Friday, June 09, 2017

NGOs taken off schools for low quality food continue to serve at anganwadis

Indian Express: New Delhi: Friday, June 09, 2017.
Non-profit organisations, whose services were discontinued under one scheme for serving food with worms to children are continuing to feed them under a different one all because of the lack of coordination between two departments of the same government, an RTI reply has revealed. The Directorate of Education (DoE) had, in 2013, discontinued services of many NGOs for serving poor-quality mid-day meals (MDMs). The same NGOs, however, are providing meals under the Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS) scheme at anganwadi centres run by the Women and Child Development (WCD) department. Both these schemes, constituted under the Food Security Act 2013, are aimed at providing nutrition to women and children. The MDM scheme caters to children up to Class VII and ICDS serves children up to the age of six years and pregnant and lactating women.
An RTI reply from the DoE, received in April 2017, shows that services of three suppliers were discontinued in 2013 after worms were found in the food they had served children, who had to be hospitalised. However, an RTI reply from the WCD department, received on January 25, 2017, shows that three of the suppliers Indcare Trust, The People Welfare Society and Ekta Shakti Foundation whose services were discontinued in 2013 are still giving food in anganwadis. A total of 22 NGOs are supplying food to anganwadis. The RTIs were filed by Matri Sudha, an NGO which works in the field of nutrition and education.
While Indcare Trust and Ekta Shakti Foundation confirmed that they are part of the ICDS scheme, The People Welfare Society could not be reached for comment. “Our services were not discontinued… We finished our terms. As we were not satisfied, we took the government to court. The case is being heard,” Indcare chairperson Reeva Sood said. A representative of Ekta Shakti, meanwhile, said the allegations against them have not been proven. Deputy Director, ICDS, Nisha Agarwal, said she was not aware of the issue. “I have just joined the department and will have to check,” she said. The lack of co-ordination between the two departments does not end here.
An NGO Jan Chetna Jagriti Arom Shakshik Vikas Manch which was blacklisted by the WCD department between 2015 and 2016 was supplying mid-day meals in schools until three months ago. A dead rat was found in the meals provided by the NGO at a school in Deoli in February and only then were its services discontinued. Nine children had to be hospitalised. While DoE officials said they were doing their best to provide quality food, experts said the problem will be streamlined only with the establishment of the state food commission. “There is a clear lack of coordination because there is no single agency to monitor these schemes. For this, the constitution of the state food commission as mandated under the Act is important. Delhi has not done this so far,” Arvind Singh of Matri Sudha said.
In 2013, the then Lieutenant Governor had notified that the Public Grievance Commission will work as the state food commission. This notification is yet to be implemented, RTI replies state. A government official, however, claimed the process to set up the commission is underway.