South, West and Najafgarh zones have not given any health trade licences to school canteens this year
Only one out of the 1,500 private schools in South Delhi has been issued a health trade licence for its canteen this year, officials of the local municipal corporation said.
According to sources in the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), of the four zones under the civic body, three zones -- South, West and Najafgarh -- have not given any health trade licences to school canteens this year. In Central zone, three licences have been given, one to a boys’ school, another to a university and one to a management institute.
Civic agencies are responsible under Section 421 of the Delhi Municipal Act to make sure premises used for cooking and selling food comply with health standards. Under this provision, they are required to give health trade licences and keep an eye on hygiene. These licences cost Rs. 1,000 and have to be renewed every year.
“Do we know what is being dished out to children? The basic function of the civic body is to be a regulator. More than the revenue loss, this is a health hazard,” said SDMC Leader of Opposition Farhad Suri.
Mr. Suri had raised the issue at a Standing Committee meeting on June 24 by citing the draft of an internal audit report which found that 120 schools in South zone alone did not have health licences. The Audit Department had made the observation in 2012, but no action was taken by the Health Department or the schools involved. The report had stated: “The corporation has already suffered a loss of Rs. 3,60,000 in the last three years (2011 to 2014).”
An Audit Department official told The Hindu on Thursday: “We have still not got any response on the report.” The official said the revenue loss was a secondary problem as the corporation’s pubic health responsibility was not being carried out. “Had the officials taken our audit report seriously, things would have been much better for Delhiites,” said the official.
After Mr. Suri raised the issue, Standing Committee chairperson Satish Upadhyay said he had given the Health Department time to find out about all school canteens under the SDMC and their hygiene levels.
“Each zone is conducting a survey and notices will be sent to the schools lacking health trade licences,” said SDMC spokesperson Mukesh Yadav, adding that there was no fixed time to complete the investigation.