We are humbled by the recognition bestowed upon us by Franchise India at Clean and Green Awards 2016 for Clean, Green and Sustainability Education and Training.
So this is an interview with Retired Major General A.K. Singh, Dean, Student Affairs, NIIT University who tells us that nearly 30 universities nominated themselves. Despite being a new university and that too, in an arid region, we are glad that the people could see the efforts that we’ve made and bestowed us with this honour.
Question: Sir, first of all, congratulations. We would like to hear from you first that how does it feel to win this award?
Answer: It was surprising, at first. Winning the prize wasn’t the intention. I thought going there will be an opportunity to meet new people with innovative and sustainable technology and equipments that can be used here. But it felt like a good idea and we feel confident about the work that we do here. The other day, few people from the World Bank Council for Sustainable Development [WBCSD] were here and they were surprised to see the greenery of our campus despite the soil not being so fertile. After winning such an award, one feels connected. The feeling that your work, that you are so serious about and into which, you put your heart and soul, is recognised, is definitely amazing.
Question: Some students are reluctant to come here initially due to non-availability of certain facilities, like A.C., how do you react to such a situation?
Answer: Not all institutions have A.C. We wanted to do better than the fans and come up with an alternative for the A.C. Since we are a non-profit organisation, we had to do something environment friendly in an economic way because it’s easy to provide those facilities. All you have to do is, increase the fee amount but we did not want that. So we saw this technology used only in Europe as an experiment, the E.A.T [Earth Air Tunnel], so we thought of implementing it here. This is a geo-thermal coupling cooling system where no green house gases are emitted. The message that we convey is, today every knowledgeable, educated and sensible person cares about the sustainability of the environment and we are one organisation who cares about all this and it became a positive for us rather than a negative. The matter of the fact remains that parents generally decide for their children and they understand that a university which is so mindful about the environment will definitely be mindful about inculcating the right values in their students and will help shape a better future.
Question: What difference does this award make to the people who did not believe in our institution? Do you think they will support us in future, after this recognition?
Answer: This award recognises and establishes, that here is an institution which deeply cares about the environment and sustainable development and the fact that we are the award winner goes on to say that we are excellent at it. A benchmark has been set by our university and we mean business and we do not do any of this to prove anything or gain favours. An award at the national level goes out to prove our seriousness towards it. We insist on propagating this feeling, so that everyone works with us.
Question: Everything comes at a cost sir, so I’d like to know what have we sacrificed to achieve this feat?
Answer: Cost has to be measured in terms of inputs v/s output. Initially, of course, more investment had to be made but look at the payoffs, which are huge and the payoff period, which is so little. An analysis was done, we save 1.2 crore rupees every year and not just that, health is sounder here. A.C. recycles the same air but here, there is always a flow of fresh air. So there is power saving, along with improved health conditions for all and I think cumulative effect is what matters.
But there were other costs too. Initially the local community were not so supportive. And we strongly believe that starting a project starts with connecting with the local community, which in our case, is deeply connected with the environment. But we resolved this with our goodwill. We are working on a stretch of 10 km along the Sabi River to solve the water shortage problem of the area, and bringing the river back to life. I talked to nearly 24 people from 4-5 villages here, especially the oldest generation who have seen a greener land here and deliberated on bringing back the ‘green-old days’. I explained to them that this is possible only if we work together. Everyone wanted the greenery in our university to extend to the surrounding areas too and so now, they support us.
We explained to them that the water table is going down, it has already gone down from 50 to 400 feet in 10 years, so what will happen in the next 10 years?, so here’s where the trees and plantation drives come in.
Opposition will always be there, but we think we can always overcome it if we are truly passionate and dedicated towards our task. We understand the fact that we need to mobilise the community for the common good.
This interview ended with some words of wisdom by sir on how he tries to lead by example. He said, “Whenever I go back to my village, I drive my own tractor, till my own farm and look after my fields, and try to stay connected with mother earth. And as far as this place goes, I have done only 10 percent of the things I intend to do here and I am yet to do what I came here for”.
He brightened this interview with his military life examples and told us about certain principles that he still swears by. The most important ones being the 3 ‘C’harlies – Character, Competence and Courage and the 3 ‘F’ox dots– Fairness, Firmness and Friendliness. And he feels that all of these are important from his position as everyone should have the courage to go to him when in need or distress.