Mumbai Mirror, November 14, 2006
Students at tribal hostel in Kalyan go on hunger strike to protest the poor quality of food served to them
About 60 students of the state-run tribal hostel in Kalyan have gone on a hunger strike, to protest against the very poor quality of food served to them. The students say that most of them fall sick quite often. The students, who presently take turns for the hunger strike, have threatened to go on an indefinite hunger strike if the quality of food did not improve soon.
“The food here is pathetic. One can barely call it food. I think inmates in jails get better food than this,” said Jairam Wagh, a tribal from Murbad, who is doing his TY BCom from Agarwal College in Kalyan. Others said that all the three meals served at the hostel were not only bland but also lack nutritional value.
“Uncooked vegetables, burnt rotis, watery dal and raw rice are served to us daily. Though the food is unlimited we don’t take a second helping. In fact most of us eat out when we have the money,” said Ulhas Raut, a resident of Mokhada, a diploma student from the Indian Technical Institute in Ambernath.
The hostel is owned by the tribal welfare ministry and can accommodate 75 students. Presently, 69 students stay at the hostel near Birla College, Kalyan west. Students from tribal families get boarding and lodging for free here.
According to Wagh, “We are supposed to get 200 ml of milk when we wake up. Since we hail from villages we know what milk is all about. But here we get 10 per cent milk mixed with 90 per cent water.” The breakfast is equally pathetic. As per a tribal ministry circular, the students are supposed to get sheera, upma, poha, idli-sambhar and other food. “In all the years that I have been staying here we have got idli-sambhar only once. We get stale roti and vegetable daily as breakfast,” said Pravin Waghmare, a resident of Dhule, who is pursuing his Bachelor of Fine Arts from JJ School of Arts.
For lunch, the students are to get chapatis, rice, two vegetables and dal. Instead they get watery dal, burnt or paste like rice, one vegetable which is invariably cooked using rotten stock and burnt rotis.
For dinner, the students often get the same food that is served for lunch. “Only if we are very lucky do we get fresh food,” said an irked Umesh Gavit, a resident of Jawhar, who is doing his MBBS from Yerla Medical College, Navi Mumbai. Moreover, the students are supposed to get non-vegetarian food twice a month. “I don’t know what non-veg looks like here. We have never gotten any in the hostel,” says Pradip Virnekar, a resident of Pune, who is doing his HSC from Sonawane College, Kalyan.
The students said that they have been complaining to the authorities for the last several months, but to no avail. “We are now left with no option but to go on a hunger strike to set things right. After all we come from poor families and cannot afford to eat out often,” Waghmare added.
When Mumbai Mirror contacted D L Hiwale, hostel superintendent, he said, “Earlier we used to serve food cooked by our own staff. But now a contractor serves them. Unfortunately, the contractor gets a mere Rs 1,000 per month, per student. The amount is so low that the contractor is unable to provide nutritional food. I have taken up the issue with the ministry and briefed them about the problem.”
What a nutritionist says
Mumbai-based nutritionist Naini Setalvad was appalled when told about the quality of food served at the hostel. “The diet is simply unbalanced. The vegetables are too less and too much of cereals has a negative impact on the growth of a child,” she said. Antioxidants from vegetables are essential for a child’s growth. Moreover, potato is not a vegetable, but a root, she said. “In the existing case, chances of diseases like cancer, diabetes and constipation are very high,” she added.
Setalvad said the gap between lunch and dinner was too long. “There is no fruit in the diet. Lack of adequate nutrients can lead to major depression and mood swings among children,” she said.
She pointed out that in 1992, a research involving students of 800 public schools was carried out in New York, USA. After the study the quality of food was improved, and subsequently their grades improved and other disorders were also taken care of, she said.
Burnt food, according to Setalvad is carcinogenic (cancerous). “It affects memory and the attention span goes down,” she said. Undercooked food on the other hand causes gastronomical disorders.
Pradip Virnekar,HSC, Sonawane College
“I don’t know what non-veg looks like here. We have never gotten any in the hostel.”
Jairam Wagh, TY BCom, Agarwal College
“The food here is pathetic. One can barely call it food. I think inmates in jails get better food than this.”
Pravin Waghmare, JJ School of Arts “We get stale roti and vegetable daily as breakfast.”
D L Hiwale, hostel superintendent
“Earlier we served food cooked by our staff. But now a contractor serves them.”