THE GOVERNMENT may claim to be providing ‘cooked, tasty and nutritious’ food as mid day meals to students in Government primary schools, but a question mark remains on its quality. This despite the fact that the task has been handed over to a non-governmental organisation.
While nobody is officially complaining about the quality for fear of retribution or reprimand, children are shying away from eating ‘unbaked rotis’, watery vegetables and half-cooked ‘salted daliya’ (porridge).
More often than not the food is served cold because of the time it takes to reach schools from the central kitchen of Naandi Foundation situated near Hawa Bangla.
The mid-day meal scheme was launched by the State Government on January 6, 2006 to provide nutritious food to students. In Indore, the task has been entrusted to the Naandi Foundation, which makes food for about 50,000 students of 338 schools in Indore municipal limits.
The Government provides wheat and Rs 1.70 per student to Naandi Foundation. Prior to Naandi Foundation, mid day meals were provided by schools, whose responsibility it was to purchase the material and cook it as well. At that time too, there were complaints of financial bungling along with allegations of substandard food being served to the children.
This reporter visited some Government schools to get a taste of the mid-day meals being served to students under the new dispensation. On July 1, the first day of the current academic session, the menu was dal-roti, ‘Upma’ (made of daliya) on July 3, kaddu curry-roti on July 4, potato-tomato vegetable-roti on July 5 and upma again today. Students of Government Primary School number 47 at Malwa Mill (there are seven schools on the same premises) were reluctant to partake the upma as it was half-cooked.
On the other days, children had to do with watery potato-tomato sabzi with rubber like rotis. While school management and teachers were unwilling to comment about the quality of the food, many were not happy with the quality of food being served at present.
Said a teacher Sadhna Mishra (name changed), “We are bound to write on the track sheet of Naandi Foundation that the food is of good quality. We don’t even taste the food. It is our duty to write such remarks … after all we are Government servants and do not want to lose our jobs’.
Government Primary School Number 47 principal Kamala Rajkumar said, “We have to serve what is sent by Naandi Foundation. Neither can we return it nor we do anything about it.”
However, Naandi Foundation mid-day meal programme, Indore in charge Rupesh Nair when contacted told Hindustan Times that each day a supervisor with a track sheet was being sent along with the food to each school where the school principal tastes the food and write remarks. “Until now we have not received any complaint regarding the quality of the food,” he said.
IMC education department in charge Dev Krishna Sankhla said, “The quality of food has never been checked by the IMC officials nor have the officials visited the schools during lunch time. It’s Naandi Foundation who decides the menu.”