Students of IIT-Madras organised a hunger strike on Thursday evening to protest the low quality of food served in the hostel mess. Initially, about 150 students were part of the protest that began in front of the ‘Himalaya Mess' in the evening, but they were soon joined by more students. The group took out a procession towards the director's residence, shouting slogans against the caterer. Chaos prevailed in the institute as students blocked others from entering the canteen.
Students complained that the quality of the food had been fast deteriorating and attributed it to the fact that only one caterer was hired by the institute. “The food is so tasteless that no one feels like having a second helping,” said a student.
“Till last academic year, we had three caterers. This gave us a choice and the caterers served good food because of the competition. Now we have no option but to put up with the situation as it is not possible to go out of the campus to eat every day,” he said.
On Thursday however, the situation worsened because the caterer had disabled all counters, except one, leading to a long queue. “The food was worse than usual which is when we decided to not put up with it any longer,” another student said.
Many students are at home as the exams got over a few days ago. Those in the campus are final year students, postgraduates and the Ph.D. scholars, besides students from other institutes who have come on fellowship programmes.
“The institute, on one hand, says it wants us to be healthy individuals and on the other, provides us such bad food. We cannot even de-register from the mess and eat outside,” says another student. “All other IITs have more than two caterers. The feedback form, where we could rate the food, till last year, is not there anymore,” he said.
L.S. Ganesh, dean (students) said that the vacation mess is different from the regular mess facility and the institute had made the tendering process of the service provider public. Acknowledging the fact that many students had complained about the food quality many times, he said, “We are in the process of getting a new service provider. The bids will be open on Monday.”
Director of IIT-M, Bhaskar Ramamurthy, addressed the students later in the evening after they shouted slogans outside his house. “He told us he would look for a solution soon. We have been waiting for almost one year for the situation to change. We hope it will change now,” said a student.