An NITR Epic: The Mess Review

An NITR Epic: The Mess Review

 For a campus as large as NIT Rourkela, the accommodation is sprawled across a total of 10 hostels. Even though no mess food can amount to the home-made food with a pinch of mother’s love, here is an honest review of the mess food provided to the students of NITR at their respective hostels. Team Monday Morning did an extensive research on the mess food along with an auxiliary poll analysis of around 1500 students (on a first-come first-served basis) , the results of which lies within this article. Random students were approached for statements pertaining to various issues regarding the current mess facilities to get an overall representative idea.

 

Ghanshyam Das Birla/ Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya

The two iconic boys first-year exclusive halls share a common mess: The R.N.Patel Cafeteria.

Infrastructure

The mess has two entrances, one each from the GDB and MV sides and can also be accessed from the cycle parking. Since the mess has to accommodate boarders of two hostels, size can be an issue. Availability of utensils like glasses, spoons etc. are some of the concerns that the boarders have to keep in mind, especially during the peak hours.

 When inquired about the spaciousness of the mess, the Ghanshyam Das Birla and Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya boarders replied respectively.

      

81.5 percent of GDB boarders and 72.3 percent of MV boarders found the mess to be large enough to accommodate all the hostelers comfortably.  While a small percentage of students didn’t feel the mess was roomy enough, an even smaller minority felt that although the seating arrangement in the mess is sufficient, the area near the counter where the students queue up to get their food is not properly managed and causes a lot of disturbance, in this area, lies a major problem hampering the efficiency of the first year mess. The mess has 25 small 6-seater tables, 21 large 10-seater tables capable of seating 360 students.

The mess has two counters: one for vegetarian and one for non-vegetarian students. The number of counters seems fair enough from afar, but on closer inspection the reason why the queue becomes overcrowded and why the majority of the students(56.2 and 58.4 percent for GDB and MV boarders respectively) feel the number of counters is not enough is apparent. GDB and MV have 76.9 percent and 78.2 percent of their population identifying themselves as non-vegetarians which creates a vast disparity in the queues for the two counters.

A solution suggested by some of the boarders was to add another counter for the non-vegetarian students. Another reason for the crowding of the queues has been the limited time window allowed for the students to have their food. On being asked whether the time period could be extended, Prof S.K.Sahoo, the warden of GDB replied:

The mess timings have been decided by the Chief Warden's office. It's not under our control to alter the timings. We only concern ourselves with the mess menu and any internal problems. Any problem regarding the timings should be taken up with the CW. The mess timings are central and applicable to all the hostels so it will be unfair for one hostel to have different timings compared to other hostels.

The availability of sufficient utensils has been a problem with the GDB/MV mess for a long time.

We have discussed this issue in the HMC meeting. All the hostels have this problem and a complaint has been made to the CW. He has suggested purchasing the bulk of utensils, but as you know this solution was proposed 2 year ago and things have not progressed much since. We are also planning to purchase directly for gdb using funds (not more than 25000 RS) from the hall budget to provide at least temporary relief till the bulk purchase is made.

-Prof. S.K.Sahoo (GDB Warden)

The mess is well lit, ventilated and quite airy. The mess is equipped with 42 fans (8 non-working), 17 windows, and 28 exhausts which ensure that the student filled hall never gets suffocating to stay in and provides the students with a comfortable environment.

There are however always exceptions, and some students felt that the infrastructure especially when it came to the lightning could be better maintained

Not All of the lights and fans are operational. It becomes really difficult to eat in such a congested environment.

-Abhinav Roy(GDB Boarder)

Hygiene

One of the most important parameters the boarders concern themselves with is the hygiene of the food and the environment.

When the students were asked to rate the overall cleanliness of the mess from a scale of (1-10), the response ranged from mixed to good with approximately 28 percent of the boarders rating it an 8. Roughly 21.5 percent of the students gave a rating of 5 and below and about 2.5 percent giving it a perfect 10.

Where the hygiene of the worker handling the food was concerned, the opinion of the students was near-evenly split with nearly 39.1 percent of the student population stating that they thought that the workers neglected their hygiene and thus compromised the cleanliness of the food they served.

     To make the serving of food more efficient and hygienic, a plan to convert to a buffet system was proposed by Team Monday Morning to the GDB Warden to which he replied.

The food anyway is not kept open for a sustained period of time. The food containers are only open for maybe 5 minutes when the students are in line and are closed otherwise. The buffet system will actually be really good but will also be time taking and not really feasible in the current scenario. So I think the current system is good enough.  But still, if the students feel the buffet system will be better, they can make a suggestion to the chief warden.

Food and Service Quality

A mess is only as good as its food. Keeping that in mind,  Team Monday Morning collected responses from the students sharing their opinion on how they like the food in the R. N. Patel Cafeteria.

The majority of students (about 46 percent) found the food to be satisfactory and good enough. Approximately 48 percent considered the food to range from good to very good while roughly 6.6 percent of the students felt that the food was not suitable for consumption.

The Central committee for food inspection should regularly check the quality of food by taking it regularly and not only by visiting which has happened only once in 2-3 months. They are not taking strict action against the caterer for complaint, I do not know why

-Chandramani Upadhyay

When asked how the halls monitor the quality of food, Prof. S.K.Sahoo (GDB Warden) replied:

We check the quality regularly. The mess secretary makes regular inspections of the quality of vegetable, oil etc. We have a standard system for that. We have never got any complaints regarding the quality of food. The last complaint was a few years back after which we carried out a strict inspection so far we haven’t received any further complaints.

Mess menu

Coming to the actual components that comprise the diet of a GDB/MV boarder, the mess tries to inculcate all the nutrients it deems necessary and tries its best to (re)create a menu that the students find resembling that which they find in their homes. To find out whether its tries are successful or not, team Monday Morning asked the people who are directly affected by the mess menu, the diverse residents of GDB and MV.

In the poll conducted, when asked whether the students felt that the mess menu accommodated interests from all the regions, approximately 12.75 percent were of the opinion that the mess menu catered to the needs of students from various regions whereas an overwhelming majority of about 87.25 percent of the students felt that the menu failed to accommodate interest from all the regions.

The menu is just fine, not even satisfactory. Curd and Milk are daily needed especially for vegetarians as it supplies our daily protein intake and the same is compensated daily and even tea and milk comes with 90% of water, what justice are the caterers doing towards their customers?

-Manojkrishna Mutalikdesai (MV Hall Resident)

 Eating the same food over and over can become repetitive and the students may soon lose interest. When asked how many times the students would like the mess menu to be revised, the students spoke:

The majority of the boarders wanted a change in the menu twice in a month or once in two months.

We discussed a single menu last week. We have come up with a menu in which there is basically no repetition. the changes in the menu will be seasonal depending on the cost of the vegetables. From now, till the end of the semester (December) there will be no changes in the menu and after that, there are gonna be some changes. The current menu has been decided on the basis of various talks held between the secretaries and the boarders (from various states).

-Prof. S.K.Sahoo (GDB Warden)

The warden also commented on how there was gonna be a change in the format of the evening snacks provided:

Earlier we provided either bananas or another dish like chowmein etc., but now we have stopped giving bananas and will instead increase the quantity of the other dish so that everyone can have that. This decision has been made after consulting with the boarders where the majority agreed that they would prefer to have the other dish over the banana especially those that come late at 5:45 PM or 6 PM when the other dish is over and only bananas remain. The new system will have one day with banana as an option but not more than one day.

Approachability of postholders

Nearly 60 percent of the boarders do not give feedback to the HEC/mess secretary because they are of the opinion that hardly any of the suggestions are implemented. When the students don’t deem it useful to provide feedback to the secretaries they have elected, it paints for an alarming picture. There is a major scope for improvement in this area, transparent communication between the students and their elected representatives is critical for the mess scenario in National Institute of Technology Rourkela to improve, and there is certainly room to improve.

DHIRUBHAI AMBANI / M.S. SWAMINATHAN HALL OF RESIDENCE

Dhirubhai Ambani Hall of residence and M.Swaminathan Hall of Residence share a common mess which has been a hot topic of controversy for the past few months. Deemed the ‘worst mess’ by its residents, Team Monday Morning brings you a detailed sketch of the infamous Prof K.R.Patel Cafeteria.

Infrastructure

The mess can be entered from either MSS and DBA or from their shared cycle stand. The mess has twenty-one 10-seater tables, three 6-seater tables, and four 8-seater tables. 11 of the 260 chairs are damaged and unusable providing accommodation for 249 students as opposed to the two halls that house approximately 782 residents combined (451 in MSS and 331 in DBA). Student views on the spaciousness of the mess can be understood from the results of the poll team Monday Morning conducted.

About 66.15 percent of the residents felt that the hall was large enough to function efficiently whereas around 32.25 percent of the population thought the hall to be lacking in the seating arrangements.

Not spacious but manageable, prompt serving and cleaning services will eventually handle the crowd effectively.

-Manoj Mahapatra (DBA Resident)

The mess has two counters: One for vegetarian food and one for non-vegetarian food. On asking about the number of serving counters and dining tables, 68.8 percent of MSS residents and 68.2% of DBA voters found them to be adequate while around 30% of the boarders thought the mess needed more counters.

The cafeteria is well lit in the evening and for ventilation purposes, has 23 windows, 30 exhaust fans, and 34 ceiling fans. As a result, the mess is always free from a sweltering environment and provides for a comfortable sitting. 

There have been a lot of complaints regarding the lack of available utensils, most notably, the absence of glasses for drinking water. When confronting the DBA warden, with this issue, he replied:

There have been utensil requirements in all the messes and we are looking into solving it. We had given a requisition for this last year and some quantity has been purchased but it's still not enough. Coming to the glasses, we always purchase glasses but soon after, 60-70% of the glasses go missing from the mess and are later found in corridors while cleaning. We can tolerate 20-30% of missing glasses but almost all the glasses go missing by the end of six months and it's not possible for us to keep buying them.

Hygiene

The student reaction towards the cleanliness of the mess was mixed. The ratings given by students showed their varying views with approximately 42.6 percent of the students giving it a rating of 5 and below, out of which 11.5 percent gave a 1, the worst possible rating. When it came to worker hygiene, the MSS/DBA resident body again painted a picture of two halves.

Almost half of the residents were left to convinced that the mess workers took care to make sure the food they handled was not contaminated in any way. The other half, on the other hand, thought that the workers took satisfactory precautions to maintain a hygienic atmosphere.

On being enquired about how the committee monitors the hygiene of the mess, Prof. H.B.Sahoo, the warden of DBA, replied:

We have a system for this. For each hostel, we have the secretaries inspecting the mess daily whenever they go there. Secondly, by a rule of law, assistant wardens are in charge of the mess. We have a committee of assistant wardens who have to randomly check up on different halls and give a report on the mess directly to the chief warden's office. Earlier we had a food inspector but now this team of assistant wardens maintains a check on the quality of food and hygiene. I myself visit the mess roughly 3 times a week for inspection.

Food and Service Quality

This is the section where the cafeteria has been under heavy fire by the unhappy students. A meeting was held last semester where the students along with the secretaries met with the warden and made a decision to sack the caterers, who have been providing underwhelming food despite complaints. However, the meeting has not yielded any returns so far as the caterer continues to operate and the students get increasingly frustrated.

When asked what has held the firing of the caterer, the DBA warden replied:

We had initially decided to remove the caterer in the second week of April. I discussed this with the then CW and he told me that due to some extraordinary circumstances it would not be possible to outrightly remove him because we have to arrange another caterer and give him time. He also said that new caterers will join after summer in July and even a committee has been formed which looks after the tendering of mess catering but somehow we were not able to finish it after summer and according to our revised expectations and deadlines we will get new caterers in January where it will be open tendering and the lowest bidder gets the contract. That’s why even after I had taken a strong decision to sack the caterers with students, I have not been able to deliver.

However, the caterer could be changed earlier as per the statement from the MSS mess secretary, Swarup Kumar Patel:

The caterer has been given a legal notice, and will most probably be removed in 15 days.

When the students were asked about how they found the quality of the food served to be, 27.8 percent of the boarders found it to be satisfactory, 3.5 percent of the students found it good and an overwhelming majority of about 69.7 percent of the residents thought it was horrible.

The food quality of the Mess is pathetic and deteriorating day by day. The caterer is adamant enough for the same since he is paid upfront for the mess even if he serves bad quality food.

-Satyasundar Mohanty (DBA resident)

I am not satisfied. The food does not provide value for the money. The food quality and cooking should be improved.

-Manesh Kumar Sahu (MSS resident)

It would not be practical to list all the complaints of all the residents of the two halls here (which seem endless) and team Monday Morning hopes that the quality of food takes a turn for the better for the sake of the satisfaction the students.

Mess Menu

An extension of the quality problem, the mess menu has also faced severe backlash by the residents.

I am first working on the things that are most required by students. As changing the mess is a long process, I focused on changing the mess menu first. The menu took us 20 days to finalize even though the Wardens and HEC members were active.

-Anurag Satpathy (DBA mess secretary)

When the students were asked whether they thought the menu accommodated the interests of students from all the regions, 23.55% voted yes while the others disagreed.

 I am from Andhra and I cannot eat the dal here. During the nights it is so difficult to eat the rasam which tastes like spicy water. We cannot eat the different curries that are being served here. For south Indians, the mess provides nothing here except the breakfast.

-Thamatam Krishna Reddy

51.23 percent of the students want the menu to be revised twice in a month whereas 28.8 percent of the students wanted to have the menu changed once in every two months. When the DBA warden was about the frequency of menu changes the students could expect, he replied:

We normally change the mess menu three to four times in a year. Right now we have prepared a menu and will be implementing that in November when winter begins because we get a lot of vegetable in that period. The next change will come when winter ends and finally we have another menu in summer when the number of students is less and thus, we restrict the menu somewhat.

A lot of students thought that the menu did not provide sufficient nutrients and that the dishes were very oily and spicy. When asked about the nutritional value the menu provides, the warden answered:

For that, we have to consult a nutritional expert. We are making the menu roughly by practice and I don’t think we have ever consulted a nutritional expert. We may not have calculated the nutritional value but if you look at the menu, it covers everything over the week. It provides all the dishes you find in your homes. Coming to the spiciness, the students themselves had contacted us and told us that they wanted the Sunday dinner to be spicier so we made it so. The oil problem is real and we are trying to solve it but when you prepare food for a large population, there's bound to be some miscalculation in the quantity of oil. Still, we have informed the caterer about this problem and have instructed to rectify it.

Approachability of Post Holders

To check whether the complaints of the boarders were reaching the ears of the HEC, team Monday Morning asked the residents whether the provided feedback to the elected representatives. Approximately 60 percent of the population denied ever complaining to the HEC due to the belief that their complaints will fall to deaf ears. For a mess with the majority of the residents unsatisfied with the cafeteria, the secretaries play an important role as intermediaries between the students and the authorities. It is important for the boarders to feel comfortable in approaching their elected representatives with any of their concerns, which 60 percent of the residents do not feel. Team Monday Morning hopes this situation improves as time progresses.

The mess scenario of MSS and DBA is really bad and we all are trying really hard to replace the caterer. We have started taking feedback by scanning a QR and are also spamming amongst our MSS and DBA friends.

-Swarup Kumar Patel (MSS mess secretary)

 SATISH DHAWAN HALL OF RESIDENCE

The hall has devoted one of the blocks (Block D) for the mess and the Block H serves as the cooking area for the mess. SD Hall of Residence was the highest priority for the majority of the new boarders for this academic year, the primary reason being the mess quality and hygiene standards that the mess and the hall, in general, adhere to.  But the hall isn’t devoid of mess woes and complaints regarding mess quality and hygiene. From food shortage to dissatisfaction in the revised menu, the boarders are facing varieties of issues, although many opined and expressed their satisfaction regarding the current mess scenario of the hall.

Infrastructure

The mess contains 44 tables with 08 seats in each that provides a maximum limit of 352 students to eat comfortably at a certain time. There are 36 fans out of which 07 are non-functional. As per the results of the survey conducted by Monday Morning, 89.5% of the SD Hall boarders feel the mess to be spacious while rest feels the mess area becomes crowded at the peak hours and create a chaotic atmosphere. The boarders are not quite satisfied with the ventilation in the mess and suggest setting up of more exhaust fans in addition to the presently installed 02 exhaust fans. The positioning of the fans is inappropriate that adds up to the ordeals of the boarders in a gloomy, humid climate. While asking about this issue, Prof. SK Panda, Warden, SD hall suggested

I encourage the students to come up with new ideas and models for positioning of the fans. The model that serves the interest of the majority of the boarders will be executed without any delay. 

About 64.7% of the boarders feel the number of serving counters is enough and hence, they hardly feel the issues of maintaining long queues. But a fair percentage of 34.9% of students propose the increment in the number of counters for both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. Especially in the morning hours and during peak hours of the day, long queues are a common sight. Due to this students either skip breakfasts in fear of missing attendances and hence, rely upon the eateries available inside the campus.

 Quoting the Warden

I agree that the caterers don’t start the mess sharp at 7:15 AM and I take the responsibility in making it mandatory for them to stick to the rules and can extend the timings by 15 minutes in the morning. Moreover, I feel increasing the number of counters will solve this issue in a more efficient way.

The boarders face no problems with the availability of utensils like spoons and glasses but sometimes the plates and other utensils are seen to be unclean, with oily stains and marks.

Hygiene

We got a mixed response from the boarders regarding the cleanliness of dresses of caterers, about 50.8% felt caterers compromise on hygiene standards and sometimes miss wearing gloves and covering their heads and put on untidy uniforms. On this issue Vikram Kumar, a PhD student says

We are completely dissatisfied with the cleanliness and hygiene standards maintained in the mess area. We see the mess workers in the filthy dress while serving food. The behaviour of those workers aren’t appreciable and they need to be trained with proper instructions. Adding to that I feel, the cooks do not meet the standards set by the proposed mess menu.

On a scale of 1-10, maximum boarders chose to mark 7/8 for the overall cleanliness of the mess. But spilling of water on mess floor and improper drainage of rainwater from the mess area is a common sight. While we proposed to have a buffet system where the dishes will be served in uniform containers and will be covered to ensure hygiene, Prof. SK Panda replied,

Getting utensils and containers can be achieved by the Chief Warden Office, I feel we should never compromise on hygiene but until we decide upon such a uniform catering system for all halls, we may not regulate here.

To ensure maintenance of proper hygiene the Warden is acting alertly and according to him:

The Assistant Warden visits the cooking area regularly and personally tastes the food every alternative day to ensure proper cooking of the dishes and the hygiene standards. I personally check the raw materials and ensure the caterers use the specified brands as prescribed by the Chief Warden Office.

Food and Service Quality

While the majority of the boarders considered the food as “satisfactory”, a significant of them (38.1%) felt the quality is on a slope of deterioration. People complained regarding the hair strands, insects found on their food and plates. Quite a few people expressed their concern about the overuse of oil and spices in most of the dishes. Moreover, the responses said the vegetables are often either uncooked or are cooked improperly.

 Nikhil Vobbilisetty, a final year undergraduate opines:

SD Hall’s mess caters to a lot of people, and thus the lines for food are really long. The mess needs an extra kitchen and counters. The food was good until the recent menu change. Now, the food is extremely deappetising and has resulted in many cases and food poisoning all through the institute.

It has been observed that there are instances of food shortage in the mess during peak hours of lunch and dinner. The caterers act very rudely at such situations while being enquired about this issue. In general, the mess workers are cordial but some of the boarders have come up with the grievances that caterers do not behave gently and cordially. SD Hall faces an issue of quantity of food being served during lunch, snacks and dinner. They are not allowed take the dishes for the second time that creates dissatisfaction among the boarders.

Addressing the issue of food shortage in the mess, Giri Krishna Meda, Mess  Secretary says:

We are worried about the issue and at the same time, discourage food wastage. There might be the sudden inflow of boarders from other halls too that created such unexpected situations. We are planning for an effective procedure and system to handle the case with proper management. As per now, the caterer estimate and make food according to the previous week’s records but that didn’t work well either.

There have been requests regarding the installation of RO water purifiers and on asking about the same to the warden he replied:

It’s a great initiative and I personally would like to implement it. Although we have to spend more money but this way, quality will not be compromised. I even talked to the dealer who provides us with aqua-guards but then, we discovered the present RO purifiers can’t satisfy the needs of the entire hostel. So, presently we have no concrete plans for it but will try my best to implement this initiative, if possible.

Mess Menu

There were varieties of responses regarding the frequency of mess menu change, where the majority of them (28.7%) advocated the menu to be changed once in two weeks. While the locals feel that the menu does a justice in inculcating cuisine from all over the country, the non-Odia boarders considered the menu to be Odia and Telugu centric. We received allegations that majority of the dishes belong to the region to which the hall secretaries belong to. Boarders feel the diversity in the mess remains unaltered after the new menu was implemented. The mess paints a deceiving picture which forces our expectations to rise high above the reality it presents. For example, there are fancy prefixes for certain base dish but all of them taste the same.

A Third-year Undergraduate Tanay Kumar suggests:

I feel the quality of the ingredients should be improved to ensure proper standards of the food. To cater to the needs of everyone from all over the country, a centralized menu with varieties of cuisines shall be appreciated. Personally, I would also want the milk quality to be improved since milk is one of the primary needs of our diet.

There has been a lack of nutritious food like salads and green leafy vegetables on the menu. Boiled eggs being an excellent source of different kinds of vitamins and protein can be added to the menu more frequently. Apart from banana, the mess menu doesn’t include any other fruits which ideally should be added. About 21.7% of the boarders are pure vegetarian and there have been grievances of lack of diversity in the vegetarian menu. Going by the money invested for a meal, a non-vegetarian meal is high in price than the vegetarian ones which create resentment among the vegetarian students.

Abhigyan Majumdar, a Sophomore suggests:

The recent changes in the mess menu were implemented without giving all the boarders proper time to respond with suggestions. All the varieties and quality that existed have been stolen due to the introduction of the disastrous veg Manchurian on multiple days. Most of the sophomores like me opted for SD expecting good food quality which vaporized into nothingness after the recent changes.             

Approachability of Post Holders

About 60% of the boarders do not complain or provide feedback to the mess secretary because they feel the authorities, as usual, will put a deaf ear to their grievances. The Hall Management Council (HMC) proposed a mess menu that was shared via WhatsApp groups and subsequently a meeting was held inviting all the boarders regarding amendments and addition of dishes to the proposed meal. Eventually, the new mess menu was implemented. But the boarders feel their demands have not been taken care of and further advocates to implement the previous menu.

But quoting the mess secretary:

The mess scenario is pretty well. It’s tough to cater to everyone’s needs as well as convincing the caterers to bring amendments. We are sure that all the boarders are satisfied with at least 2 out of 3 dishes that are being served now. We got positive reviews and trying to improve the situations by taking feedbacks regularly.

While 94.1% of the boarders demand a mandatory feedback to be given to the caterers and mess workers and regular meetings to be conducted with the HMC, no such system currently prevails. There is a growing demand to conduct a meeting as soon as possible and reinforce the previous menu and abandon the present one.

HOMI BHABA HALL OF RESIDENCE

Situated at the farthest end of the scholar avenue, the hall of residence with the least number of boarders adapts to the demands of the students have improved in many aspects of mess management. Although issues like lack of space, lack of ventilation and availability of nutritious food still pertains.

Infrastructure

A significant share of the boarders of HB hall (36.1%) feel the mess need to be a bit more spacious while others accept that the mess is sufficient to accommodate the boarders comfortably. There are 28 tables in total with 06 seats each that ensure accommodation of 168 boarders at a certain time. There are 18 fans in total which is satisfactory keeping in mind the smaller size of the mess. In the eating area, there are 05 exhaust fans out of which only 01 is operational and the cooking area has none of them; due to this the temperature of the mess increases sometimes making it unbearable for the boarders. There is a pathetic issue of ventilation in the mess area and no such improvements have been observed addressing this issue.

About 70% of the boarders find the number of counters enough to cater to the students at normal hours. But this hall is not an exception when it comes to long queues at peak hours. Addressing this issue, Prof. Harmohan Jena, Warden, HB Hall said:

I will instruct the caterers to start serving food at the exact time that they are supposed to and will consider the idea of increasing the number of counters at least during peak hours to avoid such situations.

Quoting Arijit Saha, a sophomore:

The mess of HB Hall is good with sufficient seating capacity with the acceptable quality of food. If improvements are to be mentioned, the number of utensils like spoons and glasses should be increased as the insufficient utensils lead to long chaotic queues. Moreover, although the vegetarian food is quite well, the non-vegetarian meals needs to be improved. Personally, I feel desserts must be served in the non-vegetarian meal.

Hygiene

More than 50% of the boarders feel the mess workers do not wear gloves, head caps regularly. To ensure hygiene and cleanliness, Shanu Kumar, the mess secretary, HB Hall takes initiatives and quoting him:

I personally have talked to the caterers and mess workers to use safety measures and proper maintenance of things of daily use while cooking and serving food.

On a scale of 1-10, the majority of the boarders marked 8/10 regarding the overall cleanliness of the mess. The utensils, floor and tables are cleaned at regular intervals and the hygiene conditions are maintained properly. While proposing the buffet system to prevent the stacking of served food in plates and ensure hygiene, the Warden says:

Although hygiene is one of the major concerns, this idea won’t work efficiently for the mess. Firstly, even though the mess workers supervise, the quantity of the food cannot be monitored and it will delay the queue as well.

The warden assures to ensure proper hygiene standards to be followed in the mess. Quoting him:

We pay surprise visits to the cooking area and the mess to check if proper raw materials are being used and the food is being cooked in hygienic condition and there is no compromise in the quality of the food.

Food and Service Quality

Around half of the boarders consider the food quality to be quite satisfactory and a significant share (30.6%) rated the food as “Good”.

Quoting Chodaganga Pradhan, a Sophomore says:

Just a few days ago, the menu has been changed and we the boarders were not aware of any such process based on which they took the decision, but the food quality is quite good and I personally appreciate the current menu. The hygiene of the mess is pretty satisfactory and the mess workers are quite helpful.

About 18.1% of the boarders are pure vegetarian and taking care of their interests should be the priorities as well. On this issue the mess secretary says:

We have changed certain dishes for the vegetarian boarders, have tried to bring variations for them in the menu and will do necessary amendments after we receive good suggestions and feedbacks.

On suggesting the installation of RO water purifiers in the mess/hostel, the Warden responded:

I personally have proposed this idea in past several times before the previous director and Chief Warden. I had taken the initiative for contacting the dealers and was always in support of this initiative. However, we have not been able to accomplish this and I will definitely propose this agenda again in the future meetings.

Mess Menu

According to the responses we got, about 44.4% of the boarders have the opinion that mess menu needs to be revised twice per month. We received very positive responses regarding the diversity in mess menu. The new mess menu was implemented without calling any specific meeting for it. However, the secretaries took this as an experiment and thought of doing the necessary amendments after receiving suggestions and feedback.

Abhishek Kumar, a final year undergraduate shares:

The quality of the food is fine and the quantity of oil and spices are almost balanced but the taste of the dishes need to improve. There are certain days of the week when the menu is not at all acceptable and certain changes need to be made regarding this.”

We received multiple grievances of non-availability of milk which is highly essential for our diet. There should be more inclusion of fruits in the menu. A bit more emphasis on nutritious food and salads should be given.

Approachability of Post Holders

About 62% of the boarders do not complain and express their grievances because they feel their suggestions are never considered. Currently, the boarders are not satisfied with the frequency of change in the menu. The boarders demand to conduct meetings for the smooth operation of the mess.

91.4% of the boarders feel the need for mandatory feedback to be given to the caterers. This will improve the mess quality and hygiene as well.

Regarding this the mess secretary says:

We are always open for suggestions and complaints. My phone number and room number is known to everyone and I personally will look into their grievances. Moreover, we plan to change the mess menu more frequently to prevent the monotony of the menu.

 

Vikram Sarabhai Hall of Residence

 

With a total strength of around 1090 boarders, VS Hall owns up to be the largest hostel in the campus. With such a huge crowd to feed, the proper management of catering becomes of utmost importance.

Infrastructure

Owing to its enormous size, the mess includes 64 tables with 6 seats spread across the dining area providing a seating capacity of 384 students at once. Most of the boarders get a place to seat even in the peak hours, yet, the seating arrangement does not seem adequate to many. A total of 25 ceiling fans have been installed in the mess to ensure ventilation. However, few of them are not in the proper working state. Even though it doesn’t include exhaust fans, AC ducts allow ventilation in the mess as it includes an air cooler within its premise. The lighting in the mess is proper even though few of them are non-operational. One corner of the mess is bounded, which houses the cooked food.

Hygiene

Even though the VS Hall is regarded to be the largest one in campus, the mess is “very well maintained for its size” as quoted by its boarders. The workers follow the rule of wearing caps and gloves without fail and instances of finding insects in the food is relatively low as compared to other mess. The mess has been installed with nets on window outlets to prevent flies from entering the mess. Food is served in hygienic conditions by the caterers.

Quality of food

The quality of food has received much better reviews than other mess. Replies on the quality mostly included satisfactory remarks with rare complains of undercooked food being served. One of the boarders, Ajinkya Bakshi says,

The quality of food is better than any other boys’ hostel in the campus. There are few glitches sometimes but overall the mess is satisfactory to most of the boarders. Catering food to a huge student body is difficult and they are providing the best quality they can. Taste of food can be a matter of concern at times but the variety is good, so it is compensated.

Mess Menu

The mess menu is decided by suggestions of the students. It accommodates interests of students from all the regions. It has been decided that the mess menus will be revised every month. The Mess Secretary Vivek Kambhampati adds,

Hygiene will be my main concern in the mess. Secondly, I will ensure the transparency in the making of the mess menu. We are planning to make an online portal for the boarders of VS hall so that they can register any complain, anytime. Quality checks will be regularly done so that students are provided healthy and safe food. 

Approachability of HEC members

With a student body residing from the sophomore year to post graduates, the importance of communication within the students is of utmost importance. The HEC members are open to suggestions from everyone and are considerate for any modifications. The Hall Warden S. C. Mohanty concludes

We will definitely look into matters of hygiene and quality of food being served. Any complaints will be managed effectively by our elected members.

 

C.V. Raman Hall of Residence

A nifty establishment with scenic views, CVR is the largest female hostel in the campus. With a total strength of 900 boarders, management of the mess catering to such a huge body is no cakewalk.

Infrastructure

Providing complete meals to about 900 students within a stipulated time becomes a tedious job. However, efficient management of the mess helps in the management of the crowd at peak hours. Yet, most of the boarders feel that the serving counters are not adequate which gives rise to queues sometimes. To solve this problem, an application approved by the Hall Warden has been addressed to the Chief Warden and it is in processing. With a total of 34 tables of 10 seats each, the mess can accommodate 340 boarders in one seating. There are 30 ceiling fans in the dining area to maintain the ventilation of the mess. The kitchen area includes one working exhaust fan and remaining have been detached owing to the chimneys fitted in that area. Recently, the chimneys were being renovated and therefore, the kitchen area has become suffocating. It is also fitted with insect-catching appliances to minimise the infestation of food from insects. Utensils are generally kept clean and dry near the serving counters. The Mess Secretary, Nutan Shukla says,

We have demanded for a few appliances like table-top food warmer, plate stacker, jugs with lids and a few serving tables. An application for the same has been approved by our Hall Warden and forwarded to the Chief Warden for consideration. During rains, water starts pouring in from a hole inside the mess. Complaints have been registered, but no work has been done on it yet.

Hygiene

To ensure that the food is served in clean and hygienic conditions, proper measures have been taken. The mess workers are propelled to wear gloves and caps during times of cooking and serving. The sanitation of the mess area is also monitored by the mess secretary. There are regular checks in the kitchen area to ensure that food is prepared in clean surroundings. The dining area is kept well lit. However, there have been occasional complaints of finding insects in the food.

Food and Service Quality

The quality of food at the CVR Mess has received mixed reviews. While the vegetarian population demands to have other options from potato and paneer, there have been several requests of including more vegetable-based dishes. Also, oiliness of the food has been a common complaint in the review.

One of the boarders, Yasmin Kukul adds,

Our mess menu is pretty varied. Our caterer tries his best to provide food that satisfies all. We even have provision for getting boiled food on religious occasions for whoever wishes to have. But then the amount of food served is often less and the attitude of the servers is not very welcoming when we need a refill. Also, the food quality is starting to detoriate day by day.

Mess Menu

For this session of catering, it has been decided to revise the menu twice per semester. However, the HEC members are considerate enough to change the menu if there are demands by the boarders. While it has been a common reply that the mess menu is largely biased towards Odia cuisine, most of the reviewers replied to include food from different cuisines so as to accommodate the interests of the diversity of the boarders.

Approachability of Post Holders

Almost the cent number of reviewers agreed to have a mandatory feedback system. The HEC members do make an effort to accommodate the demands made by the boarders. However, a good portion of the boarders concluded that most of the suggestions are not implemented or left disregarded.

The Hall Warden, Prof. Poonam Singh concludes,

CVR is a very large hostel as it goes by its accommodation. It becomes difficult to consider everyone’s input into consideration and satisfy. Yet, we try everything within our reach to manage the food quality and its variety.

Kiran Majumdar Shaw Hall of Residence

A quaint aboard of about 400 female students, KMS strives to provide the quality living condition to its boarders. The following is an honest review of the mess on basis of an elaborate poll with the boarders.

Infrastructure

Having a lower boarder strength as compared to any other hostel in the campus, the mess is also comparatively smaller. It provides for a seating capacity of 132 students at one go, with 4 smaller 8-seated tables and 10 larger 10-seated tables. However, few of the seats need repairs. A total of 16 ceiling fans have been installed in the dining area. Even though there are no exhaust fans in the mess, the ventilation is managed with air ducts in the walls. Two of the three insect-catching appliances are inoperative. Even though the lighting in the dining area is proper, the kitchen area lacks in being well lit. With two serving counters, the mess is well managed in the peak meal times.

The Mess Secretary, Sneha Rathod says,

There a few repairs the mess could probably use. After the mess maintenance bill comes through, it will be my first priority to fix these problems in infrastructure. 

Hygiene

Continuing her statement from above, Sneha includes,

Being the Mess Secretary, Hygiene will always be my top priority. It is the basic aspect that will be never compromised. We keep a strict watch on the mess workers ensuring they wear caps and gloves. There are regular surprise tests to monitor the sanitation of the cooking area.

The hygiene of the mess is more or less reviewed to be better than its counterparts. Mess workers wear gloves and caps throughout and utensils are kept clean and dry. Occasional issues of getting insects in food and unclean utensils do come up but, they are fixed as soon as brought up in the notice of the post-holders or mess manager.

Food and Services Quality

The quality of food is closely monitored by the Hall Warden and Assistant Chief Warden. The specified list of brands for food ingredients has been provided by them to ensure the quality of ingredients is not compromised. Checking of the cooking area is done on a fortnight basis by a team of Assistant Chief Wardens of all hostels. The oiliness of food has reduced but yet there are occasional complaints of too much oil in the food.

Angel Beck, a boarder in the hall adds,

The mess menu has improved well this time. Even though sometimes the non-vegetarian dishes tend to get oily at times, food is almost satisfactory. There are some meals where the food items are not really preferred, but it will be changed soon as this is just a temporary menu for the hall.

Mess Menu

The Mess Menu of the hall is usually decided through a general body meeting. Students can provide their suggestions in the mess with small notes in the suggestion box. Revision of the mess menu is not fixed for a certain time period. If the students collectively demand a change in the menu, there are provisions for alteration. The mess menu also balances food of different regions while providing a good variety in the food items. Additionally, the students do not face any hesitation from the servers if they ask for a refill of the smaller amount.

Approachability of Post Holders

With a change in the Hall Warden this year, there has been quite a few reforms in the hostel. Mess conditions have definitely improved as compared to last year when there were numerous complaints regarding the ignorance of the caterers. The newly elected student body has also been taking more steps to ensure developments steadily. The Hall Warden, Prof. Kakoli K. Paul, concludes,

Everything we do is to ensure the satisfaction of the boarders. If the students have any complaints at all, they are free to bring it to notice of anyone of us. Till last year the quantity of food provided was limited. This year, that has changed to a good extent. There will be regular checks by us and we will be always ready to listen to what boarders have to say.

MESS SCENARIO: A COMPARISON 

Team Monday Morning tried to collect information about various contemporary institutions regarding the mess scenario over there.

In IIT Madras, the menu changes every week to prevent the monotony of the mess food. They have included egg omelette/boiled eggs on the menu in the breakfast every day which is quite appreciable. Instead of paying the money for mess beforehand, they have adopted both the system of “pay and eat” where you need to pay whenever you eat in the mess along with “Coupon system” where the student needs to pay beforehand for the base meal and purchases coupons for special dishes on a particular day, if he wishes to. Moreover, there are no restrictions on the quantity that is being served in the mess. They have adopted the buffet system where the food plates instead of being stacked, the student take the food from the containers themselves.

In IIT Kanpur, the coupon system is prevalent where the basic menu constitutes of rice, dal, chapatti and one sabji. The cost of basic meal ranges from Rs. 45-60 from one mess to other. The hygiene and quality are quite satisfactory. Mess menu is changed per week applying different permutation and combinations and huge amendments are done once or twice per semester. Eggs are a compulsory element in every day’s meal.

In IIT Guwahati, private messes are quite popular where healthy and hygienic food is provided. Everyone has a say in deciding the menu of the mess since there are representatives from each academic year to look after this. Special dishes like Paneer and non-veg items are available with coupons so that they pay a cheaper base meal fee.

In IIT Bhubaneswar, the quality and hygiene remain above average. There exists a mandatory feedback system per week where the students express their grievances and put forth their suggestions.

ISM Dhanbad’s mess charge is around Rs.93/94 per month and they organize two special dinners per semester which is equivalent to our Garden fest but they are entitled to unlimited food. NIT Trichy and NIT Warangal also have adopted the Coupon system. NIT Warangal has 2 private mess with Rs.90 per day and 3 government mess with Rs.60 per day out of which one is served completely vegetarian meals.

Revolutionising the Mess System: Students’ Opinion

The institution has come up with certain plans and proposals for improvement of the mess structure and improve the quality of food catering.

1. NATIONAL TENDERING:

The institution plans to invite agencies and parties from all over the country to run the mess over here. Many of the boarders think of it as a welcoming step because it would ensure a smooth maintenance of the mess. The alleged monopoly of the caterers would stop and the interests of the students will be given more emphasis. About 77.2% of the boarders are in favour of this agenda. Since the caterers will be selected at the national level, we can expect agencies with financial backings and qualitative services.

On the contrary, many boarders opined that the local agencies should get the priority and they can deal with the seasonal variations efficiently. Since half of the population is Odia, the caterers from Odisha will do a better justice in fulfilling the needs of the masses. Moreover, there is a probability that the caterers from outside of the state may discontinue due to the lack of accessibility and certain geographic constraints.

As the Prof.SK Pratihar, Chief Warden says:

We would like to hear from the students about this issue. We have been planning about the same to implement it in the month of January and expect this would bring positive changes.

2. PROPOSAL FOR CENTRALISED MENU:

This proposal didn’t receive a huge positive response rather a significant share of the boarders(32%) feel this initiative is not required. The centralized menu shall ensure better transparency in deciding the menu and the frequency of menu changes can be monitored easily. According to the boarders, this would be a fair initiative since irrespective of the mess, we pay almost the same amount of money for the mess but there is a huge disparity among the halls. This would encourage the inclusion of varieties of cuisine as well.

3. THE COUPON SYSTEM:

Many of the NITs and IITs have implemented this system where the students need to pay for the basic meal during the start of the semester and need to buy coupons on that particular day for special dishes. The basic meal includes Roti, Rice, Dal, and Sabji and the special dishes include paneer/mushroom/Manchurian or Chicken/Mutton/Egg/Fish curry.

About 51.3% of the students voted in favour of the initiative and 42.5% feels the prevalent system is fine. By implementing this initiative, this would benefit the students who had to pay for the entire meals beforehand but usually skip meals in the mess due to varieties of reasons.

Quoting Chief Warden:

We have collected data from various institutes about the implementation of the system. The pros and cons of it shall be discussed upon and we feel it should be the decision of the students if they wish to change the present mess system. We hope this poll will enable us to know about the opinions of the boarders.

4. THE EAT AND PAY SYSTEM:

This system suggests that no fees will be collected during admission rather students have to pay whenever they eat. According to the survey results, 45.5% supported this with the idea that coupons should be issued from the beginning of the day for all the meals and keeping into account of the coupons required the amount of food shall be cooked. But 31.1% were in support of the idea that students need to compulsorily pay for breakfast and snacks and the lunch and dinner will be served on the basis of coupons.

5. PURE VEGETARIAN MESS:

It was proposed that a pure vegetarian mess will be operated in the SS Bhatnagar Hall of Residence which will be open to all the boarders. But this will not stop the vegetarian food being served in the different mess. This will be an additional mess to run without hampering the functioning of the other halls. Many boarders had the issue that the mess workers and caterers do not adhere to keep the containers for vegetarian and non-vegetarian food separate that may hurt personal sentiments. 49.6% of the students supported this initiative while 46% feel this should not be implemented. It might disturb the decorum of the SSB Hall and some better site for this vegetarian mess will be appreciated.

After citing the issues prevailing in the different mess Team MM expects necessary steps will be taken by the concerned authorities and ensure the smooth operation of the mess without compromising on the hygiene and food quality.

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