Even as the common man has just about managed to bring back toor dal into his kitchen, for students of government schools, this much-needed nutrition is missing from their mid-day meal menu. While authorities are confident that they are conducting their tests every week and haven't come across such situations, some schools have not seen toor dal for a few months and self-help groups, which are providing mid-day meals on contracts are complaining of inflation leading to the situation.
Pradnya Sawant, who runs a self-help group, which provides mid-day meal to a few schools, said, "The government has given us a specific structure of food to be served as mid-day meal. But, they are not taking inflation into consideration. Now, even as the price of toor dal has increased, we are not given extra allowance to buy it. To manage in the given budget, we have to make such alterations. Government does not give us money for vegetables but we anyway add it for taste."
The principal of a government school in Borivali said, “For few months, we have seen the quantity of toor dal going down in mid-day meals. But then there are other additional pulses. We are not aware of the reasons. But what else could it be other than increased prices? We did have a dialogue with the self-help group that is providing food to our school. They have made alternative arrangements as they are not able to afford toor dal as much as they could before." While in some schools toor dal is completely missing, in some others the quantity has reduced to a significant level.
Principal of another government school from Dahisar, said, "There is a specific timetable for mid-day meal in which everyday's food menu is decided. Toor dal is for one day. But, in past few months, we have seen it being replaced by moong dal.”
Other self-help groups also shared similar stories. “Forget extra funding, even if authorities release the original funding on time, we will find ways to manage and continue with the stipulated menu. But, getting out bills approved and finally receiving cash, is another task as we have to keep following up with authorities as payments are always delayed,” lamented the head of another self-help group from Dadar.
Authorities at Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) Education board, however, remain in denial. J R Keluskar, Deputy Education officer BMC, said, “We are following all the rules and regulations given by government to the word. Every week, the work of self-help groups is tested to see if they are running as per regulations. But then, there are so many schools and equal number of self-help groups providing mid-day meal food to these schools. We might have missed out on few. But, if there is such issue in any school, they should come forward and complain to us so that we can take required actions against the self-help group.”