Skip to main content

Karnataka: NGO Akshay Patra "not sensitive" to nutrition demands of school children

Counterview Desk
Well-known civil rights organizations, Right to Food Campaign and Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, have sent a letter to the Union minister of human resource development, the Chief Minister of Karnataka, other concerned ministers and officials of the state expressing concerns regarding the mid-day meal (MDM) to school children, insisting, all contracts to the Akshay Patra for supply of MDM should be immediately terminated.
Demanding that eggs should be supplied in all schools and to given to the children of those communities that are accustomed to eating them, the letter, signed by 145 citizens from across the country, says that and MDM should be prepared through self-help groups (SHGs) and other community-based organizations (CBOs) in accordance with nutritional norms and cultural practices, using fresh local products.

Text of the letter:

Religious diktats cannot supersede the application of established principles of the right to food to mid-day meal schemes.
The Akshaya Patra Foundation, which has been providing mid-day meal (MDM) to 4.43 lakh school children in Karnataka, has refused to sign the memorandum for 2018-19. The State government has directed the NGO to include onion and garlic in the food, based on recommendations from the State Food Commission, which the NGO is refusing to comply with. The NGO has also not been providing eggs in the MDM as part of its ‘satvik’ diet. However, this point has not yet been raised by the government.
This standoff highlights the position of rights-based campaigns that MDM should be locally prepared and culturally relevant and not provided through a centralised agency, especially one that applies limits to the food on the basis of religious belief.
The National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education (MDM Scheme), launched in August 1995 to boost universalisation of primary education, while impacting on the nutrition levels of children, simultaneously lays emphasis on providing cooked meals with minimum 450 calories, 8-12 grams of proteins and adequate quantities of other nutrients, further converted by the National Food Security Act (NFSA) 2013 into a legal right up to Class 8.
The interim order of the Supreme Court dated April 20, 2004 further mandates that “In appointment of cooks and helpers, preference shall be given to Dalits, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.” According to MDM guidelines ‘meals should be made varied, interesting and wholesome as no single vegetable, fruit or grain contains all the essential nutrients, to ‘ensure that children eat well throughout the week.’ -- this in consultation with the local community, school management committees, women’s self help groups and nutrition experts.
The National Family Health Survey 4 (NFHS) data for Karnataka (2015) shows that stunting among Scheduled caste (SC) and Scheduled tribe (ST) children is 39%, wasting is 40% and undernutrition is 28 and 25% respectively. . It is evident that children from marginalised communities suffer from lack of basic nutrition. The focus of the State government should be to ensure that children get both adequate quality and quantity of food.
A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India submitted to the Ministry of Human Resource Development on the MDM scheme in 2015 found that 187 test samples of meals prepared by ISCKON failed to meet prescribed standards. Out of 24 schools where cooked MDM was being supplied by ISKCON, there was a negative feedback from 75% of children and teachers.
The agency had also utilised less quantity of food grains than the prescribed scale of 100/150 gms for preparing one meal and lifted only 21,511 quintals of rice against the prescribed requirement of 68,561 which means only around 40 gms of rice was being consumed or children were eating much less than they should ideally be for their age. It is common knowledge that a tasty meal ensures that children eat better and taste is very much dependent on what a child is culturally and socially accustomed to.
The National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) recommends consumption of at least 3 eggs per week in view of several nutritional advantages and that animal proteins are of high quality as they provide all the essential amino acids in the right proportion. There have been demands for eggs in the mid-day meal from civil society, parents and children in several states of India. In Andhra, in spite of the NIN making eggs mandatory in the MDM scheme, this was openly flouted by the NGO.
The 2017 revised guidelines for engagement of civil society organisations/NGO in MDM states that ‘operation of centralised kitchen should be entrusted to CSO/NGO with local presence and familiarity with the needs and culture of the State’.It says that the CSO/NGO should give commitment to abide by the MDM guidelines issued by MHRD, willing to work with Panchayat Raj Institutions and municipal bodies in accordance with relevant guidelines of the State government and ‘should not discriminate in any manner on the basis of religion, caste and creed and should not use the program for propagation of any religious practice’.
It is evident that Akshaya patra which claims to supply MDM to 1.76 million children from 14,702 schools across 12 states in India has flouted these norms from the beginning of the contract. It fails to cater to children who belong to disadvantaged communities, almost 100% of whom eat eggs and are culturally accustomed to garlic and onion in their foods.
In Mangalore in Karnataka there have been protests by workers who claim that Akshaya Patra is a religious organisation that is forcing students to consume food without garlic and onion while also leading to loss of jobs for local women who work in the schools to prepare the MDM. IN Chandigarh, the food, prepared without onions and garlic, by Iskcon was found unsuitable and the contract was not given to the agency.
The Committee on the Welfare of Scheduled castes and Scheduled tribes, 2013 on prevention of untouchability in mid-day meal schemes in Government run schools has stated that it is desirable that the MDM is cooked locally in the school premises either through self-help groups or through personnel engaged by the School Management Committee.
The committee has, as early as in 2013, raised concerns about ‘unauthorised and illegal collection of donations/ contribution by ISKCON and Akshaya Patra from public in India and abroad for Government sponsored MDM Scheme for school children in Karnataka’.
The primary objectives of the MDM is to improve the nutritional status of children and to encourage children belonging to disadvantaged sections to attend school more regularly and help them concentrate on classroom activities. The State government is well within its rights to modify or terminate an agreement with a private provider at any time during the contract period by giving a 30 day notice. 
The Government of Karnataka, as well as other states should learn a lesson from this situation that MDM are best prepared locally keeping the needs of the community in mind rather than being dictated to by a religious organisation that meets neither the needs of quantity nor of quality.
We demand that all contracts to Akshay Patra for supply of MDM be immediately terminated, eggs be supplied in all schools to the children of communities that are accustomed to eating them and MDM be prepared through SHGs and other CBOs in accordance with nutritional norms and cultural practices, using fresh local products.
---
Click HERE for list of signatories

Comments

Anonymous said…
What a cause ? This is clearly prejudiced and biased against Akshaya Patra which is doing such a good job. The people behind this unnecessary issue are agitated over their inability to convert the poor people in the name of free food. Same in Chandigarh as well. ISKON is being removed so that the conversion mafia can run their business of harvesting souls and get more funds.
Unknown said…
The concerns are 100% genuine. A very good government scheme is being misappropriated by a godmen cult. Resources are being utilised to serve insatiable cravings of 'prabhus'- that is what members of this cult call themselves - .

The data submitted to authorities is all manipulated.

TRENDING

Mallika Sarabhai releases speech she was 'not allowed' to give at NID Convocation on Feb 7

Counterview Desk
The National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, a Ministry of Commerce and Industry body, landed itself in controversy following its decision to put off its 40th convocation ceremony, where noted danseuse Mallika Sarabhai was invited as chief guest. The ceremony was scheduled to be held on February 7.

Modi, Shah 'forget': Gandhi’s first Satyagraha was against citizenship law of South Africa

By Nachiketa Desai*
Hindu fanatic Nathuram Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi once on January 30, 1948 but his followers raising the war cry of ‘Jai Sriram’ are killing the Mahatma every day. In his home state of Gujarat, Gandhiji was killed a thousand times in 2002 when over 2,000 Muslims were butchered, their women raped, homes and shops plundered and set on fire and even unborn babies ripped out of the wombs of their mothers.

As corona virus 'travels' to rural areas, NGO begins training tribals, marginalised women

By Souparno Chatterjee*
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared corona virus a pandemic. Originating from Wuhan in China, it has traversed the entire globe, almost, and claimed more than 16,000 lives already. That’s largely the urban population. In India, despite all the preparedness and war-like promptness to safeguard against the pandemic, several lives have been lost , and hundreds of individuals have tested positive.

Rani Laxmi Bai, Tatya Tope 'martyred' by East India Company, Scindia's forefathers

By Our Representative
In an email alert to Counterview, well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam has said that was “shameful for any political party in democratic India to keep children of Sindhias in their flock” given their role during the First War of Indian Independence (1857). In a direct commentary on Madhya Pradesh Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia moving over to BJP, Prof Islam has quote from a British gazetteer to prove his point.

COVID-19: Dalit rights bodies regret, no relief plan yet for SCs, STs, marginalized

By Our Representative
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the National Dalit Watch-National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, endorsed* by several other Dalit rights organizations, have insisted, the Government of India should particular care of the scheduled castes and tribes, trans folks, persons with disabilities and the women and children from these communities, while fighting against COVID-19 pandemic.

Big 'danger' of NPR: A babu can tag anyone as doubtful citizen, Jharkhand meet told

' By Our Representative
People in large numbers from across Jharkhand gathered at the Raj Bhawan in Ranchi to demand that the Hemant Soren government reject National Population Register (NPR) and stop all NPR-related activities. The people’s organisations which participated in the dharna under the banner of the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JMM) resolved to intensify their struggle, insisting, NPR is not a Hindu-Muslim issue but is essentially anti-poor.

Coronavirus scare ‘pushing’ people from Northeast India into more hardship

By Rishiraj Sinha, Biswanath Sinha*
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela
***

Gujarat govt plan to 'banish' Gandhian activist anti-democratic, unconstitutional

By Rohit Prajapati*
The current Central and Gujarat governments, and their bureaucracy, have been and are still unable to answer and address the concerns raised, with facts, figures, and constitutional provisions, regarding the terror of tourism in the name of the Statue of Unity and tourism projects surrounding it.

Haridwar Swamis lead Khudai Khidmatgar peace march in Delhi 'riot affected' areas

By Our Representative
A Khudai Kidmatgar team, which visited the riot-affected regions along with Swami Shivanand Saraswati and Swami Punyanand, has insisted that India's true heritage is the lesson of ‘vasudhaiv kutumbakam', and it is the responsibility of all to carry froward this legacy. Originally founded by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in 1930, also known as Frontier Gandhi, Khudai Khidmatgar is claimed to have been revived by young Gandhian activist Faisal Khan in 2011.