Published: 04th April 2018
After CUTN protests, admin closes mess, promise legal action against caterers
Students have been complaining for the last six months as many have fallen seriously ill due to the food but the administration had allegedly ignored them, so they decided to protest
For months now, students from the Central University of Tamil Nadu, Thiruvarur have been battling with gastroenteritis, diarrhea, nausea and food poisoning. They have been forced to take long leaves, go on repeated visits to the doctor's, miss classes and all because of one reason - unhygienic mess food. And when the students protested against the administration, the latter allegedly decided to shut down the University and asked all the students to vacate within a few hours.
However, after a day's protest, the administration ultimately closed down the mess, set up a temporary mess and promised an investigation into the matter, also promising a compensation in case the cause for the all the sickness was the mess food.
CUTN's response - After the article was published, the administration issued the following clarifications-
The VC had appealed to the students to call off the protests with a promise that the mess would be shut on Monday
The tender had already been floated and many caterers had expressed interest
They had to follow due procedures before finalising a new caterer
"Though the protest seemed for reasonable demands, it is suspected to have been instigated and hijacked by groups with vested interests"- the administration said.
What unravelled on the day of the protest-
"We had been holding a peaceful protest, crossed no lines and created no havoc. We had three demands - to close the mess immediately, make an alternative arrangement for food and compensate the students who have suffered severe illnesses due to the food. And how does the administration respond? By asking us to vacate," said Neethu Joseph, a Masters student at the University.
Trouble started after the student-elected mess committee found several packets of MSG in the mess kitchen during a surprise visit. When their complaints about the same fell on deaf ears, the students decided to go on a protest on Tuesday morning. By the evening, the students received direction from the administration to vacate the campus by 11 am the next day. "We have students who are from across the country as far as Kashmir. How can they just ask us to leave? And for what reason? Because we are merely demanding better and more hygienic food?" she questioned. The students are especially angry because the administration is fully aware of the unstable environment in Tamil Nadu owing to the bandh and yet they have chosen to send the students out on the streets.
The long fight: Students have been managing food on their own and are demanding to know why when they can do it, the administration is not able to.
"Only 500 gms of Ajinomoto is permissible for the body - imagine eating a tone of it three meals a day? What will happen to our bodies?" a student questioned. Sangamitra, another Masters student was one of the many who had fallen sick because of the food,"I had to go back home all the way to West Bengal because I fell so sick. It was so bad I started vomiting blood. Another senior of mine went on leave for two months when she was ill and the doctor told her it was because of the food. So many students have suffered this way, we have reached our breaking point," she said. Students complained that they had also found insects and worms in their food, but all their complaint went unheard.
Every year, the University is supposed to hire a new set of people to run the mess but despite several complaints, the administration has continued to renew the present mess's contract, "We complained six months ago, when 15-16 students fell sick after consuming the food. They told us to wait three months and then three months later their contract was renewed again. Now again they want to renew their contract but we cannot allow that to happen," said R Shibunandan, a member of the mess committee.
When the students refused to leave the campus, the administration decided to give them one more day extension to vacate. However, the students are demanding that the management revoke their decision to shut down the campus, which the latter are firmly against. The students are not allowed to have a student union or council on campus to represent their problems either,"They are afraid that we will begin to mobilize. They's why they want to shut down the campus too," said Sanghamitra.
The administration had promised students that they will terminate the mess contract next Monday and are asking the students to manage for a week, " They have not even cared that we have gone without food for more than a day. We don't have any faith in their promises, cannot believe them anymore because they have made such promises before and not stuck to it. We cannot risk more students ruining their health because of this food," said Shibunandan.