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Baragur opposes privatising midday meal scheme

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The former Minister B.T. Lalitha Nayak (left) and writer Baragur Ramachandrappa (second from left) at a seminar in Bangalore on Sunday.
The former Minister B.T. Lalitha Nayak (left) and writer Baragur Ramachandrappa (second from left) at a seminar in Bangalore on Sunday.

Special Correspondent

Writer says move is against the ideals of equality and secularism

BANGALORE: The State Government’s controversial move to entrust religious and voluntary organisations with the task of providing midday meal scheme to school children portends a threat to the ideals of equality and secularism, cautioned noted writer Baragur Ramachandrappa.

Inaugurating a seminar organised to oppose the privatisation of Akshara Dasoha Mid Day meal scheme here on Sunday, Prof. Ramachandrappa dwelt at length about the pitfalls of the State Government’s eagerness to privatise the midday meal scheme by entrusting the responsibility of cooking and reaching the meals to the schools.

With the Government having started the process of privatisation by allowing certain religious non-governmental organisations to cook and supply midday meals to schools in certain parts of the State, about 20,000 cooks, a majority of whom are rural women belonging to weaker sections of society, have been rendered jobless. “It will be only a matter of time before the remaining 100,000 cooks also lose their sole source of livelihood,” he said.

Besides, Prof. Ramachandrappa said, the issue was not confined to creating joblessness. “It also involves larger issues. The food cooked by women belonging to Dalits, backward class and minorities was consumed by children belonging to all sections of society. It sought to propagate equality and secularism,” he said.

He said the two voluntary organisations chosen by the Government to implement the meal scheme represented a particular religious creed. “It gives these organisations scope to indirectly propagate their ideology”, he said and alleged that such a turn of events would be gross violation to the guidelines issued by the Centre that the scheme should not be misused for sectarian gains.

He said one of the voluntary organisations that was supplying meals does not believe in the use of onion and garlic, despite their nutritional value. “By cooking meals without these ingredients, they seek to propagate their ideology,” he said.

Besides, Prof. Ramachandrappa said these voluntary organisations not only received funds from the Government for cooking and supplying midday meals, but also seek funds in the name of feeding hungry children in India.

Under the existing system, midday meals are cooked on the premises of the respective schools itself and served piping hot to the children. “If the responsibility is transferred to these NGOs, they will cook for about 400 to 450 schools at a centralised place and transport them. They will have to begin the preparation for cooking the previous night and by the time the food is reached to the children, it will go cold,” he said.

The seminar was attended by a host of others, including noted legal expert Ravi Verma Kumar, president of Karnataka State Primary School Teachers’ Association Basavaraj Gurikar, the former Minister B.T. Lalitha Naik and Dalit Sangharsh Samithi leader Mavalli Shankar.

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