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Children’s health is just a footnote

Mohammad Ali
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Children having meal at a school.- Photo: Monica Tiwari
Children having meal at a school.- Photo: Monica Tiwari

Food provided to lakhs of children in Delhi schools through the Mid-day Meal scheme is anything but nutritional. The food fails to meet the requirements of minimum calorie count and protein content. Year after year the food samples have consistently failed to meet the requirements; over the past three years alone the results have been shocking to say the least; 99 per cent of the samples collected in 2010-11, 95 per cent collected and tested in 2011-12 and 83 per cent in 2012-13 have been found deficit in calorie and nutrition.

Leaders across the political spectrum in Delhi are unable to pin-point where the fault lies.

On being asked why steps are not being taken to improve the scheme, their replies often end up in a blame game, which takes away focus from the basic premise -- poor quality of food served as mid-day meals.

BJP leaders from the three municipal corporations defend the corporation’s performance on the scheme. Their stand is understandable; given it is the BJP that has control over the three corporations.

But Dr. Mahendra Nagpal, Leader of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, takes this defence further. He sidesteps the concerns over nutrition and hygiene, and asks: “So what if the food is not sufficiently nutritious? It is not adulterated after all.”

Blame game

Passing the buck to the Congress party-led Delhi Government and the Central Government, he says the quantity of food and the required amount of nutrition have been increased without increasing the nutritious ingredients in the MDM menu.

He says earlier each student was served 100 gram of rice or wheat, 8 gram of protein and 350 calories. However, while the limit of quantity of grains being served has remained same, the protein and calorie level have been increased. Presently, each meal must contain minimum of 12 gram protein and 450 calories .

Leader of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation Subhash Arya claims that all the BJP-led corporations have been trying hard to improve the menu and have written several letters to the Delhi Government in this regard. Last month he wrote to Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit urging her to include more nutrients like soya in the meal to meet the revised parameters of nutrition.

Former Mayor and Congress leader Farhad Suri accuses the municipal corporations of not having the will to serve the people.

He claims that implementation of the scheme when his party was in power in the corporations was “much better” than in its present form.

Sunil Kumar, MLA from Trilokpuri where a severe case of food poisoning was reported from a Delhi Government-run school in November 2009, is also concerned about the action being taken against those responsible. Even as he blames the Delhi Government for the poor implementation of the scheme, he does not shy away from dismissing the Government inquiry into the case as “an eyewash”.

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