Two days after 132 students of a Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) school were hospitalised for food poisoning allegedly after consuming the mid-day meal, the education board on Monday proposed that Self-Help Groups (SHGs) should not be engaged in the mid-day meal scheme for municipal schools. The board has written to the Urban Community Development (UCD) department on the issue and further suggested that students’ parents be provided foodgrain like rice and pulses, which they can prepare and send with their wards to school.
The education board said that the proposal does not mean that they are against employing SHGs. “This is the third major incident in the past two years. We are only suggesting that these SHGs’ be used for other departments in the PMC, like the canteen, or cleaning up. We have sent a letter to Dnyaneshwar Molak, deputy commissioner of UCD. Rice and pulses can be sent to the students’ houses and their parents can send the food with them,” said Sangeeta Tiwari, chairperson of the board.
She added that the board was not responsible for having SHGs on contract but whenever an incident like this happens, the board is wrongly blamed. “The board’s responsibility is to simply pay the bills of the SHGs. It is the responsibility of the Savitri Mahasangha to ensure that the SHGs under them function properly. It is their responsibility to check the hygiene at these places,” said Tiwari.
The education board has also sent a proposal for setting up a central kitchen to the state government. “We had received about 44 tenders, of which we have shortlisted 38 and sent the list to the government. Having a central kitchen like the one in Bangalore that delivers food for 25,000 students makes sense here as well. The work on central kitchen is on,” said Ramchandra Jadhav, administrative officer of the education board.
Meanwhile, 124 of the 132 children have been discharged. The rest have been put under observation for another day. However, their condition is stable, added Jadhav.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a showcause notice to the agencies that involve SHGs for mid-day meals.