The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Stern action for meal mess

Calcutta, April 11: Calcutta High Court today directed the state government and the district administration to take exemplary penal action against those involved in the recent mid-day meal scam in Mohanpur gram panchayat in West Midnapore.

Condemning the scam as a “heinous crime”, a division bench of Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice J. Biswas asked the government to take strong steps so that, in the future, no one dared to make money out of food meant for poor, rural schoolchildren.

An inquiry by the food supplies department revealed that Vivekanda Enterprises, engaged by the government to distribute the meals had, in connivance with some government officials, including the district inspector of schools and the local block development officer, sold in the open market the material procured to cook the food.

Earlier, while hearing a petition filed by Girija Ranjan Saha, an advocate of Calcutta High Court, the judges severely criticised 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 observed. The court asked the government to take action against the district controller of food and supplies for negligence in monitoring the distribution of the meals to the children.

The court also directed the government to initiate proceedings against the block development officer and take action against the West Midnapore district inspector of schools for “dereliction of duty”. The bench told the government to ensure that the distributorship of Vivekanda Enterprises was cancelled.

Residents of the district had moved court alleging irregularities in the supply of the meals and accusing a section of the administration of being hand in glove with the contractor.

“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,” the judges said.

Additional government pleader Debasish Kar Gupta conceded that some allegations were true. The state, he said, has already taken steps against some of the offenders and the distribution rights of the supplier have been terminated. The vigilance commission is probing the alleged involvement of the block development officer.

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