Not a one-man’s fight, it’s the struggle for children’s everyday rights, the online petition demands withdrawal of cases against UP journo. Pawan Jaiswal had shot a video showing children being served roti and salt as part of mid day meal scheme
Recently, the Uttar Pradesh government booked a local journalist for “trying to defame” the government through a ‘conspiracy’. Now, citizens have come out in support of the journalist: To support Pawan Jaiswal and demand the withdrawal of cases against him, you can sign the petition here
The journalist in question was Pawan Jaiswal, a print journalist for a Hindi daily Jansandesh Times and his only ‘crime’ was exposing the condition of mid-day meal schemes in a primary school in Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh (UP).
Jaiswal had filmed children of the school eating roti and salt. The video went viral on social media after the news agency ANI picked it up. In the damning video, children can be seen squatting on the floor, tearing off pieces of roti, dipping them in salt and eating them.
Jaiswal was charged with criminal conspiracy, cheating and providing false evidence. The Block Education Officer from Mirzapur, Prem Shankar Ram lodged a complaint on which the FIR was based. Along with the scribe, Raj Kumar Patel, a representative of the village pradhan, who had reportedly tipped off the journalist about the bad quality of food being served at the primary school in Jamalpur block, was also booked.
However, in the same FIR, the administration admits that only roti and salt were being served to the children till the noon of August 22, when the reporter filmed the video. But the FIR accused Jaiswal and Pal of ‘stitching up a conspiracy’ to “defame” the scheme and “malign the government”.
The administration alleged that instead of arranging for the vegetables, Pal called a reported to the school premises and asked him to shoot a video showing students being served only roti and salt.
The government said Mr. Jaiswal not only shot the videos but also forwarded it to agency ANI following which it was made viral on social media. The action against the reported seems excessive, especially in the light of the fact that District Magistrate Anurag Patel had found the complaints to be true after reportedly holding two independent probes at the local level.
Patel said, “Both reports showed that it was true that the students were being fed roti and salt,” announcing the suspension of the teacher-in-charge and the gram panchayat supervisor for the lapse.
However, Jaiswal has stood his ground and said that he reported what he saw at the primary school. “I saw at 12:07 minutes that the children were eating salt and roti,” he said referring to his footage.
Jaiswal also said that after he received information about the mid-day meal, he had even brought it to the notice of the assistant basic Siksha Adhikari Brijesh Kumar Singh before heading out to the school.
After this stringent step was taken against the journalist for doing his job, the Editors guild of UP criticized the government’s action and has demanded that all the cases against him should be withdrawn. The guild also said, “Instead of investigating the situation of the mid-day meal scheme, the government has lodged FIR against the journalist which is shocking”.
The guidelines by UP government lay down that mid day meals must consist of either roti and vegetable with soyabean, or tehri (pulao), or roti with dal. This is in keeping with Central government requirements that each child be served a meal of 450 calories, with 12 grams of protein, per day.
Providing children nutritious meals is an attempt to tackle the problem of stunting –impaired growth – that afflicts 466 lakh Indians under the age of five. A third of all the world’s children whose height is low for their age are Indian, according to the Global Nutrition Report, 2018. A direct consequence of under-nutrition, stunting hinders the cognitive growth of children and leaves them more susceptible to infections and non-communicable diseases.
Launched under the Ministry of Human Resource Development in 1995, the mid-day meal scheme aimed to serve every child in a government or government-aided primary school one nutritious meal a day. The scheme also has associated goals: the guarantee of a meal keeps children coming to school, and communal eating promotes tolerance.
Statistics show that in Mirzapur one in two children are stunted. Other areas too have such haunting statistics and there is a dire need for the UP government to improve how it’s functioning when it comes to this scheme. As many as 46 percent of the state’s children are stunted.
In what seems to be a case of mistaken priorities, instead of improving upon the deliverance of the scheme, the government has targeted the journalist.