Hunger management: A constable carries his not-so-tasty lunch from the new state-run mess at Golmuri Police Lines on Wednesday. Picture by Animesh Sengupta
The 250-odd jawans living at Golmuri barracks are missing their homes more than ever, thanks to a decision of the East Singhbhum police to replace a private mess with one run by the state.
The new mess management, which took charge a month ago, has clearly not impressed the men in uniform who rue unchanging menu and unreasonable price.
“We live at police lines away from our families and homemade food is a distant dream for us. However, the earlier mess operator, Dilip Goswami, made us feel at home with quality food. Ever since he has been removed, we don’t feel like eating at the mess,” said a constable, not willing to be named in this report. He added that the private mess had been operating for over 20 years at the barracks.
Currently, the meal menu comprises rice or chapatti, dal, mostly boiled and mashed potatoes and sometimes the fried variety.
“Earlier, we could choose from a variety of vegetable curries. Also, one could order any item one wanted to eat, just like home,” rued another constable. He pointed out that many senior policemen were diabetic and were still being served potatoes.
In quest for tastier food, a number of jawans have started eating meals at roadside dhabas and hotels.
Higher rates at the new mess have added insult to injury. “Earlier, we used to pay Rs 54 for two meals a day. The state-run agency is charging Rs 56. But, despite the revised rate, the quality is so poor that we can hardly stomach a meal,” said a constable who has taken to eating at a nearby dhaba to pamper his palate.
Asked why they were not raising their voice against the change, the constables said the order had come from none other than senior superintendent of police Richard Lakra and they did not wish to get into trouble.
Lakra admitted that he had taken the decision. “I replaced the private mess manager because I wanted to provide policemen at the barracks with quality food. Now, we have a state-run agency and better cooks,” he insisted.
On being told that the jawans were not actually happy with the new arrangement, Lakra avoided a direct answer, reiterating that the system had been revamped to better food quality.