BMC wants contracts with NGOs scrapped

Even as 23 children lost their lives to poor quality midday meal in Bihar, a check on 328 samples last year by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) revealed that 65 per cent of the midday meals were below the mandated calorie and protein intake.

The self help groups supplying midday meals to pre-primary and primary schools in the city were accordingly fined Rs 5.13 lakh in 2012-13.

Raising quality concerns and citing repeated complaints over such midday meals supplied to over 3.8 lakh children across 1,536 schools in the city by self help groups, the BMC has repeatedly written to the state government, asking it to scrap contracts with 328 NGOs.

BMC favours engaging the services of agencies with centralised kitchens to supply the midday meals as they are best suited to supply meals in larger quantities.

"Across India, groups like International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) and Akshay Patra have been known to provide quality meals," said Mohan Adtani, Additional Municipal Commissioner. He said self-help groups run smaller kitchens which are not mechanised or automated leading to questionable hygenie standards.

While ISKCON provides midday meals to about 50,000 students, meals for the remaining 3.2 lakh students are provided by self-help groups.

Unhappy with the performance of women self-help groups, the BMC decided to discontinue supply of khichdi from these groups in December 2012.

The BMC's decision to allot all contracts to ISKCON, however, was turned down by the Bombay High Court.

At present, all 328 self-help groups have temporary contracts as per the High Court order even though their previous three-year contract with the BMC has expired.

According to BMC estimates, the civic administration spends around Rs 3,000 per student per year under the midday meal scheme. The civic body has often been criticised for providing poor quality food in the midday meal scheme.

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