Alot: Mid-day meals in a soup in Alot

Alot: Central government’s much touted mid-day meal has been turned into a joke by officials and self-help groups in Alot town of Ratlam district.

In fact, flouting all norms half-cooked chappatis, watery dal and mixed vegetables that looks more like a soup than curry are being served to pre-primary and primary schoolchildren as mid-day meal in 11 schools of Alot of Ratlam district. Many children do not even get this sub-standard meal for months. The Free Press visited all schools of the area to get a real-time first-hand information about the scheme.

Around 1,138 kids enrolled in 11 pre-primary and primary schools of Alot are covered under the scheme. To ensure proper meal, authorities have contracted different self help groups.

Norms flouted: During visit to various schools, Free Press found that self-help groups tasked with providing nutritious meal to kids were flouting the norms with impunity. Not only weekly menu set by the government has been discarded, these groups also manipulate attendance of kids. Besides, preparation of meal too has been outsourced.

Free Press was the first to highlight sub-standard food being supplied to kids by SHGs under the scheme.

“As per the scheme, school teachers should accept meal in accordance with the number of students present. Even the payment has to be done on the basis of students’ strength on that particular day,” he said and added, “On the contrary, in majority of schools teachers mark full attendance without undertaking any exercise and make full payment to SHGs. The SHGs are paid for the meal of even absent students.”

The rules state that food should be prepared in school kitchen by local cooks or SHG members so that hot meal is served to students. However, a number of middle and primary schools, particularly in remote areas of the district, have outsourced preparation of meal to mint money.

Many schools either lack a kitchen or have turned it into a store.

‘We are not served food as per daily menu’

Deepali Tantwe, 15, of government school in Alot said, “We are not served food as per the daily menu on a regular basis. The food which we are getting is also not up to the mark.”

On getting halwa and kheer under the scheme, Tantwe said, “Are we supposed to get these delicacies under the mid-day scheme.”

As per the menu chart, students were supposed to get Roti, Mung Dal, green or dry pea curry on Friday, but the Free Press found that mung dal was missing from children’s platter at the school. The watery mixed vegetable curry could be mistaken as a soup. Quality of roti too was not up to the mark.

Headmaster complains against SHG: Government Boys Primary School principal has lodged a complaint against SHG with chief municipal officer for non-adherence to menu. Accusing the group of serving sub-standard meal since the start of new academic session in July, he has urged the officer to replace the SHG or initiate stern action.

A couple of days back, Alot Janpad Panchayat CEO Govardhanlal Malviya had sought clarification from an SHG responsible for mid-day meal at primary school in Kajakhedi for sub-standard food.

Upset over irregularities in government scheme, Malviya had chided Ganesh SHG president over poor quality and warned that its contract would be quashed if it failed to improve the standard. Contacted, Malviya said that the SHG had admitted to its fault and assured of no repeat.