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Mid-day menace: Govt, civic bodies re-engage NGOs serving poor quality meals to students

NGOs known to be serving sub-standard quality food to schools under the mid-day meal scheme, have been re-engaged by Delhi government and municipal corporations for this academic year.
The test reports of mid-day meal samples collected from civic body-run schools in the capital, now in the possession of Millennium Post, have revealed that the protein content and calorie value in some of the samples were approximately half of the prescribed standards of nutrition.

For instance, a sample of rice and dal picked up on 29 April, 2013 from a primary school in the East DMC area had protein content of 6.5 gm against the minimum prescribed limit  of 12 gm (check image) and calorie value of 252 calorie against a minimum requirement of 450 calorie. Similarly, a sample of rice and chhole picked up on 10 May had protein content of 6.8 gm and calorie value of 244 calorie. The east civic body received 12 sample reports in April, of which only one had passed the required nutritional standard. Four sample reports were received in May, of which only one had met the required nutritional standards. Last year, over 90 per cent samples sent from civic body-run schools in the East DMC area had failed the tests.

As per rule, 15 samples should be picked up from the East DMC area for testing by Shriram Institute for Industrial Research (SIIR), but it has been revealed that less than the prescribed number were picked up.

Thirty-three NGOs supply food for the mid-day meal scheme at schools run by the Delhi government. The quality-testing agency is supposed to pick up four samples per NGO per month here. 'We have not received any report so far as samples were not picked up between January and May. We have renewed our contract for sample testing with SIIR which has started drawing samples for testing from July. The reports are still awaited,' said a senior officer of the mid-day meal cell of Delhi government.

Delhi government has re-engaged 16 NGOs, even after samples collected from food supplied by them failed to meet the prescribed nutritional standard last year. Approximately, 83 per cent samples collected from Delhi government-run schools had failed to meet the required nutritional standard in 2012-13. Apart from the 16 NGOs known to have served poor quality food last year, the government has engaged 17 new NGOs under the scheme this year. 

'We have held back the payment of NGOs that have served poor quality food and action will be taken  against them very soon,'said the officer. The eight NGOs which supplied poor quality food under the mid-day meal scheme to schools run by the three civic bodies in the capital are yet to be penalised, and are still part of the scheme. 'We have written to Delhi government for directions on how to calculate the fine to be imposed on these NGOs, but are still waiting for a reply,' said M H A Khan, additional commissioner, North DMC.

He further added that a guideline is also awaited to take a final decision on the method of testing the mid-day meal samples. Meanwhile, South DMC has engaged FICCI to carry out the quality check of food samples and not SIIR. FICCI charges Rs 2,200 for testing each sample as against Rs 4,500 per sample charged by SIIR. The samples tested by SIIR have failed to meet the required nutritional standards, but all samples tested by FICCI have passed
the test.

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