What's on that midday meal plate?

Government should immediately start off by increasing money allocated to anganwadis to buy food commodities for midday meals. Otherwise tragedies like Chapra would recur – only the casualty numbers would be different

pankaj

Pankaj Kumar | July 17, 2013



The harsh reality of what actually goes into the plates of lakhs of children across the country in the name of midday meals have come out with a full, ghastly force in Chapra, in Bihar’s Saran district. While the odd death or two almost regularly in faraway villages and towns hardly ever make it to the leading news packet, this incident, with the death toll now reaching 21, and many more stated to be critical, has the potential to make it to the front pages and top news bracket on TV and stay there for a few days.

And in turn make the Centre, and different state governments sit up and take note.

ALSO READ: Why midday meals are mishaps waiting to happen

I was fortunate – and at the same time unfortunate, given the gravity of the issue – to see the truth behind midday meal scheme first hand when I went to Nalanda as part of a six-month project of Governance Now and ANSA-SAR (read the e-book on Media for Accountability Project here).

I had gone to Sonchari village in Parwalpur block with the local child development project officer (CDPO), Sabina Ahmad, to learn more on how the integrated child development services (ICDS) scheme is run. Sabina, known for her pluck and good work in the district and thereby given additional charge of another block, was frank enough to admit to me their vulnerability. “We do our best but the truth is that what we are asked to do can never be done practically. Either quantity has to be compromised or quality has to be compromised – this scheme (midday meal, along with providing nutritious meals to pregnant women and nursing mothers) can work only then,” she had told me.

The full impact of her words hit me when I dug in. This is what I had written for the magazine: “The anganwadi centre in Sonchari had 40 malnutrition-afflicted children to feed and, like the others, gets a grand total of Rs 572 to buy and prepare for breakfast for 25 days for all of them. Break it down, and it amounts to a grand sum of Rs 22.80 each day to feed 40 mouths. And what’s on the menu? Biscuits, seasonal fruits and ‘bhunja’. An unreasonably tall order, as the staff put it.

“So in the name of breakfast, only bhunja was given to the children. The ground reality was, some 55 paise per child per day cannot buy anything more,” a sevika (worker) of Noorsarai block said.”

The problem, I was told, is the impossibly, laughably, irrationally and abysmally meagre amounts allocated to buy the ration for these meals. Even without going to the local market/mandi one could figure out that given these rates, either quantity or quality would have to be compromised, as Sabina had put it.
Some staff at these anganwadi centres admitted as much – that they are “compelled” to compromise, though they do not want to do it. “What else can we do?” one worker (none of them wanted top be identified) asked, helplessly.

I had tossed the same question to district programme officer Shobha Kesri, who preferred silence over a reply.

My take is simple: the planners and programmers of this scheme (and perhaps many other government schemes) have little idea about the ground realities. They have little Knowledge of the local markets, or prices of commodities. Reading about things like bad quality of oil being used to cook the food gives a sense of déjà vu: had I not heard about the same things back in Nalanda.

The government, and its plethora of officers, needs to wake up, smell the coffee, hit the streets and fields immediately. And they can surely start off with a relook on money allocated to anganwadis to buy the food commodities on their menu. Otherwise this unfortunately game of compromising with quality and quantity would have no end.

Comments

 

Other News

In Maharashtra, what’s allowed, what’s not

Essential services allowed: 1) Hospitals, diagnostic centres, clinics, vaccinations, medical insurance offices, pharmacies, pharmaceutical companies, other medical and health services including supporting manufacturing and distribution units. This would also include dealers, transpo

Maharashtra goes under ‘Janata curfew’, restrictions from tonight

Striving to control the deadly second wave of Covid-19 infections, the Maharashtra government has imposed prohibition on the gathering of more than four people as well as night curfew from Wednesday till May 1. Starting 8 pm Wednesday, Section 144 of CrPC (prohibition on the gathering of mor

Govt launches e-marketplace for aqua farmers

Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal inaugurated e-SANTA, an electronic marketplace providing a platform to connect aqua farmers and buyers. It aims to enable the farmers to get a better price and the exporters to directly purchase quality products from the farmers

Central Mine Planning and Design Institute to use a drone for coalfield survey

Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) and Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) have granted a conditional exemption to Central Mine Planning and Design Institute (CMPDI) for surveying in coalfield areas of Coal India Ltd. The drones will be deployed for the acquisition of d

Govt rolls out SARTHAQ for NEP 2020 implementation

In pursuance of the goals and objectives of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 and to assist States and UTs in this task, the Department of School Education and Literacy has developed an indicative and suggestive implementation plan for School Education called ‘Stud

NITI Aayog launches the version 2.0 of India Energy Dashboard

Dr Rajiv Kumar, Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog; Dr V K Saraswat, Member, NITI Aayog; Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog; and Dr Rakesh Sarwal, Additional Secretary, NITI Aayog in the presence of Secretaries from Ministry of Coal, Ministry of Power, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas,

Visionary talk with Prithviraj Chavan, On the need for vaccination & Maha Political volcano



Archives

Current Issue

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter