Students of hostels in major universities across the state suffer from different problems, primarily poor quality of food served, insufficient aid to pay the food bills and increasing power bills. TNIE looks into the problems being faced by the hostellers.
Not Just the Mess, Even KU Hostels are in a Mess
It is a different story at the Kaktiya University here which has to deal with student unrest on account of privatisation of hostel mess apart from complaints of inadequate infrastructure.
The university has 12 hostels accommodating 2,400 students, including 800 girls, who are frequently staging protests complaining about the maintenance of canteen (mess) since it has been given to a private contractor from the current academic year.
“The hostel mess is not being maintained properly since it was privatised. Moreover, the university, as a cost-cutting measure, has done away with security guards,’’ says M Sivaji, a final-year student of MA (economics). His hostel-mate M Mahesh Kumar says that they are being served the food left over the previous night as breakfast in the morning. Curries, rasam and other items of the fare are tasteless and the quality of the food is worst, he adds.
“We frequently suffer from stomachache and other illnesses as they mix lime water in the rice cooked,’ complains B Swati, an engineering final-year student. Every month, Rs 1,300 per head is paid towards mess charges but food is not served in time and the less said about its quality the better. In the evening a small glass of milk is offered, says Y Ashwani, a first-year student of integrated course in bio-chemistry.
“Even drinking water being served here is stale and smells foul, leave alone the food,’’ says P Sakuntala, an M.Com final-year student.
When contacted, mess contractor Sammaiah rubbishes the complaints as baseless. ``In fact, it is the students who are creating problems to me. They argue and threaten and sometimes put dead houseflies in the food served and complain,’’ he says and adds that he had run a hostel mess at a medical college but had not faced any criticism. ``If the situation continues like this, I may not be able to run the mess,’’ he says.
Inmates also complain of lack of proper infrastructure in hostels. The furniture is all broken, sanitation is horrible and most of the urinals and lavatories resemble garbage dumps.
“In 2002, the Vivekananda Hostel was constructed to accommodate 40 research scholars but till now it has had no Internet facility. Water taps are defunct and the drinking water tanks smell of fungus,’’ explains Telangana Student JAC secretary general K Vasudeva Reddy and adds that in spite of several representations to the university officials, no action was forthcoming.
At Padmakshi Hostel for women, a room meant to accommodate two persons is shared by seven or eight students, complaints a girl admitted newly to a five-year integrated course, wondering how she is supposed to spend the next five years in the hostel.
When contacted, director of hostels Prof Venkatarami Reddy said that till last year the hostel mess had been run by the university with help of student committees. But as the maintenance was not good and committees were accused of fraud and misappropriation, it was decided to privatise the mess. ``The university is paying the same Rs 1,300 per head per month to the contractor. The vice-chancellor will assess the situation for three months and then take necessary decisions. We find the mess working satisfactorily and if any one has complaints, they can be brought to our notice without hesitation,’’ he said.
Unenviable record of SVU
The conditions in the hostels of Sri Venkateswara University here are no different from those in other universities in the state. Here, too, hostellers are bogged down by insufficient scholarship amounts to clear their mess and electricity bills. There is drinking water problem which the university is trying its best to address.
The university has 19 hostels accommodating some 6,000 students, about 2,000 of them women, pursuing higher education. But the existing facilities are not sufficient for accommodating the increasing number of the students. Though each room is to accommodate only two students, want of space has forced the authorities to put four students in each room and in case of corner rooms, the number of students accommodated are some times 10, as against the usual five.
The hostel messes are being maintained by the university, where the quality of the food is not anything to be talked about. Increasing costs of essential commodities and vegetables is putting pressure on the hostel management as well as the students in the form of mess bills, which are more than what their scholarships amount can pay for.
‘’We are forced to shell anywhere between Rs 1,800 and Rs 2,000 per month on the food bills, apart from Rs 80 to Rs 100 towards electricity charges. The scholarships amount we get is Rs 550 in case of BCs and Rs 750 in case of SC, ST,’’ said Prasad, a PG student.
It is learnt that there is no separate mess for the hostels housing research scholars. The Class IV employees in the university hostels too are fewer than required, affecting maintenance of the hostels.
When contacted, SV University College of Sciences principal Jayanth Rao, who is also chief warden of Boys Hostels said, ‘’We can not deny the students hostel accommodation, as the scholarships are linked to it. Nowadays, almost 75 percent of those admitted to the university are getting scholarships and complain that it is not sufficient.
Whenever, we have a meeting with social welfare department higher officials, we bring this problem to their notice in the hope that something positive would come out.
In regard to accommodation, we have made proposals for two new hostel blocks in the 12th plan and are hoping for the best.’’
Food, power bills have them worried
The capacity of Andhra university hostels has increased by 3,000, taking the total capacity to 9,500 students.
Students at the hostel are provided with lunch and dinner, breakfast and coffee or milk every day. Though students are okay with this, they do complain about the quality of food being served. “We are not asking for high quality, but decent food is what we demand,” a PG student said.
The real problem arises at the end of the month, when the food bills have to be paid. The total expenditure on food is calculated and shared among the the students in the hostel.
Students also grieve over the disparity between their scholarship amounts when they have to pay the bills.
Power bills are also shared among hostel inmates. The hostels have to pay electricity bills in the commercial category.
University management too is facing issues as it bears the expenditure of the defaulters, who leave the hostel without clearing their dues. Around 40 per cent of the hostel inmates leave this way, even if they have to forego of their provisional certificates.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner at Rs 34. Someone said quality?
Like other universities in the state, the Acharya Nagarjuna University in Guntur too is grappling with situations that have arisen out of students’ demand for an increase in mess bills and their concern over rising electricity bills.
Since the state government has not increased the mess charges, students are suffering as they have to foot the food bills which are increasing every month. There are 1,800 students, including 800 women, staying in the six hostels (three for men and other three for women) of the university.
Around eighty percent of the students come from poor family background and invariably depend on the government’s scholarships that have not been increased since a long time.
Also, the mess charges paid for the students remain static for the last eight years in contrast to a phenomenal increase in the prices of essential commodities required to prepare food at the hostels.
The government pays Rs 34 a day per student towards mess charges, which include breakfast, lunch and dinner. Since the amount is not sufficient, the quality of food served to the students suffers. “One can only imagine food’s quality prepared at Rs 34 a day for a student. Lunch for us consists of rice, sambhar, curry and butter milk. Twice in a week an egg and once chicken currry are given,’’ said Bhaskar Rao, a first-year sociology student.
Increasing prices of vegetable, fuels and other essential commodities is making hostel management to compromise on the quality of food which will affect our health in the long-run, says an M.Com student T Roja.
Though the mess advisory committee, which consists of students, hostel caretakers, principals of the colleges and heads of other departments, monitor the quantity and quality of food twice in a week, it could not do it everyday for various other reasons.
Inmates of the hostel also have to face mosquito-menace as there is only one fan in a hall shared by three students. They complain that they pay Rs 80 per person every month towards electricity charges, but the facilities provided are woeful short. “We are finding it difficult with so many limitations here. It is high time the university’s officials sould do something to set things right,’’ said S Rajendra, pursuing IMBA.
Speaking to Express, vice-chancellor K Viyyanna Rao said they have sent the representations to the state government requesting it to increase the mess charges, as per the recommendation of the Mess Advisory Committee of the university.
OU rooms are 'stuffed' with students
Political ideology rather than academics runs the show at the Osmania University (OU). The 22 hostels in the campus, built to accommodate around 5000 students, are home to more than 10,000 people that include non-boarders and senior students who refuse to vacate the subsidised accommodation and mess facilities.
“It is difficult to remain neutral in an atmosphere as politically charged as the Osmania University. All decisions are regulated with political-backing or on the basis of caste,” says an M.Phil student on the condition of anonymity. During the hostels’ allotment, one’s political allegiance leverages his or her possibilities of getting rooms in the hostels.
In a room meant for one research scholar, five students share the space including two regular students and the rest who are in the city to prepare for various competitive examinations. “Many deserving students fail to get a room in the hostels. There are students who enroll in second-degree programmes, before completing the previous one, just to ensure that they get to stay in the hostels,” says M. Krishank, a research scholar at the OU Arts College and spokesperson for the OU - Joint Action Committee (OU-JAC).
Half of the outstanding amount was deducted this year from stipends of research scholars who are paid a fellowship of `16,000 per month.
The condition in the girls’ hostel is no better. “Lack of infrastructure is a major problem. The mess is unhygienic and provides sub-standard food and are served in small portions,” says Balalakshmi, a student of the OU College of Law. The additional drawbacks are that the washrooms are located outside the girls’ hostel complex in the old hostels. “There is only one new hostel which was constructed last year and has decent washrooms and toilet facilities,” adds Balalakshmi.
The absence of renovation work or repairs is evident. The housekeeping staff hired on contract are few in number and over-burdened.
Security for the boarders is the least of all concerns as the incidents of theft of laptops and mobiles is a common occurrence. There have also been instances when intruders had sneaked in to the girls’ hostels. The single healthcare centre serves the students and in case of emergency the ambulance on call rushes students to the Gandhi Hospital. The university students have been at the receiving end of the fall-out of Telangana turmoil where public transport vehicles were destroyed. “RTC buses are not routed through university anymore and commuting has become a problem especially late in the evening,” says Vanitha, a research scholar.