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Odisha Lokayukta orders probe into substandard food served to children

Representational Image | The investigation was ordered after the Lokayukta examined allegations made by activists and replies submitted by both Khairput and Chitrakonda Child Development Project Officers.  

The Odisha Lokayukta has ordered an investigation into alleged distribution of substandard and meagre quantity of food in Khairput area, home to the Bondas, a particularly vulnerable tribal group, and Chitrakonda, a naxal-affected region — both in Malkangiri district.

The investigation was ordered after the Lokayukta examined allegations made by activists and replies submitted by both Khairput and Chitrakonda Child Development Project Officers.

Mission of Right to Food Campaign, Odisha, a forum of social activists spearheading a campaign for effective implementation of food security programmes, had come across irregularities and corruption in preparation and distribution of food items among ‘malnourished’ children in the two backward blocks in Malkangiri.

The district, 650 km from Bhubaneswar, is among the 100 most poverty-stricken and underdeveloped districts of India.

Widespread malnutrition

“As per RTI information, more than 1,000 children died (within age group of 5 years) in the district every year. In 2016, the district witnessed large scale deaths of children due to Japanese Encephalitis. In fact due to acute hunger and food insecurity, the children suffer from low immunity and die from minor ailments,” said Pradip Pradhan, one of the lead members of the forum.

Under the ICDS (Integrated Child Development Scheme), children are to be provided nutritious food. Women Self Help Groups were assigned the task of distributing packets of Chhatua (a mixture of wheat, black gram and sugar) and other ready-to-eat food items.

“During one such visit to Papermetla in Swabhiman Anchal, which was once bastion of Left Wing extremists, food items weighed in front of villagers were found to be low in quantity. We had also found low quantity of food being served to children in Bonda hills,” said Mr. Pradhan.

The forum got the quality of food items checked in a government laboratory and those were found to be unsafe for consumption.

Child Development Project Officers of both Khairput and Chitrakonda responded to allegations of corruption by cancelling the contracts with women SHG, but they remained silent over distribution of substandard food, which was widely prevalent in the areas of their jurisdiction, Mr Pradhan pointed out.

“Having examined the allegations made by complainant and replies filed by CDPOs, we deem it proper to seek comments from the Director of ICDS and Social Welfare. We trust and hope that the director will get the allegations inquired at his level and thereafter submit his response,” the Lokayukta order said. It fixed next date of hearing on March 15.

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Printable version | Apr 22, 2021 2:14:37 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/odisha-lokayukta-orders-probe-into-substandard-food-served-to-children/article33811194.ece

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