Saturday, July 31, 2010

Space crunch

There is a severe space crunch in the hostel this year. An idea was proposed by the Dean, Admission Committee and the Students’ Council to ask existing students to volunteer to share their single-bed rooms with the freshers and, in turn, not pay the hostel fees for the semester. This was not a success and less than 1-2% volunteered. However, the student council and its volunteers did a wonderful job in receiving new students.

How did we land up with this situation? Well, the OBC quota was implemented and the number of seats had to increase by 54%. Thus the number of M.E/M.Tech seats had to increase by 54% over a staggered period of three years. Though this was implemented immediately, the money for the construction of new hostels was sanctioned much later and the construction started only last year and the new 900 room hostel will be completed only in Aug 2011. Further, due to pressure from various sources and measures like not requiring GATE for admission to Ph.D, the number of Ph.D's admitted in engineering has nearly doubled in the last two years. The increase in number of M.E/M.Tech seats was 27% this year. Thus, this year (like last year), nearly 800 students were admitted while only 650 rooms were available. However, every student has been provided accommodation on campus. Alternative arrangements were made and students were accommodated in old guest houses and even the ex-director's bungalow (which is vacant now) [This does not mean that this accommodation is poorer than the hostels]. Hopefully, it will be resolved in the next few months as senior Ph.D students graduate and the students move back to the hostel. This situation is not unique only in IISc but also in IIT-B and other places.

Fundamentally, the way campuses are constructed and maintained have to be changed. Currently, the administration spends a huge amount of time maintaining the hostels and houses on campus. The current HRAs are fixed by the government and it is not possible for students to stay outside comfortably. One way is to pay high house rent allowance to both students and faculty so that they will stay outside. On the other hand, students who get scholarships from CSIR, DBT etc get around Rs. 4000 as HRA, which IISc will reimburse if they stay outside. If some students move out, the situation will considerably ease.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Search for meaning

Pavan Soni in his blog writes (I like the following paragraph; does not mean that I agree/disagree with the other issues mentioned in his blog),

Now the point I want to drive home is the amount of peace that faculties and students here at IISc have with themselves and with the work they do. A mere walk at the campus will take you to 'good old days'. Bicycles around you, professors walking in their slippers (often talking to themselves), and virgin, lush, green forest with quite a few species of animals. It's a jungle of different kind.
I appeal, just for once, to students to visit the campus of IISc, interact with students and faculties (if you are lucky) and gauge their worth.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Faculty recruitment

I get a few emails a week from prospective faculty to IISc/IIT asking why they were not selected while people with inferior records were selected. I can not answer them because I have no expertise to judge. Further, several factors go into the decision and it might be difficult to say what was favored and what was not favored.

Check the profile of the current faculty in the department and see whether there is a fit. Many engineering departments in IISc may prefer to recruit only people who work on theory or modeling (though they may claim otherwise). In IISc, except for the materials department, nearly 75% of engineering faculty work only on theoretical or modeling/simulation. While there is no prejudice, it becomes easier to judge the quality of a prospective faculty who works on similar lines.

Other factors that go into the selection are the recommendation letters, academic background etc and it is difficult for me to compare and justify any decision. Therefore, I will refer all such emails to this post.

BSNL combo plans

This is in response to several emails asking me how to get reimbursed for broadband when the bills are higher than Rs. 250. This will be the post that I will link to.

IISc (and most probably, IITs) reimburse your telephone and broadband bills, up to a certain maximum. These limits are Rs. 750 for telephone and Rs. 250 for broadband. Telephone can include both landline and mobile charges. For Rs. 250 for broadband, BSNL allows only 1 GB of download and no free night time downloading. To avoid this, one can choose a combo plan from the many combo plans that are offered by BSNL.

For example, one can choose BBG FN Combo 600, which gives you 350 free calls on your landline and 2.5 GB download in your broadband and you also get free download during the nights (2 am to 8 am). Choose the plan carefully, because some plans limit your download speeds to 256 Kbps. For optimum use, choose plans that allow speeds up to 1 or 2 Mbps.

Air travel exemption

I receive lot of emails that ask me about the air travel exemption from traveling in Air India/Indian Airlines. This will be the post that I will link to.

Write this letter, send it by email as well as regular mail/fax. If you do not hear from Mr. Chhikkara,then call him and he will do the needful. He is very helpful and prompt in response. However, if there are comfortable flights in Air India from your place to the destination and back, permission will be not granted. For example, if you want to fly private airlines for Bangalore to Delhi and back, it will be not allowed. Air India flies five times every day from Bangalore to Delhi and back and there might be no good reason that private airlines should be chosen.

A sample letter.

Joint Secretary,
Ministry of Civil Aviation,
Rajiv Gandhi Bhawan,
Safdarjung airport
New Delhi -110003
Phone: 011-24610372/011-24610364
Fax: 011-24640213

Dear Mr. Chhikkara,

Sub: Air travel approval by private airlines for travel for official duty

I am writing this letter to you in connection with the circular issued by the Ministry of Finance, Govt. of India, notifying the usage of Air India for travel on official account by the officials of the Govt. and autonomous bodies.

At the outset, let me thank you for your prompt response in granting me permission to travel by private airlines previously.

I have to fly from Bangalore to Hyderabad on 24th March 2010 and back on the same day to attend an official meeting at the Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad. The meeting starts at 10 am and is scheduled to end at 5:30 pm.

There is a direct flight from Bangalore to Hyderabad, which reaches Hyderabad at 9 am and I will be able to reach the meeting venue by 10:30 am, which is okay. However, the return flight from Hyderabad to Bangalore is scheduled to depart at 17:05, which implies that I have to leave the meeting venue by 3:00 pm. This is not possible because important decisions have to be made in the afternoon and the meeting is likely to end only by 5:30 pm.

Therefore, I kindly request you give me permission to return by a private airlines at 21:00. Thus my travel plan is as follows.

1. Depart from Bangalore to Hyderabad by Indian Airilines at 8:00
2. Depart from Hyderabad to Bangalore by Kingfisher Airlines at 21:00 on 24th March 2010.

Thanking you in advance and awaiting your favorable response.