Recent Incidents Raise Questions About Midday Meal Scheme
NEW DELHI: The Mid day meal scheme was launched all over the country in 2001, after the court order to serve nutritional meal in govt schools with the minimum content of 300 calories and 8-12 grams of protein. Across India, the midday meal scheme provides about 120 million children with free lunch -- making it the world’s largest school lunch programme.
This prestigious project also had multi dimensional goals like attracting children to school, elimination of caste disparity etc. It aims to aims to fight widespread poverty and improve children's school attendance and health as a large number of India's children suffer from malnutrition.
Two tragic incidents occurred back to back in the distribution of mid day meal in school raises some questions regarding this prestigious project.
First incident occurred in Nalgonda district of Telangana. 5 year old boy died after falling into a hot Sambhar vessel while standing in queue for his mid day meal. This incident points out the lack of infrastructure and carelessness of the concerned person in the serving of mid day meal.
NHRCC already sent a notice to Telangana chief Secretary for giving a detailed report within six weeks. The commission observed that school authorities must be vigilant while dealing with younger children who needs extra care.
The commission in its notice mentioned that steps should be taken to avoid these types of tragic incidents in future.
The second incident occurred in Tamil Nadu (first state to introduce mid day meal). After having the mid day meal at school, teachers said they found dead lizard and flies in the food supplied to students. 60 students fell sick as a result.
This incident raises doubts regarding the quality and hygiene of food distributed through mid day meal scheme. Mid day meal was launched to ensure nutrients to students but as such recent incidents demonstrate, it could be serving hazardous food to children.
These recent incidents are not the only tragic incidents relating to midday meals. The most infamous incident occurred in July 2013, when at least 23 students died and dozens more were injured at a primary school in the village of Dharmashati Gandaman in the Saran district of Bihar. The students, it turned out, had eaten midday meal food contaminated by pesticides. The incident led to a huge uproar as villagers took to the streets in many parts of the district in protest.
In September 2015, 64 students fell sick at a Government Primary school at Juggaur in Chinhat area of Uttar Pradesh, due to suspected food poisoning after consuming the midday meal. This was the second incident of students falling ill after eating the midday meal in the state capital of Lucknow within a span of a month, as earlier 50 students of a government primary school at Arya Nagar locality fell ill after consuming milk provided under the mid-day meal scheme.
In February 2016, 247 children fell ill after consuming the midday meal in zila parishad school in Kasa Budruk village in Palghar. The students were rushed to hospital, and while some were treated in the outpatient department, 104 students had to be admitted.
In May 2016, two children and a 35-year-old Anganwadi worker died and 40 other children were hospitalised after consuming milk as part of a midday meal in a government run primary school in Kanshi Ram colony, Mathura.