New Delhi: In September, the Uttar Pradesh government booked a journalist for exposing the corruption in the midday meal scheme after he came across students who were being served roti and salt. This was further corroborated by government data disclosed in the Lok Sabha on Monday by the Minister of Human Resource Development Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ to a question posed around the corruption in the mid-day meal scheme.
In the last three years the government has received 52 complaints on corruption in the implementation of the mid-day meal scheme with Uttar Pradesh recording the maximum complaints (14) followed by Bihar (7). Out of the 52, 47 cases are under inquiry and are being investigated, and three are not proved or unrelated to the mid-day meal.
Responding to the question by BJP MP Dr Bharti Pravin Pawar, Pokhriyal told the House said, “A total of 52 complaints were reported regarding corruption in the implementation of the mid-day meal scheme across the country during the last three years.”
The government also informed the house that “931 children were reported to have fallen ill after eating the mid-day meal in the country during the last three years and the current year.” This was in response to the questions posed by MPs in Lok Sabha - Bhartruhari Mahtab, Annapurna Devi, Rahul Ramesh Shewale and Vasanthakumar H.
Maximum Corruption Cases in UP and Bihar
The overall responsibility for providing cooked and nutritious mid-day meal to the eligible children lies with state governments and administration union territories.
In response to the question regarding “the number and details of the cases of corruption in mid-day meal scheme that came to the notice of the government during the last three years, state-wise,” the HRD said, “The respective state governments and UT administrations were requested to furnish Action Taken Report (ATR) in the matter.”
And as per Action Taken Reports (ATRs) received from states and UTs, action such as issuing a warning against the official responsible, terminating the contract of concerned NGOs/organizations, initiating criminal proceedings and imposing penalties against the defaulting persons/officials/ organizations have been taken by the concerned state governments and UT administrations.
With regards to corruption in the implementation of the scheme, the data provides the state-wise details of complaints regarding corruption and action taken on these complaints.
We find that UP is leading in the number of cases of corruption (14). In 2017, the state recorded seven cases of corruption, in 2018, three and four in 2019. Bihar recorded a total of 11 cases in three years.
In 2017, Bihar had 2, in 2018 (7) and in 2019 (2) complaints were reported on corruption in the implementation of the mid-day meal scheme. Maharashtra recorded five cases of corruption.
On the other hand Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Tripura, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Odisha recorded one case of corruption each in the past three years (2017-19).
Apart from conducting an inquiry, the government has also initiated departmental action (including warning, transfer, and suspension) and action against service providers/ complaint substantiated by the state government.
The government has “general corrective action, including the issue of instructions to the concerned, by state government and central of India.”
Food that Kills
The government also revealed the number of children who have died/fallen sick after consuming the mid-day meal in the country during each of the last three years and the current year, year-wise and State-wise. As per the data, a total number of 931 children reportedly fell ill after eating the mid-day meal in the country during the last three years and the current year.
At 259, Jharkhand recorded the highest number of children who fell ill after consuming the mid-day meal in the last three years, followed by Maharashtra (201), and then Uttar Pradesh (154).
The information was shared by HRD ministry to questions posed by Bhartruhari Mahtab, Annpurna Devi, Rahul Ramesh Shewale and Vasanthakumar H.
The Indian government has issued guidelines on quality, safety and hygiene in-school level kitchens to all states and UTs. “These guidelines inter-alia provide for instructions to schools to procure quality and branded items for the preparation of mid-day meals, tasting of meals by 2-3 adult members of School Management Committee including at least one teacher before serving to children and to put in place a system of testing of food samples by accredited laboratories,” the HRD said in its response.