The Techkriti Pandora

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Just like last year’s Antaragni, Techkriti’14 created a huge post-fest furore. While the Antaragni issue seemed to be a battle of egos, the allegations levied in the Techkriti issue were of a more serious nature. At that time, there were at least a dozen rumors floating around and countless speculations. Now, Vox is here to sift through the pile of suppositions for actual facts. The primary official complaint revolves around the fact that a number of registration slips seem to be missing.


Receipt!

This is what one of the registration slips looks like. The above receipt registers a participant for Cyber Forensics workshop. Some participants were registered on an unofficial plain sheet of paper. No wonder the slips are missing!


A complaint was made against the hospitality coordinators by one of the festival coordinators and head, finance alleging that the hospitality coordinators had embezzled money. The hospitality coordinators claimed that they had given all the receipts to the core team and any disappearance could have occurred only after that. The hospitality coordinators even said that this was an attempt to frame them – they claimed that the core team had asked them for an “admission of guilt” in writing for embezzling money, even though they had done nothing of the sort. A complaint for ragging was also made by one of the hospitality coordinators against a few members of the core team who came to his room to intimidate and force him into admitting that he had misappropriated funds, claiming that they had proof of it on video. According to the complainant, a committee was set up to investigate this ragging incident but the findings of it have not been intimated to any student.
Another remarkable aspect of the entire fiasco is the way workshop money was handled. Apparently, if a company charges an amount X for a workshop, the participant was made to pay an amount Y and the balance (Y-X) was kept for “other” uses. The bills for these “other” uses were produced only after the campus was rife with rumors about the Techkriti team funnelling money for personal use. Not just that, there was an almost overnight change in the number of registrations. The Students’ Senate was given two post conduction reports and around 300 more registration were mentioned in the second report, while the pre-fest conduction report didn’t talk about workshops at all. Maybe these really are just “human lapses” and we’re reading between the lines too much, but all of them occurring at the same time makes the entire thing look a little murky.

Another thing of note is the erratic performance of card swiping machines used to take registration fees from participants this time (in order to make the registration process cashless). According to Karthik Balasundaram, who has handled more festivals than anybody else on campus (as a Finance Committee member for one year, as Convener, Students’ Senate for a short stint, and as Finance Convener for two consecutive years) and is the Convener of the Fact-Finding Committee set up by the Senate to look into these allegations, this isn’t a one-off incident. It was common in both Antaragni and Techkriti last year that the machines stopped working after five in the evening, when the banks close and nothing can be done about it. In Techkriti’14, both machines stopped working on Day 1. Maybe there were more participants coming in at night and the machine couldn’t handle the load. Maybe supermarkets like Big Bazaar have gotten hold of a superior card swiping machine than an institute like IITK (one of India’s premier technological colleges) does not not have access to, for its only inter-collegiate technical fest – supermarket machines are known to work day and night with a large volume of customers and yet rarely falter as often the fests’ apparently do..

Karthik also goes on to say that the way money is handled in fests is highly unprofessional. No proper log books are maintained, it’s all very informal which is definitely not how a fest that has a budget of a crore should be handling its money. If students cannot handle the money properly, then maybe we should reduce the amount that we’re handling or bring in more people to handle finance. I personally have not seen any improvement in the quality of competition at Antaragni even though the budget has been increasing year by year by magnitudes approaching Rs. 15 Lakhs. Karthik says that this extra money is usually pumped into the final night and other professional shows as core teams usually work under the premise “final night chap gayi toh fest chap gaya”. But whatever the reasons, something needs to be done. Karthik believes that a more active involvement of the FAC (Festival Advisory Committee) can curb the problem to some extent. There has been a constant trend for the past 3 years that both fests have been going into deficit and the money has to be arranged by other sources. One of the reasons for that, the marketing team claims, is that companies delay post fest payments.

Anyway, coming back to Techkriti. Another charge is like one of Enid Blyton’s kid detective books: “The mystery of the missing rubik’s cube”. In 2013, Techkriti had attempted to break the world record for the number of Rubik’s cube solved within an hour and for that purpose around 600 cubes were bought. These cubes were then handed over to Techkriti’14. The charge for the disappearance of the rubik’s cubes (RCs) has been levied on one Festival Coordinator by the other Festival Coordinator. Yes, they’re one big, happy saas-bahu family. But the drama aside, the registration receipts are still at large and the culprit(s) is/are sure not going to divulge any information about their whereabouts. The post-fest sponsorship deals’ money has still not been fully recovered (for both Antaragni and Techkriti) and the next Antaragni is already round the corner. This year’s team would probably have to bear the brunt for the sins of the last one. God help our fests!