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When midday meal is ‘manna’

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Food for all: Noon meal leftover being distributed to the local residents at Ghouse Nagar, Bandlaguda.
Food for all: Noon meal leftover being distributed to the local residents at Ghouse Nagar, Bandlaguda.

J.S. Ifthekhar

Large number of households virtually live off the noon meal

Women wait to collect the leftover food

Midday meal is the only meal for the day for many

Hyderabad: They wait with bated breath, containers in hand. Their gaze keep darting towards the sharp bend on the road. A sigh of relief breaks the breath held stillness as the cream coloured van finally trundles along and halts at the school.

Clamour for food

All hell breaks loose both within and outside the school. The clamour for food goes up. Teachers have a tough time keeping the children in check. Books and pens are thrown aside and for the next half an hour the tiny tots pounce on the food hungrily.

Outside the number of women around the meal van keeps swelling. They are waiting for the kids to finish their meal so that they can collect the leftover food.

Yes, that’s the scene at the Government Primary School, Ghousenagar. Not just the children, the midday meal scheme supports several families here.

A large number of households virtually live off the noon meal in this godforsaken locality of the Old City.

Ghousenagar is situated on the back of the beyond – literally. After crossing the Chandrayangutta chowrasta nearly three kilometres of winding path takes you to this desolate basti steeped in poverty and squalor. The midday meal is nothing short of ‘manna’ for the famished families here. The meal van arrives at Ghousenagar around 11.30 a.m. after distributing food to 19 schools en route. Invariably a good amount of food remains unserved everyday due to absenteeism by children. “And this being the last point we don’t mind handing out the food to these women instead of throwing it,” says Shekhar, the van driver.

For many like Ghousia Begum, the midday meal is the only meal for the day. Often they preserve it and eat next day too. “My husband is a TB patient and not working. I have six children to look after. If it is not for this meal we will be starving,” she says.

Same is the case with Rashida Parveen, Shaheda Begum and Nasreen.

They too subsist on the midday meal. A study done by the Centre for Women’s Studies, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, has brought out startling things about Ghousenagar. “There is a woeful lack of health and hygiene among the residents and women deliver at home only,” says Rehana Sultana, director of the Centre.


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