Substandard mid-day meals are being provided to almost four lakh students in the 589 schools run by the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), according to some tests conducted by the FICCI Research and Analysis Centre (FICCI RAC).
For over a year-and-a-half, the Centre has been conducting these tests for the SDMC on a monthly basis.
The most recent test results, available for the period between January and March this year, have revealed that the calorific value of a rice and daal meal is 134kcal/100 gram. The calorific value, as per the guidelines set by the civic body while drafting the scheme, is supposed to be 450 kcal/100 gram, according to officials. The samples also fall short in protein value. The tests revealed that the average protein value is 7.41 gm/100 grams, whereas the required value is 12 gram/100 gram.
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According to Leader of Opposition in the South Municipal Corporation Farhad Suri, samples collected from SDMC schools have consistently failed these tests for nearly two years. This was due to a “money-making connivance between the SDMC and the vendors at the cost of the students’ health,” he claimed.
While South Delhi mayor Subhash Arya confirmed that the samples from the schools have failed the tests, he claimed that this was due to a change in the “process and parameters” of testing. “There is nothing wrong with the food we serve. The parameters for conducting the tests have been changed by the government, which is what makes the result negative,” Arya said. The mayor also alleged that the Delhi government’s mid-day meals “are also sub-standard.”
The meals are prepared by three NGOs: Iskcon, with its main kitchen in Aali Village, Jay Jee Humanitarian Society, which operates from Sultanpur, and Ekta Shakti Foundation, with its kitchens in Matiala Extension, Uttam Nagar. The annual budget allocation for the scheme is Rs 22 crore while the actual expenditure is approximately Rs 14 crore, said officials.
SDMC officials, meanwhile, argued that the samples have been failing the tests because the sampling has gone from ‘wet’ to ‘dry’. Earlier, the tests were conducted on cooked food while now, they are conducted on the uncooked material, they said.
“We have been testing these samples for two years. Dry and wet means nothing to us, we test what is consumed,” said assistant director, technical, FICCI RAC, SK Manocha.
While the SDMC officials admit to the shortfalls of the scheme, no action has been taken so far to increase the calorific value of the meals provided to school children, according to South Delhi mayor Subhash Arya.