A local journalist who first reported about schoolchildren in Mirzapur eating chapatis and salt in their mid-day meal was on Saturday booked for criminal conspiracy, Dainik Jagran reported.

According to the First Information Report, a “representative” of the village head conspired to get a video of the incident shot by a journalist despite knowing that the cook was short of supplies for the meals. “The management of the mid-day meals was the village head’s responsibility, and so once he knew, the representative’s job was to inform the head and make vegetables available to the cook,” the FIR said.

A video of children eating the meal with chapatis and salt was widely shared on social media on August 23, after which the district administration had ordered an inquiry. Around 100 students of the Siyur primary school in Mirzapur’s Jamalpur block were served this lunch, according to reports. The National Human Rights Commission had issued a notice to the Uttar Pradesh government after taking note of the video.


Caught on camera: Schoolchildren in Uttar Pradesh are fed chapatis with salt for mid-day meals

The video was shot by Pawan Jaiswal, who works for the Hindi newspaper Jansandesh Times, according to the FIR. On Saturday, an education department official filed the case against three persons – Jaiswal, the village head’s representative Rajkumar Pal, and one unidentified person.

According to the FIR, it was found during investigation that Pal informed a school teacher at 10.47 am on August 22 that the school cook did not have enough supplies. The teacher went to get the supplies but by the time he returned, he saw students eating chapatis with salt and the journalist shooting the video.

A vegetable seller said during investigation that the school teacher had already paid him for the supplies in advance so that he could give the vegetables whenever the cook went to him. However, the cook did not turn up, and the vegetable seller claimed that he still had Rs 300 out of the advance payment.

At 10.53 am, Pal allegedly called Jaiswal, who went to the school around noon. Pal got the cook to serve chapatis and salt to the children and Jaiswal shot the video. Even though Jaiswal was a print media journalist, Pal allegedly asked him to circulate it in electronic media and so, the video was sent to the local ANI journalist, the FIR claimed.

“It is clear that Rajkumar Pal was already aware that vegetables were not cooked till noon that day...Instead of making any effort to make vegetables available, he hatched a conspiracy and called Jaiswal and got the video to go viral,” the FIR said. “Rajkumar Pal and Pawan Kumar Jaiswal deliberately did this in a planned way and defamed the Uttar Pradesh government’s mid-day meal scheme.”

The three accused were booked under Sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public function), 193 (false evidence) and 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code.

An investigation is under way.

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