The hostel run by the Social Welfare Department for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes students at Karnad near Mulky, 40 km from here, was spick and span on Wednesday when the Superintendent of Police in charge of the Directorate of Civil Rights Enforcement (DCRE), Mitra Heraje, and the District Social Welfare Officer, P.A. Ganapathi, conducted a “surprise inspection”.

But an eighth-standard boy let the cat out of the bag. “Our hostel superintendent told us to clean up everything in the morning and said that some officers from Mangalore would be conducting an inspection,” the boy told presspersons.

The boy was immediately dragged away by the hostel cooks and some senior students and was scolded.

They restrained themselves upon realising that the incident was being recorded by television cameramen.

Hostel Superintendent Padmavati told the officials that the children were being served eggs thrice a week, bananas twice a week and chicken two or three times a month. She said that the children were being served “boothai” (Malabar sardine) thrice a month and the more expensive “bangude” (mackerel) once a month.

However, the children said they got eggs only twice a week, bananas once a week and that the last time they got chicken was over a month ago. They said that the last time they ate mackerel was during the Dasara festival.

They told presspersons that there was often shortage of food.

“According to the system here, older boys are served food first. By the time the younger children get their turn, very little is left,” said a student. Many students alleged that hostel cook Srinivasa Devadiga sold rice, sugar and other items to outsiders. They also alleged that Mr. Devadiga took large quantities of “tasty dishes” home.

“We complained to the Superintendent several times,” said a student.

When Ms. Padmavati was asked whether the students had complained to her in this regard, she said she had taken up the matter with Mr. Ganapathi.

Mr. Ganapathi, however, failed to explain why he had taken no action.

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