Classes are back in full swing for most students of government arts and science colleges, but Adi Dravida, BC and MBC hostels in the city wear a deserted look.

Most students have not returned from their villages as the canteen would begin functioning full-fledged only in July. B. Arun Kumar, who resides in M.C. Raja hostel, is waiting for food and water to be provided in the hostel before he can return. “I cannot afford to buy food from hotels. Even water supply is poor. We have been told that the hostel mess cannot function for students from some college and it would open once most students are back,” he adds.

Most of the residents of the hostels are from other parts of the State and pursuing higher education in the government colleges here.

These students depend either on eateries located near the hostels or cook themselves or even go without food.

A second-year student from Tindivanam residing in a hostel in Royapuram says every year the mess opens more than a month after the hostels. “We are managing by cooking our own food,” she says.

These students receive a meagre travel allowance and are forced to lead a hand-to mouth existence in the city. “Most of us take up part-time jobs, including in catering services, to meet our expenses, since our families cannot afford to pay even for food. We have been told that the hostels are allotted only for 10 months whereas our colleges reopen before that,” says a student from a hostel in Saidapet.

According to the hostel wardens, the reason for the delay is that groceries and vegetables will be supplied to the hostels only from July 1.

It is not just during the beginning of the academic year that students face this predicament, but also towards the end.

The hostel mess closes on a date when the exams of a majority of colleges finish, not taking into consideration the students from those few colleges whose exams continue.

The first-year students go through a lot more struggle, before they find a place in the hostel. Every year, there is huge delay in issuing the list of students who are provided a place in the hostel. A student of Queen Mary's College, who had applied to the hostel last year, says: “Last year, the college opened in the first week of July, but the list of students was not released even in the second week of August,” she says.

With every day's delay in releasing the list, the students have to arrange for alternative, expensive accommodation elsewhere.

“We will attend to these issues immediately,” said P. Sivasankaran, Commissioner, Adi Dravidar Welfare Directorate.