Education and civil administration officials have launched a "massive" physical verification drive in Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir to check the quality of mid-day meals (MDM) being served to children in schools, especially those located in remote areas.
The drive was started in Bhadarwah town, officials said Saturday, adding that the verifications will be carried out across the district.
The drive was planned after repeated complaints from the people regarding poor quality food grains, they said.
"We have formed a team of senior officers from the education department and civil administration. They will conduct random checks at all schools to ensure regular delivery of hygienic meals to the children," Chief Education Officer, Doda, Mohammad Sharief Chouhan told PTI.
As part of the drive, a detailed verification of in-charge teachers and Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution (CAPD) dealers in Bhadarwah zone was conducted yesterday but no variation in any of the records were found, officials said.
Besides physical verification of the food grains in the CAPD outlets and schools, records of 33 CAPD dealers and 107 in-charge teachers in the Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDM) were inspected in the town, he said.
"MDM created a lot of buzz in the beginning, but unfortunately the ground reality tells a pathetic story. While the ration issued by the CAPD is of very poor quality, the mid-day meal is served and cooked under unhygienic conditions," bemoaned Mushtaq Ahmed Chunna, a resident of Mohalla Haveli Bhadarwah.
The mid-day meal scheme, which aimed at raising enrolment rate by encouraging poor families to send their children to schools, has failed to achieve it's goal in the hilly areas due to the careless and corrupt practises of the CAPD and the education department, he claimed.
Sair Hussain, another resident, said the government should take action against persons guilty of lapses in the MDM scheme.
Refuting the charges made by the public, assistant director CAPD, Doda, Zakir Wani said, "After receiving several complaints regarding the low-quality grains being supplied for MDM, we picked up several samples (of the grains) and sent them to different laboratories for simultaneous checks. However, all the samples were found to be fit for consumption and of good quality."
Stating that the department regularly checks the quality of rice and other key ingredients, like oil, salt and turmeric, he assured stern action against all officials found guilty of supplying or serving poor quality/unhygienic food to the students.
The National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education (NP-NSPE) popularly known as MDM scheme was started in 1995, with the aim to give dry meals to students from classes I to VIII in government, government-aided schools and 'madrasas' (religious schools).
In January 2006, the scheme was modified on a trial basis to provide cooked meals to the students. Subsequently, this scheme was extended to all government-run schools and 'madrasas', including 1,240 schools in Doda district.