The “Valfi Issue” – Interview with Prof. K.D.Joshi

By – Chirag Chadha
While students who have taken his course know him as a brilliant mathematician, most students know Prof KD Joshi as the professor who puts a stop to Valfi or PAF nights to insist that the loudspeakers be turned completely off soon as the clock strikes ten. Students complain that while the noise really doesn’t reach faculty quarters, and while students have no problems with the loudspeakers, this should really be a non issue.

InsIghT: We all know that there are some differences between the student community and you with regards to using loudspeakers and amplifiers in events like PAF and Valedictory Functions. Could you please elaborate on the issue and tell us your point of view?

Prof. Joshi: There are certain duly deliberated laws created by our government which all citizens of our country must obey. At an institution like IIT, it is our moral responsibility to produce good law abiding citizens. Since, the use of loudspeakers has been banned by our government after 10 PM, we must ensure that the law is not violated by our students. The students must realize that law is above convenience, enjoyment and even religion. An individuals right to quiet surroundings is much more important than other peoples right to express their feelings.
I have no issues with the concept of Valedictory Functions and PAFs. However, we must make sure that these events are organized within the limits of the law.

Prof. K.D.Joshi

Prof. K.D.Joshi

InsIghT: Given the fact that these events happen in the hostel areas and the sound does not affect activities in the staff quarters, don’t you think that the students should be allowed to continue with this culture?

Prof. Joshi: Any logic based on numbers doesn’t work in situations where the law is involved. I cannot speak for the other staff of this institute but the sound has definitely affected me. If I assert my constitutional rights then the mob cannot stop me. A lot of students have this misconception that since we live in a gated campus, we have our own set of rules. I would like to tell them, that IIT cannot permit unlawful activities in its campus but can impose its own set of extra restrictions.

I would also like to clarify that a complainant cannot be denied the right to complain even if the majority is against him. Take corruption for example – an officer might take bribes believing that so many other people are doing the same thing, however that doesn’t deny people the right to complain against him. The law breakers have no right to argue in these situations. There have been complaints that have also been lodged by people from The Renaissance Hotel. This is no longer a small issue. The reputation of IIT Bombay is at stake here.

InsIghT: The law was primarily created because loudspeakers disturb students, elderly people and babies in the night time. However, valfis happen only once in a year and the entire hostel enjoys this period. Don’t you think that since there is no particular group at a disadvantage, we could be a bit lenient here?

Prof. Joshi: I disagree. If Valfis and PAFs happen once in a while then the academic schedule should be adjusted so that the students can carry out these activities in the day-time. I don’t think that the institute will have any problems in adjusting academics if these activities actually happen ‘once in a while’. The axe should not fall on the law of the land in any case. As responsible citizens we must abide by the law.

Also, a lot of students have also registered complaints about Valfis n the institute as well. As far as I know, the profiles in certain hostels were being read till 6 or 7 in the morning. The loud noise prohibited students from both studying and sleeping.

InsIghT: The students have to attend classes and labs till 5 PM usually. The only time that they have left for cultural activities and socializing is night time. Don’t you think that this is a good enough reason to let them carry on with what has been done so far?

Prof. Joshi: As far as PAF is concerned, I have been suggesting that the PAF’s be held on Monday’s only. The students should be allowed to carry out their rehearsals on the weekends. The use of amplified sounds is allowed before 10 PM and the students should stop using their equipments around that period.
I have also suggested that all the Valfis should be held on one particular night. Since, this will then be a one off event, some amount of consideration might be given.

InsIghT: There have been occurrences where Mumbai Police has been called to campus for noise issues. Have you had some say in that? Also, do you think that we need to involve them in our internal matters?

Prof. Joshi: I have always tried not to involve the Mumbai Police in our internal matters. However, the CSO has told me that students do not listen to the hostel guards. The guards also do not have the power to arrest students if they break laws. They can only confiscate the loudspeakers or any such equipment. In such a scenario, I have been forced to involve Mumbai Police on certain occasions when matters were truly out of hand.

During PAF, I was surprised when students came to me with a signed letter from the DOSA allowing them to carry out these activities even after 10 PM. Even though the DOSA might have signed the letter in healthy spirit, such permissions cannot be given by any Dean. I took the letter to the Police Station, and they responded by sending a letter to the Director saying that these permissions cannot be given even by the Police Commissioner.

InsIghT: The student community would still like to have PAF and Valfis in the hostels. Would you like to recommend certain changes that we should make in the organizational philosophy of these events?

Prof. Joshi: First of all, the institute should own all the Public Address systems used by the students. These systems should be loaned by the institute to the Hostels at the time of events which have an essential audio component. For example, I don’t think that there is a need to play loud music at events like Swimathon. These equipments must then be returned to the institute by 10:30 PM.
Also, the security needs to be improved to keep a check on students and their activities.

If the students want to carry out valfis, then the hostels should either be further isolated from the campus or they must be held on the same night. However, I’d recommend students to carry out valfis in ways similar to the Department Valfis. Earlier, profiles of students did not extend for an hour. In fact, quirky one liners were much appreciated. The students have become used to doing things in excess and that needs to be curbed.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely of the respondent and need not reflect the views of InsIghT or the Students’ Gymkhana