WHILE in Jharkhand I recently came to know about a school where a large number of children had complained of abdominal pain and were admitted in a hospital after taking midday meal. The condition of three of them at that time was very serious. The reason was that a lizard had reportedly fallen in pulse and died there. Instead of throwing away the contaminated food the same was served to several children all of whom became sick after taking it. The Head Master of the school reportedly got destroyed all evidences of careless cooking and culpable serving of poisonous pulse to students. As truth cannot be concealed for long, it soon transpired that the school administration itself was responsible for jeopardising children’s life.
It is not only in Jharkhand but in other parts of India also that such undesirable incidents take place although sporadically. Only a few months ago the media had reported about the serving of poisonous food to children in a government school in New Delhi. There also the mischief was the same as had been committed in a school in Jharkhand. The food was cooked in the most unhygienic condition without any care for the life and safety of school-going children. In Delhi school also a dead reptile was found in the midday meal which was going to be served to children. Here also the contaminated food was not destroyed but given to children to eat. Consuming the said polluted food a large number of children fell sick. A school student travelling with me in a bus had told me that five children had died due to the intake of harmful midday meal.
In India many ambitious projects are launched in the name of public welfare but the huge amount of money allotted for them are siphoned-off by unscrupulous elements much before they are completed. Take, for example, Narega and Mahatma Gandhi Rojgar Yojna. A few weeks before I came across two small ponds under construction in two separate villages in the State of Jharkhand. The first pond I would like to refer to is being constructed under Mahatma Gandhi Rojgar Yojna. The total cost estimated for the construction of this pond is about 2,00,000 rupees, but upon repeated interrogation villagers told me that only one or two labourers have been employed so far for the construction of this pond and not more than a few thousand rupees would be spent on it.
Not only in the Central government Rojgar Yojna but under Narega also lots of public money meant to be used in projects related to public welfare is diverted to illegal personal use. The pond being constructed under this scheme speaks the truth itself. When I went to visit the said pond only one labourer was found digging the earth with the help of another single employed worker. How can these two labourers complete the construction of a big water reservoir with sufficient width and depth within a fixed time-frame and with a few thousand rupees? There is no doubt that if the whole amount sanctioned and granted is spent honestly on the project in hand the work would be excellent but it is seldom done.
Keeping in view the rampant corruption, dishonesty and misappropriation of public money by unscrupulous persons it is absolutely necessary to stop the midday meal scheme without further loss of time. More importantly children cannot be exposed to health hazards causing serious diseases leading to death. It is better to keep children starved for some time than to force them to consume food which has turned poisonous due to a dead reptile or lizard lying in it.
Our Holy scriptures forbids us to eat any such thing on which even a hair has fallen but the so-called teachers trained in Macaulay’s western educational system do not hesitate in serving food to children which has been contaminated by a dirty insect or even by a dead reptile.
The midday meal scheme should be replaced by a scheme under which fresh seasonal fruits and pure milk can be served to children at school. It should be mandatory for every school in rural areas to have a few acres of land attached to it. Every rural school should have a cowshed. The school should have an orchard also where trees bearing fruits like banana, guava, apple, mango, coconut etc. can be grown and served to children in place of stale, unhygienic and ill-reputed midday meal. Fresh seasonal fruits and pure milk can be served to children at schools in urban areas also.
(The writer can be contacted at A-207, Kalyani Apartments, Sector-06, Vasundhara, (Ghaziabad))