R Dutta Choudhury
GUWAHATI, June 17 – The mid-day meal scheme was launched by the Government to provide nutrition to poor schoolchildren, but unfortunately, the scheme is not being implemented properly due to involvement of some unscrupulous persons in corrupt practices.
There have been instances where the rice allotted for implementation of the scheme was sold in the open market. The failure of the Government to provide adequate storage facilities to the schools also created serious problems.
Highly placed official sources told The Assam Tribune that the Bureau of Investigation of Economic Offences (BIEO) of the Assam Police managed to unearth some of the irregularities in implementation of the mid-day meal scheme. But those can be considered a tip of the iceberg as the officials of the Bureau have so far managed to check only a few instances of irregularities.
Sources revealed that at the beginning of the academic year, the lower and upper primary schools send their enrolment lists to the district education officers and they, in turn, submit it to the Deputy Commissioners (DCs). The DCs then write to the Food Corporation of India to allow rice to the schools according to the enrolment records.
The allotments are made on quarterly basis and for the working days only. Each lower primary school student is allotted 100 grams of rice per day and each upper primary student is allotted 150 grams.
Sources said that the cooperative societies lift the rice from the godowns of the FCI and it is distributed to the schools through agents while, some schools lift directly from the cooperatives. However, during test checks carried out in some parts of the State, it was found that the records of the schools did not tally with the register maintained by the cooperative societies, which proved that the rice was sold in the open market.
The incident first came to light when the BIEO seized more than 400 quintals of rice from the godown of a cooperative society in Krishnai in Goalpara district.
The records of the cooperative society and the schools did not tally, proving that some unscrupulous persons were tying to sell it in the open market. The seized rice was later auctioned.
The officials of the BIEO recently checked the records of a number of schools and cooperative societies in Sonitpur district and found such irregularities giving rise to doubts that some portion of the rice was sold in the open market, thus depriving the children of their due.
The second major irregularity is the failure of the cooperative societies to release the transportation cost to the agents and school authorities. Sources revealed that at present, the cooperative societies are given Rs 87 as transportation charge for per quintal of rice, but a number of societies did not pay the agents and school authorities their share, which affected the implementation of the scheme.