Koraput, July 22: Amid reports of students falling ill after consuming mid-day meal at schools in Dhenkanal and other districts of Odisha, tribal-dominated Koraput requires immediate steps to check the unhygienic condition in which food is prepared.
According to official reports as many as 2,14,000 students have been enrolled at the 2,757 primary schools of the district but at least 1,378 schools lack proper kitchen to prepare food forcing the officials concerned to cook food in open and unhygienic conditions.
"Due to lack of kitchen rooms at schools the cooks prepare food under the shade of tree or any other places in unhygienic condition. There is every possibility that the food may get contaminated and a disaster could happen," said Koraput based activist Bhabani Mishra.
"Apart from making all new rules to ensure safe and hygienic food for the school chidren's, the government should ensure that each school has a kitchen room," he added. Also, at least 1160 schools in the district don't have proper cooking utensils for preparing food.
Old, damaged and uncleaned utensils are being used for cooking food and the food is kept in uncovered utensils. Admitting that over 50 per cent of the schools don't have kitchen, officials blamed it to the lack of funds. "Whenever funds come for construction of kitchen room it is done.
Presently, construction of kitchen at some schools is going on at the available funds. If we get sufficient funds then kitchen rooms will be constructed in more number of schools," said Koraput district Collector Sachin Jadhav.
However, the collector said strict instructions have been issued to concerned officials to ensure that mid-day meal is prepared in hygienic condition and is safe to consume. "If there is no kitchen, it doesn't mean that food will be prepared in open and in unhygienic condition.
In remote areas the cooks and attendants don't take the matter seriously, so the officials concerned have been asked to keep constant watch to ensure the food is cooked in the most hygienic condition," the collector said.