In a shocking example of insensitivity, students of a government primary school in Siyur village of Mirzapur district in Uttar Pradesh – at a distance of about 50 km from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's constituency – served roti and salt as part of the mid-day meal, which is served under the government’s flagship nutrition scheme.
In a video, which has been doing rounds on social media platforms, students are seen sitting on the corridor floor of the school and are having food. They were seen being handed dry rotis and salt as their mid-day meal (lunch). This incident has evoked sharp criticism against the state administration after the video was broadcast by several media channels. The state is governed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with Yogi Adityanath as the chief minister.
After facing widespread condemnation, District Magistrate of Mirzapur Anurag Patel admitted the laxity on part of the school management. He told a local reporter, "Negligence took place at the teachers’ and supervisors’ level. The teacher has been suspended. A response has been sought from supervisor and and strict action will be taken further."
Earlier, in May, a number of reports had said that the students from 39 government primary schools in Barabanki district of Uttar Pradesh were not given their mid-day meals for 26 days.
On Friday night, another mid-day meal controversy emerged after two primary government schools served mid-day meals allegedly cooked in animal fat to the students in Madhya Pradesh's Khandwa district.
MENU OF THE MID-DAY MEAL
As per the menu of the mid-day meal scheme prescribed by the UP government, children are supposed to be provided rice, pulses and green vegetables. Milk and fruits are also included in the meal chart on certain days. The Centre has also issued guidelines to all the states to maintain the nutritional standard in terms of quality, safety and hygiene. It instructs provision of 450 calories and 12 gram of protein to children in primary classes (I to V) and 700 calories with 20 gram of protein to children in upper primary classes (VI to VIII). However Mirzapur and Barabanki incidents are examples of how the directives are being blatantly ignored by the school managements.
Meanwhile, speaking on the condition of anonymity, a retired primary school teacher told NewsClick: "Children never get their mid-day meals according to the menu. Even in winters, school managements hardly ever serve eggs. They get either roti and salt or rice with salt. Milk is given occasionally when higher authorities come for inspection."
DATA SUGGESTS A HUGE SCAM
According to the latest data (2018-19) provided by Programme Approval Board (PAB), which monitors and approves annual work plan and budgets for mid-day meal, 1.10 crore students were supposed to receive mid-day meals at primary and upper primary schools, but actually, only 1.02 crore students were given mid-day meals. This means that 7.7 lakh students did not receive their meals.
For 1.10 core students, PAB has approved 269.94 crore meals, but ironically, only 247.57 crore meals were given by the school management.
For primary school students, cooking cost per meal is Rs 4.35 and for upper primary school students, it is Rs 6.51. So, by not serving meals to over 7 lakh students, Rs 109.77 crore were saved, while ignoring the nutrition of the students.
109.8 CRORE RUPEES SAVED
About 1.8 crore students are enrolled in government primary schools in Uttar Pradesh including local bodies school, government aided schools and madrasas. But only 57% students availed the mid-day meals (1.02 core).
Notably, in Barabanki, a Basic Shiksha Adhikari (BSA) office clerk was arrested by police on May 19 in the connection with mid-day meal scam. According to the police, the scam is suspected to have caused a loss of Rs 4.5 crore to the government.
Data analysis by Peeyush Sharma.