Students of the government hostel for backward communities in Saidapet are often advised against roaming about the premises after sunset.

It is not ruffians or goons the authorities fear, but snakes. Just last week, some hostelites spotted a snake slithering away in the backyard. And that’s not the end of their woes.

Apart from academic pressure and the strain of staying away from home, students have to contend with unkempt rooms and substandard food. And it is especially stressful for the 30-odd visually-impaired students who live on the ground floor of the hostel.

“The hostel compound is strewn with garbage, and overgrown shrubs have taken over the place,” a student said.

There are just four functional bathrooms in this government-run institution that houses 155 students in just six rooms. “But only two of them have doors,” another student said.

The institution is one of the many hostels maintained by the government for students from backward and most backward communities. It has produced several illustrious students, many of who are leading IAS and IPS officers. Apart from B.A. and B.Sc students, there are also M.Phil and Ph.D aspirants at the hostel.

Rising costs and poor government funding have taken a toll on rations too.

“We are allotted just Rs. 750 a month for a student’s dietary intake which includes unlimited meals three times a day, non-vegetarian food thrice a week and five eggs a week. When IAS aspirants living in government hostels are allotted Rs. 2,000 a month, why shouldn’t better financial assistance be extended to these students, too?” an official said.

The number of eggs per student has now come down to three a week, a hostelite said. “The quality of rice differs each day and the chicken is questionable too,” he said.

Agitated students protested outside the hostel last week following which the minister for backward classes and minorities welfare, A. Mohammedjan, visited the premises.

“We have been complaining about the sorry state of affairs for nearly two months now. We hope the minister will be able to resolve our problems,” a student said.

The hostel is situated near a Metro Rail construction site. “There were two hostels initially. One was demolished to make way for Metro Rail and the students were shifted to a facility in Guindy. Talks are on about relocating this hostel, too, and that is why no renovation or improvement works are being carried out,” an official said.

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Vasudha VenugopalJune 28, 2012

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