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NGO stops midday meal in Nagaon

Manpower shortage hits delivery

By Debananda Medak in Guwahati

  • Published 9.11.19, 1:20 AM
  • Updated 9.11.19, 1:20 AM
Midday meal workers take part in a protest rally in Dibrugarh on Friday
Midday meal workers take part in a protest rally in Dibrugarh on Friday Pictures by UB Photos

The Nagaon district administration has ordered schools to resume the earlier system of cooking midday meals at the institutions after the NGO tasked with its preparation and supply expressed its inability to cover all children.

A Delhi-based NGO, Moon Light, was tasked to deliver cooked meals to at least 49,900 students in Nagaon covering 350 schools. However, owing to shortage of manpower and lack of infrastructure in its centralised kitchen in Nagaon town, the NGO voluntarily submitted its withdrawal letter to the district administration on Thursday evening.

An administration source said the NGO could deliver cooked meals to only 30 per cent of the students.

“The NGO submitted a temporary withdrawal letter to the administration expressing its inability to continue providing midday meals at the selected primary schools. Therefore, we have asked schoolteachers to prepare midday meals like before,” the source said.

In Udalguri, district school inspector Bhaben Deuri said there are no reports of schools refusing to accept meals prepared by the NGO Paras Agro Society. “Rather, the NGO, which was assigned to deliver cooked meals to primary schools, has been failing to reach all the listed institutions,” he said.

Around 40,000 students in 556 schools of Udalguri district are covered under the centralised kitchen.

All Assam Minority Students Union activists burn the effigy of education minister Siddhartha Bhattacharya in Baksa on Friday to protest against the alleged lapses in distribution of midday meals by NGOs
Citu workers protest at Biswanath Chariali on Friday.
Citu workers protest at Biswanath Chariali on Friday.

Deuri said, “Primary schools in Udalguri district are ready to receive the cooked meals. But the NGO has been constantly failing to cover all listed schools everyday ever since the inception of its services. Scarcity of cooked meal, prepared by the NGO, is so great that half of the students in many schools are going without lunch.”

“Quality of the food prepared by the NGO has also been found quite varied. Shortage of manpower is a major concern for the NGO to cover all the schools,” Deuri added.

Lakhimpur deputy commissioner Jeevan B. said: “There are certain issues which we need to address. Certain difficulties are disrupting the midday meal delivery process. However, we are monitoring the situation closely and believe things will be streamlined at the earliest.”

The deputy commissioner said there were no lapses in monitoring and ensuring quality and safety of the meals prepared by the NGO. “All the schools will get cooked meals soon,” he added.

Tinsukia additional deputy commissioner Shymal Khetra Gogoi said there are 364 schools in the district covered under the midday meal scheme. “We are not being able to cover all schools. We are trying to convey the message of the government that midday meal workers will not lose their jobs,” Gogoi said.

He said the administration was not compromising with the quality of food prepared by the NGO. “Food safety officials have been monitoring and ensuring the safety and quality of food on a daily basis.”

However, Gogoi said since the cooks are primarily from north India, difference in taste of the cooked meal, prepared by the NGO, was a concern.