Swinging into action in the aftermath of the mid-day meal tragedy in Bihar,the Union Human Resource Development Ministry is set to launch nationwide surprise checks of lunch served across schools under its flagship programme. The ministry will rope in MPs to hold immediate reviews of the implementation of the scheme across schools.
On Thursday,at a meeting with representatives of several state governments,the ministry conveyed that there must be zero-tolerance on issues like prior tasting of the meal by a teacher and safe storage of food items two parameters which would have prevented the Bihar tragedy,had they been taken care of. The ministry said that it will not release any fund until each state identifies and conveys to the Centre a detailed management structure for the implementation of the scheme right till the block level, specifying focal points for funding,procurement of food grains,cooking cost,inspection and so on.
As many as 144 districts where the MDM programme has been performing the worst will be the special focus of this inspection drive that will take off this week.
Gandamal village of Bihar where 23 children died after eating the mid-day meal falls among these 144 districts.
The ministry is writing to MPs of all these districts to hold urgent reviews of the schemes implementation in their constituency. The ministry has also requested MPs to hold an on the spot reviews by July 31.
Independent teams will be sent across districts to conduct random surprise checks on meals served to children. The meals will be tested for protein and moisture levels. Food grains procured will be tested on random basis,officials from the ministry confirmed.
Urging all states to start social auditing of the schemes implementation,the ministry emphasised the need for regular inspection,vigilance meetings and emergency medical plans.
Assessing the reports received,the ministry felt that while the quality of wheat and rice procured is largely satisfactory,there are serious deficiencies in the quality of pulses and cooking oil used for the meal.
As per the MDM norm,a primary school student must be served a meal with 100 g food grains,20 g pulses,50 g leafy vegetables and 5 g oil and fat,and an upper primary school student is to be served 150 g food grains,30 g pulses,75 g vegetables and 75.5 g oil and fat.