Mumbai- Despite explicit emails notifying students about the reservation of tables for vegetarian and non-vegetarian food and the subsequent imposition of fines through official minutes of a meeting, the IIT Bombay management has allegedly provided misleading information in response to an RTI query. The university administration, in its RTI response, denies any segregation and fines, creating a contradiction with documented evidence of recent incidents.
In October, a Right to Information request was submitted to the university's administration. However, the recent reply has instilled a sense of distrust among the students towards the governing body. In response to the RTI, the administration has denied the existence of any segregation or implementation of any fine.
The Mooknayak spoke to a student from IIT Bombay who wishes to remain anonymous after the administration barred them from speaking to media. According to him, they are spewing “blatant lies” and are “trying to dissociate from any possible controversy.” An RTI was filled by a third party on 2nd October 2023. After the 30-day period passes, an appeal was filed on 3rd November, after which the administrative body responded. In the normal course of action, information to an applicant is to be supplied within 30 days from the receipt of the application by the public authority, which was violated. Hence, the appeal had to be put up.
Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle took to X (formerly Twitter) to highlight the dishonest response by the administration of IIT Bombay. The post said, “Lies continue to pour from the @iitbombay administration. In the RTI response to the question of food segregation, IIT admin is openly lying that there is no segregation in hostel messes, and no fines were imposed. This after they imposed a hefty fine of Rs 10,000 on a student.”
The FIR that was filed in October asked the administration the following queries:
How many hostels in IIT Bombay have Jain food spaces where non-vegetarian students are not allowed to take egg or meat products? Provide a list of hostels that have such separate dining spaces.
How many hostels in IIT Bombay have separate dining arrangements for vegetarians where non-vegetarian students are not allowed to take egg or meat products? Provide a list of hostels that have such separate dining spaces.
What are the penalties and punishments imposed on the non-vegetarian students who bring non-vegetarian food into the vegetarian and Jain food sections on the messes?
Provide the minutes of the meetings which decided that there should be a separate eating space for vegetarian/Jain students where non-vegetarian students are not allowed to bring non-vegetarian food.
How much money has been collected as fines for violating the above-mentioned rule in each of the hostels?
The RTI response with the application number IITMU/R/E/23/00274 claimed that no such adjustments have been made. The responses were as follows:
Reply 1: There is no separate space for Jain food.
Reply 2: There is no separate space for vegetarians in all IIT Bombay Hostels.
Reply 3: No penalties and punishments were imposed in IIT Bombay Hostels.
Reply 4: No such minutes of the meeting are available.
Reply 5: No such money has been collected as a fine.
The student added, “We will continue to raise our voices against the injustice. The thing is, even though the fine has been imposed, it has not been taken from the student yet. If some step is taken in that regard, we for sure will be protesting it.” Talking about the students who have been levied the sum, he added, “We the other students are thinking of helping the group in every manner possible. We might even start a contribution drive to help them out.”
In July, posters demanding "veg only" had surfaced on the campus. In September an official email from the Mess Council announced reserved seats for the vegetarian sections in the mess, which serves hostels 12, 13, and 14. The email addressed to students designated six tables where only vegetarian food will be served to anyone. The email read, "Our primary goal is to ensure that every resident enjoys a comfortable and pleasant dining experience."
The letter cited that there are some people who can't resist the view and smell of non-vegetarian food during their dining and also warned, "Compliance is crucial. Any violations identified by the mess team will attract appropriate action and penalties. Such violations will also be considered in disciplinary action, as they disrupt the harmony we aim to maintain in our dining facilities."
On September 28, a small group of students, around three to five in number, organized a peaceful protest in the mess against the unfair practices that were happening. The students brought non-vegetarian food to the tables marked as "vegetarian-only."
After this incident, the mess council quickly formed a group to respond to the situation. They took action against one student and imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 on him. Surprisingly, the student who received the fine wasn't informed about any action being taken against him until he received the email. The council held a meeting, but none of the students who were present in the mess during the protest were asked for their side of the story. Moreover, the minutes of this meeting, which should contain details of what was discussed, were not made available.