A state-run primary school in Sonbhadra district of Uttar Pradesh allegedly served adulterated milk to the students under the mid-day meal scheme, IANS reported on Thursday. A video of the incident, which took place on Tuesday, has been widely shared on social media.
The video shows a cook of the government’s mid-day meal programme mixing a packet of 1-litre milk with a bucket of water to feed around 81 students at Salai Banwa Primary School in Kota village. The video was reportedly shot by a member of the gram panchayat, according to NDTV. According to the menu prescribed by Adityanath-led Bharatiya Janata Party government, the children are supposed to be served tehri (a rice dish) and milk.
The cook who distributed milk to the schoolchildren said she was given only one packet. “I diluted one litre of milk with a bucket of water,” Phoolwanti told NDTV. “We were only given a packet of milk yesterday, so that’s what I had to do.”
Block Education Officer Mukesh Rai said an investigation into the matter was underway. He also assured strict action to ensure such instances are not repeated. He, however, claimed there was no scarcity of milk. “...There was enough milk in the school and we later redistributed the milk to the children,” he said. “The first time there was an error, but it was rectified immediately.”
Assistant Basic Shiksha Adhikari, Sonbhadra, Gorakhnath Patel contradicted Rai. “I am being told milk was unavailable, so they were directed by the authority to mix water in it, in a balanced quantity,” he said. “I’m also being told that teachers had gone to get more milk but meanwhile pictures were clicked and distributed.”
However, school head Shailesh Kanaujia washed his hands of the incident. “There are 171 children enrolled in the school,” he said. “Eighty-one children were present on that day. I have the responsibility to look after two schools. Milk had to be arranged for both schools and I could not monitor the quantity of milk that reached government primary school in Salai Banwa. The cook was provided the milk, which was distributed among the children and they drank it.”
The Opposition Congress hit out at the state government over the alleged incident. “Even children are not getting a midday meal properly,” said Congress leader Ajay Rai. “The government has failed even in providing a proper meal for the children. This is an irony that diluted milk was served to the children in a government school”.
Last week, Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank told the Lok Sabha that the maximum number of complaints about mid-day meal was reported from Uttar Pradesh. Fourteen of 52 complaints reported from across the country were from the northern state.
The incident comes about two months after a government school in Mirzapur was found to be serving chapatis with salt to school children as part of the mid-day meal programme. After the video of the incident went viral, the local journalist who first reported it was booked for criminal conspiracy.