LUCKNOW: Days after a scribe was arrested for exposing the mid-day meal anomalies at a primary school in Mirzapur where children were being served salt and roti, enraged residents of Siyuri village, led by the mid-day meal cook, have come out in defence of the journalist.
"The journalist is not at fault. He is being framed falsely. Murari Lal did everything deliberately. It was due to his apathy that children were served just with salt and roti," said Rukmani Devi, the cook who served salt and roti to over 100 primary school children in Mirzapur on the day of Janmashtami last month.
The incident came to light only after journalist Pramod Kumar Jaiswal shot it and made the video viral on social media the same day.
Initially, the administration took notice of the incident through the video clip and acted against headmaster Murari Lal and a few basic education department officials but later the district administration booked Jaiswal also on charges of ‘criminal conspiracy’ allegedly to malign the image of the state government.
Jaiswal was implicated along with Rajkumar Pal, a representative of the village head, who had alerted the reporter about the alleged deception in the scheme.
While the cook Rukmani Devi supported the journalist, angry villagers also backed him for bringing the truth to the fore. They even demanded that the administration revoke the FIR lodged against Jaiswal.
The majority of the villagers and their children said that it was a routine of the principal to usurp grains, milk, fruits and vegetables supplied for mid-day meals to be given to the children.
Rukmani claimed that she hardly got the full quota of vegetables and other items to cook for the children. “Many times I had to dilute the milk by adding water so that everyone could get it,” she claimed while talking to the media.
“We were given just 2.5 kg of potatoes and 250gm of oil for a week. Sometimes students only got half a roti each,” she said.
On any given day, there are close to 50 kids in school. Whenever she used to bring it to the notice of Murari Lal, he would ask her to cook with whatever she had. At least twice in a month, the children were given rice and salt.
Several angry parents also claimed that whenever they raised the issue with the school principal, he would turn them away saying he was doing the best he could.
The expose has proved to be a boon for the school. Grains, fruits, milk and vegetables are now present at full capacity here. The earthen oven had been replaced by a LPG gas stove and cylinder. Moreover, schools in adjoining areas have also spruced up their mid-day meals and other facilities.