PANAJI: The members of the 110 self-help groups (SHGs) supplying cooked food to school students under the Mid-day Meal Scheme, have outright refused to cook mid-day meals in centralised kitchens provided by the government, and maintained that they would continue to cook the food in their respective houses.
The Centre has made a provision of Rs 12 crore to Goa for introducing centralised kitchens near the schools.
A senior official of the department of education, who attended a related meeting with the members of the 110 self-help groups on Thursday, later informed ‘The Navhind Times’ that looking at the response of the self-help groups, the centralised kitchens scheme appears to have no takers in Goa.
It may be recalled that the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development had last year directed the education authorities in Goa to consider setting up kitchens within school premises to serve mid-day meals, after a monitoring institute of the Union HRD Ministry reported that 40 per cent of the children in Goa were not satisfied with the quality of meals served.
The monitoring institute had found that meals were not served hot in all the sample schools it had visited for inspection between April and December 2014. The Union HRD Ministry officials had further noted that only five schools in Goa served mid-day meals cooked at the school, with the help of the Parent-Teacher Associations, at these schools.
“It is surprising but true that majority of the self-help groups are not interested in cooking the food at the centralised kitchens, which will be constructed on the government land, like say municipality or village panchayat land,” the senior official of the DoE stated, informing that the centralised kitchens would provide free electricity and water to the self-help groups, besides cooking equipment including utensils and LPG cylinders, and hygienic atmosphere.
“As per the plan, every centralised kitchen is supposed to be constructed close to a group of schools, and food cooked in such kitchens supplied to these schools,” the official maintained, stating that the self-help groups would be free to select the centralised kitchen and schools linked to it.
Incidentally, the members of the self-help groups are not too keen to shift their cooking operations to the centralised kitchens as their helping hands/ cooks stay closer to their houses where the food is presently cooked. These helping hands/ cooks also help the members of the self-help groups in their domestic works besides cooking mid-day meal. Furthermore, some self-help groups also take some private catering contracts for which they seek assistance of the helping hands/ cooks employed for preparing the mid-day meal.
Finally, the self-help groups have a fear that after they shift their cooking operations to the centralised kitchen, the Parent-Teacher Associations could take over from them the work of cooking mid-day meal.