Mid Day Meal Scheme

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On July 20th one of the leading local newspaper brought the news out of over 100 students who took ill in two separate mid-day meal outbreaks, according to the sources around 86 students studying in Shri Mallikaarjun High School at Canacona had fallen sick after consuming contaminated lunch. The contractor of the self help group (SHG) that provides mid-day meal to schools was arrested and his license was suspended, in second incident On Friday, around 23 students from St Joseph High School at Usgao were affected and hospitalized after eating mid-day meal prepared by another SHG. In another incident 22 primary students from a school in Ponda were rushed to a hospital after they complained of stomach pain and vomiting after eating a mid-day meal, an education department official said the students were eating a meal comprising vegetable and lentil curry at the St. Joseph High School in Usgao in Ponda sub-district, 30 kilometres from Panaji.

In one more incident at least 19 students of a government-aided high school at Pernem taluka in Goa fell ill after eating their mid-day meal, While a girl was hospitalised at a primary health centre in Tuem, about 40 km from Panaji, the rest of the students of the Kamleshwar High School were discharged after initial treatment, they said. There are many such incidents which made Mid Day meal scheme grimy, parents lost their faith on the system. Who is responsible this? Is Govt. doing any exercise to stop the malpractice by the agencies providing the mid day meals? How the whole idea of providing the healthy and hygienic food to children will become the reality? Through the means of this article we have put forward some suggestion to the concern authorities to make this scheme safe and healthy……….

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Mid Day meal scheme is intended to provide the healthy food to the school children especially of the low middle class income group families. This scheme is implemented primarily in Govt. Aided schools. It is the fact that in recent days the takers for this scheme are declining due to the rampant cases of the food poisoning to the children from various schools in Goa. Whatever is happening is not right specially when someone trying to play with the life of innocent children due to the sheer negligence of some irresponsible agencies operating in Goa providing this facility to the various schools in Goa.

The Goa Education department has decided take steps to introduce some changes in the mid-day meal scheme following two major cases of food poisoning which were reported in Goa. Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who holds the Education portfolio, has called a meeting of representatives of Parent-Teacher Associations, self-help groups involved in preparation of meals, and officials of related departments at Porvorim on July 24 to discuss the issue. Sources said the scheme would be overhauled next month onwards. The changes would include introduction of fruits and home-made chapattis which are least likely to cause food poisoning. Goa State Education Development Corporation, a state-run body, would be the nodal agency for implementation.

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Goa College of Home Science has been asked to conduct a detailed study of the mid-day meal scheme and suggest how it could be made safer for children. Mr. Parrikar had also announced that food inspectors will be appointed to check the quality of meals served at schools. Chief minister Manohar Parrikar also clarified that he will not suspend mid-day meal but revise the system of meal distribution. While talking to the media persons, he said the modalities would be finalised at a meeting scheduled on Wednesday, 24 July. He has convened a meeting of department officials to review the mid-day meal scheme, after two incidents of food poisoning occurred in Canacona and Usgao. “Usgao incident was more of a symptomatic nature than actual food poisoning. But still it is a serious matter which needs review”, said Parrikar. He ruled out the possibility of suspending the mid-day meal scheme till it is reviewed and new system is laid down as it feeds 2.40 lakh students of Goa.

Regarding the price offered for mid-day meal, the chief minister said he has already doubled it from Rs 2.60 to Rs 5.08 per meal. “The problem is that the contracts are then sub-contracted and the food is sometimes cooked without maintaining proper hygiene”, he felt. Personally he opines that the mid-day meals should be managed by the respective schools with quality checks and education department should finance it.

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Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar met along with Director of Education Anil Powar and FDA officials to review the mid-day meal scheme and the problems face by Self Help Groups. While ordering a probe in the 7 SHG’s that The Goan reported about and their pathetic conditions, the CM announced that the mid-day meal will be completely revamped with stricter norms and conditions. “We will have continuous inspections and very strict norms for mid-day meals and keep a strict vigil on SHG’s attached to ADEI’s and primary schools. While we will increase budgets and rope in the FDA to keep check on these cooked meals,” stated Parrikar while addressing media on the issue.

Director Education Powar pointed that they have discussed difficulties faced by SHG’s and others and the funding factor involved with mid-day meals while the CM assured to come up with special guidelines and totally revamp the mid-day meal scheme. Goa Government has also decided to recruit food inspectors to check the mid-day meal at schools before it is served to students. The decision comes in the backdrop of food poisoning incident in a school at Canacona, where 100 students had taken ill after partaking mid-day meal.

“We will recruit 10-15 food inspectors who will inspect the mid-day meal which is served to students,” Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar said. They would be recruited by Education Department, he added. To a query, Parrikar said it is not possible for the food, served under a Government-sponsored scheme, to be transported to Food and Drugs Administration lab in Panaji for checking from schools located in rural areas. The Chief Minister said process was on to empanel new self-help groups to supply mid-day meal in schools. There are also suggestions from responsible citizens to implementation of the outsourcing of the supply of cooked meals under MDMS to Akshaya Patra Foundation, Bangalore, which is already adopted by many states in India and considered to be highly reliable source of the cooked food suppliers to the schools under MDMS, although the government is yet to consider these suggestions. `

We hope that some permanent solution comes out soon in this issue whereby no further damages done to the health of children and everybody gets healthy and hygienic food under the Mid Day Meal Scheme……………

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