Rotten dal for primary school children in Orissa

Primary school students in Orissa are often forced to eat substandard grain as part of their Mid-Day Meal scheme — thanks to an unholy alliance among private suppliers, officials and politicians. The preliminary inquiry by the state vigilance department seems to confirm the allegations.

“Number one the quality of the dal which is being supplied is very poor…And we have found that they have purchased at almost half the cost and have supplied it at double the rate,” said Anup Patnaik, DG, Vigilance, Orissa.

The scam is of huge proportions — 9.5 million beneficiaries in Orissa including over five million primary school students are entitled between 20 and 30 grams of arhar dal per meal for 210 days.

The fact that one particular private supplier has been given preferential treatment in the tender process has raised more suspicion. Dal was purchased at a high cost of Rs. 75 per kg.

“One person has been given the order…that is to be found out why that fellow was chosen…against OCCF and others also. In some cases we also find even if the cooperative societies have been given the order …they have not supplied… but this company which is behind it is supplying the materials,” Anup Patnaik said.

It is rather shocking that a scam of such large proportions had been going on despite the existence of several monitoring committees at the state, district and local levels. Meanwhile, demands for a free and fair probe are growing.

“I think it’s a criminal offence…and these people should be punished and whoever is providing sub-standard food to the poor children should be punished,” said Umi Daniel, an NGO leader from Bhubaneswar.

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