Nearly 800 students of IIT–Madras protested outside their mess on Friday against the low quality of food served in the messes of the institute.

The students said they had taken up the matter with the administration on several occasions but there had been no improvement in the quality of the food.

“Earlier, we would at least get one banana or a slice of watermelon every day. Now, we have to pay extra for anything nutritious — boiled eggs, all fruits, paneer and chicken. The available food is very sub-standard,” said a student.

The situation prevails in the six messes of the institute, all of which were managed by private caterers, students said.

“We spend nearly Rs. 80 on food every day. However, the food items are stocked up in a very unhygienic way. The dishes are never cleaned properly,” another student said.

The students said they had repeatedly written to the administration about the issue. Many students had also staged a protest last year but no action had been taken, they said.

They said the student-managed messes in IIT-Kanpur and IIT-Bombay served larger quantities of food of a better quality and at comparable prices. “However, here they are under the administration, which outsources it to caterers. It is high time the administration listened to us,” said a student.

During the course of the protest, the students marched up to IIT-M director Bhaskar Ramamurthi’s house. In a discussion that lasted till midnight, the director responded to the questions raised by the students.  

A senior professor at the institute said rising prices were one of the reasons for the dip in the quality of food, but denied that it was in any way sub-standard.

IIT-M officials said the menu had been fixed when the tenders were floated a couple of months ago, and it was difficult to change it.

 “We have always taken students’ feedback and complaints seriously. We will certainly look at improving the quality of the food,” a professor said.

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