By Aqib Ahmad
New Delhi: The Supreme Court of India has ordered the finalization of the proforma on mid-day meal scheme for uploading information on the web portal of the education departments of the states including Jammu and Kashmir.
“This court would like to determine the details and requirements of the mid-day meal scheme. Learned counsel for the petitioner undertakes to furnish a draft proforma, to the standing counsel for the Union of India, the State Governments and the Union Territories, through email, within one week from today,” said a division bench headed by chief justice Jagdish Singh Khehar while hearing a public interest litigation, seeking measures to ensure cleanliness in the midday meal scheme and to prevent incidents like the one that occurred last month in a government primary school in a Bihar village, where 23children died after eating contaminated food in 2013.
The division bench also comprising Dr. Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said that the counsel representing the Union of India, the State Governments and the Union Territories may respond to the counsel for the petitioner within a period of one week thereafter.
“List the matter on 23.03.2017, to finalise the proforma, for uploading information on the web portal of the Education Departments of the respondents – States and Union Territories,” the court said.
The petitioner– Antarashtriya Manav Adhikaar Nigraani said “there have been a number of deaths and incidents of vomiting by children in different parts of the country after eating unhygienic mid-day meal.”
In over 12 lakh government-run and aided schools across the country, children received free, cooked lunch every day but “they are constantly exposed to the risk of food poisoning and related health hazards due to a lack of mid-day meal infrastructure and proper monitoring of the scheme,” the petitioner said.
When children fell sick, “there is a backlash against the whole programme from parents and teachers.” There was also a failure to meet standards in terms of calorific value of meals, quality of food, and micronutrients. The petitioner has sought a direction to the respondents and authorities to enforce procedures in the interest of hygiene and safety of children, and to initiate criminal proceedings against the persons responsible for death of children caused by contaminated or poisonous meal.