New Delhi: The quality of food served in schools under the Mid-Day Meal Scheme continues to remain poor across the country, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) said in a report tabled in parliament today.
The report raised many red flags such as over-reporting of enrolment figures, financial indiscipline, poor quality of means and inadequate meals.
"Cases of cooking of poor quality meals in unhygienic conditions, inadequate and poor quality of infrastructure in terms of kitchen sheds and utensils were rampant across all states exposing children to health hazards," it said.
Launched in August 1995 to boost education by increasing enrolment, retention and attendance simultaneously impacting on the nutrition levels of children, the Mid-Day Meal Scheme was extended in 2008-09 to students of upper primary classes.
The scheme is currently operational in 27 states and seven union territories.
According to the report, the Food Corporation of India did not serve the best quality of rice in Uttar Pradesh schools.
It said there were several complaints of poor quality meal cooked by Chandigarh Industrial and Tourism Development Corporation Limited which is engaged in cooking for schools in Chandigarh.
According to the report, the prescribed nutrition to children was not provided in schools of at least nine states, including the national capital.
In Delhi, samples of cooked food of the 37 service providers during the period 2010-14 were tested by the Sri Ram Institute of Industrial Research.
"Out of the 2,102 samples, 1,876 (89 per cent) failed to meet the prescribed nutrition standard," the report said.
The report showed a consistent decline of enrolment of children in the Mid Day Meal Scheme from 14.69 crore in 2009-10 to 13.87 crore in 2013-14.
Declining trends in enrolments during 2009-10 to 2103-14 were observed across the country in states such as Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Lakshadweep and Puducherry.
The report also observed that the checks to ensure quality of meals and adequacy of nutritional value of food served to children remained only on paper.
The inadequate monitoring of the scheme by the human resource ministry and the states was a major bottleneck in implementation. The funds earmarked for monitoring and evaluation had been grossly underutilized, the report cited.