Pallam Raju reviews mid-day meal scheme at high-level meeting


Union Human Resource Development Minister M M Pallam Raju reviewed the working of the mid-day meal scheme for schoolchildren at a high-level meeting here yesterday evening.
The meeting assumes importance against the background of the recent incident in which more than 20 schoolchildren died in a case of food poisoning during their mid-day meal at a government primary school at Chhapra in Saran district of Bihar on July 16.
Yesterday's meeting was attended by top officials of the Ministries of Health & Family Welfare, Rural Development, Tribal Affairs, Minorities Affairs, Youth Affairs, Drinking Water and Sanitation.
Participants stressed the need for convergence of services at the village level and better monitoring of the programme.
Prof N C Saxena, the Supreme Court-appointed Commissioner, said the main problem was about supply chain which includes the poor quality of grain given by the Food Corporation of India and late payments to the school management committee. He said the cooks do not get salaries in time for months and kids are being deprived of vegetables in their meals. 
Health Secretary K. Desiraju suggested that the mechanism should be explored to utilize over 8 lakh Asha workers in villages to get their support for monitoring the quality and hygiene of the meal. 
The Chairman of the Food Security and Standard Authority of India suggested that his organization has more than 300 accredited laboratories across the country which can be utilized for testing foods. He also suggested that the Authority can be utilized at the district level for maintenance of quality, hygiene and safety.
A suggestion was also made that voluntary youth organizations like the National Service Scheme (NSS) can also be utilized in monitoring. Voluntary organizations like Akshya Patra and Naik Foundation offered to train cooks on the vital issues affecting the mid-day meal scheme.
Mr Raju said the possibility of involving youth in the scheme should be explored. He also favoured the use of local food like Ragi, Jawar and Maize in the scheme for their nutritious values.
School Education Secretary R. Bhattacharya said that the Ministry is trying to encourage Kerala model of e-payment so that money can be transferred to SMC in real time.

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