Reported by Sandeep Sarangi
Bhubaneswar, Feb 24:
Human rights activists Biswapriya Kanungo and Bijay Kumar Panda have lodged a complaint with the Odisha Human Rights Commission (OHRC) about the ‘systemic failure’ in the implementation of the mid-day meal (MDM) scheme in the state.
In the complaint lodged yesterday, they argued that the scheme, launched with the objective of reducing the dropout rates in schools and curbing malnutrition through a joint effort by the Union Government and the State Government, was in a mess due to the total lack of attention to the safety and hygiene aspects of the scheme.
They cited the example of the incident at Bisarpur UP School under Banpur where 40 kids fell sick due to food poisoning after consuming mid-day meal served in the school. Nine of these kids were in critical condition. Another such incident took place in Kurunti School under Dhenkanal where 36 kids fell sick due to a spider falling into the food vessel, they pointed out.
“These are just two out of many such instances. In fact, such incidents have become the order of the day. Due to the complete apathy of the authorities, this laudable scheme has put the life of innocent children in jeopardy, which violates their right to life. Most of the schools do not have separate kitchen cum storerooms,” Kanungo told OST.
“We have sought the intervention of the Commission to reassess and review the present guidelines for the mid-day meal system through an independent expert committee and order necessary remedial measures taking into account the safety and hygiene of the children,” he added.
A division bench consisting of Bira Kishore Mishra and BK Patnaik has ordered the Secretary cum Commissioner of School and Mass Communication Department to submit a report in this regard within 30 days.
The reply should answer if there are any specific guidelines pertaining to the midday meal scheme, if the guidelines are being implemented properly and if any steps are being taken to improve upon these guidelines.