Siyur, Mirzapur: On Teachers’ Day [September 5] in 2018, the primary school at Siyur village in Mirzapur had witnessed 100% attendance with students gifting roses to their beloved teachers. However, this year, only Sukharam out of 94 students turned up to attend the school on this occasion, claims Shanti Devi, the Shiksha Mitra at the school.
Rukmani Devi, who cooks the mid-day meals for the students is busy kneading the flour dough in the kitchen weighing only about half a kilogram. At the same time, she is also keeping an eye on the pressure cooker on the stove boiling the dal. As per the diet chart written on one of the walls, the students should get dal and roti on Thursdays. However, they were served salt and roti on a Thursday a few days ago.
Rukmani Devi says, “It is one of the rare occasions when the right food is being cooked for the students and as per the diet chart written on the wall.”
“Since after the news [about students being served salt and roti] broke, everything is in place. But before that, things were not good. There was not enough stock/supplies for the mid-day meals. The vegetables are bought on the same day by Murari sir, but flour, dal (lentils), salt and other things have to be bought in advance and stored, which have not always been the case,” Rukmani Devi says.
She adds: “I will cook with the material available and I cannot cook by bringing material from my house. The students were served salt and rice a few weeks ago, and there had been times when milk was not made available to them.”
Basic Education Officer (BEO) Pradeep Kumar Singh says that the responsibility of the mid-day meal lies with the Gram Pradhan and one person from the school; things should be stocked in advance so as to avoid last-minute hurry and mismanagement.
"The budget for the mid-day meals varies from school to school depending upon the strength of the school. The budget for this school is about Rs 12,000 (approx). The budget set for each student is Rs 4.8 for a day's meal," Singh told NewsClick in a telephonic conversation.
"The enquiry in this matter is on and if there had been a lapse, then it is up to the Department to take measures," he said, adding that there was no problem with the funds for this specific school. The vegetable vendor has also testified that he was paid Rs 300 in advance for the vegetables, but no one from the school turned up to take the vegetables, he explained.
‘Headmistress comes only to sign’
Shanti Devi, a Shiksha mitra at the school alleges that the headmistress comes to the school only once a month to put her signature in the attendance register.
“The headmistress had made Murari sir the in-charge of everything. He was the one to look after the school management, as the headmistress used to come after very long intervals and only to sign the register,” she says.
On being asked about the mid-day meal episode, the Shiksha Mitra said, “I am also a mother and my kids study in the same school. I feel bad about the kind of meals being served in this school and my kids eat the same meal. But I am scared of raising the issue.”
Jaiswal: a fearless journalist
A journalist based in Mirzapur told NewsClick that registration of an FIR against Pawan Jaiswal – the journalist who had broken the story about salt and roti being served in the school – is an attempt to keep him away from reporting.
“Pawan had got a few police officials suspended last year for their alleged role in the illegal mining case and now this has been done as an act of vendetta. Even the investigating officer in this matter is the same who was caught on camera beating a person last year and that news was also broken by Pawan as well. All this is being done in order to silence him,” he said.
Vijay Vineet, the editor of Jansandesh Times – where Pawan works – said, “Indeed, it is the duty of every journalist but no one dared to do it. It is only one layer of the scam and now the government machinery is trying to cover it up. Otherwise, there will be many more shocking revelations.”
No evidence against the journalist yet
While Pawan Jaiswal is worried with the number of charges pressed against him by the District Education Department and the administration following this episode, the station house officer at Ahraura police station, Rajesh Chaubey, said that investigation was on, but no evidence has been found against the journalist. The police official refused to disclose more about the case.
Also read: Mirzapur Mid-day Meal Scam: Scribe Slapped with Criminal Charges for Exposé