A couple of months ago, there were some discussions on Akshaya Patra Foundation which is in the service of providing quality mid-day meal to school children in various parts. A report in The Hindu had claimed that children in certain schools in Karnataka are not finding the meals provided by the foundation ‘tasty’ as they don’t contain onion and garlic. It led to a whole range of debate on social media. In fact, at that time too, a senior member of the editorial level of The Hindu came out on social media to say that her newspaper’s report on the issue was one-sided. A lot of common people on social media pledged their support and donation to the foundation.
Now, a reply in Lok Sabha on the issue has thrown greater light on the matter and set the facts right. The gist of the reply can be summarized here:
- On the charge that the children are not liking the meal because it has no onion and garlic, the state government had sent the officials to ascertain the fact but found that no such complaint had been made.
- The mid-day meal provided by the Akshaya Patra meets nutritional standards specified in the National Food Security Act, 2013.
So, it is clear that the contrived controversy over Akshaya Patra is much ado about nothing.
Unfounded Noise Against Akshaya Patra
Member of Parliament Kodikunnil Suresh had asked a question on whether the government is aware of the reports in media that the children in Karnataka State were not liking the food as it was served without onion and garlic.
On July 15, Minister of Human Resource Development Ramesh Pokhriyal gave a written answer in which apart from the above-mentioned corrective facts, some other aspects were also touched upon.
He clarified that the mid-day meal scheme is implemented in partnership of states and UTs and the nutrition guidelines were laid by the Centre. It is left to the States and UTs to fix their menu as per their local needs, in order to meet the prescribed nutritional content.
As far as the objections from August 2018, regarding vegetables like onion and garlic not being used by Akshaya Patra Foundation while preparing and supplying meals in Bellary district of Karnataka are concerned, Government of Karnataka after the review had made it clear that there is no need to make any changes in food preparing system of the foundation.
About media reports concerning Yelahanka, Bengaluru North district, where it was claimed that children were not liking the food as it was served without onion and garlic, State Government has sent an officer to visit the school and verify the facts and it found that no such complaints have been received from children, parents and schools. All the children are receiving mid-day meals regularly prepared and supplied by Akshaya Patra Foundation.
At the end, the Lok Sabha reply has also provided the table of nutritional and food norms under the Scheme to meet nutritional standards specified in the National Food Security Act, 2013. It does mention vegetables and their required quantity. But is there any condition to use specifically onion and garlic? Find out yourself.
So, the whole furore about Akshaya Patra in the mid-day meal programme seems to have no scientific or nutritional basis at all. Further, on checking, the state government also found that there were no objections about the taste of the food.