Expressing concern over instances of untouchability in the mid-day meal programme, a Parliamentary panel on Thursday recommended “exemplary punishment” against teachers and schools perpetuating such acts.

While the scheme covers class I to VIII, it suggested that the classes IX and X should also be included under it to reduce drop-out rate particularly among students coming from SC and ST communities.

The Committee on the Welfare of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes also suggested that periodic interactive sessions should be held with the teachers by the school management to make them understand the social fallout of untouchability.

Observing that the practice is more prevalent in the remotest areas of the country, it recommended that these “schools and and teachers involved in such deplorable practice of untouchability should be given exemplary punishment”.

The committee in particular referred to such cases in Odisha and sought immediate dispatch of special teams to the State to investigate such cases and suggest ways and means to tackle the “malaise” accordingly.

The committee’s suggestions are significant especially in light of concerns raised about proper implementation of the scheme following the Bihar mid-day meal tragedy.

Noting that 144 districts have been identified for their poor performance and central review missions have been conducted, the committee said these districts still remain under performed.

Referring to the recent incident in Bihar where 23 children died consuming poisonous mid-day meal, the committee stressed on maintaining high standard of quality food before serving children and checked by “specialist doctors to obviate any possibility of adulteration”.

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