Standing up for sit-down meals

Filepic of devotees enjoying a sit-down meal at the USM thaneer panthal at Thaipusam in Penang.

THE Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) thaneer panthal committee is disappointed that its call for other thaneer panthals (refreshment stalls) to adopt the Go Green concept at the Thaipusam festival in Penang, has failed to garner support.

USM thaneer panthal adviser R. Muniandy said the committee first adopted the Go Green concept in 2005 by using stainless steel cups and plates to serve devotees to avoid wastage and rubbish.

“Since then, we have been making a call and encouraging other thaneer panthal operators to follow suit. But, it has been 15 years now and a majority of the panthals are still packing food in throwaway containers.

“We find that sit-down meals at panthals would prevent wastage, littering and rubbish accumulating in the bins.

“As the food is served buffet-style, devotees take only the amount they want to consume and the dishes they want to eat.

“We often see devotees collecting food in polystyrene containers and they end up throwing away the containers or wasting the food,” he said.

Muniandy also said USM was fortunate to have the services of about 40 staff members and students who volunteer at the USM thaneer panthal annually to wash the plates and cups.

Sit-down meals at panthals would prevent wastage, says Muniandy.Sit-down meals at panthals would prevent wastage, says Muniandy.

He suggested that the Penang Thaipusam committee identify a few dedicated areas for thaneer panthal operators who wish to serve sit-down meals for devotees.

“The panthals can continue to provide free drinks at their stalls. This will definitely ensure a cleaner, greener and healthier Thaipusam,’’ he said.

Panthal committee chairman G. Subramaniam said of the 200-odd panthal operators, only a handful were adopting the Go Green concept.

“We hope that after this, more panthal operators will take efforts to avoid wastage,” he said.

He also said USM forked out RM15,000 every Thaipusam to provide food for 3,000 people and prepare 20,000 syrup drinks.

Lumileds Sdn Bhd quality manager J. Wigneswaren, when contacted, said there could be several reasons why panthal operators were not adopting USM’s concept to avoid food wastage.

“For instance, at our panthal, we face the problem of not having enough space to serve sit-down meals for devotees.

“On the eve of Thaipusam, we serve tea and dinner while on Thaipusam day, we serve lunch and dinner for 1,000 devotees per meal.

“So, we face this problem of having enough space for the devotees to sit down and enjoy their meals.

“The other problem we face is manpower. We have only about 20 to 30 people helping out on each shift and if we were to adopt the sit-down meal serving concept, we would not have enough people to help us and this may result in a big problem, especially when the next group of people are seated and waiting for their food,” he added.

Wigneswaren pointed out that the Lumileds thaneer panthal did not encourage wastage and adopted the Go Green policy by serving food and drinks in biodegradable food packs and cups.

“We also make sure that we pack just the right amount of food so that devotees can finish their meals and there won’t be leftovers,” he added.

He said the company spends about RM13,000 on food and drinks every Thaipusam.

Another panthal operator, who did not wish to be named, said it would be costly to buy stainless steel plates and drinking tumblers.

“We have to take into consideration the cost factor because a set of stainless steel plate and drinking tumbler would probably cost between RM9 and RM10.

“And, we would need about 450 to 500 sets,” he said, adding that this was not taking into account other costs such as cost of decorating the panthal, cost of food and payment for the cook.This year, the Thaipusam festival falls on Feb 8, which coincides with Chap Goh Meh celebrations.

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