The Midday Meal Scheme started in the 1960s, involved free lunch provision in schools during the working days. The basic objective of the program was to increase the participation of children to school and also to give them at least one good nutritious meal of a day, increasing socialization and breaking the barriers of caste and creed and religion by kids taking meals together and also by providing employment to women.
As the Scheme proved to be effective initially, later the distribution of contract of Midday meal scheme became one of the most corrupt practices in India, leading its way to the top notch scams.
In the year 2006, Police Department of Delhi exposed a scam regarding Midday Meal Scheme. In the previous year the police have ceased around 8 truckloads of rice which was meant to reach primary school children. The rice was being carried from Food Corporation of India go downs in Bulandshahar district (Uttar Pradesh) to North Delhi. Later it was found that a local NGO was involved named Bharatiya Manav Kalyan Parishad with consent from government officials.
In November 2006, again some group of teachers was involved in Pembong Village under Mim Tea estate (near Darjeeling). The villagers complained that the students of the school had not receive the mid day meal from around 18 months. In December 2006, again a similar incident happened where fake attendance were being taken in the school just to exaggerate the number of students and hence more meals going to undeserved bellies.
Latest, On 16 July 2013 around 47 students from the school fell ill after having the Mid Day Meal in Chapra, village Dharmasati Gandaman Bihar. Within 24 hours the deadly poison in the meal killed 22 students, while other affected students are critically ill. The state education minister has already asked for the preliminary investigation which indicated the presence of monocrotophos, a highly poisonous organophosphate insecticide.
To make the achievements look more bright and shiny, a report as part Global Hunger Index 2009 makes India stand at 65 out of 84 of the total countries. A 2008 report says that India has more people suffering hunger – a figure above 200 million – than any other country in the world.
It’s really sad that we live in a country which boasts regarding eradication of many diseases like polio and chicken pox and what not….and still has numerous cases of unsafe water drinking fatalities and poisoned mid day meals. The children who come to school in search of affordable education and supposedly nutritious food, mostly end up in hospitals if not dead by eating the same. If this is the scenario, they were better hungry than being served.
By Dr Syed Danish