The Civil Engineering Department of the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay has banned meat, including eggs, from its cafeteria.

On January 20, less than a week after the management of Hostel 11 on campus asked its residents to use separate plates for non-vegetarian food, the Civil Engineering Department amended the norms to run the Civil Café.

It informed the contractor that runs the cafeteria that “non-veg items are strictly banned and should not be served”. The reason, explained in the same notice, was that “some people raised objections to serving non-veg food, including egg items”.

The Civil Café, on the terrace of the department’s building, is open to students and faculty of all departments.

The notice issued by the Civil Engineering Department of IIT-Bombay.
The notice issued by the Civil Engineering Department of IIT-Bombay.

The department has also disallowed orders for lunch and dinner functions of other departments as well as work and other cafeteria activities on Sundays and holidays. It also revised the working hours of the cafeteria to 8 am to 7 pm.

The decision to amend the norms was made at the Department Civil Café Committee’s meetings with the head of department on December 22, 2017, and January 5.

However, on Sunday morning, IIT-Bombay refuted reports on the ban on non-vegetarian items.

For safety

A spokesperson for IIT-Bombay told the Mumbai Mirror and The Times of India that the changes were prompted by concerns about safety, especially after the fire at two resto-pubs in Mumbai’s Kamala Mills compound on December 28, 2017.

“Heating and cooking is not allowed in cafeterias,” the spokesperson told Mumbai Mirror. “This rule is being enforced in light of the Kamala Mills fire.”

“This is the only terrace cafeteria we have, and it is not fit for cooking,” she told The Times of India.

The notice to the cafeteria contractor does mention the fire. “Due to recent incidents in Mumbai on terrace cafes, the agency should keep strict safety measures,” the notice reads.

There were concerns about the non-vegetarian items spoiling, as well. “Some students even complained of food poisoning,” she explained. “The non-vegetarian food is brought in the morning and kept till evening. Since it gets spoilt faster and is a major cause for food poisoning, the department has banned it.”

Ashish Juneja, a faculty member who signed the notice, told Mumbai Mirror that only food from the institute’s central kitchen can be sold at the canteen. Only “preparation of tea/coffee and only limited heating is permitted in the café” beyond that.

“Unfortunately, some of the non-veg items, including eggs, required some cooking, plus final sautéing and some preparation before they can be served,” Juneja said. “For this, we do not have the permission from the relevant food authorities.”

Students, however, are not convinced. One pointed out to Scroll.in that all hostels have a night canteen that serve vegetarian and meat items together, from 8 pm to 3 am. “If students had complained, they would have complained about the night canteens, as well,” said a first-year PhD student.

The students suspect that faculty members may have objected to the non-vegetarian items. Another student wondered whether the café will restrict entry for other departments altogether or only large gatherings.