New Delhi: The journalist who first reported that students at a government school in Uttar Pradesh’s Mirzapur district were being fed rotis with salt under the mid-day meal scheme has been charged with criminal conspiracy.
Pawan Kumar Jaiswal, the journalist who recorded the video of the school children, and village-head representative Rajkumar Pal have been booked under Sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharging duty), 193 (false evidence) and 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code according to a senior officer.
The Editors Guild of India has since issued a statement condemning the UP government’s decision to book Jaiswal under sections of the criminal law and has called it a “classic case of shooting the messenger”. The Guild further called on the state government to withdraw the cases filed against Jaiswal and ensure that no journalist faces harassment.
The Editors Guild of India has issued a statement pic.twitter.com/F3q4WAlphn
— Editors Guild of India (@IndEditorsGuild) September 2, 2019
The FIR was allegedly lodged based on a complaint by Prem Shankar Ram, the block education officer of Mirzapur, who accused Jaiswal of doing “despicable work” and attempting to malign the UP government.
This is Pawan Jaiswal , the #Mirzapur reporter who broke the roti + salt in mid day meal story. He has been booked by @mirzapurpolice for allegedly conspiring against the @UPGovt . In this video he reiterates he reported what he saw . @IndEditorsGuild please take cognizance ! pic.twitter.com/5mU47uufAo
— Alok Pandey (@alok_pandey) September 2, 2019
The FIR claimed that Pal, instead of arranging for vegetables, conspired with Jaiswal and deliberately made the video. “The journalist shot the video on his mobile and shared it to a electronic media agency,” the FIR said.
The FIR also alleged that Pal was aware that vegetables would not be cooked till noon that and that “he hatched a conspiracy and called Jaiswal and got the video to go viral”.
The video of students from Siyur Primary School in the Jamalpur block of Mirzapur district eating chappatis with salt was widely circulated on social media and led to considerable outcry over the implementation of the Centre’s flagship scheme in UP.
Speaking to NDTV, Anurag Patel, the top government officer in Mirzapur, said that he had ordered an inquiry and the incident in question was found to be genuine. “Prima facie, it is the fault of the teacher incharge of the school and the supervisor at the gram panchayat. Both have been suspended,” he said.
This clip is from a @UPGovt school in east UP's #Mirzapur . These children are being served what should be a 'nutritious' mid day meal ,part of a flagship govt scheme .On the menu on Thursday was roti + salt !Parents say the meals alternate between roti + salt and rice + salt ! pic.twitter.com/IWBVLrch8A
— Alok Pandey (@alok_pandey) August 23, 2019
The National Human Rights Commission also issued a notice to the UP government after the video surfaced and sought details regarding the status of mid-day meal programmes across the state. “Issuing the notice the Commission has observed that the contents of the media reports are shocking and disgraceful that despite the Mid-Day-Meal Scheme for children in the government run schools, apparently, are not getting the nutritious food,” the statement issued by the NHRC read.
According to the Central government’s flagship nutrition scheme, children in government-aided primary schools are to be served pulses, rice, rotis and vegetables to ensure that each child receives a minimum of 450 calories per day.
Several journalists have spoken up in support of Jaiswal and demanded that the FIR be quashed.
(With inputs from PTI)