High inflation, followed by a price shock, has driven up food prices in residences at various public universities across the country, putting thousands of residence students in dire straits.
Some of them are even forced to skip meals because they can no longer afford decent meals three times a day.
Although prices have risen, the quantity and quality of food has not improved, students said.
The food would be served in unsanitary conditions in the dining rooms of the majority of residences.
The lack of supervision by venue authorities and the tendency of canteen owners to make high profits are partly responsible for this situation.
Currently, academic activities are taking place in 46 public universities out of 52, and according to the latest report available in 2020, these 46 public universities have a total of 3,14,930 students.
The University Grants Commission’s 47th Annual Report showed that of the total number of students, 1,05,787, or about 29%, reside in 232 halls and dormitories – 148 male and 84 female.
The New Age Correspondent at Dhaka University reported that a month ago, a small piece of Rui fish was available between Tk 30 and Tk 35 in residence halls, which has now risen to Tk 40 and Tk 45.
A piece of broiler chicken was available for 40 Tk, which now costs between 50 and 55 Tk. The price of beef is around Tk60, the students said.
Rakibul Hasan, a residential student at Bijoy Ekattor Hall, said that at the beginning of this year, his monthly food expenses were Tk 4,000. But now it has risen to almost 6,000 Tk.
Rakibul accused the authorities of turning a blind eye to the situation.
Lamiya Islam, a resident student of Bangmata Begum Fazilatunnessa Mujib Hall, said the quality of the food remained very poor.
“Sometimes the bugs are in the rice and the vegetables look rotten. The dal served in the canteen is as thin as water for washing hands. We only eat to live,” she said.
A canteen owner said they were not intentionally raising food prices.
“What can we do if the prices of basic necessities go up,” he said.
He alleged that some student leaders always ask for free meals and never pay.
The head of the AU Marshal’s Standing Committee, Abdul Basir, said they were struggling to keep prices down at the hall canteens.
“You have to monitor the canteens with a little more sincerity. I hope this issue will be resolved,” he said.
The New Age Correspondent at Jahangirnagar University reported that the quality and quantity of food in canteens and dining halls has deteriorated in recent months.
Several residence students said the cost of three meals a day had risen to Tk 150 from Tk 100 just a few months ago.
Canteen workers at Mir Mosharraf Hossain Hall charge Tk 50 for a meal, which was Tk 30 in April.
Some students said they skipped the morning meal because they couldn’t afford decent meals three times a day.
Third-year Shaheed Rafiq Jabber Hall student Shafiq Saimum said, “I usually manage my monthly expenses from tuition, but it has become difficult for me to do so now.”
Saimum said his monthly food expenditure has increased from Tk 3,000 to Tk 4,000 over the past four months. He said he now has to spend an extra 20-30 Tk for each meal.
Gias Uddin Mallick, canteen manager at AFM Kamaluddin Hall, said they need to increase food prices and reduce the quantity a bit to adjust to the new commodity market situation.
Imam Hossain, owner of the Banglar Saad restaurant in the Bottola area of the campus, said: “I have omitted mutton, beef and biriyani-type dishes from my menu as students have shown less interest recently. for these dishes. Sales of vegetables, lentils and eggs increased.
Abdullahel Kafi, chairman of the university’s hall provost committee, told New Age that they will soon convene a meeting of hall administrations and student representatives and reissue the food price table, adjusting the food quality.
The New Age Correspondent in Rajshahi reported that students in residence at the University of Rajshahi said that the authorities had raised the prices of meals to Tk 28 from Tk 24 for lunch and to Tk 22 from Tk 18 Tk for dinner July 1st.
Ruhul Amin Sheikh, a residential student from Nawab Abdul Latif Hall, alleged that poor quality food had long been served in the dining hall in an unsanitary environment where insects and other unhealthy items were often found in their meals.
Shah Mukhdum Hall residential student Muntakimu Islam alleged that they were sometimes served rotten and stale meals at the hall’s restaurant.
Afsana Akter Lima, a student in residence at Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Hall, alleged that even after promises made by the provost council, the quality of food served at the hall’s restaurant had not improved.
Md Lokman Hossain, manager of Shaheed Suhrawardy Hall restaurant, said they had not received any subsidy from university authorities and it was almost impossible to provide quality food at such a nominal price amid soaring prices of all.
Shah Makhdum Hall Provost Ruhul Amin told New Age that rising commodity prices have hurt the quality of food served in the dining hall.
“We cannot provide food grants to so many students because we do not receive money from the government for this,” UR pro-vice chancellor Sultanu-Ul-Islam said, adding that ‘they were concentrating on managing the showroom restaurants. .
The New Age Correspondent in Chattogram reported that residential hall students at Chittagong University alleged that most poor students were forced to eat meals in the dining hall with no alternative available.
Nur Nabi Robin, student in residence at Suhrawardy Hall, said that the authorities serve a small piece of fish or chicken, vegetables and rice in the meal devoid of quality, and last year the price of the meal was increased to 25 Tk from Tk 20.
Shahinoor Akter, a student in residence at Khaleda Zia Hall, echoed Robin.
The New Age correspondent at the Islamic University of Kushtia said the residence halls served unsanitary and substandard expired food, where insects are often found.
A student of Jatirpita Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Hall said that the hall manager had recently started taking five Tk as a breakfast supplement without improving the food quality.
Venue manager Manik Hossain said they were taking the money because the authorities were not providing any subsidies for food.
IU Ward Provost Council Chairman Yesmin Ara Sathi told New Age that no Ward Manager could charge extra fees without getting approval and promised to take action.
Professor Dil Afroza Begum, acting president of the UGC, told New Age that the commission was not mandated to monitor the quality of food in the halls.
She added that the universities concerned and their student welfare organizations are designated for this purpose.
The International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research in Bangladesh calculates that the country faces more than $1 billion in lost productivity each year due to malnutrition.