Claiming that more than 2,000 women in the city would be rendered unemployed if the BMC hands over a contract for mid-day meals in civic schools to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), women’s self-help groups in the city will soon be approaching the chief minister, municipal commissioner and party leaders seeking their intervention in the matter.
“There are more than 450 self-help groups who are earning their living by making mid-day meals for schools. If the contract is handed over to other agencies, then we will be left unemployed. If the civic body has a problem with the quality of the food that we serve then let them conduct an analysis. How can they prove that the food served by ISKCON will be of perfect quality? The administration is answerable to us,” said Jayashree Panchal, chairperson of the Mumbai Konkan Vibhagiya Mahila Sanstha Federation. The self-help groups provide meals to more than 4,50,000 students in the city.
In 2012, the BMC’s education committee had put forward a proposal to award a contract for serving mid-day meals exclusively to the ISKCON Food Relief Foundation (IFRF), taking into consideration the quality of the food they serve to some schools. If the proposal is approved, BMC will find seven spots where centralized ISKCON kitchens can be built.
“We are yet to receive permission from the administration to go ahead with the procedures. ISKCON is currently serving meals in 8 wards to more than 50,000 children and the quality is much superior than that offered by the self-help groups,” said Sunil Dhamne, deputy municipal commissioner in charge of the education department of the civic body.
Meanwhile, the federation, which will soon be writing a letter to all the authorities, has also said that the BMC has not cleared their bills pending since 2004. “There are groups whose pending bills have gone upto Rs 10-12 lakh and the authorities don’t seem to be bothered about our situation,” said Yashoda Sakpal, another member of the federation. The self-help groups are currently employed under temporary contracts for 3 years at the cost of Rs 4.50 crore.