M A I N   N E W S

HRD Min wants Sen’s aide on safety panel
Aditi Tandon/TNS

New Delhi, July 26
The Human Resource Development Ministry has proposed the name of welfare economist Jean Dreze —Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen’s aide — in the list of independent experts for a national-level monitoring committee on mid-day meal safety. This panel is in the process of being formed.

In a note submitted to HRD Minister MM Pallam Raju a week ago, Supreme Court Commissioner on Food and former Secretary, Planning Commission, NC Saxena and Principal Adviser to Supreme Court Commissioners Biraj Patnaik have also been named among the independent experts on the review panel which was announced after the mid-day meal tragedy at Bihar’s Saran block in Chapra district. Dreze has also been working on MNREGA.

Raju is yet to notify the panel in which the other members proposed include the Education Ministers of Bihar, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Meghalaya. Sources in the ministry pointed out that the nomination of Education Ministers would be rotational in nature so that all Education Ministers are covered.

“We started with Bihar naturally on account of the tragedy and the fact that the state needs a lot of hand holding,” ministry sources said on a day when the Centre shared with Bihar the findings of the HRD Ministry inquiry into the Bihar tragedy.

The Central report points out that on the day of tragedy, one of the two teachers at Dharmasati School in Saran was absent while the other fled the scene when she saw that the children were collapsing.

“The head teacher, who was present till the meals were distributed, fled when children started collapsing. There was no one to take care of the children when they fell ill. Villagers and parents later took them to primary health centres where adequate medical facilities were not there,” says the report.

It adds that effective medical vigil was also absent along the way in this case. “Doctors said if salt water had been given to children and vomiting induced, many lives could have been saved. This would have detoxified the children in a timely manner. Also, the district administration should have moved fast to make sure that the children were taken to the nearest hospital. That didn’t happen,” the ministry report reveals.

As for the national-level monitoring panel, it will also have Secretaries of the following Central-level ministries which are engaged in the process of implementing the mid-day meal scheme - Food Supplies, Health, Sanitation, Tribal Affairs, Minorities and Social Justice.

The directors of the two national-level institutes - the National Health Institute and the National Institute for Nutrition will also be members. The committee will have the mandate to check mid-day meals being served anywhere at any time. It would be chaired by the HRD Minister.

Meanwhile, the Government of India inquiry into the Bihar mid-day meal tragedy further says that out of 70,000 schools in Bihar, 18,000 do not have any kitchen-cum-stores considered important for the safety of mid-day meals and 8,000 do not have a school building, including the school at Saran where 23 children died.

Central report findings

  • No one was watching when children collapsed as head teacher had fled
  • Doctors said many lives could have been saved had salt water been given to the schoolchildren





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