IIT Hyderabad latest in IITs to introduce separate veg eating areas in canteens 

Students of IIT Hyderabad allege a lack of transparency on the institute's part while taking this decision, and complain of not having enough vacancies for students who eat meat 
Pic Credit: EdexLive
Pic Credit: EdexLive

Amidst the ongoing debate surrounding the mandating of “veg-only” spaces in hostel messes on the campuses of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), the administration of IIT Hyderabad has allegedly and quietly proposed the inclusion of a separate veg-only dining hall in one of its messes. 

This move was reportedly preceded by a mail that was sent to the students of IIT Hyderabad on July 23, with a survey that asked them if they were willing to register for a “veg-only” dining hall, with a link to a form attached. Soon, on July 28, students who opted for “yes” in the survey were allegedly asked to register within one day, and the new “veg-only” section was marked and differentiated in the mess as August began.

However, several students pointed out that before this move was taken, the results of the survey were not disclosed to the students, casting doubts on the transparency and purpose behind the email. 

Further, students also claim that they were being “forced” to register for the new veg mess, due to a lack of availability of slots in the regular mess. 

According to a student from IIT Hyderabad (who requested to remain anonymous), there are two mess buildings on the campus – an old one and a newly constructed one. The veg-only dining hall was designated in the latter. However, the registrations for the old mess happened on a “first-come, first-serve” basis, and several students soon found themselves unable to register. The only option for these students is the new veg-only mess. 

“Many of us have raised our voice against this lack of choice, as it is extremely unfair to us and causes us quite some discomfort,” the student adds. 

Several objections to the move

In an email exchange between the Gymkhana, which is the student body of IIT Hyderabad and the students, a few students raised several issues with this move. 

For starters, students seem miffed with the fact that the “rat race for the mess registration is going to be even more intense next semester”, as one student puts it. They deem it unfair that students are forced to eat vegetarian food just because registrations are full. “If the veg count is less, ask our management to build a new veg mess for them,” says one mail. 

Students are also raising objections against the alleged lack of transparency in the decision-making by the administration. They claim that the new menu has been set without the students’ input and that the results of the survey have not been disclosed to the students. 

“For the last few months, we felt our voices went unheard, and MMC and Mess authorities are acting as monopolies. It's been a while since the menu poll was conducted but the menu was changed and implemented without our knowledge. Till now, we haven't received any mail regarding the revised menu. Do our opinions really matter?” asks one student. They go on to say that it seems as if the poll was conducted for the sake of it. 

The students also point to the fact that the mess fees, which have been hiked due to the COVID-19 pandemic, still remain high, and that the administration has allegedly not disclosed on what basis the fees are set. 

Further, a few students fear that this policy of a “separate mess, separate cooking area, separate plates, separate tumbler” might “ lead to a culture of discrimination” on the campus. 

As of now, there has been no update or resolution to this issue. 

Recurring pattern at all IITs

This incident is part of IITs across India allegedly promoting vegetarianism on their campuses while demonising the consumption of meat. 

Recently, IIT Bombay reserved six tables in their mess area as “veg-only” – and imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 on a student who ate meat at one of those tables as a symbolic protest. This move invited widespread criticism from anti-caste activists, who accused IIT Bombay of institutionalising caste segregation. Prior to this, posters saying “veg only allowed” were stuck in certain areas of the mess. 

Last month, Prof Laxmidhar Behera, Director of IIT Mandi, claimed that natural disasters like landslides and cloud bursts happen due to the consumption of meat. The director also allegedly made the students take an oath that they would not eat meat. 

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