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HC rap over meals mess

Calcutta, Feb. 21: Months after it was launched, the mid-day meal scheme for primary schoolchildren in West Midnapore has got enmeshed in allegations of corruption and lack of government supervision.

A division bench of Calcutta High Court comprising Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice J. Biswas today came down heavily on the government for not overseeing the distribution of the meals. “It is the minimum responsibility of the government to carry on the programmes meant for the development of the poor,” it said.

The court asked the government to take action against the district controller of food and supply for negligence in monitoring the distribution of the meals to children in several schools.

The court also told the government to initiate disciplinary proceedings against a block development officer and to take necessary action against the West Midnapore district inspector of schools for “dereliction in duty”.

The bench asked the government to ensure that the distributorship of Vivekanda Enterprises, which was engaged to supply the meals, was cancelled.

A section of the residents of the district had moved court, alleging irregularities in the supply of the mid-day meals.

They said a section of the district administration was working in connivance with the enterprise. “While the government is trying to spread education among the poor by providing food to the children in schools, a group of miscreants is making money by selling it,” they said.

The court had asked the government to file an affidavit.

Appearing on behalf of the food commissioner, additional government pleader Debasish Kar Gupta submitted an affidavit conceding that some of the allegations were true. The state has already taken steps against some of the offenders, he said.

The distribution rights of the enterprise have been taken away, Gupta said. The vigilance commission is looking into the alleged involvement of the BDO.

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