scorecardStudents of OP Jindal University up in arms as viral video shows canteen staff crushing potatoes with feet
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Students of OP Jindal University up in arms as viral video shows canteen staff crushing potatoes with feet

Students of OP Jindal University up in arms as viral video shows canteen staff crushing potatoes with feet
IndiaIndia5 min read
  • Blame game begins between University’s management and Sodexo, the food service provider on campus.
  • Students say this is not a stray incident and that several other incidents have fallen on deaf ears in the past. Kitchen only area which does not have CCTV cameras.
  • Students refuse to eat at the canteen despite Sodexo’s claims that it has cleaned up its act and the kitchen.

Students at India’s prestigious OP Jindal Global University are up in arms against the management after a video went viral on Tuesday that shows a member of the kitchen staff using his feet to crush cooked potatoes. To register their protest against the management students have stopped eating at the mess on campus because of poor hygiene conditions. Business Insider spoke to students and their parents to understand if this was a stray incident.

Most students and parents say this is not a stray incident and that for the last couple of years hygiene conditions have been abysmal. The Students Council often finds itself caught between the management and the angry students. In another incident, one of the hostels had bedbug infestation and “despite repeated protests nothing much was done,” says another student.

The day the video went viral on Tuesday evening, Professor and Registrar of the University Dabiru Sridhar Patnaik wrote a mail to the parents, stating: “Pursuant to the videos about unhygienic food practices that were circulated we have immediately taken cognizance of the matter relating to food preparation by the Sodexo team with extreme seriousness. We have ensured that the food material will not be used for consumption by members of the JGU community. As an immediate measure, we have issued a Show Cause notice to the CEO of Sodexo India seeking a written explanation and assurances on this matter.”

Patnaik further states that his team has visited the kitchen and the dining areas to ensure corrective measures were immediately taken. He said meetings were held with all stakeholders including students in addition to having elaborate discussions with the Sodexo top leadership that included the Country Director of Sodexo. Interestingly, Sodexo, a global leader in the food business, has been running the canteen and kitchen operations at the OP Jindal Global University without close circuit cameras in place to monitor hygiene standards.

In its response to the registrar’s mail, Sodexo’s Nitin Trikha, prefers to call the incident an “alleged” one even though the students themselves have taken the video and circulated it. Trikha in his response, which was also sent to the parents, says: “Following the complaints received at O P Jindal University in reference to a viral video on certain alleged unhygienic practices followed by cooking staff onsite, we would like to update you on the next steps undertaken that are already in action.”

Even though Sodexo has undertaken deep cleaning and has cordoned off the affected parts of the kitchen, students continue to refrain from eating at the mess. Interestingly, even though closed circuit cameras are mandatory in educational institutions, kitchen premises on OP Jindal University’s campus have not had any. Sodexo in its response has said: “We will revert with a strong and detailed plan by tomorrow evening which includes CCTV installations, use of technology for supervision and also strong disciplinary measures against the errant employee.” The senior Leadership team members are expected to reach the campus on Wednesday morning to review the entire operations.

In a subsequent mail to parents late on Tuesday night, the registrar of the University conveyed that the Vice Chancellor of the University too had held elaborate discussions with the students. In its second response to the Univ, Sodexo has acknowledged the incident. A response by Sodexo’s Nitin Trikha has said: “We deeply regret the unfortunate incident reported and the discomfort caused to the students and parents. The interactions and every input received from members of the student council are acknowledged, valued and will be worked upon in a progressive manner. As we speak, several measures have already been adopted around cleaning, hygiene and safety protocols followed onsite. A thorough audit of the entire food preparation process, deep cleaning and sanitization have been concluded. CCTV installation is underway and steam cleaning of the entire kitchen area will be undertaken tonight.”

JGU has been ranked as the Number 1 private university in India by the prestigious QS World University Rankings 2023, but students say that “there’s little that is world class here.” According to one third year student from one of the 12 schools of JGU, she has been suffering from food poisoning frequently and the medical officer too has advised the student not to blame the mess or the quality of food on campus.

OP Jindal 2
Students say that they have been complaining about water cleanliness for months now.

Students also claim that some were suspended for putting out their experiences on social media. For months now students have been complaining about the quality of drinking water, which is murky and laden with sediment (see image). Students have shared images and videos of the drinking water available at the campus with Business Insider and the same has not been independently verified. This problem of poor drinking water has allegedly been persistent for the last 18 months.

Other complaints by the students

Students say that life on the campus is hard for a variety of other reasons that do not pertain to food and hygiene alone. The management has also not been able to control the use of narcotics on the campus, which has led to higher levels of security and frisking. One senior year student says: “Because of the usage of drugs, now we are frisked randomly and we have been told our privacy does not count as it is an emergency. We are frisked randomly and our private parts are even searched, which is very humiliating.” Mails sent to the Registrar of the University remained unanswered till the time of publishing.

Commuting is allegedly an issue in the campus as well. The OP Jindal University campus is spread over 80 acres in Sonipat, Haryana. Students say that the problem is heightened as given the size and location of the campus they find it hard to step out and eat outside. Exiting the campus up to the third year requires parental approval.

Within the campus too many students complain that the only mode of getting from one place to another is by walking. Generally, cycles and institute buses are used in large campuses. Here, the university does not provide transportation or even buses within the campus. Says another student, “It is hard during the summer months to move between schools and buildings.”