Midday meal safety norms to be painted on walls of schools

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MIDDAYPatna, July 21:Facing the ire of people over the midday meal tragedy, the Bihar government plans to provide printed instructions to school principals about food quality and safety besides painting the norms on the schools walls.

“We are readying detailed instructions about maintaining quality and safety of food served under midday meal scheme in schools,” Director Midday Meal Scheme, R. Lakshmanan told PTI.

The instructions being prepared with the help of food experts will include giving knowledge to principals about first aid measures in cases like that of Dharmasati Gandaman primary school in Saran district.

In the wake of the tragedy, many medical experts voiced that ORS should have been provided to the ill for immediate relief. These things should be known to school principals to face challenges of such nature immediately, Mr. Lakshmanan said, explaining the need for first aid protocol being issued to the principals.

The Bihar midday meal director said that besides providing printed instructions about safety and quality of food to be served under the programme, the details would be painted on the walls of schools for everyone to see and follow.

A forensic report had on Saturday confirmed the presence of poisonous pesticide in the midday meal served to the students of the school in Chhapra where 23 children died after taking the contaminated food.

The midday meal scheme, a flagship programme of the Union government, is given in 70,200 schools of Bihar covering more than 1.30 crore children.

Taking lessons from the Saran tragedy, the department was revisiting guidelines for quality and safety of food served under the scheme, the state midday meal director said.

Mr. Lakshamanan said that schools would be told to maintain a register in which daily entry has to be made about who prepared the meal and who tasted it before giving it to students.

The register would be perused by the officials who would be inspecting the schools more frequently, he said.

The register has to be maintained by the principal of the school, he said.

Mr. Lakshamanan said for maintaining high standards of hygiene, the state government has also decided to provide an additional fund ranging from Rs. 5000 to Rs. 15,000 to schools depending on enrolment and number of beneficiaries for purchase of new utensils for cooking midday meals.

The state government has also decided to provide new plates to beneficiaries. In the first phase, new plates would be given to students in middle schools in the current financial year itself which would be extended to primary schools in the next phase, Mr. Lakshamanan said.

Training programmes for the cooks and school principals have been planned, he said, adding the state government has given permission for appointment of 1.67 lakh new cooks under the scheme in schools across the state.

The department has already sent instruction to District Magistrates to tag roofless schools and those which do not have proper kitchen shed or storage with nearby schools having these facilities.

As part of the instruction, District Magistrate, Saran, Abhijit Sinha has said the primary school, Gandaman, would cease to function from present community building and would be tagged with government middle school Gandaman, which is 200 metres away.

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