Around 35,000 aided schools in the state have not been serving mid-day meals since August 16 to protest against the poor quality of meals and the new rule that principals will be held responsible for the quality of food. The indefinite strike was started after the recent deaths because of mid-day meal poisoning in Bihar.
The Maharashtra State Secondary and Higher Secondary School Principals’ Association had written to Rajendra Darda, school education minister, and Fauziya Khan, minister of state for school education, stating that they would stop serving mid-day meals from August 16. On Monday, the association met in Pune to come up with a district-specific action plan.
Students and parents, too, have been informed about the strike.“For the last four days, we have stopped serving these meals. Students have been told to bring lunchboxes so that they do not remain hungry,” said Subhash Mane, head of the association.
One of the main complaints of the association is that principals will be held accountable for the quality of meals served. Currently, in areas where the meals are prepared in the school itself, the principal or teachers, are supposed to watch over the cooking process. However, principals said that they did not have the time to oversee the process and that the raw materials provided by the government were of low standards.
“The Bihar incident has scared principals. If something goes wrong, they will be arrested for no fault of theirs. In the last year, eight principals have committed suicide for the same reason,’’ said Mane.
Instead of daily meals, the association has suggested the payment of a food allowance directly to students or creation of central kitchens that will prepare the meals. They have also suggested that packaged food or non-perishable items be distributed to students.
“Since we do not get the aid that is necessary to ensure that the food is safe, it is better if the government executes the process rather than holding us responsible,” said Mane.