Updated: Oct 31, 2022
What were your impressions of BSW when you first joined as a fresher at IIT Delhi? How has your journey been in BSW, and what made you choose it over any other board or club?
I remember I came here on some day in July, and as I entered here, I could see two guys handling a crowd, saying things like, "come here," "go there," "take this form," and "get that scanned." Those guys were none other than my babloos-Prakhar and Deepanshu. They were my first point of contact—the representatives from BSW, as I could also see written on their T-shirts. They told me what to do, what not to do, and where to get all the basic things. They also conducted a session that day in which we were informed of what we could expect from the college, the hostel, and how our four-year journey at IIT Delhi would be.
It was then that I realized that these guys were someone important, but I did not at that point think that I would like to be the BSW representative. I just wanted to explore different things in college.
After orientation, we had frequent meetings with them, and after a few months, I learned that the BSW's responsibility was not just to guide freshers but also to intervene if a fresher needed support. It matched my personal goal of creating some sort of impact in the lives of people around me. From that day onwards, I thought this was something I could do if I got an opportunity. I tried dancing and other activities too, but I couldn't fit anywhere as I had no talents.
Therefore, I chose BSW above any other board because it was completely aligned with my personal goal and I saw how my seniors were doing things and how impactful their work was.
As for my journey, it's been a long and exciting journey. When I became a representative, COVID happened, and we had to start everything from scratch. Our GSec, Ayush Sir, and all the secretaries gave us a vision we had to work for. It was very challenging for us because I wanted to talk to people in person rather than online and find out what was happening in their lives. It was tough to handle an online batch as there was no interaction, and it was a good enough challenge to keep me motivated.
I remember once we helped the COVID patients by providing oxygen cylinders, and we were appreciated a lot by the director for it. It gave me the idea that I was doing something good, something impactful, and I should try to go ahead in this chain and stay with this goal only. That's why when the secretary post came, I went ahead for the same. Under the guidance of my GSec Prakhar, I, as a secretary, was doing things related to British Council. I closely saw the problems people from different backgrounds had regarding language. It was then that I realized the overall impact that BSW was creating, and this impact motivated me every day. This was my journey with the Board for Student Welfare.
When did you decide to contest for BSW Gsec and what motivated you to do so?
I never decided to be the general secretary, but things just came up like that. Since I had spent two years in the board, I wanted to continue my tenure and also wanted to serve the board again. Knowing that my tenure would be offline added to my motivation to go ahead for the post because it appeared that the role would be the key to bringing back the offline college culture as it used to be. I want freshers, and for that matter, everyone to see the college events which we saw in our first year.
What are some existing initiatives that resonate with you and you wish to carry forward?
This is a very interesting question because, as a representative, you don't know what all the things are going on and you think that you are doing most of the work while the people above you are not doing anything. As a secretary too, I felt that I am the one doing the muscle work, taking all the initiative, and doing everything in the board. Then the day I became the GSec and got access to the email id from Prakhar, I got to know that there are so many things that come under BSW.
For example, some people on campus have a credit backlog and have been staying on campus for a long time. There is a lot of mental toll on them, and I just wanted to do something about it. We were having meetings about it with the deans so that we could do something fruitful and have some provisions for them so that if they are not able to complete the whole degree, they can have some professional or minor degree with which they can graduate.
Another major thing that BSW has been doing and I wish to improve is the facility of providing loans. If anyone is in need and wants a loan, then BSW provides loans at zero interest to the students. It is basically funded by the student's security money, which is donated to the student welfare account. I want to increase that account's total deposit by increasing awareness so that we can help even more people.
Talking about other initiatives, onboarding British Council was something that I was passionate about, and I have been working on this for the last two years. When I was a representative, I used to write emails about this. During my secretary tenure too, I was assigned language mentorship, and I regularly worked in contact with the British Council team and now, in my tenure, we finally signed an MoU with them and started our classes on 17th August.
What are the biggest challenges in front of BSW right now, and how do you plan to tackle them?
At the start of my tenure, I decided that we would be increasing the Board's impact on PG students this time because even though we have some PG-oriented initiatives planned, we don't have much outreach or social media presence among them. There are a lot of services we provide that people are unaware of, so even if I can give the correct information to the person who needs it, it will be a significant achievement for BSW.
Another challenge that I have to work on very carefully about is bringing back the offline culture. The batch who is secretary now or the batch who is representative now in the Board doesn't have any offline experiences and has not seen anything happening offline, be it orientation or fests. It will be very challenging, especially when the freshers come in October, as we will have to conduct mass orientation and other events we have planned.
Apart from this, we will now have ODI(Office of diversity and inclusion) onboarded as the third vertical of the Board.
ODI will consist of IGES, Indradhanu, OAE, SC/ST cell and counselling services. Bringing them under the Board's umbrella, integrating them properly, building a team for starting vertical-specific operations and giving the stakeholders equal respect so that no one feels hurt is one of the biggest challenges which BSW has and I am looking forward to it.
What is one thing you have achieved with BSW that you are proud of?
Onboarding the British council for our language mentorship program was a long dream. I am glad that with the help of all my previous teams' work, we could finally start the operations.
Apart from this, the successful integration of the office of diversity and inclusion in the board is something I look forward to. I am very proud that we as an institution are now more aware of the existing diversity on our campus and trying to give them equal representation.
You have conducted so many successful events in the online semester for freshers, but conducting it offline in the upcoming year will be even more challenging as most of the people in the BSW team have not done much work offline. How do you plan on that?
Everybody knows that we have representatives and secretaries who do not have first-hand experience of conducting offline events, and our batch was lucky enough to witness how things are done offline, at least when we were freshers. I plan to conduct as many meetings/training workshops as possible for the team and give my secretaries and representatives freedom because this is the batch that will learn new things now. The only way to learn is to do things themselves, make mistakes and learn from them, and I will always be there to correct them when needed. Giving them the right vision and liberty to do things their own way will help them grow as individuals. Also, I think our batch has to be more involved than previous teams; the 4th yearites-the Board’s GSec and DGSecs will be involved more in the board activities rather than just the administrative work.
BSW has been very active in spreading awareness about mental health and counseling to the students, but still, many students on campus do not reach out for counseling even when in need. How will you ensure that every needy student connects with a counselor?
Yeah, so this is a problem we are aware about, that people are not reaching out, and this has been a trend for a very long time though the number of people reaching out has increased in an online setting. I think there is a huge stigma attached to going to a counsellor.
To reach out to more people, we have onboarded Yourdost again and have renewed their contact. Yourdost is an organisation that ensures the availability of counsellors 24/7, and by logging into its website, you can anonymously connect to some counsellors and take their help. The anonymity part of Yourdost is crucial because many people feel insecure about sharing their issues. The main goal of this mental health team here is awareness about normalization of topics such as mental health and about the ease of availing counselling services. Earlier, the process was not so simple, like we had to go to the office and book a session, but now we have made an online portal for it. Now, it is very easy to book an appointment, and even if your friend needs an appointment then too, you can easily book the same for them. We'll try to increase counselor visits to hostels so that students can connect with and feel familiar to them, thus making it easier for them to reach out when in need.
You have talked about revamping the Language Mentorship program in your manifesto. Considering how vital the program is for many students, how will you implement it, and what changes will you bring?
Even during my secretary tenure, we revamped the program a bit. When I was representative, we had some pre-defined lessons on basic grammar details, which did not appear very helpful to me and were removed by me back then. During my secretary tenure, when I was coordinating with the language mentorship domain, I focussed on the relevant stuff only. We divided the program into three phases -where in the first phase, we covered basic English like nouns, pronouns, etc.. In the second phase, we went on to teach the relevant things, e.g., essay writing and report writing, which might be helpful to you in presentations or company interviews. Then in the third part, we used to screen a movie and ask people to write its summary. Initially, when we were onboarding people, we asked people to write us a message about their expectations of the program. We then compared the summary with that initial message and analysed the difference made. In my GSec tenure, we have onboarded British Council, which has a set standard program with which we are in a financial contract and have allocated around 40 lakhs for the same. A very important thing here is that they can't cater to everyone. The program will run for students of all years, and this time it is for PG students too.They also need it because many people have completed their secondary and higher education in Hindi or some other language and need English assistance. Apart from the British Council program, we have another specialised program too. The people who are left will be catered to by this specialised program, which we are trying to design based on feedback we got in the past.
BSW has done great work for UG freshers in the past, but it seems not enough is done for PG. Why is it so, and do you plan on anything to increase your reach to them too?
What you mentioned is correct. Until now, we used to conduct only UG orientation and provided basic services for PG orientation, but this time we had a proper orientation setup for them. We had set up some of the stalls centred around the PG students in the first few weeks, like bank stalls, sim card stalls, and also accommodation providers, as not everyone is accommodated in the hostels. Generally, the PGs (especially M.Tech. males) are not accommodated in a hostel and look for places outside the hostel, so we curated a list of the PGs (paying guests) available around the college and provided these lists and even invited some of the PGs to come to college to tell about their services. Moreover, to increase the outreach, by the end of September, we will also be having PG executives. Their primary focus will be to get ideas from their batchmates on what they want to be and what events they want us to conduct for them and to increase our presence among them. We offer many services that they are unaware of, and I guess having a PG executive will surely help and increase our outreach.
You have also emphasized the alumni mentorship program for third-yearites in your manifesto. Why do you feel it is needed and what are your plan and expectations for the same?
When a person joins IIT, he is allotted a mentor, who is generally from the third year and gives one all the basic guidance that is needed, be it about the GPA, schedule, or anything that one might face trouble in. By the time a person completes his second year, there is a lot of noise around him/her about internships, etc. All of this leads to confusion, which hits harder when your mentor is not in the college because they generally passout by that time. When our mentor is on campus and in front of our eyes, it is effortless to go to them and take any help, but when a person goes away, one would feel that they are in the corporate world and have no obligation to help now. Thus we think we should provide alumni mentors to our third-year students to help them, and I will tell you how we will choose the mentors and implement this program.
After the first year, you don't know what the available options are, and after the second year, you have a rough idea that there is this consulting domain, there is this HFT then there is SDE and analytics. So we took a survey about what the students wanted, and in case some people felt they wanted to explore consulting, we reached out to some of our alums who are in consulting and asked them to become our alumni mentors, and then we mapped these. Our final goal is to have alumni mentor for all third-year students, and it is a long-term process, and we just had a very successful pilot program in which we were able to have around 50 mentors onboarded.
They say, "with great power comes great responsibility." Now that you are BSW's general secretary, do you feel an overwhelming pressure of responsibility? How do you deal with it?
On a very serious note, yes, I do feel that. It's like you are the head of a family of 37 people, and you have to be available for everyone. As a family, you have to grow and create an impact on other people, and you also have to ensure that as the family leader or organisation leader.
Whether the team is in the right state of mind or not, they are the ones who are doing the work for you. I can give them my vision, and if the people who have to implement the vision are not fine, then it will decrease the board's efficiency. Apart from this, I would not say pressure, but as I initially mentioned, I want to create an impact, so this role is perfect for me because the Board for Student Welfare is what we are. Most people don't know what the board does- people think there is only this mentorship, academic mentorship, and language mentorship. But there are lot of things which you see when you come into the board and we have to deal with it daily.. Being a part of BSW we have to be on the more empathetic side too, because Inorder to solve any problem we have to understand it first, and for that have to put ourselves in their shoes. And that keeps me motivated because it makes me feel that there are the people I have to work for and do something about. I mean, with great power comes great responsibility, but it is something that I really wanted to do, so I am really enjoying that I am able to give something back to the community.
Any final message for the audience?
It will be tough to give one final message, but I can tell you some important things that everyone here should know. The first thing is when someone is doing anything here in IITD, they should make sure that they do not do something that might complicate things for someone. I mean, there are some things that one does unintentionally on a lighter note, but they can hit deep inside the other person's mind. One should never do it or become a victim of something like that.
Secondly, don't stress too much about figuring out. There is always a rush about it, and to be honest no one has actually figured it out. If you have a lot of things to sort then you can not have all of them done at a time. Focus on one thing at a time, and everything will get sorted with time.
Apart from that, I'd tell students coming from varied backgrounds-financially, geographically, or otherwise-to never feel inferior by thinking a particular group is cooler or better than you. Leaving all things behind I would ask them to make this place their home and work hard to achieve wonders here.
Lastly, BSW is always available for you, so if you have an issue, go to a representative, secretary, or coordinator. You can even email me directly, and we'll try to help you out.
Interview By - Harsh Kumar Singh
Cover Design By - Prisha Jain, Shivam Jhanwar