New Delhi, Feb 25: A ruling BJP MP today embarrassed the government by saying in Lok Sabha that the mid-day meal scheme, sponsored by the Centre, has become "poisonous meal", leading to strong objection from HRD Minister Smriti Irani.
She, however, admitted that complaints have been received with regard to poor quality of meals especially related to aspects of food safety.
During the question hour, Ravindra Kumar Pandey, member from Jharkhand, said in many places in his state, children are being given stale and inconsumable food and many students have fallen sick after eating poor quality food offered in school. "Ye jahrili bhojan ho gaye hain (It has become poisonous food," he said, inviting laughter in opposition camp.
The HRD Minister immediately strongly reacted to the MP's statement, saying the contention of Pandey was incorrect and he should not generalise the whole scheme. "If the honorable MP has any specific complaint, he should bring it to our notice.
We will solve the problem in consultation with the state government. Action will be taken," he said. Irani said as per a Supreme Court order, children have to be served hot cooked meal and no packed food is allowed to serve.
The Minister said out of the 190 complaints received in the last three years and the current year, 75 complaints pertained to poor quality of meals especially related to aspects of food safety. Action taken by the state governments includes criminal cases instituted, termination or suspension or transfer of those found responsible besides corrective action taken for prevention of recurrence of such complaints.
Irani said after introduction of mid-day meal scheme in 1995, initially the enrollment of children in government and government aided schools had increased. However, in recent years, enrollment rates have stabilised or dipped as birth rates are stabilising in several states of the country, she said.