Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Noon meal Tragedy in Bihar: Callousness and Mis Governance

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

Two days dack, in a village Chapra located 65 kilometers from the capital Patna 25 schoolg children all below the age of 11 died after having taken their mid day meals in school. In India, the mid day meal is a major incentive for families from poorer sections of society to send their children to school. Origally conceived in the Southern state of Tamil Nadu by the Cheif Minister M G Ram,achandran, the mid day meal program caught on and even in the mis governed states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar this welfare scheme is presently underway. The fiances for the scheme are part of the state budget and the school appoints a cook and an attender to run the mid day meal programme.

However, in states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh there is massive corruption even in this scheme. In fact Bihar has the dubious distinction of having had a Chief Minister, laloo Prasad Yadava who was caught taking the money ear marked for animal welfare. The now infamous Fodder Scam is reaching its final stages in the courts and will end up convicting laloo Prasad Yadava. Even athug like this Laloo Prasad was not able to kill all the 347 witnesses. The current Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar, a past master in the old style identity politics rode to power on the strength of a very fragile social coalition consisting of intermediate caste, landed caste and the higher castes. After taking over the reins of government for the second time, Nitish Kumar began to feel the weight of his victory, but interpreted it as an endorsement of his personal "charisma". And this wrong and ill conceived notion was his undoing.

The tragedy in Bihar took place only because of mis governance. The last 2 years the state administration has been paralyzed due to national ambitions of Nitish Kumar. Ever since he declared his opposition to the Prime Ministerial candidature of Honnourable Narendra Modi, Nitish Kumar regime has been floundering. Corruption, mal administration, scams and scandals have become the order of the day. The death of the 22 school children is a testimony to the plight of Bihar under Nitish Kumar.

The shocking facts have emerged from the news reports. The food itmes for preparing the noon meals were sourced from the shop of the husband of the Head Mistress of the school, a man who as it turns out is an activist of the Rasshtrya Janata dal whose leader is the fodder scam accused, :Laloo Prasad Yadava. The shameless state government sought to shift the blame to the RJD by implying that the RJD wasbehind the tragedy in order to undermine the regime of Nitish Kumar. The level to which politics has sunk in India can be understood from the fact that the Government refuses to see the tragedy as one caused by itts own failures, but is quick to see political conspiracies everywhere. Corruption in the mid day meal scheme is the real factor.

Even after the children took ill, it took over six hours for the children to be shited to the Primary Health Centre and there there was no nurse or doctor and there were no drips to provide immediate releif. This sate of affairs prevailing in Bihar is a national shame and  people must realise that identity politics will lead to the grave as it did for the 22 children

The World Bank and the IMF have given loans, soft loans to Bihar but the utilization of these loans is so poor that the international funding agencies are now wary of giving loans to Bihar. The country as a whole has slid backwards under the rule of the Congress Party and its allies and if India needs better Governence it must vote for change..

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