M A I N   N E W S

Fungus-infested meal given to schoolchildren
Geetanjali Gayatri
Tribune News Service

Kaithal, November 22
In the name of ‘high nutritional-value’ mid-day meals under the Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan project, students of some government-run primary schools of Haryana are being served food unfit for human consumption.

Students in a few schools of Kaithal are being forced to eat worm-infested grains and porridge being dished out of fungus-affected soyabean nuggets. On the other hand, in Kurukshetra, there are schools that haven’t received their share of food supplies for the mid-day meal scheme and children have had to go without food for over a fortnight now.

Already plagued with problems of inadequate staff and poor infrastructural facilities, these schools claim they are virtually crumbling under the burden of the additional charge of organising meals, poor in quantity and quality, for primary school students.

In Keorak village in Kaithal, which has a student-strength of nearly 650, the quality of supplies is as poor as it can get. Received some 10 days back, the consignment was worm-ridden and a handful of students were even taken ill after consuming it, claims a teacher.

The school authorities have been warned by angry parents to stop serving mid-day meals, failing which they would be forced to pull out their wards from the school. “After we received complaints, we decided to discontinue serving the mid-day meals before it causes some irreparable loss to the children,” the teacher adds.

In Deora village of the same district, the situation is no better. The soyabean nuggets received by the school have blackened with fungus while the foodgrains, too, are unfit for consumption as also the jaggery which has worms in it. The school is making do with serving rice and black gram to the students which is of edible quality.

Meanwhile, in Kurukshetra, mid-day meals have been elusive for want of supplies. The government school in Tikri has been forced to extend its recess to 40 minutes. “Until a fortnight ago, we had food cooking in the school compound to feed the students”, said a teacher.

“However, ever since the supplies have been exhausted, the students are allowed to go their homes to have their food. They re-assemble in the school after 40 minutes, which gives them ample time to go home and eat,” the teacher added.

In neighbouring Butmajra and Malikpur villages, no food has been cooked for the past 10 days. With supplies exhausted and no financial powers to buy grains in case of delayed consignments, the schools have no clue about whom to approach.

At a meeting of school heads held in the government school at Pehowa on November 20, discontinuation of mid-day meals in the block due to exhausted stocks dominated the discussion.

When contacted, the District Education Officer, Kaithal, Mr Ram Gopal Verma, said that they had received complaints of inedible supplies from a few schools of the district. “At a meeting chaired by the Additional Deputy Commissioner some 10 days ago, a committee had decided to replace the soyabean nuggets, with nutrela and porridge granules supply has been withdrawn completely. The schools will now be supplied with wheat grain and given the task of procuring granules themselves. I am not sure whether those orders have been conveyed to the schools or not,” he said.

The District Primary Officer of Kurukshetra, Mr Madan Lal Kalra, said he was not aware of any school where supplies were exhausted. “The supplies usually reach the schools on time but I have no clue of schools where these have been exhausted,” he added.

The Managing Director, Confed, Mr R. Jakhu, when contacted said that their role was only limited to transporting the consignment and that they had no authority to check quality. “A committee headed by the Deputy Commissioner is responsible for the quality selected for supply. Our job is only to supply the same,” he stated.

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