| Turning backs to school meals'
Krishnagar, Feb. 13: Parents of students of a primary school here have asked the authorities to stop providing midday meals to their children because they are more used to having pastries and noodles.
About 200 children out of 250 at Ramakrishna Vivekananda Primary School, about 85 km from Calcutta, bring lunch from home.
Last week, their parents wrote to district magistrate Rajesh Pandey and Nadia inspector of primary schools Birendranath Chatterjee, asking them to stop providing the meal ' part of a scheme to stem the rate of school dropouts.
'Our children are not used to eating low-quality food like the khichuri and dal they are provided. They find it tasteless. Moreover, they do not need the free meal. The lunch meant for our children can be served to those in schools in rural areas who are poor,' said Sunil Biswas, the bank employee father of Shouvik, a Class IV student.
Asim Biswas, who owns stationery shops and is the father of Shobhana, a Class I student, echoed Biswas. 'The midday meal should not be given to children coming from families like ours. We can afford food for our children. It should go to the poor.'
But the district administration found it 'rude' on the part of the parents to have refused the meal. Already perturbed by the dwindling number of students in its primary schools ' about 25 of them are being closed down in the district because of lack of students ' the administration has taken exception to the parents' move.
The district magistrate sounded angry when he said: 'If affluent guardians cannot accept the midday meal, they can take their children out of state-aided primary schools.'
At a meeting with him, the parents complained about the quality of food served to their children. Pandey said: 'What the parents and guardians are saying is ridiculous. They want us to serve palatable dishes at school. How can we serve them tasty food when the allotment is Re 1 for a student. If we cook better food for some, it will be discrimination.'
He added: 'I asked them to volunteer and cook better food for their children in the school, but they refused.'
A senior district official said the system 'cannot be done away with'. The Supreme Court has ordered that midday meals have to be served in all state-aided primary schools.
Pandey said he would write to the headmistress, Bijoli Roy, asking her to tell the parents to shift their children to private schools if they do not like the idea of midday meals.
Roy said she had 'dismissed' the parents' suggestion when they came to her.
The scheme is running well in about 2,600 primary schools in Nadia, said Chatterjee.