Students during lunch time at the mess in Jasper Hostel of ISM-Dhanbad on Tuesday. Picture by Gautam Dey
Indian School of Mines (ISM)-Dhanbad issued advertisements in newspapers on Tuesday, inviting expression of interest from private parties to replace the agencies running the eight hostel messes.
The development came after several students refused to pay the mess deposit of Rs 15,000 for this semester to protest against low quality food, exorbitant prices and lack of options in the menu.
Dean of students’ welfare Chandan Bhar, from whose office the advertisement was issued, said: “Yes, we want to appoint a fresh agency for operations at the messes.”
But Bhar refused to elaborate on the reasons behind the move to replace the two agencies — Ranchi-based Indigo and Delhi’s Samridihi —that are serving food to around 5,000 students at eight hostels since June 2013.
Sources, however, claimed that trouble was brewing since February 2013, when the former employees of the messes, run by the students at that time, went on a strike, demanding hike in salaries from Rs 8,000 to 10,000 per month.
The protesters also sought regularisation of their services and filed a case in labour court against the administration.
The ISM management took strong exception to this, wrested control of the messes from the students and soon sacked all the workers.
The new arrangement, however, didn’t go down well with the students and ever since Indigo and Samridhi were appointed, boarders complained of unhygienic and non-nutritious food being served to them.
A final year student of Emerald Hostel said: “We used to pay Rs 2,000 per month as mess charges when it was operated by us. But now, an advance of Rs 15,000 is taken, of which only Rs 4,000 is reimbursed at the end of the semesters.”
Another student complained, “Why should we pay more when the quality of food has gone down. Sometimes, we get the same vegetable for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
The boarders claimed that when the messes were under their control, they had the freedom to choose the menu. “But now we have to abide by the regular menu of the agencies,” said an aggrieved student.
The ISM authorities promised to end the students’ grievances with the appointment of a new agency.