The Union government’s decision to remove subsidy on LPG cylinders supplied to hostels — nearly tripling their prices in one go — has shrunk the meals of students in hostels run by the Social Welfare Department.
Many hostels across the State have cut down on components of their menu, which includes non-vegetarian food, eggs, bananas and special meal with a sweet served on designated days once a week each.
The price of one LPG cylinder has gone up on an average from about Rs. 400 to Rs. 1,200, with some variations between districts.
With the government allotting Rs. 850 per student per month in post-matriculation hostels and Rs. 750 in pre-matriculation hostels, their resources are severely stretched.
Many District Social Welfare Officers have written to the commissioner of the department seeking direction how they are to deal with the situation.
“Within this amount we have to procure everything, including LPG cylinders. It is impossible to manage within this amount with the hike in the cylinder price,” said Nagaraju H.V., District Social Welfare Officer, Hassan.
He said that hostels in the district have stopped non-vegetarian dinner on Wednesdays, egg on Tuesday and a banana on Thursday from this week. “It is disappointing for the students, but we have no other means to manage this situation,” he said.
H. Narasimhaiah, District Social Welfare Officer, Bangalore Urban, who has 61 pre-matriculation and post-matriculation hostels under him, said that there were reports of students agitating against wardens because of the cuts in food.
“I have asked the wardens to sit with the students and decide what is the best food we can provide within the budget allocation. We are trying to be transparent about the process so that students understand why we cannot help the cuts,” said Mr. Narasimhaiah.
Jagadeesh, Backward Classes and Minorities Officer of Hassan, said that he was contemplating changes in the menu in hostels of his department from the next week.
“We provide special meals consisting of a sweet and a rice item on Fridays besides eggs and bananas twice a week. From next week we will stop them,” he said.
In Hassan, 102 social welfare hostels require at least 1,200 to 1,300 cylinders in a month.
With the increase in the price of cylinders expenditure per student will increase by at least Rs. 150 per month.
Officials in Bangalore said that each cylinder will cost them Rs. 850 more than it used to.
A warden in Bangalore said that a hostel with a strength of 175 will require an average of 34 cylinders a month.
A department official in Mandya, who did not wish to be named, said that hike in fuel prizes is a big blow all the more because there has been no hike in food allocation consistent with spiralling food prices.
“Allocation for food has remained the same as food prices are going up. In such a situation, the new burden is impossible to handle,” he said.
“We have to manage an entire day’s food requirements on Rs. 28 for a post-matriculation student,” he added.