Teachers boycott not-so-mouth-watering mid-day meal scheme

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Bangalore, July 24: The mid-day meal scheme across the country is going to drains for various reasons. After the Bihar tragedy, parents and children across the country have become skeptical and scared when it comes to having that "mid-day meal" in the school.

In some parts, rotten eggs and lizards have been found in the stock of raw materials provided for the mid-day meals. In some other parts, the Sarpanch has decided to discontinue children from consuming the food provided after a lizard was found in cooked food. Mid-day meal schemes across the country are being reviewed and investigated as part of precautionary measure preventing more children from falling prey to these unhygienic and absolutely unhealthy food.

Just in a recent incident, three lakh school teachers in Bihar have decided to boycott the mid-day meal scheme from July 25 to get rid of non-academic work. A week after the death of 23 children from eating a contaminated mid-day meal in Saran district, teachers are in no mood to assist the government in running the scheme.

In New Delhi

Juvenile activists of Bachpan Bachao Andolan protest against Bihar mid-day meal tragedy, in New Delhi.

In Patna

Children who fell ill after eating mid-day meal in school, shifted to another ward after gas leakage in their ward at the PMCH hospital in Patna.

In Neyveli

Girls who fell ill after consuming mid-day meal being treated at a hospital in Neyveli.

In Patna

LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan holds a school child who fell ill after consuming mid-day meals, at Patna Medical College & Hospital in Patna.

In Patna

LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan meeting school children who fell ill after consuming mid-day meals, at Patna Medical College & Hospital in Patna.

In Patna

School children queue up for mid-day meal at a government school in Patna.

In Chapra

Family members of mid-day meal victims mourn deaths of their siblings in Chapra.

"It was unanimously decided at a meeting of the Bihar State Primary Teachers' Association to boycott the scheme," its president, Barajnandan Sharma, told IANS.

"We had repeatedly requested the government in writing to involve teachers in academic work only and employ some agency for the scheme, which was ignored. Teachers should not be burdened with all kinds of non-academic work," he said.

Teachers are blamed for anything that goes wrong with the scheme, Sharma said, adding: "It is giving a bad name to teachers due to rampant corruption."

He said that it is a well-known fact that teachers and headmasters have to invariably manage the mid-day meal scheme with third-grade food stuff and corruption at every level. "Top to bottom, officials have information about it. But when something happens, a teacher or headmaster is solely blamed for it despite the fact that there are several officials involved in it," he said.

Refering to the Saran tragedy, Sharma said: "There may be some mismanagement. Even human error cannot be ruled out. But putting the blame on teachers even before an inquiry has completed surprised us."

In the wake of teachers' decision to boycott the scheme, Bihar Education Minister P.K. Shahi said it was difficult to arrange for an agency to run the scheme in 72,000 schools across the state.

"The government does not have the resources to hire an agency for the huge task of serving mid-day meals to 1.60 crore students," Shahi said.

Last Saturday, a forensic science laboratory report confirmed the presence of toxic insecticide strains in the cooking oil used for making food at the school.

The poisonous substance, organophosphorus, in oil samples collected from school was more than five times the commercial preparation available in the market, police said.

Organophosphorus compounds are degradable organic compounds containing carbon-phosphorus bonds used primarily in pest control.

With inputs from IANS.

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