At IIT Guwahati, Students Are Being Overcharged For Hostel Mess Food

At IIT Guwahati, the hostels are run by the wardens and the mess is run by the private caterers. There is no forum where a student can present his/her views. This semester, IIT Guwahati has charged a hefty amount of Rs. 14,000/- for the mess services of four months. Given the fact that the scholarship for the PhD scholars has not increased till now, the amount surely made a hole in the pockets of the scholars.

However, in spite of this hefty amount, the food they are providing is not up to the mark. Since there is no forum through which we can really put forward our demands, the system continues to exploit the students, especially those coming from economically backward households.

The mess services are meant to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner for the students. It consists of two sections – the first section provides basic food for all the students and the second section is for ‘add-ons’ or extras, only for those who can afford it. While all IITs are providing milk, tea and eggs in the breakfast everyday for all the students, at IIT Guwahati one has to pay for it every morning.

The cost of one boiled egg is Rs. 8/-, 150 ml of milk is Rs. 11/-, 150 ml of coffee is Rs. 10/- and tea is Rs. 5/- per cup. During the lunch and dinner, the add-ons consists of chicken, fish, egg curry, omelette and paneer for vegetarians. One plate of chicken containing three small pieces costs Rs. 30/-, one piece of fish costs Rs. 25/-, egg curry or omelette costs Rs. 10/- and a plate of paneer (consisting of 5 pieces) costs Rs. 30/-.

Paneer and chicken is provided as a part of the basic food once in a week, while eggs or fish is never part of it. Of course, there is a restriction in quantity also. Sometimes, the quality of basic food is intentionally made bad so that the students are compelled to buy food from the add-ons section. Once in a month, the mess provides a special dinner. In order to compensate for that, they keep the mess closed for a whole day, in the name of ‘maintenance.’ It is clear that the system is discriminatory in terms of class.

Given that the general price of the breakfast, lunch and dinner is Rs. 120/- (30+45+45) for an outsider, there are times when we feel we are being overcharged for food. There will hardly be days when we get seasonal vegetables. On most days, the meals will consist of rice, chapati, dal and potatoes. However, the mess manager will also write pickles and onion in the menu list to make it look heavy.

Many students are extremely unsatisfied with the whole system. Since the mess is compulsory for a student staying in the hostel, this kind of system can be called as an organized form of loot, as the students are left with no options but to pay for the mess charges. If someone complains to the warden, he suggests the demand has to be made to the student representatives. The student representatives on the other hand are not elected by the students, they are appointed by the authorities.

The student representatives had been assigned the task of promoting privatized food outlets. The vice president of the Gymkhana Council keeps mailing the students regarding what item had been added in the Subway menu, or what sort of discount offers are going on in other fast food centers inside the campus. He is not at all concerned about the grievances of the students.

In order to solve these issues, there is a need of student representation in the decisions related to mess and hostel facilities in IIT Guwahati. There is a need for collective actions from the students.

Note: We contacted IIT Guwahati for a comment on the above realities and have received no response. This post will be updated once we receive a response.

Featured image source: Giridhar Appaji Nag Y/Flickr.
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