Mid-day-meal, a central government sponsored scheme, launched in every government school across the country is once again in the news after students in a school in Tamil Nadu were rushed to the hospital for abdominal pain.
Almost 60 students of a government school in Athiyur, Sathyamangalam Taluk, Erode, Tamil Nadu, were admitted to hospital when they fell ill after eating rice and sambhar for lunch.
After finishing their lunch in school, students started to complain of abdominal pain, vomiting and dizziness. Observing the state of students, the teacher rushed them to Sathyamangalam taluk government hospital.
The students were aged between 11 and 14 years and their health condition stabilised after treatment. They said they found a dead lizard in the sambhar and flies in the rice.
The parents were outraged by the negligence and protested outside the school. They alleged that the school did not provide hygienic food to children.
The Sathyamangalam police official and the district education department officials rushed to the hospital to probe the matter.
The mid-day meal program was launched in August 1995 to increase enrolment, retention and attendance which gave a boost to education but the number of complaints about the quality of food being served under MDMS ( Midday Meal Scheme) have risen across the country. It seems hygiene is not a priority for preparing meals for the children.
The situation is worse in preparation and storage stage. There are no proper kitchens, and many schools are just one room structures, often the meals are cooked in temporary sheds which are very unhygienic. Rats, dead lizards, iron chips, insects have been found in the meals. The school authorities are also expected to taste meals before distributing to children, but this rule is not followed. Some of the states have started allocating special budgets to build temporary sheds and kitchens, but that also requires constant inspections from the health department.
Another upsetting incident was reported on 16 July 2013 when at least 23 students died, and many fell ill at a primary school in Dharmasati Gandaman, Saran District, Bihar after consuming Midday meal contaminated with pesticide. In the backdrop of this incident, Bihar government launched a toll-free number for complaints related to Mid-day meal and also directed for the raw grain samples to be kept for three months at Godowns from where it will be supplied to school.
Not only are the students in these schools working with bad infrastructure, they are also facing health problems due to the food. In such circumstances, how can we expect the children to be motivated to stay in school? And how can we expect that the parents will feel at ease knowing that their child’s health is taken for granted?
Over the years, many changes have been brought to the program to keep improving.
Even at 76, Pradip Burman, the zestful chairman of Mobius Foundation radiates a contagious enthusiasm when he is talking about sustainability. The environmental crusader, better known to many as the great-grandson of Dabur founder Dr S.K.Burman, has devoted substantial attention towards promoting the concept of sustainability in all aspects of life. He refuses to conform to the convenience and comfort in today’s world which ultimately adds on to the adverse effects of climate change.
Talking to The Logical Indian, Burman emphasised why sustainability as a concept is indispensable for us. “We ought to be aware of what lies ahead of us. Soon we will finish the oil, iron, tin, and coal, and our next generations will be left with nothing. Recycling, banning plastics, stop felling trees for paper… This should become a part of everyone’s lifestyle,” he urges.
Traditional wisdom and modern research
A mechanical engineer from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA, Burman had always nurtured a keen interest in helping the society, as evident from his graduation project of designing a sonic aid for the visually challenged, which detected obstacles in the way using ultrasonic wave signals.
As an executive for the nature-centric company Dabur, Burman has always opted for natural alternatives to solve his everyday problems like taking Ayurvedic medicine to cure his Arthritis. He later launched the veterinary wing for Dabur – Ayurvet – which provides nature-friendly solutions for animal health care.
A patron of the ancient scientific wisdom of India, Burman always hailed the confluence of “traditional knowledge and modern research”, which he advocated as the Ayurvet motto.
As part of the CSR initiative of Dabur, Pradip Burman founded SUNDESH (Sustainable Development Society) which has been tirelessly working for last 25 years in remote villages for uplifting the rural communities in an environmentally sustainable way.
An advocate of sustainability
Burman believes that sustainability is the indispensable mantra for the world at present. Due to uncontrolled utilisation of the planet’s resources by human beings, the world today stands at a juncture of destabilisation. Today the human race has reached the pinnacle of progress but the advancement is happening in a very unsustainable manner.
Through energy-efficient use of everyday essentials like transport, communication, altered habits of diet, clothing and daily living, some crusaders of sustainability try to reduce their carbon footprint. Pradip Burman’s Mobius Foundation is one of the forerunners toward sustainability goals.
Mobius Foundation aims to change the sustainability dynamics
In 2015, Burman paved the way for the start of Mobius Foundation, focused on sustainability. Named after 18th-century German mathematician August Ferdinand Mobius, the famous Mobius strip has an important philosophical significance. The extraordinary shape symbolises balance and union.
Similar is the essence of Mobius Foundation which wishes to enhance the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” principle to a widespread basis in India, helping generations to come.
Founder Pradip Burman wishes to achieve notable development in education, population stabilisation and renewable energy projects.
A dream school in the making
At Coorg, Pradip Burman’s Mobius Foundation is constructing the World Environment School, Coorg (WESc) where the curriculum will surpass the boundaries of books and classrooms, with a special focus on hands-on learning in close collaboration with the environment. Amidst the pristine natural beauty of Coorg, the school will nurture young minds to grow up into future green leaders. As of now, the school will be open to teenagers, welcoming students from standards 6 to 12.
Needless to say, World Environment School will be the first-of-its-kind not only in India but also in entire South Asia. The school is expected to start from March 2020.
The school promises to nurture the responsible behaviour of citizens of our future.
The Sustainability Conference of 2019
In 2019, the Mobius Foundation has planned an international conference, on the lines of the celebrated earth summits over the past decade. The 2019 International Conference on Sustainability Education (ICSE 2019) aims to bring together environmental activists, practitioners of sustainable development as well as climate change experts to help develop a sustainability-focused curriculum.
It is surmised that the conference will give a platform to innovative concepts of Sustainability Education including an essential change in the existing education system ensuring a wholesome personal development for a student.
The Sustainability crusader
The Mobius founder strongly believes that it is high time to sprout sustainability awareness among a society drowning in consumerism and unknowingly doing irreparable harm to the planet, every second. The best way to achieve this goal is through education which is available to all. At present, the education system is predominantly career-oriented, making the learners a victim of materialism, and thus, their dreams are also outlined in those colours.
Living beyond the limits
When asked about his wish to attain the age of hundred, he strongly asserts that more than becoming a centurion, he wishes his life and work continue to better the society even in his absence. “I have lived my life. I wish that whatever I start before I go, will continue – for the betterment of my country,” says Mr Pradip Burman.
He is also a trustee of the Climate Reality Project – India (affiliated to Mr. Al Gore of the Climate Reality Project Foundation, USA). Climate Reality Project, India, has been actively engaged igniting the spark and spreading the message of climate change amongst educators, policy makers and civil society. The India branch looks after more than 500 trained Climate Leaders, and more than 900 volunteers spread all over the country.
In his journey, Pradip Burman has been a beacon of hope for millions, motivating many to join the movement for sustainability. We wish he continues his tireless efforts for promoting sustainability awareness and inspire generations to come.