Four cooks at the Talapady Composite High School here, employed under the Akshara Dasoha midday meal programme, were removed from service on the first day of this academic year when they came for reporting.

They joined some 300 others, who have lost their jobs in the district, because it had been decided to bring some of the schools under another midday scheme in which the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) is associated.

Reason

This year alone, 36 cooks hired for 12 government-run primary schools and high schools under the government-sponsored Akshara Dasoha programme lost jobs at the beginning of the year, said James Coutinho,

Assistant Director of the Akshara Dasoha. ISKCON has been given the contract to provide meals, even as an enquiry ordered by the Government into the allegations against the organisation is pending.

As many as 109 schools in Mangalore taluk have been brought under the ISKCON's scheme.

“At least 300 workers have lost their jobs since ISKCON began providing the midday meal in the district,” said S. Varalakshmi, State president of the Karnataka Rajya Akshara Dasoha Naukarara Sangha, which is affiliated to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions.

Sangha's demand

The sangha has been demanding that the midday meal programme be run entirely by the Government.

“When the Government has set up a House Committee to probe into the allegations against ISKCON, it will be appropriate to wait till that work is over before allowing ISKCON to take over,” Ms. Varalakshmi said.

Committee

The Government set up the 10-member Legislative House Committee in July 2009 to probe the charges against the Akshaya Patra Foundation run by ISKCON.

Members of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly have accused ISKCON of collecting donations and thereby profiting from a Government-sponsored programme, which they termed illegal.

MLA N. Yogish Bhat, who heads the committee, said that it was yet to submit a report. “It is not appropriate for me to comment on this right now. We are still making enquiries. I cannot say when the report will be ready,” he said, while refusing to comment on the Government bringing more schools in the ISKCON ambit.

Lack of infrastructure in schools to cook and supply food is cited as the reason for bringing more schools in the ISKCON scheme. The members of development and monitoring committee of the school in Talapady said that they wanted to hand over the preparation of food to ISKCON, as they did not have the infrastructure.

The school not having a proper source of water was another reason, they added.

“The Government has set up administrative machinery to provide infrastructure and allocated funds for it. If they are to hand over the mid-day meal programme to other organisations, then what is the role of the administration?” Ms. Varalakshmi asked.

Education Officer for the Akshara Dasoha K.L. Manjula said that none of the high schools in the district had separate kitchen and store room facilities. Now, they were being constructed in all schools.

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