The abject apathy with which the government manages facilities for students across the country doesn’t fail to surprise. On Sunday, the students of the Sant Eknath Boys Government Hostel in Chembur run by the Social welfare Department, found a lizard in their afternoon meal.
Thankfully, one student raised the alarm before the contaminated meal could cause harm to other students. In a similar case at another hostel four years ago, students suffered food poisoning after eating food that had been contaminated with a dead lizard. What was worse was that for the Sant Eknath hostelites, this was déjà vu. Glass shards in noodles and pieces of plastic in chapatis have been found before, they said.
Contractors, cutting costs to plump up their own cuts, think little of feeding the lesser privileged potentially harmful food. In this case, it was 130 reserved category students from rural Maharashtra. The same story has played out in schools across the country. Instances of sand and stone being found in mid-day meals served to school students have been rife ever since the scheme was launched in 1995.
With the distinction of being the largest such scheme in the world (it serves 12 crore children), the mid-day meal had come as a boon to parents living under the poverty line. They began to send their children to school because the scheme ensured at least one square meal a day. And then, this meal would become the very reason they stay out of school.
Do the poor not deserve quality standards despite us, taxpayers, pitching in? Repeated checks have thrown up horror stories over the years, yet a day or two later, things go back to their apathetic worst. If Sant Eknath’s mess throws up yet another shocker, it will be the Maharashtra government’s shame.