New Delhi: The mid day meal tragedy which claimed 23 lives in a Bihar school has shook the country. Two days after the tragedy struck a school in Bihar, CNN-IBN teams visited different cities in the country to check the conditions of the kitchens where food is cooked for mid day meals, which are served to government school students.
In Jaipur's Madrampura, the kitchen where mid day meals are cooked was set up by the Iskcon food relief foundation. The kitchen runs in a rented space of a chemical factory. The place where the food is cooked for children is just feet away from the machinery which ejects harmful chemicals. CNN-IBN team also found that the storeroom of the kitchen has no doors and rice stored there contains rat excreta. When quizzed, the kitchen in-charge was on the defensive.
"Construction for a new kitchen is going on. Doors will be built in a day or two. The wheat supplied by the Food Corporation of India is of poor quality," kitchen in-charge Ajit Jain said.
The situation was no better in Allahabad where the Gauhar Primary School lacks even basic amenities to cook meals. The stove and the gas cylinder have been stolen and no action has been yet taken on the headmistress's request for replacements. Meals are cooked on makeshift stoves in unhygienic conditions. "I don't have the gas to cook food. The gas cylinder was stolen in 2009," the headmistress said.
In Kanpur's Kalyanpur block, the situation is worse. Water used for cooking food is taken from a handpump situated next to a toilet, which is surrounded by dirt and garbage. "There are water puddles around the handpump. The water seeps into the ground and then comes out from the handpump," school headmaster Kamlesh Srivastava said.
In Amritsar, insects and worms have been found in a mid day meal kitchen. Even the water that is used for cooking is believed to be contaminated.
The condition of mid day meal services across the country shows how the ambitious scheme has turned into a national shame.