Published: 11th May 2019
Staying back to study during hols, UoH students struggle for meals as mess is shut
Since there is no Mess Secretary, the administration shut down the mess and several students who have opted to stay and prepare for exams are now struggling
People can give you all sorts of advice about how to prepare for an exam. The best pattern is to study, do 300 revisions, attempt old questions banks and think about how to maintain your nerves. All these are great tips, but some students at the University of Hyderabad want just one thing to be able to throw their heart and soul into studying — not have to think about where their next meal will come from.
Since most students doing their masters degrees don't have classes, the campus shuts down many of the messes on campus. According to a statementsby the Ambedkar Students Association, administration could soon shut down 8 out of the 13 men'shostels and five out of the nine women's hostels. The South campus has two messes open, one for men and another for women. In the North campus, there is just one mess and it is for men. Several women in the North campus hostels right now say they are struggling to figure out their meals. The South campus mess is 3-4 kilometres walk a day and the mess only prepares enough for the students in the South campus. They say they cannot afford to spend 100 rupees every single day in the canteen. They also don't want to keep thinking about what to do for their next meal instead of putting that energy into their studies.
While researchers on campus occupy the hostels pretty much the whole year around, many of the Masters students choose to stay back to prepare for their JRF and NET exams. Students who choose to stay back are also usually the ones from marginalised communities who might not always enjoy the privileges of having a suitable atmosphere at home. Hoping instead for an atmosphere that will be conducive for studying.
Lalitha M, is a PG student who has also chosen to stay back on campus to study for her NET exam. "I come from a family that has economic difficulties and if I had to prepare for my exams from there, there would be added pressure. I would have other family problems that I have to think about, so staying here meant I would be able to concentrate fully and perform better," she said. But this isn't even about why students are choosing to stay back, it is not new neither is it wrong. Students have done this forever and Lalitha's reason is the same for several other students who also stay back. According to the MA student, about 120 students are currently on campus.
So what is different this year? Every month, a student becomes the Mess Secretary and is in charge of figuring out all mess related work. Since it is the summer holidays, no one was appointed as the secretary and that's the reason the mess was apparently closed. The students were only informed about the mess closing on April 30, the very last day. Students say that since it is submission season, all the research scholars are busy and burdened with work. The masters students have all stayed back to work on their entrance exams. "But the warden and the administration, so why was no alternate arrangement made," the students ask. Now with no Mess Secretary, the female students have to rely on the canteen food which not everyone can afford.
"We have limited our meals to brunch and an early dinner. At around 11 am, we eat something and then at 6 pm we eat again," Lalitha said. Just today, around 10.30, Lalitha and her roommate ate some cornflakes and for lunch, they have decided to get one small packet of rice worth Rs 15 and share a packed of curd. "The thing is we have to keep thinking about what to eat and that can be so distressing. My whole schedule is off, how can you study when you're hungry or worried about food?" Lalitha said emotionally. Radhika* another student said that they can't even afford to eat in the canteen thrice a day because the food is not very healthy, "Going out of campus to eat is out of the question, the only thing available is the canteen," she said. With their submissions and their exams just around the corner the students say they are completely distressed.
When Lalitha made her concerns public on Facebook and demanded to know why the Student Union had remained mum on the issue, the President, Arati Mehta said, "I am already in talks with the chief warden and the respective warden in this regard. We are looking for alternatives as no one wants to come forward to be the mess secretary and I personally have spoken to many to take up this thing. Either way looks like everyone just wants to rant but not bring a change and it has to be psychologically depressing I understand by your status. There's this thumb rule in counseling. A psychologist cannot change anything if the client is unwilling to do something about the situation but just sit and cry. Anyway, I might be a horrible psychologist so you could verify the above statement from a learned person. The choice is yours in the end."
Lalitha said that the response made her feel like she was the only one making a big deal about the issue, "There are so many like me who fear coming out and to talk about the problem. I don't know why she write 'sit and cry'. She's blaming me for my own misery?" Radhika says they cannot be blamed for not wanting to take up the mess secretary's post because its a time when every one is neck deep in work, "They know this. It's not new, why can't they make some alternative arrangement during this time?" she questioned.
The Ambedkar Students Association had previously released a statement condemning the administration's move to shut down the hostels. The ASA pointed out that many of the students had been registered boarders till June 30 and said it was illegal that they are forced to leave. The administration had also decided to make the students shift to the open hostels, which the ASA said was unfair. "Closing of the hostel is against the interests of students, especially the marginalised ones. Suddenly being asked to shift from their rooms to brand new rooms and taking this decision without consulting the students is unfair and will cause a lot of hassle," the stated.
The ASA also criticised the university's move to demand a no dues certificate from the students who wanted to stay on in the hostel during the summer. "This decision will drastically impact marginalised students because many of them are dependent on the post-matric scholarships and everyone knows it takes very long to process it. The students will anyway need to apply for a no due certificate while applying for a transfer certificate, so why are they forcing the students to get one now?" they questioned.
Lalitha has to stay on campus for another one and half months and she's not sure how she's going to manage, "My friends are telling me that instead of staying here and struggling for food, I might as well go home. At least I get food there. But I stayed here because I thought the mess would remain open and I could be free of any worries and just concentrate on studying. Not sure what to do now," she said.