Bihar students reject midday meal

Panic on platter: Masrakh disaster a warning signal to parents

Bihar students reject midday meal

Three days after the tragic death of 23 children in Masrakh, the ghost of mid-day meal incident continues to haunt the children across the state.

Even though the Nitish regime has issued an advisory asking the headmaster or the teacher to first taste the food and then serve it to the students, reports from various districts suggested that apart from Patna, students at other places were reluctant to eat the midday meal in schools.

“My mother has told me to go to school with slates, but not take the plates as the food served there could be laced with poison,” said eight-year-old Anand who studies in a government primary school in Lakhisarai district.

The children are supposed to carry their own plates and bowl in which food is served to them as part of Centre’s midday meal programme.

Five-year-old Khusboo at Gulzarbagh government school concurs with Anand, “School ke khane mein zehar hai, hum ghar se khana kha kar aayein hai (School food has poison, so I eat at home and come here)”. Though she has no inhibitions in continuing her studies, food on school campus is a strict no.

Similar reports poured in from Purnia, Gaya, Sasaram and Nalanda. At Nawada, young students, mostly of Class VI and VII, reportedly roughed up their school teacher for poor quality of midday meal prepared since long.

At Begumpur in Patna Saheb, the constituency of Shatrughan Sinha, the situation was all the more unique. At the Rajkiya Balak Madhya Vidyalaya, the two cooks who used to prepare food for 100-odd children suddenly went on medical leave citing health problems.

When the children said they were hungry, the headmistress Usha Tripathy ordered jalebis for them. Before serving it to the children, she tasted it personally. But, incidentally, during the same period, the mandarins of state government were inspecting various schools to check if “hygieneic conditions” were maintained while preparing midday meals.

When they came to know about the “sweet” gesture of the headmistress, they took umbrage and threatened her with strict action as schools were not supposed to offer any food item which was not enlisted in midday meal menu. “Since the cooks did not turn up, and the students were hungry, I asked them what they would like to eat. They said jalebis. I ordered it, tasted it first, and then gave it to the children,” argued the headmistress, oblivious of the fact that the matter would be reported to higher-ups.

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