Bizarre as it may sound, primary school teachers are being forced to sell MDM rice in black-market so as to purchase question papers and food essentials for students. This came to the fore when villagers of Nahatipada in Naugaon block seized rice meant for such sale.
ABDO of Naugaon Pradipta Kumar Mohanty rushed to the spot and seized the rice with the help of villagers. The case, he said, has been handed over to the local police. But the headmistress of the primary school Sanjukta Mishra claimed that it was to buy question papers to conduct examination for the students and other essentials. She has been detained along with a trader.
Selling of rice meant for Mid-day Meal Scheme is an offence under section 406 (criminal breach of trust), 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant) of the Indian Penal Code and other relevant sections of the Essential Commodities Act.
But the teachers have a different tale. According to the them, the Government has no provision for buying question papers while inflation has made it difficult for them to arrange other items under MDM to supply the kids regularly. In fact, the administration spends a meagre amount on firewood, eggs, and ‘soya badi’ given to the children.
The facts and figures also tell a grim reality. The Government pays Rs 3.61 per meal for each student. Of this, it has fixed Rs 3.30 for egg, and only 25 paise towards firewood per head. Teachers said the total meal costs between Rs 5 and 7 per head while the allocation is a mere Rs 3.61.
On Saturday, the price of an egg in the open market in the area was Rs 5. Similarly, against an allocation of 25 paise, the daily requirement of firewood per student actually costs more than Rs 2. A reason, the teachers claimed why they resorted to other methods to feed the kids. They have to make up for the inflated cost and have little choice. Also, teachers have bought question sets from primary school teachers association at Rs 4 per set. And the school spends Rs 500-1000 on this. But the department does not make any allocations to conduct examinations.
It is unfortunate that no such allocation is being made, said a retired educationist. This symbolises the gradual deterioration in the standard of primary education, he summed up.