Seeing creepy crawlies on the wall is one thing. Having them steamed and served with yellow dal or vegetable curry can be stomach-churning.
The nauseating chhipkali (lizard), kenchua (worm) or telchatta (cockroach) may be conspicuous by its frequent presence in midday meal at remote state-run schools, but reptilian semblance in urban kitchen gravy may come as a mighty surprise for many.
If the eight-odd inmates of an unregistered hostel on Peace Road — a popular Ranchi neighbourhood for paying guest accommodations and lodges — are to be believed, Sunday’s breakfast was a repugnant replay of what they had so far only heard of.
“I had barely dipped my half-torn roti in the vegetable curry when I saw the dead lizard in the bowl,” Giridih girl Sandhya, a student of Ranchi Women’s College, winced at her reminiscence.
When the girls from Palamau and Giridih, all undergraduate students of the reputable capital college, complained to the owner of the flat, Suresh Prasad, he apparently asked them to leave. “He told us that we are free to vacate the house if we wish. He denied responsibility and said we were supposed to monitor cooking,” said Nirmala, also from Giridih.
On why they did not approach police or the administration on the matter, one of the students, requesting anonymity, said the flat on Peace Road was constructed in 2009 and had since been illegally renting out rooms to students from various districts.
“We are in a strange predicament. If the administration seals this accommodation, where shall we go? Session is midterm now and all lodges are packed to capacity. Rooms are available only in the Morabadi area, which is very far from our college,” she said.
When The Telegraph called Prasad, he sounded defiant. “I was informed last evening. A lizard in food is surprising. The girls could have taken the cook to task. I was not present. Moreover, I am not running a hostel. The girls are just like tenants,” he said.
A rough assessment suggests there are around 1,000 accommodations in the city, but only 57 are registered because they abide by the RMC’s 13-point functioning guide.
In April, the civic body had formed two teams to inspect lodges and hostels that had applied for registration. By the end of May, 70 were examined and only 15 were found to be following the RMC rule book. Not much happened after that.
Apprised of the latest incident, RMC’s deputy CEO Om Prakash Shah conceded that lizard in hostel meal was a “serious matter”, but said the question was how to crack the whip on illegal accommodations that form the shelter backbone for most students from outside Ranchi.
“Owners of flats show these students as their tenants, jeopardising penalty procedures. Not just us, even police cannot take action unless there is a written complaint. The girls must make the first move,” Shah suggested.
On whether the RMC had any plan to crackdown on the 55 inspected hostels that did not meet licence criteria, he sought a fortnight’s time. “Give us two weeks. Apart from tackling the city’s other problems (read civic amenities), curbs on illegal hostels are also on the radar.”
Mayor Asha Lakra, on her part, promised to discuss the issue with RMC officials and board members. “We will find out a legal way to fight the illegal practice,” she said.
Do you think the RMC will seriously act this time?