Hyderabad

Students skip mid-day meals without onions in Karimnagar district of Telangana

No bulbs: Mid-day meal workers are using vegetables that are cheaper and including them in the sambhar.

No bulbs: Mid-day meal workers are using vegetables that are cheaper and including them in the sambhar.  

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Mid-day meal workers say at ₹120 a kg they have dropped the vegetable, along with eggs from menu

Soaring prices have led to the disappearance of onions and eggs from the mid-day meal served to students in government and Zilla Parishad High Schools (ZPHS) in the integrated Karimnagar district of Telangana for over a month now.

Mid-day meal workers removed them from curries and sambhar in the menu after onion prices shot up to around ₹120 per kg. Eggs too were off as they got dearer, at ₹6 per egg, in recent weeks. As school meals turned insipid sans onions, some students have been skipping them. Instead they carry packed lunches from home.

Until the change, the government included eggs on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. But at ₹6 a piece, mid-day meal workers could not budget for them and cut down servings to a maximum of two a week. The State government provides ₹4 per egg for students up to Class 8. Students in Class 9 and 10 are excluded.

Officials claim the government provides ₹6.81 per student, and ₹4 per egg for students till Class 8, and ₹8.81 per student in ninth and 10th classes. But the workers who prepare meals argue that at ₹6 per egg, they are unable to provide them thrice a week, and have to sometimes skip them altogether.

Flat biryani

The number of students taking mid-day meals is higher in senior classes than in the primary and upper primary sections. “Due to the spike in onion prices, we have stopped making dishes using the bulbs including vegetable biryani every Saturday,” said a worker.

Rashmita, a student of Government High School in Sapthagiri colony in Karimnagar town, said she had stopped having the mid-day meal at school as it was no longer tasty. “I take my lunch box from home,” she said. About 30% of students skip school meals.

“Students are now forced to eat neellapappu (watery sambar or bendi pulusu) without any taste,” said the headmaster of a ZPHS in Thimmapur mandal.

A worker in the meal scheme, Lalitha, said: “We survive on ₹1,000 per month honorarium for serving mid-day meals, and are left with nothing out of the government wages for preparing meals with eggs.”

Cabbage in Bengaluru

It is a similar story in Bengaluru, where school managements have decided to use cabbage as a substitute.

D. Nagalakshmi, State secretary of the union of mid-day meal workers, said that schools were forced to make the switch due to budget constraints.

“They are looking at other vegetables that are cheaper and including them in the sambhar or dry vegetables,” she said.

Officials of the Department of Public Instruction acknowledged this, adding that they were “helpless” as the price was extremely high and additional funds could not be given to schools.

In Karnataka, school meals from the centralised kitchens of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) do not include onion or garlic, while other NGOs that supply food and the decentralised kitchens at schools use these staples.

(With inputs from Bengaluru)

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2020 10:55:47 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/students-skip-mid-day-meals-without-onions-in-karimnagar-district-of-telangana/article30271606.ece

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