Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Nov 2:
Due to spiraling dal prices, dalma and dal-based dishes have made a vanishing act from the menu in the mid-day meals served in Odisha schools.
The state government has recently decided to replace pulses-based dishes with vegetables due to the unprecedented hike in the prices of the legumes in the recent months.
This decision has raised eyebrows with intellectuals and village self help groups pointing out that this will curtail the protein intake of poor school going children in the state. The exorbitant rise in dal prices has lead to replacement of dal and dalma which was served on Monday and Thursday to mixed vegetable curry. The schools have been instructed to serve mixed vegetable curry made of local vegetables like cauliflower, pumpkin, sweet potato, brinjal, tomato etc.
With rise in prices last year, the mid day meal menu had said good bye to arhar or toor dal and students were only served moong and chana dal, but from this year they will not get these dal too.
According to state mid-day meal project director Gangadhar Sahu, while rice comes free from the government, they get Rs 1.70 per child for 25 gm of dal, with such high prices it is impossible to procure any dal at this rate. If they serve dal, the bill comes to Rs 3.46 per student. Therefore, rice and dal, and rice and dalma are replaced with rice and soyabean curry and rice vegetable curry on Monday and Thursday.
On Wednesday and Saturday the children are served with rice and egg curry which costs the exchequer Rs 6.51 per child. While vegetable on Tuesday comes to Rs 1.10.
But the parents and village self help groups in various villages around the state are up in arms against this, as they feel that meal without pulses will lower the nutritional value to the food. They are questioning the removal of dal from the food list when eggs and soya despite their rise in price are being served in governement schools.
Midday meals are served 6 days a week in schools, and many feel that the government should provide free dal to the students.