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It is said, “the tassel’s worth the hassle.” But is it? As the graduating students of IIT Bombay gear up to celebrate at their convocation, there are certain pressing concerns to ponder over.

The institute has hosted numerous celebrated personalities for convocations over the last six decades. There have been scientists, businessmen, ministers and a prime minister. In 2012, when the then PM Dr. Manmohan Singh graced the 50th Convocation as the chief guest, the institute residents had to face a lot of hurdles in terms of infrastructural changes and due to the security protocols. A concrete helipad was constructed on the main gymkhana grounds along with an elaborate path which was not removed many weeks after the event. This caused many problems for students who used the ground regularly. Finally, students took matters into their own hands to demolish the concrete structures that were constructed.

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With PM Narendra Modi as the chief guest for this year’s Convocation celebrations, one can see history repeating itself. The elaborate measures that have been put into place have caused the focus to shift away from the graduating students, with the sanctity of the entire event coming into question. Once again, the security protocols have demanded extensive police presence on the campus disrupting normal life.

For a few years now, the seating capacity of the convocation hall has limited the number of students who can take part in the institute ceremony. Even this year, we have almost 2000 students graduating while the convocation hall can seat a mere 1550. With two rows of seats being reserved for VIPs and media, several students have been left in the lurch. While in the past each student was congratulated individually on the stage by the Director, this time around the privilege will be extended only to medallists. Even for this, they have had to go through a separate security clearance from the Mumbai Police. No student will be allowed to shake hands with the Prime Minister, who shall only”>”>dresses.html”>”>dress the audience and not give away medals, which the Chief Guest usually does. To attend, the students have to collect their security passes themselves, though they can depute their friends to get the uttarias. No mobile phones or devices will be allowed inside for the event.

When asked about how the infrastructure has been affected, General Secretary Sports Affairs (GSSA) Ritik Madan, who was excluded from this decision process affecting sports facilities, said, “The cemented helipads are being constructed on top of the athletics track, destroying it completely. Vehicular traffic, including bulldozers, and road construction on the already slushy fields, will leave deep grooves that will be very difficult to restore to normal. The poles on which the floodlights are mounted have been dismantled and will take at least 25 days to be reassembled.”

At this time of the year, in the monsoon the fields are already unusable – so there is not much disruption for the users of the grounds. Just a few events like NSO trials had to be rescheduled.
On Thursday, there was severe confusion in the New Gymkhana as users could not access the facilities. The premises and the keys have been taken over by the Mumbai Police, without prior information. Tech teams will be setting up exhibits in the TT hall, which has been carpeted and the TT tables removed.”

While the SAC in charge has assured him that restoration will start immediately, the pitch and the ground will require fresh soiling and extensive restoration so the process will drag on, even if removal is completed in 20-25 days. GSSA is hopeful that things will return to normalcy before the end of the monsoon, as the inter IIT practice will be affected otherwise.

When Insight questioned the necessity of such steps, the Dean (Student Affairs) said, “I agree that the ground will be damaged by the helipad and the path being constructed. But we are using a jute cloth on which the concrete is being laid which will reduce the damage. However, the PM should have come on the road from the airport.” He further added that the problem of the convocation’s limited capacity is one that would persist in the times to come. A suggestion to overcome this would have been to have a two-day convocation but it has not materialized because of the difficulty to book the same chief guest on two consecutive days. Holding the convocation in OAT or the gymkhana grounds will need a large amount of matting and tents which, when downpour occurs, can become noisy if a good waterproofing material is used, thus ruling out the possibility. The DoSA feels that the entire elegance of the convocation hall would be lost in such a setting. A summer convocation is also unfeasible, as the degrees are prepared only in the autumn semester after a long verification process that involves the Senate, which convenes only while the academic session is in progress.

All these happenings make one think whether a celebration that should be primarily about the graduating students has morphed into a ceremony centered around a chief guest. The program is held to mark the completion of the students’ rigorous academic life at IIT Bombay and, as such, celebrate their efforts that have finally borne fruit. What should have been a day for them to celebrate with their family and friends, albeit with a touch of nostalgia, is being turned into a harrowing experience for the graduating students, with a barrage of new notifications and guidelines. They are being forced to run from one office to another. We feel disrupting normal campus life for such events is not justified. While it is a matter of honour and great pride to host the Prime Minister, the political connotations of his visit cannot be ignored, especially. One is forced to question the rationale behind inviting such a high profile guest from the political realm, as illustrious personalities drawn from academia, research and industry would perhaps be a more appropriate choice.

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Chief Editor: Aparajeya Dash
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