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UP: Plain Rice Served as Mid-Day Meal to Primary School Students in Deoria, Probe Ordered

Around 46 students were present out of a total of 96 this Tuesday, for which only 750 grams of dal was ordered.
mid day meal

Representational use only.Image Courtesy: ANI

Lucknow: Half-cooked chapatis, watery dal (lentils), plain rice, roti with salt or mixed veg that looks more like a soup than curry are what primary school children are reportedly getting under the mid-day meal (MDM) or PM Poshan scheme in Uttar Pradesh’s Deoria district. In fact, seasonal fruits, milk and green vegetables are a far cry for government primary schools in the state, according to reports.

In a recent incident, children were reportedly served plain rice under the mid-day meal in Deoria district, which has once again brought focus back on the UP administration’s less than stellar performance in this regard.

According to the menu for the day at a school located in Pagara Banjaria village of Pathardewa block, there was just plain rice. According to information gathered by NewsClick, 94 children are enrolled in the junior category in Ramdhari Pandey Inter College in the village. Around 46 students were present out of 96 on Tuesday, for which only 750 grams of dal was ordered. 

Several children have complained that they are not even getting the “sub-standard meal” for months. “We are not served food as per the daily menu on a regular basis,” some students told reporters.

When asked if they were getting fruits or milk under the scheme, a student said: “We don’t even know that we are supposed to get these delicacies.”

As per the menu chart, students are supposed to get rice with chana dal on Tuesday. But NewsClick found that chana dal was missing from the children's platter at the school this Tuesday. 

"Most of the time, we get food that fills up only half our stomachs, that too not edible. Seasonal fruits and milk are never available. If half kg of pulses is there for 46 students, how can everyone get a share?" a student asked. 

A teacher on the condition of anonymity told NewsClick: "Children are not getting enough nutritious food that is required. As per the chart, on Monday, along with rice, chapati and vegetables and seasonal fruits should be served, on Wednesday, hot milk is to be served and on Saturday tehri (rice cooked with vegetables) with soyabean chunks should be served. But all this seems to exist just on the menu chart. We have complained many times and have asked the officials to check the quality of the meal that is being served."

D P Singh, the mid-day meal district coordinator, termed this as “big negligence.”  He told reporters that he has sought a report from the Block Education Officer, adding that necessary action would be taken based on the inquiry report.

"I was given only 750 gram dal to feed around 46 students. How am I supposed to feed all the children?" Renu, a rasoiya (cook) , told NewsClick, adding that some labourers working in the school are also feed from the same kitty.

She alleged that she was never given sufficient food items for cooking. "Vegetables, pulses, everything is given in half quantity than earmarked. Milk and bananas are never given," she added.

Another school member on the condition of anonymity told NewsClick: "Children get either roti-salt or rice-salt on most days. Milk is given very rarely and proper food is served only when some important person comes for a visit."

Last week, a similar incident was reported from Sonbhadra district where children at a government school were served salt and roti (flatbread) under the mid-day meal scheme. Later the principal was suspended for “negligence”.

The incident happened in Gureth Composite School, in Gureth village of Ghorawal block, Sonbhadra, on Monday, August 22. Two youths from the village recorded students telling villagers they got roti and salt for lunch. The video went viral on social media leading to action against the principal, Rudra Prasad. 

A preliminary investigation by the local administration has confirmed the students’ allegation. The district education officer (DEO), Harivansh Kumar, has issued show cause notices to three other assistant teachers of the school.

Apart from students, teachers and principals at various schools too have raised questions about the quality of food. They claimed the Central government has not given any increment in the conversion cost under the National Programme of Mid-Day Meal in Schools (NP-MDMS) since 2020. The revised rate of the cooking cost for the primary stage (class 1 to 5) is Rs 4.97 per child, and Rs 7.45 for upper primary (class 6 to 8), which was revised in 2018.

On July 22, the Rashtriya Shaikshik Mahasangh wrote a letter to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Dhaurahra and BJP state vice-president, Rekha Arun Verma, demanding an increase in the conversion cost of MDM since inflation has skyrocketed and prices of edible oil, and LGP have risen manifold.

Read Also: UP: No Govt Funds for Mid-day Meals for over 3 Months, Headmasters Forced to Raise Money

"The quality of food started deteriorating as the government has not increased the conversion cost for the past many years. Since prices of all the stuff increased, but rate was not revised, howcan we provide quality and quantity food to students," one of the principals, wishing anonymity, told reporters. 

Even in 2019, a NewsClick report highlighted several inadequacies in mid-day meal scheme’s implementation in Uttar Pradesh. The report also spoke of an alleged ‘huge scam’ in the scheme.  

Read Also: UP School Children Seen Eating Roti-Salt, Data Suggests Huge Scam in Mid-Day Meal Scheme

Originally called the National Scheme for Mid-Day Meals in schools (MDM), the scheme was renamed the National Programme of PM POSHAN on September 29, 2021. The scheme aims to provide hot, cooked meals to children in government and government-aided schools in a bid to improve their nutritional status.

According to the Centre, the midday meal scheme is designed to provide a minimum of 450 calories per child per day, which should include at least 12 grams of protein each day. These meals should be served to each child, at least, 200 days a year.

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