While one of the guidelines of the country’s Mid-Day Meal programme (MDM) is on food and safety. It clearly states that schools should have multiple taps and multiple bottle hand wash liquid. And utensils should be cleaned of debris, rinsed, scrubbed with detergent and washed under running tap water after every operation. Wiping of utensils should be done with clean cloth. Similarly, clean clothes should be used for wiping hands and for cleaning surfaces of the dishes. Now, this is a distant dream for the girls reading in Adamanda Malkangiri High School, one of the Maoist hit areas in Odisha and it is not the lone case.
The above picture, captured on January 29 afternoons after the kids had their meal, clearly shows the irony of the claims of providing hygienic mid-day meal. Not only the kids are seen cleaning the dishes in dirty stagnant water but also it shows how safe and protein-rich the served food would be!
Amongst all other issues that have affected the implementation of MDM in remote areas in Odisha, food safety issues have come to fore and it is high time that Odisha Food Commission should ask the State government to take the necessary action.
To know more about this issue, Catch News spoke to the State Nodal Officer for Mid-Day Meal, Gangadhar Sahoo who seemed to be unaware of the unhygienic practice. On receiving the information though he assured of necessary action he was hesitant of owning up the guilt. “I am collecting information and speaking to the concerned person there. If such a thing has happened, which seemed to have been a practice, it needs to be addressed”, he said.
The District Education Officer of Malkangiri, Markat Keshari Ray, refused to speak on the issue but assured further investigation. He said, “We have been maintaining quality standards in the procurement of food grains. This is the first time that such a matter has come to my notice and I would investigate it.”
And the irony of it all is that even the Principal Secretary, School and Mass Education, P.K Mohapatra, was not aware of the unhygienic practice prevailing in the schools in the Maoist affected areas.
The quality test report (2016-2017) of food samples of MDM has clearly stated that the quality is not up to the mark. The samples collected from nine schools in the districts of Malkangiri, Balasore, Koraput, Sundergarh, Khurda and Jeypore in 2017 were found to be unsafe for consumption. The attitude of the authorities appeared to be more like, “take it or leave it”.