Mess staff quits, government hostel boys starve for 4 days

As if smelly toilets, leakages, unpicked garbage and other horrors were not enough at hostel in Kasarwadi for poor students, now canteen contractor packs up and leaves over alleged non-payment of dues

As if stinking toilets, unpicked garbage, cramped quarters, lack of drinking water and non-existent security were not horrors enough for residents of the Government Boys Hostel in Kasarwadi, the cooks at the hostel have now run away. This has left the boys living in the hostel starving for four days now.

Empty utensils, empty stomachs: The Government Boys Hostel in

What is even worse is that the hostel, which is maintained by the social welfare department, has not been visited even once by top officials from the department concerned, leaving the boys at the mercy of charity from NGOs and philanthropists for basic needs like food and water.

The problem began on Saturday afternoon, when the canteen contractor appointed by the government to look
after the meals of the 100-odd boys living in the hostel suddenly abandoned the campus along with his cooks and other staff.

Soon afterwards, the lone administrator of the hostel also deserted the premises without informing the students. Some students at the hostel alleged the canteen contractor had left because he had not been paid for months. The students living in the hostel belong to rural areas and hail from poor families. They are being offered scholarships by the government to pursue further education based on their merit.

Amol Borade, who is from Ahmednagar and is doing his final-year of BE Electronics and Telecommunication at the DY Patil Institute, recalled his horror of the past four days to MiD DAY. "On Saturday afternoon, the cooks employed by the government-appointed canteen contractor disappeared. By evening, our hostel administrator Shankar Kudde also locked his cabin and went away.

We realised that there was no provision for the evening meal and that's why some of us got into the kitchen and cooked food from available rations. However, the next day, there was no ration or vegetables and since then we have not been able to cook any food," said Borade.

On Sunday, the boys pooled money and got a few vadapavs from a neighbouring stall to survive. By evening, a social welfare officer arrived and gave every student Rs 60 to eat food.

"However, since Monday no one has even bothered enquiring about us. The officers told us to come to the boy's hostel at the Pune station for food, but it costs Rs 40 just for transportation. We are from poor families and can't afford buying even meagre meals, how can we afford the travel everyday?" said Rajnish Potdar, a final year BTech student of metallurgy in the College of Engineering Pune who hails from Osmanabad.

MiD DAY visited the hostel and found that besides lack of food, the hostel needed urgent attention and living conditions were quite pitiable. Most of the toilets were dirty and had not been cleaned for weeks; a foul stench was emanating from them that made it quite difficult to even sit in the rooms adjoining the toilets. The plaster in the rooms was peeling and the bedding was frayed and torn in most rooms.

"The water filter has stopped working so we don't even have drinking water facilities. We have a tank on the ground floor and a tap adjoining it, so we carry buckets of washing and drinking water to the upper floors when we require. The electric room hasn't been looked at in years and the wiring is loose and there is a disaster waiting to happen," said Anil Muttewar, a Nashik resident who is doing his MCA final year from the Pimpri-Chinchwad College of Engineering.

The Other Side
Social Welfare Officer Suresh Kamble blamed the situation on the boys, claiming that they had forced the canteen contractor out of the premises. "These boys don't allow any canteen contractor to stay on the premises for long. Their demands are never-ending and they want all sorts of facilities. On Friday night, they literally threw the cooks out of the premises and started agitating. Now no contractor is ready to work there so students will have to manage on their own as they created this situation," he said.

Kamble added that the process for appointing a new contractor is cumbersome as they have to invite tenders and ask for quotations before appointing a fresh person. Asked about the state of the hostel, he said he would look into the complaints.

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