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Raids leave bad taste in mouth

November 13, 2004: 17 students in a school in Bhadrak district fall ill. Kerosene traced in their midday meal

india Updated: Feb 28, 2006 03:36 IST

November 13, 2004: 17 students in a school in Bhadrak district fall ill. Kerosene traced in their midday meal

January 9, 2005: 27 children in Cuttack hospitalised

January 27, 2005: 40 students of a school in Balasore district fall sick. Their school meal had traces of urea

February 16, 2006: 40 students of a primary school in Baranga near Bhubaneswar hospitalised after their midday meal

That's when the Orissa vigilance department decided to raid schools and check the quality of food served to the students under the mid-day meal scheme. Just as well, because children were beginning to dread their lunch in school.

Children and their parents thought things would get better, but they hadn’t bargained for what lay in store: a full-blown battle between the raiding team and the teachers, with the latter alleging harassment and abuse. The teachers have decided to boycott the scheme from March 1. If that happens, the children will have to forego their meal in school — bad it might be, but the food at least brought them to school.

Aurobindo Maharana, president of the Rajdhani Prathamik Sikshak Manch, alleged that on February 18, vigilance sleuths raided a school and detained the headmistress till late in the evening. A delegation of the teachers met school and mass education minister Negendra Pradhan and women and child development minister Pramilla Mallick, urging them to stop the “harassment.

However, state vigilance director Gopal C. Nanda said, "Our officials are not raiding schools. After receiving some complaints, we are conducting routine checks on the quality of rice and dal served in schools. We want to make sure suppliers are careful not to sell sub-standard food. We will also give the government feedback on the loopholes in the scheme."

School and mass education minister Nagendra Pradhan told HT, "I'm enquiring into the allegations made by the teachers. Teachers should not be ill-treated."

First Published: Feb 28, 2006 03:36 IST