- Case filed by state government against journalist who shot video
- Video shows children sitting on floor, eating rotis with salt
- Video shared on social media defamed state government: Complaint
Days after students at a government school in eastern Uttar Pradesh's Mirzapur district were filmed eating rotis with salt as their mid-day meal under a flagship scheme of the central government, a case has been filed by the state government against the journalist who shot the video.
In its complaint, the Block Education Officer of the area has accused the journalist, Pawan Jaiswal, and a representative of the local village head of conspiracy to defame the Uttar Pradesh government.
In the video from the Mirzapur school, young children are seen sitting on the floor of the school corridor, eating rotis with salt.
The website of the Uttar Pradesh Mid Day Meal Authority - the overseeing body for these meals in the state - describes an elaborate menu that is supposed to be served to the children at the state-run primary schools. It includes pulses, rice, rotis and vegetables. Fruits and milk are included on certain days, according to the meal chart.
The three-page first information report, however, mentions that only rotis were cooked in the school on the day when the video was shot. It further adds that the village head's representative should have arranged for vegetables instead of calling a reporter to the school premises.
The FIR also says that the video was shot by the local journalist, who works with the Jansandesh Times, and then forwarded to the news agency ANI. The video was widely shared on social media and defamed the state government, it adds.
The journalist and the village head's representative have been accused of cheating and criminal conspiracy.
The Editors Guild of India has condemned the state government's action and urged it to withdraw the cases. It also urged that the journalist is not harmed or harassed.
The action by the state government is in sharp contrast to its statement in the aftermath of the incident.
"I ordered an inquiry and the incident was found to be true. Prima facie, it is the fault of the teacher incharge of the school and the supervisor at the gram panchayat. Both have been suspended," Anurag Patel, the top government officer in Mirzapur, had told NDTV, a day after the incident.
"Things are bad here. Sometimes, they feed the children salt and rotis.. sometimes salt and rice. When milk comes here on rare occasions, most of it is never distributed. Bananas are never distributed. It has been like this for over a year now," a parent of a student told Pawan Jaiswal, day after the video was filmed.
On the case filed against him, Pawan Jaiswal said in a video that anybody could verify the facts of the story. "I was informed several times about the irregularities in the mid-day meal in the school. Sometimes the children were being given salt and rotis and sometimes salt and rice. On August 22, when I shot the video, a person called me and I went to the school. Before going there, I called the assistant basic shiksha adhikari Brajesh Kumar Singh and told him I was going to the school," Mr Jaiswal said.
"After shooting the first video at around 12 pm, I called local reporters who spoke to the district magistrate. The DM went there and conducted an inquiry and suspended people. Now, a case has been filed against me because questions were asked from these people. This is an attack on journalism. Everyone is welcome to verify the facts of the story," he added.
According to the UP government, it has provided mid-day meals in more than 1.5 lakh primary and middle schools across the state, as of December 2018.
More than one crore children are supposed to benefit from the scheme.
According to the centre, the mid-day meal scheme is designed to provide a minimum of 450 calories to each child everyday, which should also include at least 12 grams of protein. These meals should be served to every child at least 200 days a year.