Clearing the cloud: The MIT director on KC
In line with our report on the change in scenery at Kamath Circle and the developments with regards to the new Student Plaza, The Manipal Journal had a chance to interact with Dr. GK Prabhu on issues relating to the move.
In this interview, the MIT Director and now Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University addressed concerns raised by students and other stakeholders, in addition to future plans of the Plaza.
Quoting MIT Live Interview: ‘’1 shop for medical pharmacy in student plaza’’ Can you elaborate on this?
We’ve seen the planner photos, how much of the plaza will be commercialized?
The medical shop isn’t the new one; we already had one a few years back. It did not work, and we had to close this. Now the situation has changed. The number of people has increased. Even when I discussed this matter with Kasturba Hospital, they also suggested the same. So we would definitely like to have a medical shop.
I am in talks with banks and would like to have minimum two ATMs in the Plaza. But more than that, I would like to have 11-12 more shops in the Plaza, and I want my students to help me. What kind of shops do students want? It is still open for discussion. Maybe your own organization can poll and get me that input. I have one more year to go so by that time I can select those vendors. Only one thing though, for all shops, whoever it is, they must go cashless.
Why is that so?
My students are tech savvy and feel very comfortable, and there is an issue of change not being handed over to students as well. So my one condition is that the vendors go cashless, and during the regularization of licenses, I will insist upon it. It’s not that the shop must go completely cashless, but the option must be there, it is compulsory. But which operator or service provider they want to do it with, is immaterial to me. I am not advertising at all.
Will space be given exclusively for MIT Clubs to operate?
I keep seeing many counters at KC which keep coming up, whether to promote club activities or otherwise. But today If you see, it is being done very shabbily. We need to create a good atmosphere for them. Let’s say there is a street play. It has to happen there (Plaza premises). Lights will be set up and there will be a gallery for this. Time allotment will also happen. If there are too many people or requests, Allotments will take place. But space can be utilized for things like a flash mob.
Ever since the KC demolition, there has been, both online and offline, an aura of unfamiliarity in the sense of a posh feel to the campus than one would have liked, among the students. How would you dispel these concerns?
I am quite aware of the sensitiveness and attachment the alumni and existing students have with the place. But I want to tell you that the existing structure was not safe, and the people working in the shops found it difficult, especially during the rainy seasons. Even for the people working, we have to give a nice atmosphere. On one side yes, KC is a heritage, we need to maintain that, but it was not safe there. I have noticed that during some events, the students were climbing structures there and few walls were broken as well. Then we came to know that the structure was not safe. We looked into the structural stability, the recommendation came that no, this is not the right place to have it. This was a complex built about 30 years ago. Over 30 years, the number of students and requirement has increased. We deliberated on this for a very long time, with the Student Council, with my management, with people working there, and everybody said, if you are going for a better structure, let us go for it. Discussions were on for 2 years. So it was not an immediate decision.
I keep hearing online and offline, that this is not the right thing to do. But this was a conscious decision, and our point of view must be heard.
What does the construction phase look like right now?
During this period of construction on campus, I apologize for the inconvenience, but through your medium, I would like to appeal for caution while moving around. I have shared my academic calendar with the project team, so noisy work will be done during the vacations. Even the major demolition, I did it before students entered the campus. Right now, where the poles are set up in the area, it will be cordoned off, so before we do that, there must be a good pathway for walking, and must be completely illuminated, must be paved and must be completely manageable for the rainy season. It becomes a complete center. During May and June, when the students are away, we will utilize the time for heavy work.
Could you tell us about the plans for the shopkeepers at KC, and what were your responses to their concerns?
We believe in coexistence, so we have rehabilitated the shops at KC and are ready to give them space in the new plaza. I don’t want to dislocate anybody’s income, because once upon a time, these are people who helped us. The first rejection point, while allocating spaces in the new plaza, is for these people. It is an option for them to relocate, but yes, rent will be slightly higher.
We met with some of the shopkeepers who shared with us their concerns about the relocation and the lack of business there. They have even asked for a space similar to that of the milk booth. What do you say about this?
We had an agreement with the milk booth, and the setup was detachable, so we shifted it. Just because of that, we cannot keep such small booths everywhere. People would be very happy, but again, all these agreements are for 11 months. Is someone ready to put so much effort for 11 months? For creating the current shops, we’ve taken care of the costs. We haven’t asked money from them, it is only the rent, and everything is subsidized. They may compare the situation then and now, but if you look at the similar thing outside, the cost is beyond comparison. As a director, I take care of the policy matters, and I won’t go into the micro level, the Estate Manager has to manage it. (Laughs on hearing that Estate Manager refuses to comment)
Most of the shopkeepers at KC operated only through cash transactions so far. How do you think they can cope up with digitization?
The shop owners are not tech savvy, and if a shift happens, they may have so many worries as they do not know how to operate that. I think some students must go and voluntarily help them. Help them, orient them, and educate them. In a campus like this, when there is a sudden change in tech, I think some students must come forward and tell them. That gives the bonding.
I appeal to the students through The Manipal Journal to educate the shopkeepers on the digitization of payments. As young guys, you can educate them and make them comfortable.
Featured Image: Aayushmaan Sharma
Edited by: Shriya Ramakrishnan