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Safety pins don’t make Bisi Oota safe

Raghava M.
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Teachers say the food lacks variety, but stones and pins are not uncommon

Food first:A total of148 schools in Mangalore are being served with midday meals prepared under the Akshaya Pathra scheme of ISKCON for the past six years.— Photo: R. Eswarraj
Food first:A total of148 schools in Mangalore are being served with midday meals prepared under the Akshaya Pathra scheme of ISKCON for the past six years.— Photo: R. Eswarraj

A teacher of a government school in Konchady is not too worried of the quality of food provided to students. “It’s good, suits diet of students here. But it lacks variety. Students do not like to have same rice and sambar every day.”

This government school, which has nearly 225 students in classes 1 to 8, is among the 148 schools in city being served with midday meals prepared under the Akshaya Pathra scheme of ISKCON for the last six years. It has been serving food to nine schools in Bantwal. “The taste of sambar has been same for nearly two years. Changing vegetables used in it will give a different taste,” another teacher said.

The Hindu team visited a few government and aided schools in the city to know about the quality of food being served to students under the Akshara Dasoha, a midday meal scheme. The visit was against the backdrop of the death of 22 schoolchildren after having midday meal in Bihar.

A teacher in a government-aided school in Kavoor said the food usually comes around 11 a.m. Teachers first taste the food before serving it to children. “Once I noticed a lizard in it. I informed the ISKCON officials, who brought in fresh meals,” said the teacher. Teachers have found safety pins and small stones in the boiled rice, which they said was not unusual.

K.L. Manjula, the Educational Officer of Akshara Dasoha, said 2.16 lakh students in classes 1 to 10 in 1,426 government and aided schools were being given midday meals – known as bisi oota – in the district. While the ISKCON prepares food for schools in Mangalore and Bantwal, 3,156 cooks prepare it elsewhere or on the school premises. Though rice sambar is supplied regularly, Ms. Manjula said they have pulav and poliogare but students do not like them here.

There is a mechanism to check the quality of food provided, the official said. Taluk-level officers for the scheme and other education department officials are asked to regularly visit and record quality. The only incident that occurred was in February 2012 when 50 students from St. Joseph Higher Primary School in Kankanady were admitted to a hospital after the meals.

Ms. Manjula said a student found lizard in rice and started vomiting. This caused discomfort to other students who also got admitted to hospital. There were no health problem for children. Ms. Manjula said notices were served to people who prepared that food.

The government has increased the allocation for each child under the Akshara Dasoha scheme. It will be spending Rs. 3.11 for each child in the primary school while Rs. 5 for each child in the secondary school. The new allocation will come into effect in the district from August.

Ms. Manjula, Educational Officer for Akshara Dasoha in the district, said allocation has been increased by 23 paise for student in primary school as against 35 paise for the one studying in the secondary school. This helps authorities to meet cost of buying dal, vegetables and cooking gas that has been gradually rising. Rice needed for students was being provided to schools free of cost, Ms. Manjula said.

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