“Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.” This description of the Red Queen’s race from Through the Looking Glass, pretty much sums up the neck-and-neck race between rising student numbers and the administration’s attempts to generate accommodation. Just a 1.3 % rise in the proportion of female students joining the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, this year was enough to underscore the shortage of hostel accommodation on campus. Several students had to be temporarily housed in alternative accommodation originally designated for staff. But concerns regarding the paucity of space are not a new phenomenon for the 325 acre campus. Convocation reports over the past several years repeatedly cite accommodation constraints as the main impediment to increasing the number of students. The report from 1990, with regard to the 8th Plan proposal for the institute, had, in fact, stated, “the plan has been formulated on the premise that the present campus has by now reached the physical limit of what it can support…Accordingly, the projected number of faculty and students has been frozen at the present level of 630 and 3,200 respectively.”
Today, nearly three decades later, we stand at a combined student strength of over 8000. In this article, we hope to delve deeper into the likely projections of student strength in the near future, upcoming developments in infrastructure and the options that would perhaps have to be considered if the scarcity of space persists.
Where we’re at now and in future: the Students
Presently, around 8,000 students live on campus. The possibility of increases in student numbers, owing to the introduction of new Bachelor’s programs and more female students, could potentially exacerbate the crisis and compete with the pace of development of infrastructure. While there won’t be a new Bachelor’s program in 2018, there are plans to introduce a Bachelor of Design program and open a Department of Material Science, in future, however, the impact that this will have on student strength is yet to be decided.
Where attempts to enhance the sex ratio in IITs are concerned, the targeted percentage strength of undergraduate female students is 14% in 2018, 17% in 2019 and 20% in 2020. However, according to the Chairman of the JEE, these are targets for the IITs as a whole, and will not be enforced on individual IITs. The number of undergraduates admitted into IIT Delhi will remain unchanged, at 851, in 2018 as well. The Associate Dean of Infrastructure, Professor Deepti Gupta echoed this sentiment in stating that, while expansion of accommodation arrangements is taking place, the increase in the number of students will not be directly linked to the increase in the number of seats in hostels.
What happened this year?
The number of seats in postgraduate programmes were increased and the Board for Hostel Management was, allegedly, not informed about this, which resulted in the paucity of hostel rooms available for accommodation in the beginning of the session. Some postgraduates were shifted to the apartments near the girls’ hostel, originally designated for professors and staff. All of them have now been allotted rooms in the hostels.
While the crisis this year was particularly exacerbated, issues in accommodation arise every year at the start of the semester. This can be attributed to several reasons: people out on internships can arrive upto a week or two late compounding hassles in room allotment and
PhD students tend to vacate their rooms only after August or September when their thesis is submitted. Moreover, some B.Tech students stay back without permission even after completion of their degrees.
The administration has taken a number of crucial steps in order to address the space crunch issue and avert similar situations in future. As in the Director’s recent mail, the administration is in talks with two private agencies for furnished accommodation outside the campus, particularly for PhD students, research scholars and staff. These plans are expected to materialize by July, 2018. While the choice of opting for external accommodation offered by Coho was floated for the first time in April 2017, owing to the lack of response, these services have not as yet started.
Other measures have also been taken in parallel with infrastructural development, to tackle the lack of space on campus. If the pace of infrastructural expansion still falls short of requirements, where accommodation for boys is concerned, the withdrawal of on-site accommodation to married scholars, is being considered. These students typically receive a Housing Reimbursement Allowance (HRA) and the apartments hitherto allotted to them will subsequently be given to students. In addition to increasing the number of available rooms, the administration intends to make room vacancy rules stricter, keep better track of people who haven’t vacated their rooms even after the completion of their degree and include the provision of heavy fines for not adhering to them.
Let’s hope, in spite of having the smallest campus of the 5 oldest IITs, with these plans afoot, the space crunch in hostels for incoming students becomes a problem of the past.