If the stress of appearing for half-yearly examinations wasn’t enough for the students at Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU), an entirely different challenge is now posed before the girls residing in hostels— that of searching for their next meal.
Following repeated complaints and even a strike by the residents of the girls’ hostel over sub-standard and unhygienic food served by the hostel mess contractor, the latter’s services were brought to an abrupt end by the university administration on October 14. The students were then promised that a new contractor would take over within two days and by October 17, regular meals would start getting served in the hostel mess.
However, four days after the canteen contractor was shunted out, the girls are waiting for the mess services to resume. What’s worse is that the open canteen, which was opposite the girls’ hostel and could have been an alternate arrangement for food, has also been shut down a few weeks ago, citing hygienic issues.
“The food quality in the refectory is quite bad, in fact there was an agitation by the boys a few days ago. So now, if we want to eat, we either have to go to other canteens, which are quite far from our hostel. This way, we end up wasting a lot of time. Or we could start monthly tiffin services with private tiffin providers but not all girls can afford it. We have girls here who are studying on scholarships and come from poor tribal families or small villages and for them, it is difficult to even spend Rs 1,200 per month for private tiffins,” said one of the students.
Since the university exams are currently on, students say that finding food outside premises has become an additional burden. “One day, we all bought instant cup noodles and had it for dinner. Today, we went outside the university to eat but most of the days we are surviving on vada-pav as eating in the canteen or restaurant is very expensive,” said another student.
SPPU Vice-Chancellor Wasudeo Gade said ensuring good quality food for students was his priority. “That’s why we decided to immediately remove the contractor and I had instructed that a new contractor be appointed from October 17.” However, owing to ‘technical’ issues, hostel rector Dr T D Nikam said that the new contractor couldn’t immediately take over.
“We know that exams are going on and that’s why the Vice-Chancellor had instructed us that there should be no delay. We had asked the old contractor to come and hand over all the utensils but he did not come. So after waiting for two days, we have done a panchnama and taken over the material that is now being handed over to new contractor. He will first do the cleaning of the entire kitchen and within two days, the mess services will resume for the girls,” he said.