In these unprecedented times when the needs of the students have to be addressed in a more coherent and proactive way, an elected Students’ Senate becomes much more important. Unlike previous elections, this time the candidature for the post of Vice President of Technology Students’ Gymkhana was radically different in many ways, it almost seemed like a revolution. This is a very popular practice, though many people have labeled it unethical and has been always kept off the records, but this time it seemed that the candidature is unpolluted completely from the hall pacts or overstretched focus on affiliations to managerial PORs in campus and most radically we saw a female candidate for the post. But in the next few days after TSG released the list of candidates on 8th July, something very unusual and unexpectedly demoralizing for the student community happened, TSG notified that 4 candidates have withdrawn their candidature for the post of VP, and today we hear that even the 5th candidate has withdrawn. Till now many other influential positions in TSG also have become unopposed.
This was a huge shock for everyone and within no time we saw rumors and conspiracy theories floating, many of which seemed believable based on the political turbulence we see during the offline elections. Although some students came up with their reasons for withdrawal, we couldn’t buy it because there was just too much coincidence here. To get a clearer picture we interviewed and talked to some of the candidates. Some of them cited understandable and unfortunate family or personal issues but we also got stories that painted a picture of the harshly derogatory and closely autocratic political scenario in KGP. The factors that lead to their withdrawal are problematic not just from the election point of view, but are retarding the growth of KGP in infinitely many ways and we request the readers to analyze this very phenomenon. We strongly emphasize that we have recorded statements and we shall make them public only if we are challenged on some official or legal platform. Some students insisted on not giving their names out so we should respect that.
The preparations for the election had begun back in March, and the biggest problem they faced was that none of the websites had updated data regarding the commencement of elections. The elections were being postponed again and again, and there was no particular reason for the same. Whenever any of the candidates tried to gather any data, they would get a weird response that their hall president would have to declare their candidature, and only then will they get the information. Even when the election notice came back on the 26th of June, they were not able to gather any info. These hindrances hinted to them that their efforts could go in vain if there is a lack of transparency.
The Breaking Point
While preparing his candidature, one of the candidates contacted around 4 people to know about the problems and to form his SOP. To his surprise, all of them told him that they would be free only after 14th July. By this, he inferred that he wouldn’t be able to receive any help till the official time of the Vice Presidential Campaign started. Having realized that, he started to work on his own and contacted various students of different batches and departments to know about the problems of the student community and started forming his proposals.
The last day to withdraw the nominations for the said post was 10th July 2021. He mentioned that he did not want to have any hall pacts system and wanted to contest as an independent candidate. On 9th his hall president contacted him and told him to contact the hall presidents of various other halls. He agreed to have a meeting with them on 10th July. During the meeting, he was told that if they find his proposals to be accurate they will ask the candidates from their halls to withdraw. He realized that not only his but the candidature of some other candidates was at stake here. Before the meeting, he was asked to discuss his proposals with some people but he could not share all the details as they were confidential. It should be noted here that the fact that the candidate was making his own proposals was a shock to a lot of people in the meeting because generally, it is the hall that has a major role in this.
It took no time to see that no matter how well he defends himself, he is going to be unnecessarily grilled over not knowing some very random and insignificantly specific fact. We have seen such discussions between the panel and the candidates during the SOAPBOX in the past (watch this for example when a panelist debates about ‘Mechanical Engineering Department’ v/s ‘Department of Mechanical Engineering’ with a VP candidate. Watch more SOAPBOX videos for such examples).
We talked to another candidate as well (who insisted on not giving out much details) and he had a similar experience. Quoting the experience of a candidate- “a lot of aggressive behavior and a lot of rude things. Just saying in a Facebook post that parliamentary language was used is not something even close to the reality”. He went on to acknowledge that unpleasant experiences are important but more than 2 hours of grilling without any constructive feedback is an utter waste of time. Quoting him again- “Imagine a former General Secretary Students’ Welfare is very unnecessarily grilling someone. Let’s say that the candidate is not a mentally strong person. What could have been the outcome? Who are these bunch of people who decide that someone is going to have a campaign or not have a campaign?”. The candidate knew that the people in the meeting do have some influence on their hall groups and freshers, and it seemed to him that they had already decided he was unsuitable for candidature. He said that there was some serious activity on Facebook on 10th July, of which he also received some aggravating screenshots, which made it clear to him that a big plan had already been made even if he decides to proceed with the nomination.
Now although one of the candidates confesses that the meeting on 10th July was the final incident when he decided to withdraw, it wasn’t the grilling session that made him do so or the fear that those influential people could bias the vote margin against him but the many incidents have taken place in the past more than 1 year. Each incident screamed out a very deeply rooted, immensely popular but unaddressed reality that although the institute has kept a system where the students get a major say and control over the decision making and administration, its access is heavily lobbied by a group of people (the members change but the PORs don’t). If any student has some suggestion, some criticism, or some fundamental demand regarding the administration, he/she is going to face heavy hindrance from this lobby unless and until he/she is a part of it. A candidate we spoke to faced similar hindrances in many instances and all this accumulated towards his decision of withdrawal because he realized that he could never be a part of that lobby unless he joins their school of thought. And as a media body, we see this as a much bigger problem than the irregularities in the TSG elections. We request the reader to analyze the following problems and think closely about what it all boils down to and how does it retard the growth of KGP in infinitely many ways.
Incidents that show the gap
Mental Health Issue
During the candidate’s second year in 2020 when he was still on campus, he started to feel that the students on the campus were not completely happy with the administration and how things work. To solve the problems of the students, he talked to three counselors and a postgraduate researcher on campus and independently formulated a five-page proposal and sent it to the General Secretary, Students’ Welfare of 2019-20. The proposals were completely ignored for a month. Upon insisting, he was told that it’s not feasible right now. When he kept pressuring them, he was paired with IWG. He was also given the reason that the campus had been closed because of covid so his proposals could not be implemented. He made changes for the online sem and again sent his updated proposals. Even then, the work kept slacking off. This was the first incident on campus when he realized that people who are sitting in those PoRs do not want any outsider to come and do anything independently for the campus students.
The candidate was very much involved in the Fee Struggle. The mail of fee payment was sent on around 14th July 2020 and the last date of fee payment was 28th July 2020. He waited for two days to see if the Students’ Representative Council had any initiative to take. Seeing that the matter was overlooked, he sent a mail to his Faculty Advisor and then to the Dean of Student Affairs on the 16th July 2020. He got no response for a day and the matter was completely overlooked. So after that, he created a post and gathered people to do something about it.
The VP tried to convince him not to take the movement any further because the Senate was handling it. So, he gave full trust and benefit of doubt to the then VP and did not post anything further. On 20th July 2020, he realized that attempts were made to stagnate his further steps, and was falsely taken into confidence that a public statement will be released soon. A few days later, he sent a well-researched legal mail to the then Undergraduates’ Representative who circulated it forward to the whole student senate. Seeing no scope of communication yet again, he sent a mail to the Vice President on the evening of 21st July (7 days remaining to 28th July) stating that he had an ample amount of verified signatures, which would make a quorum to file a PIL in the Supreme Court of India and he assured if, by the evening of 22nd July, the fee waiver had not come he would take the legal proceedings further. Finally, on the morning of the 22nd, we received the news that 10,000 rupees and 12,000 rupees for some students have been waived off. The candidate also filed an RTI to find out the real matter behind the hall establishment charges. In the RTI it was realized that it was actually a very much legible amount used to pay the workers.
As told, this was all done independently by the candidate and he did not associate with anyone. The candidate told us with a very heavy heart, that throughout this process and the online interactions he had, he felt that people in the so-called powerful positions did not want an independent person to come ahead and protest for the welfare of the student community.
Contacting Placecomm members
In March, the candidate had a discussion with a Placecomm member of 2020-21 who was frank and gave a lot of input. Interestingly, two weeks later, when talking to two other Placecomm members without mentioning the earlier discussion, they pointed out no flaws in this CDC system that he discussed with a member himself. When asking the specific questions he had gotten from the first member, they said that team sizes are okay, placement statistics are okay and just the ERP portal needs to be smoothened. He was quite taken aback at that time and wondered whom to trust? If he presents some proposal in the soapbox, then someone might say that it is not prevalent. Finally, when he went to the fourth placecomm, his exact verbatim reply was: “Get your Senate representatives to discuss it with the other senate members first, after that you go to the Ex-Placecomms… Reach out to me only if this still holds.” He got the same feeling that if he is not within those insider circles, he won’t get any information.
After talking to the candidates who withdrew their names from the post of Vice President it was evident that they were not favored by a particular lobby of people and were thus grilled and tried to convince them to withdraw their nominations. Any such grilling session is in no way authorized by the TSG, whatever be the sugarcoated motive of it. It seems that anyone who wants to bring any changes in the administration must abide by the rules dictated by this lobby of people. This is not the first time that some candidates were not allowed to contest for the post of VP just because they seem to be a perfect choice to a certain set of people. The campus has seen previous instances of the same and we as a media body have reported them as well.
The problem highlighted by the candidates is that any independent candidate is not able to contest for the positions in TSG and an independent student has practically no access to the decision making even via the “elected” student body, even if it is as simple as a constructive suggestion. Since no independent candidate is able to have a seat in the administration, even the loud cries of the general students go unheard. The solution to this problem is a very simple but very effective one. A lobby composed of a particular school of thought comes to power because we choose to follow them blindly. Hall pacts exist(in analogy to coalitions in the case of national and state elections) because people choose to vote on that basis and not on the basis of how they judge the person and his/her submitted proposals. We don’t even bother to think how exactly a pact is going to help us personally when the candidate wins. To cite an event, in a very “reputed” hall during the TSG elections 2019, 1st and 2nd yr UG students have gathered in the common room and seniors are instructing them to continuously call their friends from other halls to vote for their candidate and make some derogatory posts against other candidates viral. Now, what kind of people do you think to form this lobby, and what is the best you can expect from them? So whenever you get a chance, vote and campaign solely based on your personal opinion.