MIDDAY DISASTER | india | Hindustan Times
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MIDDAY DISASTER

SCHOOLS IN Uttar Pradesh are inundated by schemes these days. There is no dearth of money either, as the government has released fund generously for the success of the programme. It has introduced the midday meal scheme, Kanya Vidya Dhan Yojana, scholarships, free dress, free textbooks to lure parents to send their wards to schools.

india Updated: Jan 08, 2006 00:45 IST

Another example of a perfectly good-intentioned scheme not giving the desired results due to lack of proper implementation. Problems plaguing it are many: corruption, lack of monitoring, inferior quality of grain used, couldn’t-care-less attitude of NGOs involved.

SCHOOLS IN Uttar Pradesh are inundated by schemes these days. There is no dearth of money either, as the government has released fund generously for the success of the programme. It has introduced the midday meal scheme, Kanya Vidya Dhan Yojana, scholarships, free dress, free textbooks to lure parents to send their wards to schools.

But poor execution, lack of monitoring, prevailing corruption and unrealistic approach of officials has given a serious jolt to the schemes. It has even failed to benefit children living on the fringes of society. At the same time, the schemes have done little to elevate the standard of education in government schools.

The midday meal scheme is running in 94,000 schools and 1.86 crore children are covered under this scheme. The idea was to attract children to schools and to protect them from malnutrition by providing them nutritious food. The government has sanctioned Rs 340 crore for the scheme in the financial year 2005-06.

But reports of children falling victim to food poisoning after consuming the meals, is pouring in from the districts. Even deaths have been reported in few districts.

No care was taken in the storage, cooking and serving of the food, parents rued. But both the Basic Education Minister Kiran Pal Singh and Secretary JS Deepak accepted that several children were taken ill after consuming meals cooked in schools. But they maintain that the deaths were due to other reasons than the midday meal served.

In Lucknow, the teachers of schools located in Bakshi ka Talab and Gosainganj area said though the meal is attracting the children to schools but not to the classrooms. Around 150 children turned up for the meal in a school, but attendance in the classroom was 60.

Kanya Vidya Dhan Yojana was launched to motivate girl students to higher education. Seriousness of the government towards the scheme could be gauged from the fact that Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav is himself distributing cheques to girls in various districts.

But this scheme too, has become a victim of corruption after tehsildars started issuing fake income certificates. A large number of ineligible students got Rs 20,000 and the eligible ones remained deprived. The poor ones were deprived, as they did not have resources to approach officials. Later, the government ordered an inquiry and tehsildars were warned. Still genuine students are not benefiting. UP Madhyamik Teachers Association president Om Prakash Sharma says the scheme has no educational utility, but the government might draw political advantage from it.

A large number of schools are running in a dilapidated building and at several places, children were injured when the roof of the classroom collapsed. In other districts, the schools are running in the open, since the buildings are yet to be constructed. Meanwhile, the State Government has already released Rs 500 crore for the construction of buildings.

The pictures in the districts are also far from rosy.

Allahabad division
The quality of the midday meal in nearly 5000 primary schools is not up to the mark. The Khichchdi, said one teacher, was not eatable. Rati Ram Singh, a teacher in a primary school in Kaundhiyara block in the trans-Yamuna area said the students themselves served the meals. Another headmaster, Raghvendra, at a primary school in Holagarh block said, “We cannot do anything about the midday meal. The quality of the food is poor.’’ Rupesh, a Class IV student of the same school said he did not depend on this meal because it was not good. He brings cooked food from home.

But Basic Education director (Allahabad Division) Ram Saran Singh said the scheme had proved quite beneficial in rural areas, to increase the number of students in schools. However, he admitted complaints about the use of inferior quality grain. He said action against some people had been taken in the past few months. He pointed out that the conversion cost per student under the midday meal scheme was Re 1 only, which was likely to be raised to Rs 2 to ensure nutritious and tasty food for primary school students.

Regarding scholarship, Singh claimed to have distributed 90 per cent to SC, ST, OBC, physically challenged students at primary schools so far. The remaining 10 per cent would be distributed by this month. While authorities claimed to have distributed textbooks and free uniforms to girl students, the verification of annual income was the biggest hurdle in distribution of Kanya Dhan in the district. About 1500 applications are lying pending at the DIOS office for the ambitious Kanya Vidya Dhan Yojana scheme in the district.

Kanpur
While the midday meal scheme has helped in increasing enrollments, it has badly affected teaching activities as the burden has fallen on the teachers. With the involvement of NGOs, the scheme has yielded good results.

Varanasi
Students’ welfare schemes such as the midday meal scheme, Kanya Vidya Dhan, free distribution of books and note books and scholarship schemes have been facing several problems in government schools. Recently, people resorted to an agitation over the distribution of sub-standard midday meal at Government Primary School in Rajghat area. The students had fallen ill after consuming the meal. There had been similar complaints in the past also.

Meanwhile, District Magistrate Nitin Ramesh Gokran had suspended five employees of different departments on account of irregularities in distribution of Kanya Vidya Dhan. There were also a large number of complaints in the distribution of scholarship schemes and textbooks. The additional director (Basic Education), Satish Singh accepted that sub-standard midday meal was being distributed in some government schools in the district.

Azamgarh
The midday meal scheme is being implemented in 1900 primary schools. During a surprise check, assistant basic shiksha adhikari at a school in Phulehra under the Bilariaganj Block found 54 children present as against enrollment of 156 students.

Agra
Reports indicated bottlenecks in the proper implementation of schemes for the welfare of the students. As against the prescribed norms, most times kichchidi was being served to students. Similarly, there were complaints about lackadaisical approach in textbooks and scholarship schemes.

Meerut
Teachers complained of getting sub-standard food in schools for midday meal schemes. Villagers seemed unhappy with the performance of the NGOs deputed by officials to distribute the meal. They demanded that instead of NGOs, villagers should be given the responsibility of distribution of the meal. Former Pradhan of village Chilora, Chandrapal, says that village folk are more bonded with the children of their vicinity, thus, they should be given this responsibility.

Teachers have common complaints of corruption in education department. “We have not received money to purchase mats for students for years and children are bound to sit on bare floors,” said a teacher of village Amhera. Another teacher said students do not get free books in time and cycles given to schools under Sarv Siksha Abhiyan are gathering rust in many places.

Money has been given to schools to provide free uniform to girl students at a rate of Rs 100 for per student. “One can`t expect a quality uniform in Rs 100,” said Ramdatt of village Dabathla, adding that in many places, complaints of connivance of teachers with cloth traders and officials have turned the situation grim.