IIT Delhi students protest against hike in mess charges

- April 12, 2023
| By : Muhammad Tahir |

Protesters, who say the almost two-fold hike in charges will hurt them, are also demanding that the administration pay entire staff salaries and not impose on them

Students stage a sit-in at IIT

On Monday, April 10, hundreds of students from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi (IIT-D) staged a protest against hike in their hostel mess charges which have been increased from Rs 20,000 to Rs 38,500 per semester and even to Rs 50,000 in certain cases.

“Our mess charges were already high compared to other IITs and now they have been doubled,” a student complained to Patriot on condition of anonymity.

Following a meeting after the protest, the institute’s administration said that a joint committee comprising student and administration representatives, would be formed to look into the matter and submit a report on it.

The joint committee will work on finding ways to reduce the mess charges and also undertake a comparative study on similar messes in other metro cities. The deadline to pay mess charges has also been extended till April 30. However, the students are not fully satisfied and want the administration to reduce the charges immediately.

Mihir Kothari, a B.Tech (Mechanical) student told Patriot, “Few days ago, the authorities announced that our mess charges have been increased to Rs 38,500 for one semester (four-and-a-half months) from Rs 20,000. In fact, it has reached Rs 50,000 for some students. So, the monthly cost for students is around Rs 8,000-9,000. The quality of the mess food is not very good and we eat out of lack of choice. I even left today’s lunch due to low quality.

“If these charges are not rolled back, our per day cost of meals will work out to 300 rupees, which many students, including me, can’t afford because we are not earning,” he adds. Kothari says that eating outside works out to be a cheaper option.

“If we go out for food, our daily cost will come to only 150-200 rupees. Earlier, there was an option to eat outside. But that has also been removed from the previous semester. Now, whether we eat in the mess or not, we have to pay. Varna dhakke maarkar nikal denge (Otherwise, they will throw us out). They have warned us in an email. We have mailed the administration on this issue. But when they denied permission, we protested,” said Mihir, who lives in Udaygiri hostel.

A quiet campus

Students claimed that they are also contributing to the salaries of all the mess workers.

Mihir, who is also a member of the newly formed committee, said, “We also contribute to the mess staff’s salary. We pay both — pensions of those who have retired and the salaries of the working staff. We have to pay 100 rupees per day on this count. We are demanding that the institute pay the salary of the staff on its own like other IITs do. Earlier, this used to be the case here too. IIT would pay 90% of the salary of workers. But that got changed last year and now we (students) are paying their full salaries. Our expenses are increasing and may touch Rs 60,000-70,000 in the upcoming years.”

Mihir, who hails from Ahmedabad, said, “They have formed a committee and deadline of our payment, which was due yesterday, has been extended as well but the outcome students wanted from the administration, didn’t come. As and when the government hikes salary or Dearness Allowance (DA) of employees, the administration hikes our fees.”

A PhD student of civil engineering, who did not wish to be identified, told Patriot, “We came here only for research, leaving behind many (job) opportunities. And if anyone faces financial crisis, the other life (study) will automatically get affected. The committee has been set up but if they do not revoke the fee, we have no option but to protest again.

“Our mess charges, which were already high compared to other IITs and NITs (National Institute of Technology), were doubled from Rs 20,000 per semester (for four-and-half months) in the year 2021 to Rs 38,500 this year. This is unbearable,” he said.

Another student, who also didn’t want to reveal his identity, said, “It’s hard to understand why the administration is increasing the charges again and again. I think this is a push by the government towards privatisation. With this, a large number of students who belong to average families will suffer. While the mess charges of IIT Mumbai are Rs 21,000, those of IIT Madras are Rs 17,000. So, when other IITs can provide meals at a lesser price, why not IIT Delhi?”

A student of M.Sc. (Economics) said, “We were campaigning against this hike for the last few days on social media. Because a big campaign is not possible in IITs, we protested in front of the administration office. Students and the dean argued a lot in the seminar hall later. The behaviour of the current dean is not good. And after around one-and-half hours of deliberation, they decided to form the committee. But we came to no conclusion that day because we wanted a full rollback.”