Once the vice chancellor gives the nod, Panjab University will levy 5 per cent GST on mess and canteen bills, effective from January 8. The varsity received a notification from the Centre on the matter, said Dean of Student Welfare (DSW), Emanual Nahar, adding the implementation of GST could not be avoided as it was a government decision. But students have expressed dissatisfaction as their mess charges will increase approximately by Rs 150 per month, if a student consumes even three meals per day. For now, the students pay a fixed amount of Rs 495 for 15 diets per month, irrespective of whether they eat or not. Each diet costs Rs 33.
Students are also charged separately for the canteen where they consume their breakfast and evening snacks. Earlier, students were being charged 1 per cent GST that was paid by the mess contractor. Additional charges, however, will now have to be paid by the students, added Nahar, according to a decision taken by the committee looking into the matter.
The Panjab University Campus Students’ Council (PUCSC) met the DSW on February 7 and submitted a “memorandum of dissent”. The letter states, “The GST being imposed on mess and canteen is nothing but an additional burden on the students of Panjab University.”
The student council has appealed to the varsity to exempt mess bills from GST. It has also asked the authorities and the contractors to “bear the charges until further decision is taken in this regard”.
Nahar further stated that a sub-committee was formed to look into the canteen charges as they were separate from the mess. The DSW (Woman) was chairing the sub-committee that also has hostel wardens as members. “Why should a student bear all the charges? In my opinion, the university should talk to the concerned authorities to exempt the mess and canteen from GST like before,” said PUCSC Secretary Vani Sood, adding that a proper rate list should also be displayed at the canteen for all MRP items to ensure transparency.
At the cooperative mess at Boys’ Hostel No. 3, managed by the residents themselves, Rs 300 is charged per month as service charge instead of the compulsory diet fee. The cost of total expenditure for the kitchen is divided by the number of required diets. The service charge is the total salary of the kitchen staff divided among residents.
“A decision is yet to be taken as the V-C has to give his stamp of approval. We may not be able to run this mess if the 5 per cent GST is implemented. There’ll be no difference left between the mess and the food available at the student centre,” said Madhur Girdher, secretary, cooperative mess, at Boys’ Hostel 3.
A hosteller, Gursheen, said, “The university and contractors should share the burden with the students. The GST may not affect a lot of students, who can afford the expenditure. But what about the economically weaker students? The contractor had put up the bills in the beginning of the month, but they removed them after the notification.”
Nahar said the bills were on hold for now and students have not been asked to pay yet. He added that he would appeal to the authorities to increase the scholarship amount for students covered by it.