Substandard food: Pvt firm in the dock

Substandard food: Pvt firm in the dock

Toxic substances in raw materials for mid-day meals in anganwadis

Christy Friedgram Industry (CFI) has been given the contract by the government to supply the raw materials.

According to one of the campaigners, CFI is providing raw materials in the form of packaged powder, which is low in nutrition level. The children refuse to eat and complain of stomach pain, diarrhoea, nausea and headache after consuming it. According to nutritionists who examined the raw materials supplied by CFI, harmful substances like zinc were found in dangerous proportions in them.   

Members of the Andolana want the Gram Panchayats to reclaim the right to monitor anganwadis in accordance with the 73rd amendment of the Constitution. But the State went against the amendment and took control of the ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services) programme.  

Andolana members point out violation of an order of the Supreme Court which had prohibited utilising the services of contractors in the ICDS programme.

Instead, it had directed that local village self helps groups (SHGs) must purchase the grains, prepare food and distribute it to the anganwadi children.  

South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM) has filed a case with the Lokayukta on children from anganwadis being deprived of nutritious food and their right to palatable food.

Not palatable

"The raw materials supplied are not palatable as children and women in many anganwadis are not eating the food with them. This will increase the rate of malnutrition in the State," said R Manohar, Head of Programmes, SICHREM.

In 14 districts of the State - Bangalore Rural, Ramanagar, Dharwad, Bellary, Chikmagalur, Bagalkot, Kodagu, Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada, Tumkur, Udupi, Hassan, Gulbarga and Shimoga - they protested against the raw materials being supplied. In many places, they have mobilised local resources to prepare food for children and have rejected CFI's supply.

The government has entered into a contract worth Rs 900 crore per year with CFI against the norms of ICDS to provide raw materials for mid-day meals to pre-school children.

Govt misled

To misguide the government, the contractor has involved some SHGs as producers of food. The members of the SHGs are 'paid' employees of the contractor, the campaigners claim.

Karnataka has 54,260 anganwadis with 33,80,338 children. It ranks 11th in the India Hunger Index and is placed in the alarming category. Nearly 41 per cent of the children are underweight and 38 percent of the children under three years of age have stunted growth. One-third of them suffer from chronic malnourishment.