The contractor whose midday meal samples failed the quality test was permitted to accompany the 10-member team from the Ministry of Human Resource and Development on Thursday to check midday meal in various schools.
Accompanied by contractor Tarsem Singh Banga, the team inspected schools in rural areas like Halwara, Phullenwala and other villages.
The samples of raw rice taken from central kitchen failed the quality test in May 2013. The rice was being supplied by the same contractor who accompanied the Central team to all the schools.
“It is a complete hand-in-glove situation. The contractor who supplies raw rice and wheat and handles cooking accompanied the team. How can one complain about him in front of him? The inspection was nothing more than a drama as he was guiding the team at every step and even telling them which dish to taste,” said a teacher from Phullenwala school.
Another parent said, “How can one ensure that inspection was without any influence when the contractor was accompanying the team whose samples have already failed and no action was taken against him by the health department? He may have made all arrangements in advance as he knew which schools the team will be visiting and excellent quality of food may have been supplied. How can the education department allow the contractor to accompany the team?”
When contacted, district education officer Ranjit Singh said, “The contractor went just as a guide to take the team to different schools. He did not interfere in the inspection work.”
The team interacted with parents, schoolchildren, checked food storage and kitchens in schools on Thursday. It will visit schools of urban areas on Friday.
A written complaint has been submitted to the district education officer alleging that students are not getting the food as per the prescribed menu at Government High School, Kotmangal. As per the menu, students have to be given kheer once a week. However, students from this school alleged that they were never given kheer. Sukhdarshan Singh from the same school said, “Whenever there is any complaint regarding midday meal, it is never allowed to reach higher officials and suppressed there only. No immediate action is taken which is a big problem.”
On May 30 last year, the three samples taken by the district health department failed the test. The raw rice samples taken from the central kitchen were found to be of sub-standard quality. But no action was taken against contractor Tarsem Singh Banga who continues to supply raw material to almost 150 primary and upper primary schools in Ludhiana. However, the central kitchen at Sherpur was later shut down.