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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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Scam shadow on meal scheme

Darjeeling, Nov. 14: As the country pledged to safeguard the interest of children today, a group of school teachers have been accused of embezzling mid-day meals meant for students of an impoverished village in a remote tea garden.

Residents of Pembong village under the Mim tea estate, around 30 km from here, have complained that students at the primary school there have not got midday meal for the past 18 months.

In a written complaint submitted to the executive officer (former secretary) of the DGHC, education department, the district inspector of schools and the police officials, the residents alleged that some teachers of the school were involved in the scam.

The group also said on October 30, people of the area had plastered posters regarding the failure of the mid-day meal scheme in the school. T.N. Lepcha, the headmaster of the school, however, tore the posters, saying some were trying to defame the institute, the complaint stated.

It also stated that on October 20, a chowkidar of the estate caught Sujan Thapa, a resident of the area, lifting a sack of foodgrain from the school. When questioned, Thapa said Sattam Tamang, a teacher of the school, had paid him Rs 25 to get the foodgrain.

Namita Rai, the wife of a schoolteacher Subash Rai, who was paid Rs 400 for cooking mid-day meals, was reportedly asked by the school management to discontinue her services.

As per the mid-day meal rule, the Mother-Teacher Association (which serves cooked meals to students) is supposed to cook rice, allotting around 100 gm for every student per day. The MTA is also supplied 30 gm of dal for every student per day and is given an additional Rs 2 per student per day to buy cooking oil, salt etc. The school has about 50 students.

On receiving the complaint, Dhurva Sharma, executive officer, primary education department, DGHC, has asked the district inspector of schools (primary) to conduct an inquiry. The headmaster of the school will soon be served a showcause notice to which, he is expected to file a reply within a week.

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