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Weight of noon meal scheme eggs fuels controversy

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Waiting for supply: Workers stacking up eggs meant for noon meal centres in government schools and ICDS centres at the St. Thomas Mount panchayat union office, Chitlapakkam, on Thursday.
Waiting for supply: Workers stacking up eggs meant for noon meal centres in government schools and ICDS centres at the St. Thomas Mount panchayat union office, Chitlapakkam, on Thursday.

K. Manikandan

Government norm is that an egg must weigh 46 grams

TAMBARAM: There are widespread complaints that in the noon meal and Integrated Child Development Services Scheme (ICDS) centres in the southern suburbs of Chennai (Tambaram taluk), eggs not conforming to the State Government norm on their weight are being served.

The norm stipulates that only the eggs weighing 46 grams should be served to children under the Nutritious Noon Meal Scheme and at the ICDS Centres.

In the market, eggs are classified as big (between 52 and 60 grams), medium (40-52 grams) and small (less than 40 grams).

Officials said they were aware of this classification. The eggs are usually stored in a godown before they are sent to the 175-odd nutritious noon meal centres in schools run by different government departments and also the 280 ICDS centres of the Social Welfare Department, where about 50,000 children have their lunch everyday.

On Thursday, workers were seen stacking several trays of eggs in a godown at the office of the St. Thomas Mount Panchayat Union, Chitlapakkam. A large portion of these eggs seemed smaller than usual and were just 30 grams when tested in an electronic weighing machine at a nearby store.

Officials said they did not accept a large portion of poor quality and underweight eggs and asked the contractor to take them back.

Elected representatives have often complained about children being served poor quality and underweight eggs. Teachers and heads of government institutions and staff of Social Welfare Department said they were aware of ‘small eggs’ being served to children. Members of the Tamil Nadu Nutritious Meal Employees Association said workers and organisers were pulled up when officials conducted sudden checks.

Members of the association pointed out that the State Government paid money to contractors, who, in turn, supplied the eggs. Neither the panchayat union office nor noon meal centres had even basic weighing machines to ensure proper weight of eggs and penalising workers was harsh, they said.

Senior officials of Kancheepuram district administration and also in the Social Welfare Department said contractors were not adhering to the mandatory practices of supplying only eggs that weighed 46 grams and also did not affix the State Government’s logo. As this was a scheme dear to the Government, they conducted frequent checks and blacklisted errant contractors and also pulled up staff if they failed to ensure quality.

They agreed that neither schools nor godowns had weighing machines. They added that they would explore the option of installing them at least in the godowns.

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