10K LPG cylinders, gas stoves in state govt-run primary schools missing or stolen in the past decade.(Representative image)
10K LPG cylinders, gas stoves in state govt-run primary schools missing or stolen in the past decade.(Representative image)

Mid day meal: DMs to probe LPG cylinders’ theft

As many as 10,000 LPG cylinders and gas stoves meant for cooking of mid-day meal for students in government-run primary schools have gone missing or stolen from various districts of Uttar Pradesh in the last decade.
By Rajeev Mullick | Hindustan Times, Lucknow, Lucknow
PUBLISHED ON MAY 21, 2019 11:23 AM IST

As many as 10,000 LPG cylinders and gas stoves meant for cooking of mid-day meal for students in government-run primary schools have gone missing or stolen from various districts of Uttar Pradesh in the last decade, officials said.

The exact figure of missing or stolen cylinders was yet to ascertained as compilation of data was still on, they added.

MID-DAY MEAL: LOOKING BACK

Feb 1, 2019: Two people were arrested for financial embezzlement to the tune of Rs 4.23 crore in mid-day meal in Barabanki.

Oct 28, 2016: The Akhilesh Yadav government distributed steel plates and glasses under the mid-day meal scheme. He made a surprise announcement that students would be allowed to take home their new plates and glasses.

July 2016: The state government announced that students in UP schools will get fruits in the morning as part of their mid-day meal

Sept 2, 2015: At least 90 students of three government schools in Juggaur village of Chinhat area took ill after consuming mid-day meal (MDM) served by an NGO Akshay Patra.

July 15, 2015: Distribution of milk along with mid-day meals triggered a controversy after a few students took ill in Lakhimpur. Teachers urged the state government to remove milk from the mid-day meal menu.

March 15, 2015: Lucknow’s largest centralised kitchen run by Akshaya Patra Foundation was inaugurated to cater to mid-day meal requirements of students.

Dec 4, 2014: The Centre asked all the states and union territories to get mid-day meals tested in accredited labs on a regular basis. It cited the example of Delhi and Punjab governments which have engaged accredited labs for testing food samples.

Nov 18, 2014: As many as 21 students of primary school fell ill after taking mid-day meal in Chhitauni area under Bhitauni tehsil of Ambedkar Nagar district.

Mid-day meal director Abdul Samad has written a letter (dated May 15, 2019) to all the district magistrates in the state to look into the matter and lodge FIRs against those involved in theft of LPG cylinders from schools.

In the letter, Samad said schools were asking for new connections without completing the mandatory formality of lodging FIR of stolen LPG cylinders, hence it was difficult to say whether they were being stolen or have gone missing.

As per standard procedures, in case of a theft the school authorities have to lodge an FIR before applying for replacement of cylinder/gas stove.

However, in most of the cases the school headmasters apply for cylinders without lodging FIRs claiming even theft cases as missing.

Due to this, the officials are unable to ascertain the number of cylinders or stoves being stolen.

In Shahjahnpur district alone, nearly 1,400 cylinders have been stolen or have gone missing from 703 schools.

Basic shiksha adhikari, Shahjahnpur, Rakesh Kumar said: “Between 2007 and 2018, there were reports of double cylinder gas connection being stolen from 703 schools. We are further compiling the data.”

Kumar said in at least 500 cases schools had lodged written complaints but the police had not lodged FIRs yet.

“In a number of cases, FIRs were lodged on the basis of our complaints. I admit there will be handful of schools which have not given a formal complaint to the police. We are looking into the matter. It is difficult to say as who the culprit is,” he added.

District magistrate, Shahjahanpur, Amrit Kumar said, “I have directed the chief development officer (CDO) to compile the complete list of stolen and missing cylinders. We are also investigating if the teachers have lodged complaint with the police and why the police have not lodged FIRs against the complaints.”

“In Rae Bareli too, nearly 306 cylinders have been stolen from different schools between 2010 and 2019,” said basic shiksha adhikari of the district Pratap Narain Singh.

“In most of the cases, the head masters of the schools concerned have lodged police complaint and submitted the photocopy of their complaint in my office,” he added.

BSA, Hardoi, Hemant Rao said he was getting the data compiled. “We don’t have exact numbers but as of now the figure is 27,” he said.

However, teachers allege that in most cases police were reluctant of lodging FIRs.

Ashutosh Anand Awasthi, a teacher at an upper primary school in Barabanki, said: “In 2014-15, burglars took away a cylinder and gas stove from our school. The headmaster went to lodge a complaint with the police but they refused to entertain him. The district magistrate should instruct all police stations to lodge FIRs on the complaint of teachers.”

For Mid-Day Meal programme, the government has set aside a budget of Rs 2,275 crore. There are 1.14 lakh primary and 53,818 upper primary schools in the state where about 1.09 crore students benefit from mid-day meal scheme.

The mid-day meal scheme was introduced in the state on September 1, 2004.

Keeping in view the success of the scheme, it was extended in October 2007 for students in backward block, and in April 2008, the remaining blocks were also covered.

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