Ranchi, Sept. 1: Around 41,000 teachers across the state today formally washed their hands of the centrally sponsored midday meal scheme, in a move that may jeopardise efforts to ensure nutrition for around 52 lakh poor children at government schools.
Under the banner of Akhil Jharkhand Prathmik Shikshak Sangh, the teachers have decided to stay away from all non-academic work. Two other outfits, Jharkhand Primary Teachers’ Association and Jharkhand State Primary Teachers’ Sangh, have extended their support.
President of the shikshak sangh Anand Kumar Singh said they would no more get involved in any sort of non-teaching schemes in schools.
He added that when teachers went on a hunger strike in December last year, the government had given them a written assurance that their demands would be fulfilled, but to no avail.
“Our job is to teach students, which we will continue to the best of our abilities. However, we aren’t concerned about the midday meal any longer,” he said. Singh added that they had informed the HRD department about their plan a month ago.
The move will paralyse the government’s endeavour to ensure quality midday meal to students in days to come. It will primarily impact the scheme in three ways — maintenance of students’ attendance (register) who ate midday meal, recording daily expenses and facilitating monthly rice and other stocks from state godowns.
After the midday meal tragedy in Bihar, the Centre had issued a blanket order to all states to adopt extra precautions to avoid a rerun. Jharkhand, too, in the last few months issued directives to all district education superintendents (DESs) in this regard. The DESs, in return, issued directives to school principals, warning them of punitive measures in case of gaffes.
According to Ram Murti Thakur, secretary of the shikshak sangh, there are many “unpronounced jobs”, which directly affect teachers.
“For example, most of the times, funds aren’t released on time. In such situations, Saraswati Vahinis or Mamta Vahinis, which are primarily responsible for midday meals, give up. Then we are compelled to arrange for food on credit. This apart, the state has to report to the Centre the details of the scheme on the 10th of every month. Again, we are made to prepare those reports,” said Thakur.
“As Saraswati Vahini members are not government employees, in any sort of crisis, they pull out. Ultimately, teachers are held accountable. As per rules, all work has to be done by these samitis, then why should we be held responsible?” he added.
The HRD department, however, called it “blackmailing” tactics and said it out won’t affect the scheme.
“See, meals are cooked by Saraswati Vahinis in schools and funds are directly credited to their accounts for this. So, the work will go on,” said S.K. Mishra, deputy director (HRD) who looks after the scheme in Jharkhand.
He added that the department was planning to hold a workshop in Ranchi for all stakeholders to see how the concerns of teachers could be addressed fast.