Midday meal maxim
MID-DAY MEAL is fast becoming the last morsel for undernourished primary schoolchildren in Uttar Pradesh. Many have died and many more are falling sick with disturbing regularity, but authorities have already launched ?mission cover up? and passing the buck on one another. Only relief: Basic Education Minister Kiran Pal Singh has ordered an inquiry.india Updated: Jan 05, 2006 01:36 IST
Who wants to die after all
MID-DAY MEAL is fast becoming the last morsel for undernourished primary schoolchildren in Uttar Pradesh. Many have died and many more are falling sick with disturbing regularity, but authorities have already launched ‘mission cover up’ and passing the buck on one another. Only relief: Basic Education Minister Kiran Pal Singh has ordered an inquiry.
Lokayukta Justice SC Verma had blown the whistle over the substandard food being served to the children under unhygienic condition in the schools. This when Rs 45 crore is spent annually on the scheme in UP.
After receiving complaints, Justice Verma had dispatched a fact-finding team to various districts. The members of the teams made some startling revelation about the way mid-day meal scheme is being run in the schools.
In Pilibhit the children told the members of the team that they were not consuming the meal served by the schools. Who wanted to die, they said, .
In their report the members of the team mentioned that in several schools they found that rotten grains were being cooked and served to the children. Instead of providing nutrition and strength to the children, the food was proving to be a nightmare for them, Justice Verma told HT on Wednesday.
The state government is not unawares of the poisonous food and deaths. Way back in July 2004, then secretary Hariraj Kishore had alerted the divisional commissioner and district magistrates about children falling ill after consuming cooked food in the schools.
Kishore had said that proper care should be taken in the storage, cooking and serving of the food in the schools. A committee should be constituted for the implementation of mid-day meal scheme in the schools.
The committee would keep watch on the quality of the grain. They would also ensure that food was cooked and served in hygienic condition. Before serving the food to the children the teachers or the cook should taste it, Kishore had said.
But the officials and school administrations have obviously gone deaf on Kishore’s advice. Be it Ballia in the East or Meerut in the West, reports of children falling sick after consuming cooked meal in the school are pouring in quite regularly. Report of children falling ill have been reported in Unnao, Sultanpur, Meerut, Lakhimpur Kheri, Mathura, Shahjahanpur, Siddharthnagar etc.
To save their skin, the Education Department officials blame Panchayati Raj Department and Food and Civil Supplies Department for the mess.
“Our role is limited to prepare the list of the schools, students and release the money to the gram panchayats to run the schemes”, an Education Department official said. “Food and Civil Supplies Department delivers grain allotted for the scheme to the fair price shops. The gram pradhans in turn pick up the quota and food is cooked by the cooks appointed by the village education committees” he said.
“If the children are dying and falling sick then the Panchayati Raj and Food and Civil Supplies Departments should take action against the culprit,” the officials said. But the Panchayati Raj Department officials passed the buck on the Education Department. “The committee formed by the Education Department was executing mid-day meal in the schools in the rural areas. Onus is on them if there is any irregularity,” the officials said. Food and Civil Supply Department officials too blamed the Education and Panchayati Raj department for it. Talking to Hindustan Times, Basic Education Department Minister Kiran Pal Singh said he had ordered an inquiry into the illness and deaths of children.
“Mid Day Meal scheme is run in 95000 primary schools and centres. Around 1.50 crore children get cooked meal in the schools for 200 days. The school administrations have been alerted and directed to follow all the precaution while cooking meal,” Singh said.
That a number of students were taken ill after mid-day meal only on Tuesday in Sultanpur is another story.