Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Feb 4:
Perturbed by the mid-day meal (MDM) horrors in schools across the state in the recent past, the Odisha government is all set to put a monitoring system in place to prevent such incidents in the future.
In the new system, special vigilance teams will conduct surprise raids on schools under the School & Mass Education Department to ensure the quality of food served to children under the mid-day meal (MDM) scheme.
A special team comprising Block Education Officer (BEO) and Food Security Officer (FSO) would arrive at schools across the district without prior notice to collect samples of food served to children under the scheme, sources in the department said.
A detailed blueprint has been prepared by the state project management unit to ensure the implementation of the new steps, a source privy to the development said.
It may be noted that noon meal is served to over 55 lakh children in 63, 673 schools across the state.
The samples thus collected would be sent to laboratories through the State Food Commission to ascertain the nutritional value and quality of the meal served to the children. The tests would comply with the standard guidelines issued by the state government. If the samples fail the test, action would be initiated against authorities of the concerned schools.
If the samples fail to meet the standards, the team would inquire into the matter, find out the loopholes in the system and then fix responsibility following which action would be initiated against the person, the sources said.
A notification in this regard has been circulated to all the DEOs across the state. Likewise, the district collectors have also been asked to monitor the management of the MDM scheme.
Besides, the team would also look into infrastructure issues that include storage facilities, kitchens, quality drinking water and other things linked to hygiene during the preparation of food.
In addition to this, the cooks and other people associated with MDM would be given awareness and orientation on safe and hygienic cooking practices through workshops.
To reduce dependence on firewood and reduce cooking time, Rs 8.44 crore has been sanctioned, in first phase, for LPG linkage to the schools.
It may be recalled that over 180 students fell sick after eating the noon meal at Jaguleipadar Nodal Upper Primary School in Puri district in November last year. There have also been instances of lizards, scorpions and cockroaches found in the mid-day meals.
According to reports, nearly 375 students including 89 from Nayagarh, 62 from Kendrapada, 50 from Ganjam, 39 in Rourkela, 30 students from Dhenkanal, 23 students from Baleswar, 22 from Khordha, and 14 from Bolangir District had taken ill after consuming contaminated mid-day meal in 2013.