Help Pawan Jaiswal save Uttar Pradesh’s stunted children
A signal service that Mirzapur journalist Pawan Jaiswal has done for Uttar Pradesh is put the spotlight on the midday meal. Consider that as many as 46% of the state’s children below 5 years are reported to be stunted and 40% underweight, according to NFHS 4. Now sample an entry on the state midday meal authority’s website: Rice, vegetables with soya or daal badis, and mausami.
Obviously there is a big mismatch here. If all the children were getting the midday meal that the state has promised them, the level of stunting would be nowhere close to where it is. Healthier children would be growing into better skilled adults.
Reportage over the years has told us that corruption and leakages are not uncommon in the midday meal scheme. Local officials, teachers, NGOs, different parties have been found siphoning off the funds or the supplies. For the Uttar Pradesh government the road ahead is clear, it must fix these leakages. It should also recognize that journalists who help expose leakages can be important partners in this journey.
Just a day before Pawan Jaiswal was booked for criminal conspiracy, because his video showing students at a state-run school having only roti with salt as their midday meal went viral, chief minister Yogi Adityanath was launching the Rashtriya Poshan Maah campaign in Lucknow.
As he suggested here, if a country’s children are weak and malnourished, its youth cannot be strong, its development cannot be strong. By the way, the occasion also saw children being served khichdi, daliya, daal, kheer, laddus and even a cake was cut.
Actually what has Jaiswal exposed may be a commoner phenomenon than we know. Just last month there was a huge uproar in Bengal when BJP MP Locket Chatterjee went to a high school in Chinsurah and exposed students being served only boiled rice and salt for their midday meal. But the TMC charge against her was that she was just playing politics and that she had conspired with some people to show the school in bad light. Sounds familiar? It’s exactly what Jaiswal is being accused of. Exactly that wrong-headed.
Harassing journalists like him means depriving Uttar Pradesh’s children a better tomorrow. Without lens like his, the lot of the poorest of poor children will just not improve. A stunting diet of namak-roti without protein produces a stunted future without health without good education and without any possibility of a happy working life.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.