Protest by mid-day meal employees for second-day rocks Lakhimpur
LAKHIMPUR: Strong protest against the government’s initiative of handing over the mid-day meal cooking responsibility to non-governmental organizations (NGO) continued in Lakhimpur for the second day. Over a thousand members of All Assam Lower Primary (LP) and Upper Primary (UP) Schools Mid-Day Meal Cook Assistants’ Union, representing twelve districts of the State, staged a strong protest in front of the mid-day meal cooking house of Parash Agro Society, located at Khutakotiya of Lakhimpur district opposing the government’s decision. Notably, several thousand members of the Lakhimpur district unit of Sadou Asom Madhyahna Bhojan Karmachari Santha, the common forum of the mid-day meal cook employees of the State, gheraoed the said mid-day meal cooking house of the NGO on Thursday .
However, the security personnel and Lakhimpur Police department arranged water tight security measure on Friday to protect the mid-day meal cooking house from the aggression of the protesters following the massive protest demonstrated on Thursday. As a result of it, the protesters could not enable themselves to enter the cooking house premises though they attempted so. Then they tried to block the North Lakhimpur-Kamalabari Road. Police and security personnel drove them away from there too. The protesters demanded the State government to scrap the decision standing on the side of the poor mid-day meal employees.
On the other hand, serving of low quality mid day meal to the students of the LP and UP Schools was alleged against Parash Agro Society, the NGO which has been engaged for the cooking of mid-day meal in Lakhimpur district. It was alleged that the NGO could not supply the mid-day meal to a good number of schools of the district on Friday. Shortage of man power is considered to be the sole reason of the anomaly. The food items supplied by the NGO on the first day were also alleged to be of low quality and unhealthy with the mixture of broken glass, mouse faeces and other inedible materials.
The issue has provoked strong reaction across the district. The Lakhimpur district unit of All Assam Unemployed Association (AAUA) flayed the State government with regards to the anomalies that occurred in the district, centering round the issue on the very first day. In a press communique sent to the media, the organization stated that the government had privileged the NGOs of other States to make their purses heavy by engaging them to cook and serve the mid-day meal to the students of the LP and UP schools of the State. “The engaged NGO of Lakhimpur could not supply the mid-day meal on the first day to Rahdhala LP School and Chetia Gaon LP School which are located only a few kilometers away from the DC office. It resulted in an untoward situation in the schools concerned,” the press communique further added.
As per the communique, Lakhimpur unit AAUA president Binod Das, vice president Raju Das, Telahi regional unit secretary Srimanta Bania noticed the serving of low quality mid-day meal items at Madharam LP School while inspecting the school. The organization demanded the Chief Minister to terminate those NGOs which were serving mid-day meal of unhealthy and low quality or to face protest programmes.
However, Inspector of Schools, Mridul Kumar Nath, told The Sentinel that these anomalies would be resolved from Monday. He said that some discrepancies remained due to the agitation programmes, initiated by the mid-day meal employees body on Thursday. Due to the agitation, some employees of the Parash Agro Society left the cooking house on the day and did not return on Friday. He added that they would join on Monday, quoting the NGO. According to him, due to this problem, mid-day meal could not be served to 6,7 schools of the district on Friday. He further informed that the district adminstration was holding a meeting with the NGO management regarding the smooth conduct of the mid-day meal scheme.