Just four days after 23 children lost their lives to a callous attitude to a poisoned mid-day meal served in school in Bihar, at least 30 children fell sick yesterday again.., eating the same tainted meal in Chhattisgarh.
Even as, articles and media from all around the country are exposing the deplorable conditions that haunt all aspects of making the Mid-day Meal program work, apparently, it is not enough to awaken this country from its daily daze of running a rat-race to compete and survive, each man for himself…who has the time to think about other things like the greater good of the country? Its future? It is as if the Gods have taken it upon themselves to ensure that such a brilliant idea must not stagger and fail in the wake of our typical Indian Chalta hai attitude.
Lack of hygienic conditions for storage and preparation of food –food cooked on a septic tank lid here , to abysmal neglect as in the Bihar case where pesticides have been found in the food as reported in Times of India. That governments cannot find space for a school kitchen and have not looked in to the required infrastructure and vessels required to store food materials without the risk of contamination is a clear indication of complete lack of commitment to educating and empowering India’s future generation.
Not enough to move you, how about this, Bihar actually returned Rs 463 crores from the meal program. Read the appalling details here
My blood boils. My heart cries out in despair. As a mother, in feeling the pain of those parents who have lost an irreplaceable part of themselves. As an advocate to disadvantaged children, who was just pushing the envelope on the mid-day meal to a boarding house (“They will get a full, well designed nutritionally adequate meal and concentrate on their studies on a full stomach”). As an educator, the misery of seeing the one and only thing that can change India’s future..an educated future generation, suffocate and perish due to the government’s Chalta hai attitude and the common man’s I am too busy to care!
- “If all students in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty. This is equal to a 12% cut in global poverty,
- “One extra year of schooling increases an individual’s earnings by up to 10%”
Now, take a step back and review the scale of this project and its staggering benefits. The Mid Day Meal program is the world’s largest school feeding programme reaching out to about 12 crore children in over 12.65 lakh schools and centres across the country. The Mumbai Mirror article today looks at it with a Six Sigma quality perspective and points out the pertinent facts to look at:
- “The country had 60 million tonnes of rice and wheat rotting in government godown eaten by rodents, while people were starving to death, often just hundred metres away from the godown. This paradox of coexistence of excess food stocks and hunger persists even to this day.
- The Mid day meal serves many motives for the Indian poor – It feeds kids, increases school attendance (since that may be the only meal the kid gets during the day), breaks caste barriers, socialises kids and teachers, and provides employment to women.
- The sheer scale of quality required is formidable. Every day, not a single meal out of 120 million should cause damage to the delicate tummies, all through the school year”
So what next? If this continues, either the meal will be scrapped entirely or changed to biscuits. Then again, school attendance will fall and we will cry out aloud when there is a rape case or crime reported in the paper. WE HAVE TO CARE.
There are multitudes of companies willing to invest in CSR but no clue where. The earmarked funds are set out to the first NGO that approaches them. Why can’t the government demand help here?. Here is where they need to come in..in creating infrastructure for these schools… setting up hygienic kitchens with water supply, large infestation proof containers for storing provisions, separate area for washing dishes. May be providing employment to the mothers of these students as cooks and vessel washing. Educate them on the need and methods of hygienic cooking. Get periodic checks on the health of these children. Give a TV serial like Crime Patrol or such the role of regularly visiting these schools and filming them for compliance..
Think Creatively. A lot is possible if we care enough. We are a large country. A scene from “Cheaper by the Dozen” comes to my mind. The family has 12 kids and daily life is busy and crazy. But when they lose one of their kids and the neighbour smirks “I knew this would happen , too many kids”. The mother says. “Oh, we’ll find him. Like you said,12 is a large number”.. Yes , we have a lot of people …people who care. If we all sitting here in the cities nearby and have big companies with CSR budgets. Add a bunch of unemployed youths and dedicated NGOs pitch in, it certainly is not impossible.
Leaving you with a picture from the Lorax by Dr Seuss.
We just have to care ..an awful lot, then there will be change!