Uttar Pradesh: Sonbhadra school serves roti, salt for mid-day meal; principal suspended

Mid-Day Meal Scheme: The principal and the village’s de-facto head have blamed each other for the quality of the meal.

Uttar Pradesh: Sonbhadra school serves roti, salt for mid-day meal; principal suspended A total of 249 students are enrolled in Classes 1 to 8 at Composite School Gureth in Sonbhadhra, UP. (Picture source: Viral Video)
Sanjay | Aug 27, 2022 - 5:29 p.m. IST
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NEW DELHI: A government school principal has been suspended for “negligence” after it came to light that students were served salt and roti (flatbread) under the mid-day meal scheme (MDM) in Uttar Pradesh’s Sonbhadra district.

The incident happened in Gureth Composite School, in Gureth village of Ghorawal block, Sonbhadra, on Monday, August 22, and the next day, two youths from the village recorded students telling villagers they got roti and salt for lunch. That video went viral on social media leading to action against the principal, Rudra Prasad.

A preliminary investigation by the local administration has confirmed the students’ allegation. The district education officer (DEO), Harivansh Kumar, has issued show cause notices to three other assistant teachers of the school. Prasad has blamed village head’s husband Prabhu Narayan Srivastava for his suspension. He has also alleged that he has been suspended due to “village politics”. Srivastava has denied the allegations.

Sonbhadra district magistrate (DM) Chandra Vijay Singh has said that action will be taken against all found guilty after a probe by district education officials.

Now subsumed within the PM Poshan programme, India’s mid-day meal scheme is the largest school lunch programme in the world. Crucial for nutrition support for young children, it provides hot cooked meals to students in all government and aided schools till Class 8. According to the scheme guidelines, the meals are meant to include pulses, rice, rotis and vegetables along with fruits and milk on certain days.

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Schools receive Rs 4.97 per child in primary classes (Classes 1 to 5) and Rs 7.45 per child in upper primary classes (Classes 6 to 8) as “cooking cost” of mid-day meals, which includes the cost of raw materials and their preparation. It is fixed centrally by the union government. A total of 249 students are enrolled in Classes 1 to 8 at Composite School Gureth.

Midday meal, village politics

Prasad and Srivastava are now blaming each other.

Prasad said the atrocious ‘lunch’ was the result of a “well-planned conspiracy” of village head’s husband, Srivastav. On his part, Srivastav told Careers360 that he is being “framed”.

Prasad and village head Ranjana Devi were members of the school management committee, a statutory body mandated by the Right to Education Act 2009. However, Devi’s husband, Srivastava, used to perform all her formal duties by violating constitutional rules, Prasad said.

“I could have made the arrangements, if I did not have assurance from the village head’s husband. He had asked me to inform mid-day meal workers to cook chapati and promised that he would be sending cylinders and vegetables. I called him multiple times but he did not send cylinders or vegetables till lunch time. Children were hungry and we could not stop them,” Prasad told mediapersons on August 26 when he visited the school to say goodbye to his students. He had been serving the school since 2010.

“It was the job of the village head to provide food material. Earlier our committee used to take care of midday meals and there was no problem. Since August 8, the village head has been taking care of it and we started facing problems and now I have to pay the price,” Prasad added.

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Srivastav said teachers are responsible for providing mid-day meals to students and they failed to do so. “Schools were closed due to Covid-19. After the reopening of schools, teachers are taking care of mid-day meals. They also receive foodgrains from ration shops. School principal had asked me to send a gas cylinder and I had sent it. The whole incident is a political gimmick and I am being framed,” he said.

Srivastav did not comment on why he is performing the duties of her wife and village head.

Mid-day meal: Administrative action

In an order dated August 25, DEO Sonbhadra Kumar suspended school principal Pradhan and issued warnings against three other assistant teachers - Kunwar Singh, Ramesh Kumar and Deep Chand. Kumar has asked the assistant teachers to properly monitor all activities in the school.

“Block Education Officer Ghorawal informed me that a shortage of food material and cylinder occurred in the composite school Gureth due to negligence of village head Ranjana Devi and school principal Rudra Pratap. This resulted in students not getting quality and nutritious food under midday meals. This incident also dented the image of the education department,” the order says.

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While the order states that both Devi and Pratap are accused in this incident, the preliminary probe found Pratap guilty and hence he was suspended.

“We have taken cognisance of the incident and the matter is being probed under the guidance of DEO. We will take action against all those found guilty in the incident. We regularly inspect the schools and take action if we find any irregularities,” district magistrate Singh said.

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