For the last six months, SHGs are managing the mid-day meal (MDM) scheme in Balangir on credit. In many schools, the scheme has been stopped.
The only Government School in Badbanki village caters to 400 students. And the noon meals for them are cooked by members of Mahalaxmi Mahila Mandal.
Phula Karuan and Saibani Majhi, the cooks in the school and also members of the SHG, said their SHG has not received any fund under the scheme for which they are not getting their wages. “We have been buying essential commodities and vegetables required for preparation of mid-day meals from the grocer’s shop nearby on credit. We get a meagre `1500 as wages per month and helpers get `1,000 a month, but even that has not been provided to us for the last six months,” Phula said.
Her co-worker Saibani said as they take things on credit, the grocer provides them commodities and vegetables of poor quality. “But we are forced to manage with whatever we get,” she said.
At schools in Banipali, Taljuri, Falsamal, Bearpali, Tablabanji and Babja under Loisingha block, mid-day meals have not been provided to students ever since schools reopened after summer vacation. At some other schools, cooks and helpers refuse to turn up as their wages have not been paid.
Amid funds crunch and lack of monitoring, the scheme has been severely hit at many other parts of the district. To make things worse, there is no action from the authorities concerned who are supposed to monitor implementation of MDM at regular intervals.
In February last year, 47 students of Athgaon High School had taken ill after consuming eggs served in the meals. Rotten eggs were believed to be the cause of food poisoning. Even after the incident, monitoring of the scheme has been absent.
A child rights activist Bhajaram Sahu said in every part of the district, mid-day meal scheme has been hit. “There is no one to take care of the scheme and the condition is worse in remote parts of the district. Where ever students get meals, their quality and quantity is too poor,” he alleged.
Balangir Collector D Prashant Kumar Reddy said he will review the implementation of educational system and the mid-day meal scheme soon and take steps to streamline them. “It is because of staff shortage that we are not able to monitor the scheme properly. We will very soon clear all the pending dues of the SHGs managing MDM at schools,” he added.