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The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tempers boil in midday meal pot

Nine siblings, including two girls, have accused the management of a state-run school of threatening them with expulsion because they protested the rice in the midday meal was under-cooked, an allegation the cradle has hotly denied.

Rickshaw-puller and paan-stall owner Mohammed Zeelani of Ulidih, Mango, brought his nine children to the district collectorate on Friday to lodge his complaint with East Singhbhum deputy commissioner Himani Pande.

As Pande was out of town, Zeelani told The Telegraph he and his children would lodge their complaint against Kunwar Singh Road Madhya Vidyalaya, Ulidih, on Saturday.

The children — Sabir Ansari and Danish Ansari (Class VII), Zubair Alam (Class VI), Akbar Ansari, Sadhu Ansari and Sadam Ansari (Class IV), Gulphash Khatoon, Mustaki Ansari and Muskan Khatoon (all Class III) — had complained to their teacher that rice was “under-cooked”.

Matters came to a head on Thursday, Zeelani said.

“I was told yesterday by my son Sabir Ansari that their teacher asked all of them not to come to school as they had been protesting against the poor quality of midday meal. When I went to the school, the principal said I could take my children away if I didn’t find the midday meal good enough. I was also told they would not issue transfer certificates. If they do this, how will my children get admitted to another school?” he asked.

The nine siblings didn’t go to school on Friday.

Sabir Ansari, the oldest, said they weren’t fussy eaters.

“We just said rice is not boiled properly and our stomach aches,” he said. “Our teacher got angry and threatened to throw us out of school.”

In-charge principal Geeta Devi dismissed the allegation.

“We have never threatened any child with expulsion. In this case, a parent deliberately created a scene. No other student or parent has come up with a complaint. Iskcon Food Relief Foundation supplies meals, which are usually good,” she said.

But, Devi admitted rice was a “bit hard at times”. “We have told this to delivery van distributors. But on this matter (expulsion threat), I welcome the district administration to probe into the allegation made by the parent. We have nothing to hide,” she said.

The school, with Classes I to VIII, has 144 students.