BHUBANESWAR: Expressing alarm over cooking of mid-day meal (MDM) for students in open, thereby exposing them to various hazards, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has directed the State Government to construct kitchen sheds in all primary schools within a fixed time-frame.
Acting on a complaint filed by human rights activist Akhand, drawing attention to the dangers posed to students due to cooking of meals in extremely unsuitable conditions, the commission issued the direction and hoped that the Government will take necessary steps.
The petitioner had submitted that over 10,930 schools in the State did not have kitchen sheds to cook MDM. As they were cooked under open sky or in a corner, the food was vulnerable to contamination and poisoning. As a result, children are being constantly exposed to the risk of food poisoning and other health hazards.
Last year, dead lizards were found in MDMs served to children at several schools. Scores of children fell ill after consuming one such meal in Nabarangpur last year. Such incidents had been reported from Hinjili and other places.
Besides, keeping hot cooked food in the open had also posed grave physical threat to students. A girl in a primary school had died after falling into hot curry cauldron in Sambalpur district last year.
Considering the seriousness of the matter, the commission had earlier issued notice to the Government seeking a report. The State Nodal officer (MDM) in his response had stated that as many as 10,000 schools did not have proper kitchen sheds. The work could not be carried out due to paucity of funds. The Government is making alternative arrangements for completion of the sheds, the report stated.
Akhand, however, stated that budget was not a problem for the Government. The situation reflected a lack of sincerity on the part of the officials concerned. He appealed to the commission to direct the Government to complete construction of kitchen sheds in all primary schools of the State within a fixed time-frame.