NAGPUR: The famed central university, Mahatma Gandhi Antarrashtriya Hindi Vishwavidyalaya (MGAHV), Wardha, has abruptly banned all non-vegetarian food items on its campus, with many students resenting the move.
The decision was implemented without any prior notice a few weeks back when many of the students had gone for Diwali vacations, and returned to find an all-vegetarian menu in their hostel messes/canteens, some of the scholars said.
When contacted, the MGAHV Proctor (Prof) Manoj Kumar said that as per the Act under which the university was set up, items like alcohol, tobacco in any form and non-vegetarian food are not allowed on the campus.
"However, we have only banned serving non-vegetarian food in the messes/canteens to avoid hurting the sentiments of the other vegetarian students. Those who wish to savour non-vegetarian food can do so in the privacy of their rooms or even visit dhabas outside the varsity campus at will," Proctor Kumar told IANS.
According to students, a majority of them are non-vegetarians, including many foreigners and the new all-veg menu implemented at a steeper charge by the MGAHV administration has posed a lot of hardships, especially for those economically backward pupils hailing from Vidarbha region.
"When the canteens/messes were run by student cooperatives, we paid around Rs 1,500 per month/per head for wholesome breakfast-lunch-dinner, including non-vegetarian dishes served at least twice a week," said a senior student, Tushar Suryawanshi.
However, now, the university has hiked the rates to Rs 2,250, with no concessions on skipping meals, discontinued the non-vegetarian fare totally and privatized the mess/canteens management which are now handled by an outside contractor.
To this, Proctor Kumar said that there were complaints from the students themselves on the quality of food, the choice of menus, and brawls among groups of students competing to run the mess/canteen, often at the cost of their academics.
"Hence, the administration opted for an outside party through a competitive bidding process, with the lowest bidder who can offer the best high-quality menus. There are some very poor students who are being taken care of by the university by way of concessions and stipends," Proctor Kumar added.
Students claim that the unilateral decision to drop non-vegetarian menu items was allegedly done at the behest of the new Vice-Chancellor Rajneesh Kumar Shukla, who reportedly said "it would render the mess kitchens impure".
Another issue of concern for the students is the manner in which restrictions are imposed on the campus with the 'big brother watching' through around 500 CCTVs installed throughout, said a student Ravichandra Raut.
Besides, Raut said all student activities such as the protests against the Hyderabad rape case, a meeting to support the JNU students agitation, and another event to express solidarity with intellectuals who wrote to the PM, are now being videographed by the varsity.
"They accuse the students of indulging in anti-government or anti-India activities and threaten to take disciplinary action against us after scrutinizing these videos. Freedom of thought and expression is at risk here, and because of this, foreign students also feel uncomfortable," Raut said.
Senior Shiv Sena leader Kishore Tiwari, (an advisor to CM), said he was concerned to hear about the hardships faced by the student community in MGAHV, especially those belonging to farmers' families from Maharashtra.
"This is very serious. How can the MGAHV authorities impose restrictions on food habits, curbs on thoughts and expression when the students are in their intellectually blooming stage. I shall visit the campus for a first-hand assessment and apprise Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray for remedial measures," Tiwari told IANS.
Currently, according to Proctor Kumar, the MGAHV 200-acres campus in Wardha has a total student strength of around 2,000, including some 450 males and around 300 females residing witin the campus hostels, and the remaining are day-scholars.