The state governments central kitchen which began here in November 2012 has been ordered closed with food and rice samples failing safety test few days back. Samples were sent to the Chandigarh lab after numerous complaints of food unfit for human consumption by children and their parents. The kitchen served meals to more than 35,000 students in 150 government schools in Ludhiana.
With the midday meal department also washing its hands off the matter by ordering schools to cook food on their own,the ultimate sufferers are the children as most schools have no infrastructure,funds,cooks or space to cope with the midday meal scheme.
Nothing was considered before closing the kitchen. What about schools having no space,infrastructure,funds or even a gas connection? We have to arrange all and when we went to apply for gas connection,they told us to get it in writing from the education department. We are still to arrange all the things. There is no space for a kitchen. So we are not serving midday meal at present, said Nahar Singh,principal,Government Model Senior Secondary School,Model Town,whose 300 students from Class 1 to 8 are not getting food since July 1.
Lack of coordination between midday meal department and poor flow of funds has worsened the situation with schools getting late reimbursements for the expenditure incurred.
Tarsem Singh Banga,manager,midday meal in Ludhiana,said,Whenever we get funds we reimburse the schools. However,there are some local problems of their own which we cannot solve. If they do not have space for a kitchen we cannot do anything. We can just supply wheat,rice and funds for other expenditure. However,sometimes funds get delayed.
The Government Model Senior Secondary School in the Punjab Agricultural University recently vacated one classroom to set up a temporary kitchen. The central kitchen was closed down abruptly. We had no arrangements. We have now applied for a gas connection and also bought utensils. We have to hire cooks, said Sanjeev Thapar,principal of the school. More than 1,200 students in this school are not getting food now.
While the district health department has taken no action against the contractor for supplying unfit food,parents of students in government schools on Symmetry Road and Miller Ganj,fear a threat to the lives of their children and have written to the schools that they do not want their children to be served midday meals.