Ever since the mid-day meal scheme was launched, meal-related accidents or mismanagement problems have surfaced in the media time and again. The problems it faced, in the beginning, are yet to be sorted.
Amid the controversy surrounding the handing over the midday meal preparation to NGOs based out of Assam, All Assam Primary and Upper Primary Mid-day Meal Cook and Helper Association has come down heavily on the government.
This is followed by the announcement of a five-day state-wide agitation alleging the government of not being able to fulfill their demands. The demands include – increase in remuneration, regularisation of jobs and also an immediate withdrawal of the NGOs who are given a 3 years contract to distribute the midday meals at primary schools of Assam.
Last week, thousands of midday meal workers protested against the government’s decision and even announced to intensify the protest – national highway blockade, blockade of railway tracks, sit-in in front of Assam Education Minister Siddhartha Bhattacharya’s residence, hunger strike at Janata Bhawan if their demands are not fulfilled.
The opposition Congress also criticized the state government for not having a proper mechanism to monitor the served meals in the schools. The new midday meal scheme came into force on November 1st,2018.
Reports claimed that as the NGOs took over the charge and started distributing meals, the agitators disrupted the process. A few schools also complained of the food being ‘below standard’. Amid the hullabaloo, Bhattacharya on November 4th, 2019 sat with the NGOs and reviewed their work.
The Education Minister made a 3-point declaration and asserted that though the preparation of midday meals has been given to the NGOs, the local workers will neither lose their jobs nor be deprived of their wages. He also added that the government has planned to lessen the workers’ burden by giving the contract to NGOs and added that any NGO found delivering ‘substandard food’ action will be initiated against them.
The midday meal has been one of the most influential schemes of the country and one cannot deny the fact that the programme has made a substantial impact on the regularity in case of attendance. The midday meal scheme helped the government to counter the falling drop-out rates in the schools, especially in rural belts. The loopholes must be plugged action should be taken against anybody flouting norms. A healthy body equals a healthy mind.
Photo credit: livemint.com