Coming down heavily on the Chandigarh Industrial and Tourism Development Corporation (CITCO), Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its latest report on midday meal scheme has highlighted the poor and unhygienic quality of food served to students at UT’s government schools.
Under the midday meal scheme, students of primary and upper primary classes in all government schools of the country are served free lunch on working days in order to improve their nutritional status. There are over a lakh students at 100 government schools in the city.
The report also criticised CITCO for not taking corrective measures despite CAG raising flag on several occasions, thus compromising the safety and hygiene standards of midday meals. It said stringent penalty action should be taken against the corporation for its inaction in taking corrective measures.
The audit highlighted that children did not like the food due to its bad taste and lack of variety in menu. Also, utilisation of food grains per child per day was lesser than prescribed norms because of the actual intake by the children.
Principal director opined that consumption of food grains per child per day might be increased by adding variety to midday meal menu and redressing complaints of poor quality food, and recommended ministry of human resources development (MHRD) to review the norms of 100 gm and 150 gm per meal per child which appeared to be on higher side in terms of quantity.
The auditor also mentioned that complaints of worm-infested food grains were received from the cooking institutions, due to absence of proper storage facilities in stores at Sector 22, 30 and 35 being manned by UT education department.
Highlighting the complaints against the poor quality meal cooked by CITCO, the report said, “In a survey conducted by audit, 122 children out of 162 children in respect of two schools reported that meal cooked by CITCO was not properly cooked and even tasted sour many times. During a visit to its kitchen, it was observed that meal was being cooked in unhygienic conditions.”
The report also attached photos of the kitchen of CITCO depicting unhygienic conditions found during the surprise visits by the deputy district education officer on November 21, 2014.
When contacted, CITCO managing director Kavita Singh claimed that they had initiated steps to overcome the issues highlighted in the report.
“Keeping in view the inconvenience to the students, we have deputed our own chefs for cooking the food. Moreover we would renovate the kitchen premises in the basement of Shivalikview hotel in order to ensure hygiene and cleanliness. Earlier, the food was cooked for 10,000 students, but now food will be cooked for 20,000 students,” Singh said.