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Midday meals: Food safety measures, testing standards to be introducedMidday meals: Food safety measures, testing standards to be introduced
TNN | Oct 15, 2014
NEW DELHI: After several postponements, the empowered committee on midday meal headed by HRD minister Smriti Irani met on Wednesday.
Though several decisions were taken, HRD ministry did not say anything about increasing the remuneration of cook-cum-helpers who get paltry Rs 1000 per month. Cabinet note proposing monthly salary of Rs 2000 was rejected by the new government and since then has been gathering dust in the ministry. Considered crucial to the MDM operation, poor state of cook-cum-helpers has been pointed out by several independent studies. After last year's tragedy in Bihar that led to the death of more than 20 children, poor working condition of cook-cum-helpers was highlighted. Increasing the salary could have led to additional expenditure of Rs 2000 crore per annum.
Irani asked state governments to resolve the issue of payment to Food Corporation of India which supplies foodgrains for MDM throughout the country. Since HRD ministry releases fund for food grains in advance, state governments were asked not to keep arrears. Bihar government that owes over Rs 100 crore to FCI was told to clear the arrears.
Bihar education minister Brishen Patel told the meeting that centralized kitchen be made at the block level so that teachers do not get involved in the task of cooking. It is unlikely that Patel's suggestion will be accepted.
Meeting stressed on increasing safety measures in cooking and regular testing of cooked food. In order to ensure quality of the meals and appropriate nutrition standards under MDM, it was decided to introduce a protocol for standards in food safety and testing. It will be rolled out from next year.
But it is Tithi Bhojan scheme on which a lot of time was spent in the meeting. Initially started in Gujarat , the scheme envisages contribution from community members to mid-day meal on occasions like festivals, birthdays or any happy occasion. Even those whose children do not go to school can contribute by getting something special to eat for children. Variants of Tithi scheme is found in other states. Now it will be expanded at the national stage.