After the Bihar midday meal program tragedy every state government vested with the management of this education-cum nutrition oriented Central scheme woke up suddenly running helter skelter for cover fearing that their weaknesses also would be exposed. School inspections became more frequent and erring officials were hauled up for not doing their job properly. But all these knee jerk reactions slowly faded away once the news became "cold" and forgotten by every body. Here is a typical PRO exercise by the Karnataka government to claim how efficient they are!
"Maintaining that the scheme in the state was near to 100% error free, the minister said over 60 lakh school children are getting the benefits of mid-day meal every day. "Barring one incident, where a girl child died after slipping into sambar vessel last year, the scheme is running successfully since it was introduced in 2002. More than 6 crore children have benefitted by the scheme till date," Ratnakar said. Mid-day meals is being given in around 55,000 schools and the government was into building quality kitchens in these schools. Only 75% of the schools have kitchens. Ratnakar said the Centre has announced that it would provide Rs 3 lakh to built a kitchen and Rs 5,000 to buy utensils. "There is also scheme where Centre will provide Rs 3,500 per month to grow vegetables in water availability areas. Rs 7,000 grant per month on big schemes and government has planned to give milk from August at a cost of Rs 600 crore," he said. Of the Rs 18,000 crore allocation for the department, Rs 11,000 are being spent on the salary. Ratnakar informed that Rs 180 crore was being spent on providing free uniforms every year and Rs 3,500 crore needed upgrade school buildings".
Is it not a tragedy that instead of getting down to the basics and having introspection, governments tend to take high moral grounds trying to defend a system which is moribund at its best? The lay out is such that the present school feeding program cannot be an instrument of furthering the education system because the very purpose of the school is shifted from teaching to cooking food for all the children whether they want it or not. Teachers hardly aware of the logistics of mass cooking and feeding are forced to take up the chore against their free will. Sanitation and hygiene conditions can never be safe enough to ensure safety of children. Water used, qualitatively and quantitatively, is unsatisfactory. In the face of these heavy odds the government spokesperson is trying to defend the indefensible. Good luck to him till the next food related episodes which are waiting to happen, in spite of all the good intentions!