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Students see red as FTII erects exhibits for national days from ‘student workshop’ funds

RTI information supports charge; students say it’s for ‘image building’, hampering academic activities.

Students see red as FTII erects exhibits for national days from ‘student workshop’ funds An art assistant hired by FTII gives final touches to the replica of Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad. The replica at the entrance gate of FTII will be there for public viewing till August 31. (Express photo by Arul Horizon)

From 2016 Independence Day, the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) started the practice of erecting replicas of monuments at the entrance gate to celebrate national days.

While the FTII authorities say that the move has received “overwhelming support and appreciation from the community”, students at the institute are not impressed. They say that the expenditure on these activities, “clearly meant for image building of the institute and its administration”, is being shown as expenses incurred on conducting “students’ workshops” though students have nothing to do with it. They also rue that while the administration keeps spending on “misplaced priorities”, it keeps curtailing the budget for academic exercises, citing fund crunch.

The students’ body had also shot off a letter to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry mentioning the issue. While FTII Director Bhupendra Kainthola said that the funds for erecting the replicas of monuments were not coming from money meant for academic activities, RTI data obtained by The Indian Express shows that the expenditure is, in fact, being incurred under the head “plan (general), students’ workshop”.

According to documents seen by The Indian Express, in January 2017 when the question of footing the bill for creating a replica of the Cellular Jail in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands had arisen, Art Direction and Production Design department head Ashutosh Kavishwar had justified the expenses under “students’ workshop”, saying that students will be assisting in erecting the structures by “helping the sculptor…” and by assisting the HoD for local purchases.

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On May 28, 2018, students of the 2016 and 2017 batch of Art Direction and Production Design wrote a letter to the I&B minister. In the four-page letter, they complained that their academic exercises were suffering as external faculty were not willing to come for workshops as the institute administration often delayed their payment, sometimes for two-three years.

They alleged that experts who do come are troubled by the lack of infrastructure in classrooms and that the department buys cheap and substandard material for workshops. They said that “lack of funds” is cited as the reason for interruptions in the workshops. “HoD conducts events for the institute by spending funds meant for students’ workshops and, at the time of our workshops, we face fund crunch,” the students wrote.

Rohit Kumar, general secretary, FTII students’ body, said that the recent trend at the institute was worrying. “The administration’s decision to spend lakhs of rupees from the institute funds for building replica of monuments outside the FTII entrance gate and hiring high-end equipment for making music videos to promote fitness challenge shows how clearly misplaced the priorities of the administration are. These things are done for image building and PR of the institute and its administration and have nothing to do with students and their academics. In fact, students’ demands are often brushed aside citing shortage of funds.”

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Kainthola said that the two subjects, namely expenditure on setting up models of national monuments at the main gate and expenditure on students’ workshops, were unrelated and that expenditure on one was not incurred at the cost of the other.

“The maintenance of high scholastic standards is always the overriding priority in FTII. But one fails to understand how pursuit of academic excellence can militate against celebration of important national events such as Republic Day and Independence Day in the campus. Having received sustained and overwhelming support and appreciation from the community, FTII will continue to motivate and involve the students, staff and faculty in undertaking activities which contribute to the national cause and public good,” said Kainthola.

First published on: 15-08-2018 at 11:11:22 am
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