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Sheer apathy

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has recently pointed out stark discrepancies in the implementation of key social welfare schemes in Delhi during the period 2009-2014. These schemes included the flagship mid-day meal (MDM) program which served hot cooked meals to children. The mid-day meal scheme was introduced in its present form in 1995 to tackle the problem of malnutrition among children and boost school enrollment and attendance. Children do come to school and meals get served, but quite often, terrible accidents happen due to food poisoning as happened in the Bihar mid-day meal tragedy. Sometimes poor hygiene while cooking plays the devil, sometimes rampant adulteration is the culprit. 

The report further said that mid-day meals were not served for the prescribed number of days in both primary and upper primary schools. Those meals which were randomly tested failed to pass the established benchmarks for nutrition value. This is a severe indictment of the corrupt service providers and contractors who have been skimming off the top for quite some time now. How else does one explain the fact that the mid-day meals were not served on the prescribed number of days in both primary and upper primary schools? Out of 2,012 samples of cooked meals, a whopping 1,876 samples failed tests for nutritive value during the period of 2010-14. The diversion of funds and foodgrains, teachers preparing meals and spending less time in teaching and lack of food hygiene were also flagged in a parliamentary committee report filed a few years ago, underlining institutional apathy and lack of concerted efforts in the implementation of the mid-day meal scheme. Given the information disclosed in the CAG report and the previous parliamentary committee report, the revelation that the Capital’s children were being poorly fed and poorly taught during the previous Congress regime is not really surprising. 

The reality that contractors and various service providers did not obtain the mandatory license from the Food Safety Department and were running their kitchens without the required No Objection Certificates(NOCs) is also a damning indictment of the state of affairs during the previous ruling dispensation. Further, the report said that out of 18,000 children studying in Education Guarantee Scheme and Alternative and Innovative Education centres supported under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, only a measly 1,154 children were covered during the period 2013-14.

The CAG’s report effectively asserts that the mid-day meal scheme across the capital during the period of 2010-2014 was a malfunctioning, understaffed,ill-supervised scheme. The auditor also pointed out the ramshackle state of the Delhi Tourism and Transport Development Corporation (DTDC). There is perhaps a grain of truth to the CAG’s assessment. Despite 39 years since its incorporation, the DTDC has been able to come up with no policy innovation except introducing hop-on-hop-off buses which drop tourists off at select city walk mall and other already crowded tourist locations. It was probably due to this lethargy that the tourist inflow in Delhi as a whole, registered an increase of 108%, whereas it increased only by 30% in the tourist spots owned by the company during 2009-14. Precious tourism revenue was lost out on due to government inactivity. On the CAG revenue <g data-gr-id="41">front</g> the report pointed out under assessment and short levy of revenue to the tune of Rs 905.66 crore in 2001 cases during 2013-14. Urban local bodies implementing welfare <g data-gr-id="40">schemes,</g> have two types of revenues: tax and non-tax. 

According to the CAG, there were delays in obtaining utilisation certificates (UCs) from various grantee institutions. 4,784 UCs amounting to Rs 19,064.02 crore were awaited from various departments at the end of March 2014. Out of 4,784 outstanding UCs, 2,267 UCs (47.39%) amounting to Rs 5,651.17 crore were due for more than 10 years. A delay in obtaining UCs for 10 years is not just ineptitude and incompetence, it is gross negligence. Now that the Aam Aadmi Party has taken charge at the helm of affairs, Delhi’s citizens hope that things will change soon.
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