant to hold a GS accountable for disrepute or moral/ethical violations of code of conduct. No concern of that stature was raised in the GBM. However, people were unhappy with his headstrong attitude and arrogant handling of matters occasionally. The next two, failure to abide by the constitution and being absent from the GBM were clearly out of the question from the facts presented till then and these never even came up.

One look at the reasons given by the initiators of the impeachment motion and you would be convinced that all the reasons given were rather flimsy. Clearly, there was more to it than met the eye. We believe that most of the issues raised were rooted in personal vendetta instead of being based on rational arguments. It was almost as if members of the audience were desperate for reasons to justify their stance and took on any reason they could find.

The evening was attended by a number of students who seemed to be there just for the sake of jeering and clapping on cue. The impeachment motion was supported majorly by Hostel Nominees peeved at PAF teams, or unhappy with previous Cult events (e.g. Main GC dram), and some belonging to IBs (tangentially expressing discontent at the election rules which were propagated by Harsh and other GSs). Of these grounds, only the first two objections were actually raised and were relevant. The third objection (concerning the election of IBs) was at the back of the minds of quite a few people present, yet it never came to the fore until much later. The Cult Council had reasonably justified their stance on each objection raised and it surely didn’t merit an impeachment motion.

Before deciding the actual grounds for impeachment, the ones who proposed it were undecided for quite a while. They kept oscillating between inadequate work and unbecoming conduct before settling for latter. Then again, a member said, “Are you satisfied with what you did to the IBs?” In a way, this brought another aspect of the discontent to the fore. It was not really about Harsh’s work as a GS Cult – it was about punishing him for his adamant and headstrong attitude in various matters over the year and for introducing radical policies into the system. Many of the accusers, had some or the other personal vendetta against him. The question to ponder over here is that who has a right to initiate a change in the institute policy if the GSs don’t? Agreed it isn’t their stated responsibility, but GSs are the only elected representatives and hence it becomes their responsibility by default.

The long evening came to an end with many mute spectators going back with a lesson on the student community at IITB. Quite visibly, while many have been irked by Harsh’s attitude as a GS Cult and his attempts to change things outside of the Cult Manifesto purview, perhaps rightly so, the claim of “We did this to send a message” makes us wonder if a GBM was the right platform to do the same, especially with an alternative redress route always available. An impeachment procedure would be warranted in a scenario in which official complaints against the offender were regular and overflowing, which in this case they weren’t.
All this said we leave the reader with this thought: Is IIT Bombay even ready to be a democracy?

– Nikunj Jha and Nupur Joshi

Footnote by the author: The GS Council proposed elections for the Independent Bodies at the behest of Director’s instruction to implement democracy for all student posts. It was the institute administration who demanded it be done.