DHENKANAL: THE tall claim of the State Government that the mid-day meal (MDM) scheme is being successfully implemented in schools appears frivolous in the district as the supplies of provisions are given a short shrift. With the failure of the Government in providing LPG connections for MDM, majority of schools depend on firewood for cooking.
Sources said out of 1,722 schools, including 28 residential Seva Ashrams where MDM scheme is being implemented, only 569 schools have LPG connections in the district. More than 1.29 lakh students are provided with noon meal every day while about 8,000 inmates of Seva Ashrams take food thrice a day. The Government allocates `65 per student for residential Seva Ashrams every month to implement the scheme.
However, following a direction from the NHRC, the State Government had provided LPG connections to 218 schools in Kankadahada block of the district three years ago.
On the other hand, while many schools do not have kitchen, the cooks and helpers are not trained on safe use of LPG. As a result, the school authorities are not using cooking gas for MDM. Similarly, the oil companies have failed to impart training on safety measures to be followed for using LPG cylinder to the MDM staff.
School authorities said LPG is costlier than firewood. Since cooking gas increases the cost of making food, they use firewood for preparing noon meals.
Sources said a residential school requires more than 10 quintals of firewood while a school under Sarva Sikshya Abhiyan (SSA) needs about four quintals for cooking food. They have to depend on local vendors who supply wood from forests.
In order to provide improved cooking ‘chulha,’ the district unit of Odisha Renewable Energy Development Agency (OREDA) has constructed the facility in 800 schools.
However, teachers alleged that the facility is inadequate for the schools having large number of students. As a result, most of the schools in the district depend on firewood for cooking, resulting in respiratory problems among students.
When contacted, District Education Officer (DEO) Sipra Nayak said she will request the State Government to provide LPG connections to the left-out schools.
Assistant Director of OREDA K K Das said, “During 2015-16, we had constructed improved cooking chulhas in 800 schools. But this year, we have not received any fund for the purpose.”
Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) PK Sahoo also admitted to the use of firewood collected from forest for MDM in the district.