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Vested interests behind midday meal protests: Minister


GUWAHATI, Nov 15 - Claiming that vested interests were behind the ongoing protests against the government�s move to hand over the supply of midday meal to NGOs, Education Minister Siddhartha Bhattacharya has said there were reports of irregularities in the previous arrangement but the new system is a success in several states of the country.

�We had been getting reports of irregularities in the previous arrangement. During school hours, when teachers should have been teaching the children, they were found in the markets buying vegetables for cooking the meal. In fact, way back in 2010, the Asom Rajyik Prathamik Sikshak Sanmilani had demanded dissociation of the teachers from the supply of midday meal,� the minister told The Assam Tribune during a conversation.

He said several states have roped in NGOs for implementing the scheme and the new system is a success in states like Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, UP, etc.

�In fact, Madhya Pradesh, where it has been successful, has a Congress government,� he said, referring to the protest by the Congress over the issue in Assam.

Bhattacharya said that from the profile of organisations involved in the protests, it was �very clear that vested interests were behind the agitation.�

�The agitators are destroying the food even before tasting it. I have seen videos of activists attacking the food carrying vans of the NGOs. When they have not consumed the food, how can they question the quality? In fact, we have inputs that some incidents were concocted,� he asserted.

He also wondered as to why the midday meal voluntary cooks-cum-helpers were continuing with their protests even though the government had decided to continue with their services.

�Their workload has in fact decreased. They will not have to cook anymore. They just need to serve. I don�t understand the logic behind the protests,� the minister said.

He, however, said as there have been allegations of supply of poor quality food by some NGOs, the government has constituted an inquiry.

�We will wait for the inquiry report and go by the recommendations. Till then, the old system will continue. Based on the inquiry report, the government will take a call whether to continue with the old system or switch over to the new one,� he added.

There are 1.17 lakh midday meal cook-cum-helpers in 56,000 elementary schools of the State. They get a remuneration of Rs 1,000 per month.

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