After over 190 cases of COVID-19 were reported from its campus in December, IIT Madras has now denied allegations that the infection spread at a common dining area, which was the only hall open for students and research scholars to eat in, over the last few months. The institute further stated that students' claims that the portions of food delivered to their rooms were insufficient, was unfounded.
TNM had reported on Wednesday that postgraduate students who were found positive for the coronavirus, alleged that their requests to open other dining halls were denied by the institute. The students had further alleged that the portions of food being delivered to their rooms after positive cases were found on campus, was insufficient and lacked in terms of quality.
Responding to these allegations, IIT has said,"This is incorrect. We have assigned 100 students per 30 mins slot in a hall with 400 seating capacity. We are operating multiple dining halls. We had one caterer cooking the food when the total number of students was less than 600, and recently we have started a second caterer. The number of caterers is related to the total number of students and having more than one gives us resilience when catering workers become positive. The number of dining halls is independent of the number of caterers and is related to the physical distancing norms and total number of students."
The institute has also maintained that the quantity of food being served was adequate. "The food provided in the pack supplied to the rooms may be insufficient for some students as repeat servings are not possible, but the quantity served is in a standard dinner plate and the weight is consistent with a standard meal. The caterers are the same ones who served before the pandemic. They too face some constraints regarding the items they can serve safely, and constraints regarding the availability of vegetables due to the recent rains in Tamil Nadu. Menus have been rationalised since we do not have 10 caterers now with multiple cuisines serving 8,000 students," the institute clarified.
The administration has further pointed out that no staff members have tested positive. Mess workers however have and were amongst the first to be diagnosed with the coronavirus. While students have alleged that COVID-19 protocol was not followed in common areas and facilities, the institute insists that it had regulations in place.
"We brought back research scholars who needed to do experimental work after the state government permitted it. The Standard Operating Procedure (SoP) for their return, including their 14-day quarantine and RT-PCR testing was worked out and implemented in consultation with health authorities," they clarified. "Once released into the hostels, the students have undertaken not to leave the campus and go only to their labs and hostel rooms. The hostels also are sparsely populated, with 750 students spread across 9 hostels with a capacity of nearly 4000. There are SoPs for the labs too, to ensure physical distancing, which determine how many students can work in a lab at a given time," it added.