From bad publicity to ingratitude, QCs caterers share challenges

Samples of food prepared for returnees to be served in quarantine centres. (Morung Photo)
Samples of food prepared for returnees to be served in quarantine centres. (Morung Photo)

Morung Express News
Dimapur | June 20

‘They came, they ate and they left without any words of gratitude.’ This is the sentiment shared by some food caterers who have been feeding the returnees in different quarantine centres since the past two months on a daily basis.

“Even after getting bad publicity in the social media from returnees, we continue to serve them since any counter or rejoinder at the present juncture would only compound problems,” said a caterer.

A caterer of another quarantine centre (QC) in Dimapur admitted that it was next to impossible to satisfy the palate of each quarantined person as they were running a common kitchen. “They (returnees) complain about food but demand extra food packages and later they complain in social media. It’s like biting the hands that feed you. Even at the time of leaving the QC, there’s little sign of gratitude,” he said.

“But of course, this does not apply to all the returnees. There are also returnees who gladly accept and eat whatever food is served them,” he added.

A cook working under a caterer said he is putting in almost 15 hours work daily to cook for the returnees at the QCs.
“Every day, we get up in the wee hours to prepare breakfast (served between 6.30-7:00 am) and after we have finished packing the breakfast, which is very time consuming, it is time to prepare lunch and then likewise dinner. We are also kitchen-quarantined,” the cook said. 

A food delivery boy who makes daily round to one of the QCs with his breakfast and meal trolley said he has become immune to the comments of some regular complainers. “Even if food is ordered from a star hotel, some will always find excuses to complain,” he said on a lighter note. 

A member of the catering of New DC Complex Chümoukedima QC housing four quarantine buildings said initially they set up a kitchen in the complex itself to facilitate prompt delivery of meals and services. “The kitchen in the complex served its purpose when on a sudden notice, we were able to serve complimentary breakfasts to 187 females, who were part of around 1000 returnees who arrived at Dimapur Railway Station by Shramik train in the wee hours of June 9,” he said.

But later they shifted the kitchen to another locality as it proved to be counter-productive. 

“Since the kitchen was just a stone’s throw away from the quarantine buildings, demand for extra food packages and complaints increased. Now we have shifted our kitchen and like other caterers we too transport and deliver the requisite food packages at fixed meal timings,” the caterer said.  

Except for a couple of QCs managed by tribal hohos along with the churches, meals for returnees in other QCs in Dimapur are supplied by private caterers on contract. Sources said the government has fixed Rs 350 per person for daily meals inclusive of breakfast, lunch and dinner to be paid to the caterers. The government has also issued weekly menu guidelines to the caterers.

One of the caterers confided that the Rs 350 fixed for three meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) was another concern. “Prices of essential commodities have not decreased. Cooks and food delivery boys have to be paid, there’s extra cost and labour due to packaging all the meals and money invested in cooking utensils and gas. Besides, due to cess on fuel, cost of transportation of meals has also gone up,” he said.