Few days ago, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) sent a notice to the Union HRD Ministry and Government of Bihar over reported plight of poor children due to non-supply of mid-day meal in Bhagalpur in the wake of extended closure of schools. The commission has taken a Suo motu cognizance after a media report came forward that because of the non-supply of mid-day meal, children are now forced to work for food.
“Reportedly, earlier the children were able to get roti, rice, vegetables, dal, soya and eggs in the mid-day meal which has now disappeared and the children are not only starving but getting involved in petty dirty works. The people residing in these areas belong to below poverty line, who do garbage collection, begging or working for the contractors to collect waste etc. Their children, who could have some food in the schools, are now starving and suffering from malnutrition. On the other side, the District Magistrate has, reportedly, stated that the money is being sent to the account of children or their guardians in lieu of mid-day meal for the period when the schools are shut.” The notice states.
Highlighting concern over the matter, the commission observed, “the schools are not functional and the mid-day meal has been stopped due to which poor children are forced to indulge in small jobs which not only spoil their health but also push them towards petty crimes and other anti-social activities. The children in this condition will be prone to drug addiction and trafficking by the criminal elements of the society, involved in illicit activities.”
The commission, in its notice, quoted Former Union Health Secretary, Shri Keshav Desiraju, who mentioned in the news report that online education cannot be the only answer, it can only be supplementary and with mid-day meal, the government must look at ways where food can be delivered to the children at their homes.
In its notice, issued to the Secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy, Union Ministry of Human Resource Development, and the Chief Secretary, Government of Bihar, the commission has asked for a detailed report in the matter, within four weeks.