This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Kumarjeet Ray. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Beyond The NALSAR Mess, Food Is A Luxury Not A Lot Of Students Can Afford

More from Kumarjeet Ray

In college, food is one of the most important essentials of survival in a residential campus away from home. Each time I go back home, my parents complain about how thin I have gotten and how ill I look because of that.

While most of us blame the quality of mess food for that, a lot of it also delves down to the accessibility of food on campus. NALSAR is unique in its nature as the only options available for food is inside the college as it is quite far from any plausible eatery. It is quite important to analyze food security in the NALSAR campus itself.

In NALSAR, the mess serves food three times a day. Breakfast (8-9:30), lunch (12:30-2) and dinner (7:30-9). The lunch to dinner gap is a huge one with only a tea break and some biscuits (or light snacks) in between. Food is supposed to be served every four hours for a healthy human body.

Most students end up buying food in the evening from the many stalls that are there on campus. Not only at this time, but after dinner as well, this becomes a problem. The mess closes at 9 pm and students often stay up till 2 am doing their work, which is when the library closes as well.

Students then have to buy food at the stalls available. The food from these stalls is extremely costly. A plate of chowmein costs 50 INR at the lowest and a sandwich costs 40 INR at the lowest. Both of which qualify as a sad excuse for a filling meal. A meal with dal and rotis cost up to 100-120 INR.

There is no form of subsidised food that is available for students from lesser privileged financial backgrounds and often they have to sleep hungry almost every day or go around the hostel asking for food from their peers. I spoke with quite a few people and only a very little percentage of said that they thought the food in the canteens wasn’t costly. This is a major problem that needs to be addressed in terms of food security on campus.

Another problem along the same lines is that of having a system of paid veg and non-veg. These payments are in addition to whatever the students have to compulsorily pay every day to get food in the mess. A sum is taken from the students on a yearly basis.

A lot of students cannot afford to pay 50 rupees extra and just have to sit at the table watching their peers eat the better part of the food. Having to pay for veg and non-veg food as a blanket rule is a major case of relative impoverishment in college.

The injustice regarding food is not restricted to just students on campus. The cleaning and security staff have to buy food from the mess and eat. The cleaning staff, who belong to non-dominant castes, are in fact prohibited from eating food in the mess let alone buying food. They have to get their food from home.

They work on a daily wage labour basis under the college contractor. They are given a break for an hour in the afternoon and, at this time, the cleaning staff and security guards request students to get them food from the mess because it is either too costly for them to buy food from the mess or they were unable to bring food from home.

The teachers and non-teaching staff (except for one teacher, they all belong to dominant castes) are all allowed to eat in the mess. Certain members of the security staff like the Security Head Officers (SHO), more commonly known as the ‘head guards’, are allowed to take food from the mess. They all belong to dominant castes as well. Mess workers also eat in the mess.

There is also a possibility that the teaching and non-teaching staff of the college eat food in the mess without paying the Rs. 50 that is needed to be paid per meal for non-students but this could not be ascertained as there is no formal policy regarding mess rules. A conversation with one of the cleaning ladies also revealed that when they go to the mess to get something as basic as water, they are often ill-treated. Inclusivity in terms of caste and financial backgrounds is something that NALSAR doesn’t seem to evidently understand or know when it comes to food security.

Talking about these issues also boils down to considering the alternative. The argument given for the high prices at food stalls is that very few students eat from these joints, and thus, to cover the costs of coming to college and running a shop, it is required that food be expensive. To reduce the cost of running these shops, the college can easily waive off the rent that is paid to them given that the college mess closes so fast and food isn’t available at the mess at all times.

If the prices of these joints are reduced, maybe along with the quantity, it will see an increase in sales as the demand clearly exists in college. Moreover, there can be external options as well. Many colleges in DU run subsidised canteens, and all colleges run by Jesuits (Xavier’s) have subsidised canteens.

IRCTC also provides canteen services and their rates are far cheaper than the ones in our college – another option that can be explored. With the advent of Amma and Indira canteens, it is not a long shot for a premier government college to have one of those on campus to ensure accessibility of food on campus.

There are several alternatives and keeping our hands folded and complaining about the prices will not yield desired results. The alternatives need to be explored starting with the waiving off of rent and subsequent reduction of prices in the existing eateries on campus.

It is also important to ensure that all classes of workers, irrespective of the nature of work and caste, have access to mess food whenever they want to for free. If all fails then external options like IRCTC, Amma and Indira canteens can be explored. Food is one of the most important concerns in college life and restricting access to it by virtue of price is just unfair and discriminatory in nature.

The post was first published by the author, here.


Image used for representation only.
Image source: Pradeep Gaur/Mint via Getty Images
You must be to comment.

More from Kumarjeet Ray

Similar Posts




    If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

      If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        Wondering what to write about?

        Here are some topics to get you started

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

        Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

        The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

        Read more about his campaign.

        Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

        Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

        Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

        Read more about her campaign.

        MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

        With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Read more about her campaign. 

        A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

        As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Find out more about the campaign here.

        A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

        She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

        The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

        Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

        Find out more about her campaign here.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

        A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

        Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

        A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
        biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

        Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
        campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

        Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below