NEW DELHI: Rattled by the incident of 81 children at a government school in Uttar Pradesh being served one-litre milk diluted with buckets of water under the mid-day meal scheme, the Centre has decided to dispatch a senior-level team to the state to audit the programme’s implementation.
On Friday, the principal and two cooks of a school in Sonbhadra district were suspended by the state government at the behest of the Union Human Resources Development Ministry after a video filming the adulteration went viral on social media.
A senior ministry official said that on previous occasions teams have been sent to find holes in the system after repeated or large scale irregularities in the MDM scheme.
“We are doing the same this time too,” he added.
The team will consist of a senior HRD official apart from independent authorities, including vice-chancellor of some universities and members of civil society.
The team will visit some other states too from where complaints have been received.
“It’s embarrassing that despite measures, such as random inspections and making principals and teachers accountable, such cases are being reported,” another senior official said.
Incidentally, in response to a question in the Lok Sabha, the government this week had conceded that of the 52 reports of corruption in the scheme in last three years, the highest — 14— were from UP.
The incident comes close on the heels of another case at a school in Mirzapur district of UP where students were being served just salt and roti.
In that case, however, the administration had booked a local journalist and school principal on the charges of spreading fake news.
School policy experts, meanwhile, pointed towards a larger systemic failure.
“This incident is a reflection of the chronic neglect of the education system in one of the most backward areas in India,” said educationist Anjela Taneja.