Following multiple complaints over poor quality food served to migrant workers living in dormitories gazetted as isolation areas due to COVID-19, things have now taken a positive turn.
Some migrant workers have now come forward to state that there are some improvements on the variety and quality of food given to them at different dormitories, TODAY reported.
Minister of State for National Development and Manpower Zaqy Mohamad said in a Facebook post on 29 April that these workers are now voicing their satisfaction over the kind of meals that they are being served in recent days.
In a long post, Mr Zaqy thanked friends and members of the public for their concern over the food that is being catered to these workers at the dormitories. He acknowledged the messages he has received via text and Facebook as well as emails and other feedback over the past few days asking whether the quality of the food provided at the dorms are really that bad and if feedback from workers were taken into consideration.
The post also included several photographs showing the food that has been catered to the workers, including a screenshot of message that is presumably from a worker who expressed thanks for the food. One message said, “today nite food only good” with a photo of empty food containers and workers showing thumbs up.
This concern over the quality of the food being catered was raised earlier this month as workers shared photos of the food they received which were unappetising and plain, sometimes with vegetable that was too old and hard to eat. Workers were unable to get food from outside either since they were prohibited from leaving the dormitory as it was on lockdown due to COVID-19.
Following that, Indian national Mundla Anil Kumar, who lives at Tampines Dormitory for four years, acknowledged to TODAY that the food quality has indeed got better. The 31-year-old construction worker said that initially the food given was not palatable. “The vegetable was soggy and there was no gravy.”
However, the meals got better a week after his dormitory was gazetted as an isolation area. Mr Mundla explained that the workers now get Chinese fusion meals as well as other vegetarian and non-vegetarian Indian and Bangladeshi dishes. He added that even fruits and packet drinks are added to the meals.
Although he pointed out that the food was not as tasty as his own cooking, but he agreed that it’s a difficult task to cater food to a large group of people.
He also noted that the authorities and dormitory staff have been getting their feedback on the catered food via a common WhatsApp chat group.
No improvement in food
Despite positive feedback from some migrant workers, others noted that they have not seen any improvement in the quality of food given even after highlighting the issues.
One such comment came from Ramadas Prasath who lives at North Coast Lodge dormitory in Woodlands. The man said to TODAY that he was unsure what food he received on Wednesday.
The 30-year-old Indian national explained that the food label stated fish but the dish that he got inside his bento box did not seem to look like it. He added that the rice was undercooked and the portion on certain days were insufficient.
On day when he receive such bad food, Mr Prasath and his roommates would just eat apples and drink water instead to fill their stomach. The migrant worker also expressed that all that the workers are asking for is a simple South Indian food like rasam (a South Indian soup), sambar or kootu (lentil and vegetable stews).
On the other hand, Bangladeshi national Sohrab and his friends have been forcing themselves to consume the food given to them as their pre-dawn meals during the fasting month of Ramadan.
He said that he had to do this even after suffering from diarrhoea on 24 April, which he claimed caused due to catered dhal, curry and rice he ate the night before.
The 32-year-old technician was also upset that he was not given meal that Bangladeshis will typically eat. For example, he said that on last Wednesday morning, the workers were served fish curry, dhal and rice.
In terms of how the food was cooked, he said, the fish was boiled and mixed with tomato. Even though the food was not spoilt, but it was not how a Bangladeshi would cook it, Mr Sohrab said.
“(We) never touch the curry, just eat the rice or dhal,” he said.
Netizens urge migrant workers to be grateful
Upon reading on this issue, many netizens slammed these migrant workers for demanding too much and urged them to be “more thankful and grateful” to the Government for providing them food, while still giving them salary during this circuit breaker period.
Penning their thoughts in the Facebook page of TODAY which attracted thousands of comments, some online users pointed out that some Singaporeans are not even given this luxury as they have no food to eat, so the migrant workers should not be complaining too much.
Some even stated that the Singapore Government is giving them too much as some local lower income families may not be so lucky to put three meals on the table during this tough times. Although Singaporeans are grateful for all these workers’ services in the workforce, but added that migrant workers should also be thankful for what is given to them.
However, a few migrant workers voiced their appreciation towards the Singapore government for taking good care of them and providing them with good meals throughout the day. One user said that only a few of them complained and urged the public to not judge all of them as being ungrateful.
Separately, Mahabubar Rahman requested migrant workers to be patient and not complain. “Singapore government has done so many things for us we should appreciate SG government and respect those essential workers medical teams that are still doing best for us.”
A number of netizens also commented about the hardship that food caterers are going through as they “have to work 24 hours to satisfy all different races and food preferences”. They also urged migrant workers to “learn to adapt to the culture and accustomed yourself and taste bud to the country you are living in now”.
While some online users commented in a more polite manner urging migrant workers to not be so picky, others harshly criticised them for their complaints. They said that they will not be given the same treatment in other countries, including their home countries. One user said that if the migrant workers are not happy with the treatment in Singapore, then they should go back to their own country after the pandemic is over.