KRISHNAGIRI: The supply of dry ration to students as part of the midday meal scheme has been marred by irregularities in some areas, with students getting less than the stipulated quota of eggs, rice and bananas. As a result, the students, many of whom hail from tribal areas, are at risk of malnutrition.
When The New Indian Express visited Mallahalli village in Kottayur panchayat, located in Anchetti taluk at a distance of 130 km from the district headquarters, residents complained that the dry ration given to their children at a panchayat union middle school (PUMS) in the locality fell short of the specified quota.
Since schools were shut owing to the pandemic, the government had ordered supply of dry ration to government school students to prevent malnutrition among children. As part of the initiative, each student is to be provided 10 eggs per month. Besides, 100 grams of rice and 40 grams of dal are also to be provided to students in classes I to V.
For students in classes VI to VIII, 150 grams of rice and 56 grams of dal are to be given. While rice and dal were distributed from May onwards, the supply of eggs started in September.
A tribal man in the village, Veerabadrappa, said that his son had received three batches of raw eggs over the past three months -- half a dozen of them twice, and ten eggs once, which fell short of the quota.
The child also received 5 kg of rice and 2 kg of dal. Meanwhile, members of three other tribal families in the village claimed that their children received only five eggs, along with rice and dal.
PUMS Headmaster Mohan Kumar said that he was unaware of the number of students who got eggs as part of the midday meal scheme, and pointed to the organiser for the details.
Noon meal organiser Shanthi said that they were unable to provide the prescribed number of eggs for every student as the supply was short. The school has been indenting for dry ration based on a feeding strength of 100, calculated using the average attendance, while the actual number of students on roll stood at 117. Among them, only 25 students consume eggs.
“Some eggs also fall down and break while unloading,” said Shanthi. Further, she lamented that a few kg of rice is usually missing in every sack of rice supplied to the school, and in turn, the students get less than their actual quota. Bananas were also not supplied to those students who do not eat eggs, the organiser said.
Assistant Accounts Officer P Chenna Kesavan of the Nutritious Meal Programme department said that the organisers typically place the indent for dry ration, and the principal may be unaware of it. He further said that the department would look into the issue and inform the Thally Block Development Officer accordingly.
Thally Block Development Officer Tamilarasan and Regional Manager of Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies Corporation Bala Murugan also promised to look into the matter. Junior Quality Inspector Sugumar from Denkanikottai, who suspected the role of loadmen and drivers behind the missing rice, assured that an inquiry would be conducted.