New Delhi: A video showing children reportedly eating rice and turmeric water which they were served in their midday meal in Sitapur district has brought the focus back to Uttar Pradesh administration’s less than stellar performance in this regard.
According to a report on Deccan Herald, the menu for the day, at the school located in Bichparia village of Sitapur’s Pisawan block, was to have been rice and vegetables.
Turmeric water being served to School Children in MidDay meal in Sitapur , U.P surfaced.
— Common Man (@ABCNLimited1234) October 13, 2019
The newspaper also reported that basic education department officials from the district visited the school after receiving news of the video.
The officials, however, held that children had been served rice and soybeans and not, as the video claimed, a mixture of water and turmeric power. The paper quoted an official as having said that the children had eaten the soybeans first and were left with the gravy when the video was shot.
A Dainik Jagran report too quotes Basic Siksha Adhikari Ajay Kumar as having noted after his visit to the school and interviews with children and their parents that the meal comprised soybeans, vegetables and rice. The state government has allegedly asked Additional District Magistrate Vinay Kumar Pathak to file a report on the matter.
The video comes close in the heels of a report that a Mirzapur school had served its students rotis and salt as the midday meal. Since the news broke, the journalist who reported it, Pawan Kumar Jaiswal, was charged with criminal conspiracy.
As Swati Narayan noted in her article for The Wire, Uttar Pradesh has the second highest rate of child malnourishment in the country and nearly half of the state’s children are stunted.
Amidst reports of incomplete meals being served in schools as part of the scheme is a raging controversy over how, especially in BJP-ruled states, the meals have gotten steadily vegetarian to the exclusion of eggs, an important source of nutrients.
A Wire report from 2018 by Khabar Lahariya also notes the several inadequacies of the midday meal scheme’s implementation in Uttar Pradesh. The report says that while the scheme has won awards in the state, “the actual meal itself ranges from sub-standard and unhygienic to downright dangerous.”