Indian residential colleges/universities provide food to the hostel students in the mess system. Many such universities of national character, including institutes of law, technology, management and so on, have messes that run on rent-seeking, free-riding and collective/singular coercion forcing surrender of personal liberty. Let us demystify the institutional format of these messes: if you are admitted to an Indian residential college/university, often subscribing to the mess is mandatory. The mess is run either by the university or a university contracted food caterer. The university or the mess food caterer takes the same amount of money in fees from each student, whether you eat or not. What you get for food is not your choice: either the university officers decide or a committee consisting of some elected or selected students decides. If you elected them, they say in their selection of food, rests your choice, that is, in obeying them, you are obeying yourself. If they are selected by the university office, they say that the university is acting in your best interests, that is, the interest of the ultimate decision-making university officer in whose choice rests your best interests or choice, lest you want to invite penalty by your personal peaceful yet different choice. This penalty may include you being withheld from taking semester/ trimester examinations for default in payment of mandatory monthly mess fees.
The student who first saw the university as protecting her liberty in her personal peaceful choices, realizes that, with no objective student-university contract in the first place, s/he has been robbed of her understanding of “Equality of authority” with the head of the university, and in our present context, is being coerced by the university head to surrender her personal peaceful choices in matters of dining, which she never agreed to surrender in the first place. We must note here that by “Personal peaceful choices” we mean your choices that are not intended to encroach on the freedom of choice of another person. Hence, she is coerced into a system in which you must eat what ‘you have chosen’ or ‘eat in your best interests’ or starve without protest or buy food from shops but compulsorily pay, that is, in the fear of the force bearing collective/singular authority which also rears the rent-seeking crony capitalist food caterer running business hand in glove with the university officers from the bottom to the top-most decision-making posts, the student committee post bearers, the student goons : all of whom the caterers bribe to ensure they see ‘profit’ in running this corrupt enterprise, an artificially distorted market. Who suffers as a result? She, the innocent mess-fees paying individual, herself. What does that innocent individual get? She gets restrictions on the quality, quantity and variety of food she can consume, even if she had the willingness to pay more or pay less. That includes a situation wherein even if she did not want to eat a food item, she did not have the choice not to pay for it.
The solution? The solution is to Demessify universities.
Firstly, enlighten your minds. There is an institution that the Indian psyche runs on: the institution of caste, a system of collective coercion. This system has input a false idea of inequality in the Indian mind. The Indian mind fails to understand equality in terms of “Equality of authority”: Equality of the student with the university head in terms of her right to do her own peaceful living, equality in the terms of the commoner being no less a human being in doing her own peaceful living, than the king. In India, though in many cases, the law guarantees this equality of authority on the paper, but the Indian psyche that runs on the institution of caste performs contracts with the understanding of master-slave relationships. Hence, every Indian student before joining a university must eliminate caste from her mind by meditating on the correct understanding of equality as including “The equality of authority” of one with the other. One must know that one can be controlled within only what one voluntarily surrenders.
Secondly, with the aforementioned understanding of equality, students and universities must negotiate objective student-university contract that let universities focus on providing education in an environment where the mind is without fear of losing the right to personal peaceful choices and the mind is not controlled in matters which it has not surrendered voluntarily.
Thirdly and most importantly, in the context of our topic, let universities be mess-free. Let there be no system of such university messes. Let the student exercise their personal peaceful choices in matters of dining. Let her buy food from anywhere she likes.
Soumitra Subinaya is is Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) 100 Alum, internationally award-winning essayist and Lawyer in India. He can be reached by writing to email@example.com and at facebook.com/soumitra.subinaya