Last week as many as 52 students from Murgao High School had to hospitalized after consuming free mid-day meal dished out to them, which was prepared by Saraswati self help group (SHG). As we all know that this is not the first instance where this particular SHG has been responsible for the serving poisoned meal to the students as it had happened just two years back, but still this SHG managed to bag the contract even after being blacklisted.
This is the irony of this government, for whom the welfare and well being of the future generation is the last priority.
Of course at the moment all the daggers and swords are pointed towards the Saraswati SHG and especially at its president Urmilla Salgaocar – who is on the run and is evading arrest. Undoubtedly she has to answer lots of questions which is much better then facing parents, however equally responsible are people holding top position in the Education department, Health department and the Directorate of Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
How did the Education department overlook Urmilla Salgaocar’s Saraswati SHG’s bad track record while granting her the tender. Was it at the instance of the politician? Did the health department and FDA carry out inspection to oversee hygiene aspects of the kitchens where the food would be prepared before giving their nod to the successful bidders? Or are we talking about kickbacks and underhand deals.
Be that as it may, what is the purpose of the mid-day scheme. And are the departments involved in the scheme trying to make it successful? When the Government of India had formulated the scheme it had a five point agenda:- firstly protection of children from classroom hunger, second was to increase school enrolment and attendance. third improving socialization among children of all castes, fourth addressing issue of malnutrition among children and lastly social empowerment of women by creating employment.
For us to achieve success in the mid-day meal programme our Education department, Health department, FDA and Women and Child Development board has to work in tandem and dedicatedly. For instance, last week’s incident of students consuming poisoned food could be avoided if the Education department personnel had only adhered to the Government of India’s observations.
On 10th May 2011 Ministry of Human Resources Development, Department of School Education and Learning, Government of India had deliberated on the mid-day meal. The observations of the Monitoring Institution were intimated to Education Secretary P. V. Rao, Director of Education Dr. Celsa Pinto and Dy. Director of Education Anil V Powar. The observation of the Monitoring Institution were :-
In Urban areas:- “It was observed that mid-day meal (MDM) supplied by NGOs/SHGs is not given in time, roti and green vegetables are never given, mainly dal, sambar and kheer are dished out. That the food provided is generally not liked by students especially upper primary school students. That the teachers are not aware of the quality and quantity of MDM. That in 80% schools there is difference between attendance sheet and MDM Sheet. That utensils were not available in most of the schools”.
In Rural areas:- “In 95 percent, supplies for MDM are kept at the SHG president’s home from where it is brought daily by the cook to prepare the mid day meal. That in 10 percent schools, the president do not provide required quantity of food grain for cooking mid day meal and the presidents of SHG do not take interest in MDM. That in 40 percent schools teachers do not taste the food either due to the caste of the cook or because of the poor quality of mid day meal. That non iodized salt is used in 5 percent of schools, 30 percent SHGs use wood for cooking mid day meal. 95 percent of the schools do not provide soap and towels to students. That 60 percent cooks are not aware of standards of MDM. Lastly 20 percent of the kitchens are not properly cleaned and maintained.
I have my doubts whether Dr. Celsa Pinto and her deputy Anil Powar even read the document, instead they must have shelved it. Dr. Pinto is in her own world and Powar is busy scheming to occupy the director’s chair. First and foremost the Education department, Health department has to tell us about the criteria adopted to issue tenders to SHGs to prepare mid-day meal. Did the officials check the credentials and experience of the SHGs, have they checked their kitchens and store rooms.
It is high time that the education department sets a system to monitor the mid-day meal. It should set up school committees or empower PTAs of each school to carry out regular inspection of the kitchens along with official of Education, Health departments and FDA. At the same time PTAs should be authorized to carry out surprise checks. School committees or PTAs should monitor on daily basis nutritional value or wholesomeness of the midday meal served to the student.


Salvador Seraulim said...

 When our education ministers are failed academic members, how and why will they care for others. They are there in their position to siphon as much as they can from kickbacks.

Lance said...

The FDA people should have been fired from the jobs for such food poisoning case .

N.Fernandes-London said...

It is highly unlikely that any members of the Saraswati Self Help Group have had any training in Food Hygiene,cleanliness and preparation.
It is also unlikely that the Authorities concerned have made ,unannounced "SPOT CHECKS", to ensure that the Saraswati SHG has complied with all rules & regulations. 
The Auditing proccesses in Goa are full of holes.
The Saraswati SGH along with the Authorities concerned, are more interested in their Bank Balances rather than the welfare and nutrition of innocent School children .
I am sure there is a lot of pilfering of food & ingrident  stocks going on.
If the members of the SHG and their Education Dept Masters are looking physically healthy , with very healthy ,fat & bulging  Bank Balances, then it must be at the cost of under-nourishing the school children.


Vicente E. Do Rego said...

Education Minister and Education Dept. will wake up only when there is casualty in near future, and I wish this should not happen. But that is the attitude of theses money siphoning scoundrels. Sick with the system, if they cannot manage this scheme than they should stop it right away rather then playing with the lives of innocent childrens.

Papa Razi said...

My simple questions to the parents. Did they asked for these free meals with the government? Are they happy to send their children to have these free meals at school? Don't the parents have responsibility to check what is fed for their children?

These meals may be good for some parents who couldn't afford to feed their children a meager meal but is it worth feeding them these poisonous plates? These meals may be good to feed for some poor migrant's children who could not afford to pack Tiffin but are these poor children some sort of rodents? This is a political gimmick by the government to declare that they are the hands that feed but actually, this is another money making racket as the caterers might have paid a huge sum to get this contract. Now to make ends meet, this is the fate. I am sure that these catering houses surely do not possess any hygienic conditions at all. 

Parents have every right to force the government to stop feeding their children with this poison. Let the politicians take these meals home and feed their families.

Salvador Seraulim said...

Well said PAPA

Anonymous the VIII said...

I remember during the Portuguese regime the snacks that were provided during the "Mocidade Portuguesa" was biscuits and banana. A much safer and hygienic snack for children.

Post a Comment