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Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Killing Meals: Food Insecurity And Corruption!


A close relative who is a teacher in a high school told me recently that he gave up the responsibility of looking after the free midday meal scheme implemented in his school due to rampant corruption. He lamented that the quality provisions supplied to the school found their way to the homes and kitchens of various members of the staff almost regularly and the leftovers were left for providing meals to the students—many of whom are poor and needy. This has been the universal picture in the largest ‘dysfunctional democracy called India. Here the corrupt human hyenas are not satisfied with the leftovers, but devour away the main chunks. We have seen in this country how the fodder for animals gets siphoned off for the quick buck. The corrupt ‘human’ hyenas do not even spare the ‘human’ kids who have done them no harm at all. Right, in this great country there has never been any dearth of good and suitably targeted schemes, but at the implementation level always the hyenas muck it up in a stinking mess of corruption.

At a time when the Government of India promulgated an ordinance to implement its most ambitious Food Security Bill providing staple grains to the poorest of the poor at nominal rates of 1-2-3 rupees per kilo the free lunches provided to the school children throughout India under the Midday Meal Scheme killed 23 primary school kids in Bihar—the same northern state that got famous for the fodder scam. Thanks to the corrupt human hyenas it was the abysmal quality of the meals and the presence of pesticides in the soybean curry that started killing the kids in the most ruthless manner—some on the spot, some on the way to hospital and some in hospital. More than fifty kids took days of horrible sufferings to escape death. And, the great common-man-obsessed political leaders of this great country hardly cared.

The blame game started in right earnest as the common people of Bihar and the rest of the country looked aghast and distressed. The ruling JD-U government of Bihar indicated a conspiracy of deliberate poisoning while its coalition partner just a month ago—the BJP—announced that it knew about sorry implementation of the midday meal scheme for years. National coalition politics prevented several other parties including the Congress from shouting too much anguish into it. This gives a horrific similarity to the politics in Buddhist Shrine Terror recently. This is very understandable since all the political parties are really busy gearing up for the General Elections-2014 or even earlier in their unique ways of uplifting the common man only. That common man has kids too does not seem to matter for our leaders, obviously because the school kids are not voters.

The Midday Meal Scheme that was adopted by most Indian states after 2001 contributed largely for the spread of education too apart from nutritious meals. Poor families do want to send their kids to primary and high schools as this would take at least one major meal out of their tiny daily budget. But the corrupt human hyenas that rot the system from top to bottom eat up the kids’ food and frighteningly eat up the kids themselves.

Why not make this largest democracy of the world still larger? Why not give voting right to all babies from the day of birth, to all kids at all levels and to all school children? Let us see then if our noble national leaders take up their cause too.

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