THE SAVITRIBAI Phule Pune University (SPPU) is planning “good food, greater power and lessons in responsibility” for its students in 2018. After mulling over half a dozen ideas, Vice-Chancellor Dr Nitin Karmalkar has decided to hand over the charge of the kitchen to students by turning them into “kitchen managers”.
Over the years, the university administration has received several complaints from students regarding the quality of the food served in the mess and refectory. On Monday, Karmalkar asked Prabhakar Desai, director of the SPPU’s Students Welfare Board, to identify students who can be engaged in the management of the kitchen, barring the actual cooking job, under the ongoing ‘Earn and Learn’ programme. Students would be responsible for purchasing and storing raw material, deciding the menu, managing finances, food service, etc, among other aspects.
Karmalkar said, “I have been thinking about ways of improving the quality of food in the mess, which has been one the main demands of students. Recently, I met someone from an NGO engaged in community meals and cooking activities. They have the manpower and know-how for cooking purposes. I have envisioned a system where the manpower, especially women cooks from the NGO, can be employed at the mess. We can identity a group of 20-25 students who will manage the kitchen, along with a few staffers of university.”
“Under the ‘Earn and Learn’ scheme, the students are doing all kinds of odd jobs.
This can be a serious work activity for them,” he added. He pointed out that in many universities, including the IITs and the Pune-based College of Agriculture, students are managing the kitchen. “It will teach them lessons in management as well. Also since students keep complaining of quality, maybe this system might work,” he said.
Currently, the university awards annual contracts to mess and canteen contractors for managing the food services. Asked about the future of this system, the V-C said, “if a system is not working then it should be replaced”.
Meanwhile, Desai said the V-C has asked him to identify at least 20-25 students who would be willing to take up the role for one year. Recalling his student days in early 2000s, Desai said such a system existed back then.
“I have gone to buy vegetables for the university. Back then, 500-600 students would eat at the refectory. Our student committee would manage overall kitchen affairs with the help of cooks we had hired. The contractors were hired in 2004-2005. Since today the number of students are far more, we could strengthen the mess services in hostels. If hostel boarders start eating in the hostel canteen, the load on the central kitchen reduces significantly. I think the idea is definitely do-able, since the practice has been in place in the past, but it does require a lot of planning,” he added.