Published: 04th September 2022
Telangana: In August 2022, as many as 347 students fell ill due to food poisoning
Read it again: As many as 347 students fell ill in the month of August alone. Also, mid-day meal committee members speak to EdexLive
Free and compulsory education is a Fundamental Right of every Indian, but what happens when it is hampered by under-par facilities?
Recently, a number of Telangana districts have been in the news and not for good reason. Food poisoning cases have been on the rise in government and government-aided schools, colleges and gurukulas of the state. From IIIT Basara to Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, Adilabad — these cases have gripped many educational institutions.
As per the data accumulated by the members of the Hakku Initiative, a social campaign of the Institute of Perception Studies, Delhi, in August 2022, 347 students fell ill due to contaminated food/water in various government residential schools/colleges/hostels in Telangana.
Overall, in a span of eight months, 1,070 students suffered from food poisoning. Out of 33 districts in Telangana, 17 districts reported food poisoning cases, namely, Adilabad, Asifabad, Nirmal, Mancherial, Kamareddy, Sircilla, Karimnagar, Sangareddy, Medak, Siddipet, Hanumakonda, Vikarabad, Mahabubnagar, Mahabubabad, Nalgonda, Gadwal and Khammam.
When EdexLive spoke to Kota Neelima, Head of Hakku Initiative, she highlighted a few important points. Firstly, "This is not a trend which is going down. The number of cases are increasing," she said. Secondly, she pointed out, "These are the numbers which are reported in the media. Then, what about those which are not known?" And thirdly, "What about earlier cases which were not reported by the media? Many students have suffered silently."
But what is the ground reality?
Rajeshwari, a mid-day meal worker from Mancherial, shared with EdexLive, "There is no proper water facility, no cooking shed and the rice provided is not of good quality." She also added, "It is the fault of the government for not providing the basic facilities," she added.
Furthermore, she alleged that their salary has been pending for ten months while bills for the essential commodities purchased have been pending for ten months.
On contrary to this, a member of the MDM committee from Nizamabad, Chakrapani, said, that in their region, there is no issue related to the mid-day meals scheme though few incidents have occurred in the gurukulas and residential schools.
What can be the solution?
Kota Neelima suggests a food audit should be conducted every week by a committee comprising of officials and students' parents which results in building confidence that good food is being served to students.
Cases of viral fever and diarrhoea are also emerging which are raising even more questions while the officials are usually quick to clarify that students are falling ill because of seasonal infections and so on. In this regard, Neelima stresses that even if it is viral fever, diarrhoea and seasonal infections, the government has to look into it and put an end to it.
Last month, The Backward Classes Welfare (B) Department of the Government of Telangana issued a memo constituting five teams to look into recent reports of food poisoning among students in government-run residential schools in the state. But Neelima states that forming a committee is not the ultimate solution, the target is to reduce the number of food poisoning cases.
Neelima also reminds us that students pursuing their education at these gurukulas are from underprivileged backgrounds and they are aspiring for more in their life via the means of education. They need to be provided with good basic amenities, she stresses.