Reading Time: 2 Minutes

With the winds of transparency blowing through the nation, maybe a few answers should

be sought closer to home. The ten thousand rupees each students pays as Semester Mess
Advance (SMA), how exactly is it used? Who pays for the new projector in the hostel, and
who pays for the water cooler maintenance? Why do some hostels have a projector, and
some don’t? More importantly, who decides this- your G.Sec? Maybe not.

Every hostel has two separate accounts – a main account and an amenities account. The
SMA goes into the main account and is used to pay for the mess bill; the entire surplus
from this account is refunded back to the student every semester. What most people might
not be aware of is that a pre-decided overhead of around Rs 100 (which varies depending
on your hostel) is charged additionally per student per month which is debited from the
main account into the hostel’s amenities account. All capital expenditure, maintenance,
servicing and running costs for cultural, sports, technical and social activities is drawn from
the amenities account (contrary to a popular misconception that the institute pays for our
hostel sports and cult budgets). This account is paid for by students and exists for their
collective benefit.

The Institute provides 3.25 lakhs in addition to the SMA that students pay, out of which
1.25 lakhs is used for non-planned expenditure (AMCs, salaries, etc) and 2 lakhs are to be
used for planned expenditure (washing machines, projector, etc) This is the 4th year that
the institute will be providing this additional fund to each hostel.

In some hostels, due to a higher inflow than outflow year on year, funds have accumulated
in the amenities account, to the tune of tens of lakhs. How much balance lies idle in these
accounts is privy only to the Warden and the Hall manager, in some cases even Hostel
G.Secs are unaware of this. Such opaqueness regarding the hostel’s coffers essentially
means that council’s look towards external sources to meet pressing needs. Be it the
purchase of additional washing machines or water coolers, we wait (and a long wait it is, at
times) for the institute to provide funds for these essential activities, when such pressing
matters could be taken care of by the existing funds of the hostel, if they are present.

Also, the budget for the year is decided by the hostel council without knowledge of the
hostel accounts’ current balances. Budget proposals are made (to the warden) by striking
a balance between the hostel’s current needs and the budget which the previous council
managed to get sanctioned by the warden. Whether the hostel deserves say a new projector
or not becomes contingent on the Warden’s value judgement of the same, without the
council knowing whether the hostel has the extra funds to buy one.

All these issues can only be clarified if hostels themselves disclose balances of their
respective amenities accounts. This will also help streamline the exact amount that the

hostels draw as overhead so as to ensure that the inflow roughly matches requirements
rather than grossly exceeding them, which will prevent an accumulation of funds in the
future, as is the case now.

Clearly, unknown sums of money lying blatantly unused in hostel accounts benefit no one.
The lack of transparency is especially counter-intuitive when the account in question is
paid for solely by students and exists purely for their benefit.