Some inmates of the Liluah Home for Destitute Women have stopped taking their meals. The protest is not against any form of mismanagement. Rather, it is because the cooking system has been upgraded.
The home authorities introduced a gas oven in the kitchen on Tuesday. Instead of accepting it gladly, a group of 20 girls, said to be “influential” among the inmates, stopped eating immediately after a district administration official inaugurated the burner. The girls have even stopped coming to the kitchen to help the cooks, a routine till a week ago.
Till yesterday, altogether 300 inmates of three sections — rescue, observation and foundling — had to depend on decades-old coal-fired ovens for their meals. “The gas burner will help cut our annual fuel bill of Rs 2 lakh and the time spent every day on preparing the meals,” said an official of the home. “We had three separate kitchens for every section. As of Monday, we have merged them into a common kitchen, where food for all the inmates will be cooked.”
An employee of the home said the disgruntled girls were in the habit of stealing vegetables and other cooking material from the pantry and cooking their own meals on the sly. “We don’t serve bhapa ilish (steamed hilsa), sarshe ilish (hilsa cooked in mustard) or pakodas. But the ingredients are available in our pantry. Many a time, we have caught the girls cooking fancy meals for themselves with stuff pilfered from their kitchen,” the employee explained.
Another official said some inmates used the kitchens for ends of their own. “We have to draft the girls to help the cooks. It is not easy preparing meals for 300 inmates. These girls, too, would bully the cooks into preparing items not on the menu chart. Now that the kitchens have been merged, this practice will have to end,” pointed out the official.
Superintendent Seuli Bala said the new gas oven was absolutely necessary to the home. Two giant ovens and six gas cylinders have been installed. “We used 120 kg of coal every day, apart from kerosene and wood. This new system will save us at least Rs 1 lakh a year,” she said.