Of the 135 students who fell ill after consuming idli-sambhar supplied by a self-help group (SHG) to the PMC-run Sitaram Narayan Gawade School in Janta Vasahat, 84 were admitted in Poona Hospital and discharged after medication, while the remaining 51 were treated at various hospitals in the city. The girls are students of Std I to VII at the PMC-run school.
Three students were readmitted to Poona Hospital after complaining of dizziness and stomachache yesterday. Speaking about his ordeal, Suresh Mote, father of Laxmi Mote, said, “My daughter was admitted in Poona Hospital on Saturday and discharged on Sunday morning after treatment. Problems recurred as soon as we reached home and she was readmitted.
When the doctor discharged my daughter today (Tuesday), I went to the cashier to get the discharge slip and was asked to pay Rs 3,200 towards medical expenses.” Mote alleged that upon refusing to pay, as he was told that the expenses would be borne by the education board of PMC, the cashier misbehaved with him. He then called up RTI activist Anoop Awasthi and Dattawadi police station to sort things out.
Awasthi said, “The hospital authorities cheat these poor people and force them to sell their belongings or take loans at high interest. How can they ask for money without issuing bill? How will an auto driver like Mote pay Rs 3,200?”
‘It was a mistake’
Vaishali Talpure, public relation officer of Poona Hospital rubbished the allegations. She said, “It is true that the cashier asked for money, but it was by mistake. As soon as I came to know about the matter, I asked the cashier not to charge, as our trustee had asked us to take care of all expenses of the patients admitted for food poisoning.”
Chairman of PMC education board Sangeeta Tiwari said, “Our officials have photographed a few of the 180 SHGs present in the city and found them to be in a deplorable condition. Some of them are cooking under tin sheds and some under trees. We will be sending these photographs to the concerned authorities and asking them to arrange for a central kitchen to prepare food for the 10,000-odd children.”
The chairman said if they are unable to do so, then they will be asked to provide dry food to the children’s home. “This issue is grave and has to be handled with great care as it concerns the health of kids. We had asked the president of Savitri Bachatgat Mahasangh, Ragini Kamble to conduct regular rounds of these SHGs, but to no avail,” Tiwari said.
Dnyaneshwar Molak, joint commissioner of Urban Community Development department, said these SHGs have been providing midday meals since five years, but nothing like this happened before. “We are awaiting the reports and will decide on further action,” Molak said. Ragini Kamble denied Tiwari’s claim and said that she has received no complaints from the PMC’s education board.
“We conduct regular checks on SHGs supplying midday meals to schools and ensure that the food is prepared by the mothers of children studying in those particular schools,” Kamble said and added that the contract of the SHG would be cancelled if they are found to be preparing food in unhygienic conditions or if their food quality is inferior.