Three lakh school teachers in Bihar have decided to boycott the mid-day meal scheme from July 25 to get rid of non-academic work.
A week after the death of 23 children from eating a contaminated mid-day meal in Saran district, teachers are in no mood to assist the government in running the scheme.
"It was unanimously decided at a meeting of the Bihar State Primary Teachers' Association to boycott the scheme," its president, Barajnandan Sharma, said.
"We had repeatedly requested the government in writing to involve teachers in academic work only and employ some agency for the scheme, which was ignored. Teachers should not be burdened with all kinds of non-academic work," he said.
Teachers are blamed for anything that goes wrong with the scheme, Sharma said, adding: "It is giving a bad name to teachers due to rampant corruption."
He said that it is a well-known fact that teachers and headmasters have to invariably manage the mid-day meal scheme with third-grade food stuff and corruption at every level. "Top to bottom, officials have information about it. But when something happens, a teacher or headmaster is solely blamed for it despite the fact that there are several officials involved in it," he said.
Refering to the Saran tragedy, Sharma said: "There may be some mismanagement. Even human error cannot be ruled out. But putting the blame on teachers even before an inquiry has completed surprised us."
In the wake of teachers' decision to boycott the scheme, Bihar Education Minister P.K. Shahi said it was difficult to arrange for an agency to run the scheme in 72,000 schools across the state.
"The government does not have the resources to hire an agency for the huge task of serving mid-day meals to 1.60 crore students," Shahi said.
Last Saturday, a forensic science laboratory report confirmed the presence of toxic insecticide strains in the cooking oil used for making food at the school.
The poisonous substance, organophosphorus, in oil samples collected from school was more than five times the commercial preparation available in the market, police said.
Organophosphorus compounds are degradable organic compounds containing carbon-phosphorus bonds used primarily in pest control.