The iconic dhabas (food outlets) at Jawaharlal Nehru University that also serve as popular hotspots for debates and discussions, may soon be a thing of the past. In the latest Executive Council meeting held on Tuesday, the authorities are planning to shut down existing dhabas and are exploring the feasibility of food courts inside the campus.
“In response to growing demands from students for clean and hygienic food the JNU EC met on November 20 and decided to explore the feasibility of establishing food courts at suitable locations… This will enable students to have a wide range of food choices,” Registrar Pramod Kumar said in a statement, reports The Indian Express.
The authorities also added that the decision was taken after they received complaints that the campus canteens were not able to provide clean and affordable food. The Executive Committee will now call for fresh tenders for running canteens which will debar those who haven’t paid their dues.
Unlike other college campuses in India, JNU, which has always been a hotbed of left politics, has always barred the entry of corporate players. The move to shut down canteens for a food court is expected to enable the entry of international food chains like McDonalds and Haldirams into the campus for the first time. In 2004, the students’ union had protested against the opening of a Nestle outlet on campus.
However, Jawaharlal Nehru Students Union has reacted strongly against the idea of opening food courts inside the campus. “The Vice-Chancellor has been doing everything to privatise and corporatise the campus. It’s not just about dhabas and food courts,” N Sai Balaji, JNUSU president told InUth.
He also said that the decision taken by Executive Committee was undemocratic as students weren’t consulted. He also said that the JNUSU will strongly oppose the move. “It’s been many months but VC is yet to offer fellowship to BA & MA students. But the EC is concerned about dhaba owners not paying their dues,” he said.
“It is not that the dhabas that are unhygienic, it’s the VC who is. It’s time for him to go,” Balaji added.
But not everyone is critical of the idea to set up food courts. “JNU is a world-class institution. Students want better eating outlets inside the campus which are cheaper and hygienic. It is nothing about privatisation or corporatisation,” JNU ABVP chief Vijay Kumar told InUth.
He also clarified about the outrage over closing down of dhabas. “There is a confusion around this decision. The Students’ Union should be blamed for those dhabas which were found to be flouting rules. However, not all dhabas are being closed. The JNU culture of debates and discussions over chai and snacks will remain,” he said.
However the ABVP too is not happy with international food chains being allowed on campus. “We will oppose the entry of foreign food outlets like McDonalds or KFC,” signed off Kumar.