‘CM’s budgetary allocation for hostels for the underprivileged falls short of necessity’

Though Chief Minister Siddaramaiah increased the mess fund of hostels for the underprivileged, department officials and wardens say it is too little to stop the planned toning down of menu.

Mr. Siddaramaiah in his budget increased the allocation per student by Rs. 150, making it Rs. 1,000 for post-metric hostels, and Rs. 900 for pre-metric hostels of Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, and Backward Classes. The revised monthly allocation, however, is lower than Rs. 1,200 per student demanded by wardens. They cite the doubling of LPG cylinder prices and the increase in the cost of groceries to justify their stand.

“It is difficult to manage, but something is better than nothing,” said Arun Furtado, District Social Welfare Officer. It may take until mid-August for the order to come, he said.

A total of 5,005 students stay in 29 post-metric and 27 pre-metric backward classes hostels; 1,512 students stay in eight post-metric and 19 pre-metric SC/ST hostels; and, 3,750 students in 15 Moraji Desai Residential Schools (SC/ST and Backward Classes) in the district. For the past year, the departments have been spending more than the allocation to ensure there is no reduction in the menu; and to clear these bills, the budget allocated Rs. 165 crore. “Now, we can’t spend in excess. We have to manage with Rs. 1,000. Cut-downs are necessary to meet rising costs,” said a senior official.

With admissions having begun, Konaje hostel warden Shrikant Gunagar said the revised menu will be put on display board at the hostel. “It is difficult to convince students that a reduction in food is necessary. At least, with the display, they will know what food to expect, and will not accuse us of pilfering.”

Most wardens who talked to The Hindu said it “would be difficult” to manage with the increased quota, and “almost impossible” to manage if the prices of essentials are hikes.

What aggravates the situation is the stoppage of subsidy rice from the Department of Food and Civil supplies. “We have not received subsidised rice for two months now. We had to buy from the open market which is at least Rs. 20 expensive per kg,” said Mr. Gunagar. He said that cutting down on eggs, bananas and sweets were inevitable.

C.S. Sharanabasappa, Deputy Director of the Food and Civil Supplies Department, said groceries could only be supplied through an order from the government.

Justifying the demand

In September, LPG cap was lifted, and the price of a cylinder rose from Rs. 412 to up to Rs. 1,200

Pre-metric hostels consume 10 cylinders (for 50 students), and post-metric, 25 cylinders (100 students) monthly

Rice, wheat, other grains, vegetables, milk costlier

While an average of 1,200 kg of rice is needed a month for pre-metric hostels, only 250 kg being supplied

The rest is bought from the open market at more than Rs. 26 per kg

From February, Janatha Bazaar has stopped hostel delivery of items

While wardens demand Rs. 1,200 per student per month, the budget allocated Rs. 1,000 per student per month

Minority hostels in a fix

Although the allocation for the SC, the ST and the backward classes hostels has been hiked, there is no mention of the status of hostels of minority communities in budget. District Social Welfare Officer Arun Furtado said there was no intimation of increase in allocation of minority hostels. “We have to wait for an order,” he said. As many as 176 students stay in four minority hostels here.