This Article is From Jul 19, 2013

Mid-day meals: Flies and lizards in grain for India's future

New Delhi: The mid-day meal scheme, the world's largest such scheme, was started with an aim to provide safe and nutritious meal to India's school children so that they grow up strong and bright. But instead, what our future generation is being fed is grain crawling with worms, flies and even lizards.

A hot cooked nutritious meal was also thought to have been a selling point to persuade poor families to send their children to school and not pull them out to start earning as child laborers. But the tragedy in Bihar has left many families asking if it is not safer to keep their children at home.

The situation is equally bad in the national capital. A series of RTIs filed by journalist Siddheshwar Shukla has revealed that during the past three years, the majority of mid-day meals being served to the  11.5 lakh children in Delhi has failed tests conducted by the government.

In 2010-11, 99 per cent or just five of the 466 samples tested passed the quality and nutrition test. In 2011-12, 27 samples were found to be usable out of the 541 samples that were tested. And in the last academic year, the situation was marginally better with 50 of the 288 samples passing the quality test.

This year itself, there were 16 complaints. In 50 per cent of these cases, warnings were given and corrective action ordered - but was it implemented is the big question.

"If guidelines had been flouted, we will take a decision on what happened. A tragedy has happened and no one should be spared," said Jitin Prasada, Minister of State, Ministry of Human Resources and Development (HRD).

A vast majority of Indians, fed up with rampant corruption, have already taken to the streets of Delhi two years ago during the Anna hazare agitation. Now as the initial findings of the Bihar tragedy indicates serious lapses, the question is: will it take another round of nationwide protests before our lawmakers begin to fix the system?