Days after two children died due to burns from falling into boiling sambar prepared for their mid-day meal, a Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) team is slated to visit the State to take stock of the scheme.
The team will look into levels of monitoring, study the quality and supply of food grains, the level of awareness and participation of the community in the scheme. “These incidents could reflect negatively on the implementation of the scheme, but the onus always lies on how well it is monitored at the school level,” said Jayakumar S, joint director of mid-day meal scheme.
A pilot Social Audit, Accountability and Transparency (SAAT) study was undertaken by the MHRD in Khammam and Chittoor districts of Andhra Pradesh in March. The second audit would be undertaken in Bijapur and Bellary districts. The team is expected to be here before the end of the month.
The Department of Public Instruction, meanwhile, has issued a reminder to headmasters and cooks on how the mid-day meal is to be served. They have been asked to transfer rice and sambar from big vessels to smaller ones and buckets before serving children.
“Further, they have been directed to ensure that no child gets food standing right in front of the vessel. Teachers have been asked to ensure children do not rush out of their classrooms following lunch bell, and food should be served to children in order. These reminders are issued every time there is some accident,” Jayakumar said.
Jayakumar attributed the D Palya incident in Chikballapur, where Anusha (6) died on Wednesday, to poor monitoring and management of the scheme. All the four cooks in the school have been replaced.
“Based on the information we have, the cooks kept the huge vessel outside during lunch hour. When the lunch bell rang, all the kids ran towards the vessel. In the rush, the girl fell into the sambar. Commonsense required them to have placed a bench in front of the vessel to maintain a safe distance,” Jayakumar told Express. A three-member committee, under the zilla panchayat chief executive officer, has been constituted to submit a detailed report on the incident within a week.