At a time when mid-day meals are under scrutiny after 22 children died in a Bihar school owing to contaminated food, the BMC has no mechanism in place to monitor the quality of food supplied to school kids in Mumbai.
There are around 244 social organisations and one self-help group (ISKCON) providing meals to more than 3.8 lakh civic school students in Mumbai.
“There are no mandatory rules that we have to follow and no authorities question us on whether the food is prepared in hygienic conditions,” said a contractor, who provides meals. “The civic body has just once asked for a photo of the kitchen where the food is prepared.”
According to a survey conducted by CRY in 2012, 70% of BMC schools provided poor quality mid-day meals to students.
“Food grains and other ingredients supplied by the government are adulterated or of poor quality. BMC officials visit our kitchen only once or twice in a year for an inspection,” said Radha Krishna Das, director, ISKCON Food Relief Foundation (FRF), which provides meals to most civic schools in the city.
“Considering the increasing cost of electricity, gas supply and other requirements, the pitiable amount paid by the BMC leads to compromise in food quality by organisations.”
At present, contractors are paid Rs. 2-3 a meal a day. What’s worse, the BMC has even failed to pay the contractors on time.
“There is always a backlog of amount to be paid for the meals we serve. Two years ago, the BMC owed us around Rs. 2 crore for cooking charges. Some of that amount is yet to be paid,” said Das.
Corporators have demanded setting up a centralised kitchen so that the monitoring also becomes easy.
“We have written to the government several times, demanding for a centralised kitchen or awarding all contract to an organisation such as ISKCON, who follow a full-proof system,” said Manoj Kotak, chairman, education committee, BMC.
The civic body, meanwhile, has come up with its own solution. “We have asked all school principals to taste the food before it is served to the children, so as to ensure that they are fed good quality food, said Mohan Adtani, additional municipal commissioner.