|Serve it right
The education department would issue a toll-free number on which people can lodge their complaints regarding anomalies in the midday meal scheme.
The government is planning to include commoners in the execution of the free meal programme after insecticide-laced lunch killed 23 children in Chhapra in July.
Midday meal director R. Laxmanan said: “In a week, the directorate would issue a toll-free number. People can lodge complaints on this number if they find anomalies in the food scheme.”
The toll-free number would be written on the walls of approximately 71,000 elementary schools with a few suggestions that the school management committee should take while providing midday meal to students.
Sources said by involving common people in executing the meal scheme, the education department wants to bring transparency and also keep a tab on proper execution of the programme.
After the July 16 tragedy, the education department issued a few guidelines for the safe execution of the scheme.
Guidelines such as purchase of mustard and vegetable oil with Agmark seal and other items bearing ISI mark, schools should refuse to take sub-standard foodgrains from the Food Corporation of India (FCI) godowns, the cooks and the principals should taste the food before serving, were issued by the state immediately after the tragedy struck.
Laxmanan said: “Any person who finds schools flouting the government rules should lodge a complaint at the midday meal directorate through the toll-free number. Action would be initiated against the person accountable for the lapses.”
The department has decided to write on the walls of the elementary schools, information and actions that need to be taken immediately if such a catastrophe strikes again.
From October, a group of people would be given training on hygiene.
They would further pass on the information to the cooks and principals of 71,000 elementary schools.
According to a proposed plan, a 12-member school management committee that looks after the affairs of midday meal, including purchase of edible oil and vegetables, would be expanded to a 19-member panel. The committee would comprise ASHA workers and Auxiliary Nurse Midwife members.
To strengthen the meal programme, the state government had also announced construction of kitchen sheds in schools.
Officials said nearly 50 per cent of government schools in Bihar do not have cooking sheds. Further, as drinking water and toilets are not available or inaccessible, hygiene becomes secondary and the chances of midday meals becoming infected are higher.
“Sanitation and hygiene on school premises remain a challenge. Unless that is taken care of, training sessions for cooks and helpers will hardly improve the scenario. Schools must have also designated cooks, who are duly paid, and ensure that teachers are not involved in non-academic work,” said a teacher on condition of anonymity.