Sunday, March 20, 2005

An Indian Summer

March. Spring. Welcome to the misery that is Chennai. IIT Chennai.

The sun is up in the Chennai Sky - doing its business. There is no optimism all around. There is, as a matter of fact, fear in anticipation of the extremely sunny days to come. The sun does not shine rays of hope. March comes before May. May is when all hell breaks loose in Tropical India. While temperatures trudge out of sub zeros all around other parts the northern hemisphere - Chennai is already experimenting with the high 30s. If there is any hell on earth, this is it.

March is early in the day. If you think this is bad enough, just wait till April starts. And then May. Even early mornings in these months are sweaty. The only relief is the occasional thunderstorm that the oppressive Sun invariably creates.

So, you would expect a little sympathy towards the students (here at IIT) from the powers that be. We don't expect the management to provide us with air conditioners in our rooms - that would be ridiculous. But we feel let down. Providing resistance water heaters (or geysers) in the bathrooms is certainly not going to make us feel cooler. Leave alone the ecological repercussions of using electricity to heat water (you convert coal to electricity at 30% efficiency in our pathetically inefficient Indian power plants - and that into heat!!!!), electric water heaters in Chennai are simply redundant. Even without water heaters, the water is quite warm here. We never needed warm water even in the wintry fortnight of Madras.

But no. The institute had funds. When institutes like ours have funds, in general, they waste them on things that nobody can use. (That way they can save on long term maintenance costs). It appals me to think that some poor taxpayer is paying the institute to make such stupid decisions.

Plans are already rampant to use the hot water for cooling applications. One rather roundabout implementation of the air conditioning cycle - namely the vapour absorption cycle could be employed with Water - LiBr - using the hot water in the generator. We could, of course, use the electric current directly, to run a vapour compression cycle. But that would be a little to simple - and would not use the hot water created by the heater - thereby not utilizing the water heaters provided so lovingly (and thoughtlessly) by the management.

And not just that. Have you seen the new dustbins that have been installed here, there and everywhere? These dustbins cannot be opened by monkeys, which can be counted as an advantage. Of course, on the negative side - these dust bins cannot be opened by human beings either - unless, of course people are ready to hug them and pull the lid out. By their very definition they are dustbins - making hugging them a rather unappealing task. So, nobody uses them - which means that they are clean. No maintenance cost.

And what about the millions of computers about to make an arrival to form the Mech DCF? If there ever was a time that we did not need a DCF, this is it. With computers in almost every room - we would prefer it if the institute concentrated on procuring (and more importantly, configuring) high performance mainframes. But, no. Funds exist. So buy DCF computers. They won't spoil for a long time due to under - utilization. Good for IIT.

I tell you. The institute is not dumb. All the investments are very economical in the long term. They won't have to replace these dust bins - as there is almost no danger of them ever getting dirty. And they most certainly won't have to replace the geysers. They won't be used either, as won't the DCF computers.

But I do worry. Is IIT Madras prey to the Peter Principle, at executive levels?

1 comment:

The Ignoramus said...

this one needs to go straight to the people who make those decisions.