Following up an inspection that students of a school in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh were not given meals for the past three years, the district programme officer (DPO), on 16 September, seized 160 kg of mid-day meal (MDM) ration being fed to cows at a dairy, as reported by Times of India.
DPO J.P. Tiwari confirmed that the owner of the dairy, Praveen Kumar and Kunwar Sain, husband of Uma Devi, an Anganwadi worker at the school where the ration was supposed to be delivered had been detained after a surprise raid was carried out by the Civil Lines police station.
The incident came to light days after students of Nanakchand Anglo Sanskrit (NAS) Inter College was found not to have received their due meals for the last three years.
An NGO was assigned with the responsibility of feeding the students. Since 28 August, they had started distributing biscuits to students only. Subsequent inspections at two other inter colleges also found that very few students had been given MDMs.
The MDM ration was meant for an Anganwadi centre at Abdullahpur, situated five km away from Meerut city. The ration supplier was also present in the dairy during the raid, informed officials.
The Mid-day meal scheme was launched as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme on 15 August 1995 to enhance ‘enrollment, retention and attendance and simultaneously improving nutritional levels among children.’
Food norms have been revised to ensure a balanced diet, cooking cost has been increased, more than 25.5 lakh cooks and helpers are engaged by the State/UT during 2016-17 for preparation and serving of Mid-Day Meal to children in Elementary Classes and ensures a free supply of nutritious food per child per day in govt-run schools.
However, students falling ill after consuming mid-day meal have become quite common these days.
In May this year, children at a government school in Faridabad, Haryana, found a small snake their food. Again, around 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. 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 government had recently made the possession of the 12-digit Aadhaar number mandatory for all students who wish to avail the mid-day meals scheme as well as for the cook-cum-helpers who serve them.
While such projects are being implemented, it is also necessary for the government to look into if the mid-day meals which was meant for the benefit of the students is executed efficiently. The Logical Indian community condemns the entire episode and urges the authority to ensure that proper investigation is carried out and those guilty should get the necessary punishment.