Saving face when things go downhill

Editor,

A month has passed by since the food grain scam shook Meghalaya as 1 lakh bags of rice was seized from a godown in Assam. This scam brought to light the irregularities in the Social Welfare Department and its alleged involvement with a tainted company to which the Department allocates the rice, which then gets supplied under the SNP. After much deliberation, the government constituted an independent inquiry commission to get the matter probed.

On July 24, members of the managing committee of Mynri Umsning Upper Primary School informed the Hynniewtrep Youth Council (HYC) that a school in Ri-Bhoi District received sacks of rotten rice meant for the mid-day meal programme for school students. The Mid Day Meal Scheme was introduced in Meghalaya since 1995 to provide dry rations to primary schools. One of the primary objectives of the Mid Day Meal Programme in Meghalaya is to attract more children to come to school and increase enrolment and attendance bringing down the drop-out rate while also improving the nutritional status of children and encouraging them to attend school regularly.

In Meghalaya, the Mid Day Meal Scheme falls under the watch of the Directorate of School Education & Literacy, a branch of the Education Department in the State. We all know that children need a healthy balanced diet containing foods that will add to their growth and nutritional needs. In India, it has been found that many children under the age of 15 succumb to death every year because of poor nutrition, which leads to ‘Childhood Malnutrition’. This recent incident that came to light had prompted the HYC to demand an enquiry by the Education Department.

There have been instances of various CAG reports stating the poor quality of mid-day meals served in schools across the country. In our State, this is not the first that a scam related to the mid-day meal programme has been unearthed. There have been instances in the past when similar cases were reported in different districts of Meghalaya. It makes me wonder then that if this is not something new, why has the Education Department not done anything yet? It seems no action has been taken; thus, another incident follows. Is it not necessary to look into such matters, especially as it concerns the health and well-being of the students? I am sure the files and complaints related to these incidents are lying piled up somewhere in a cupboard bearing dust, waiting to be uncovered.

In all these, it is also ironic that whenever such incidences occur, the Department always has to be under the watch of a United Democratic Party (UDP) legislator. I am not here to point fingers at this Party, No. But the only reason that makes me do so is because from multiple observances, this Party is one that likes to criticize the government in all aspects, so much so, that they enjoy nipping and seizing every opportunity they can get to demean the government, even highlighting irregularities, but once something happens that’s related to a minister of their Party, they recoil into their caves and do not raise a question. Is it because the concerned department at fault is under the watch of a minister from their party that they take a silent stance? When the rice meant for the underprivileged children was being transported to another State, they did not utter a word; simply because the minister in charge of the Social Welfare Department is a UDP legislator. Now, with the children in schools being fed rotten rice, we have still heard nothing from the minister in charge, Education – Lahkmen Rymbui or the Party.

Scams related to the midday meal scheme have occurred multiple times in Meghalaya. This should have been a priority for the Minister to conduct a probe into the matter and nip it in the bud. But it is depressing to see that nothing is being done. Our education system is in shambles; illegal transportation of coal and other irregularities are still taking place and now scams of poor-quality food under the mid-day meal scheme all make us question the competence of this UDP minister who we all thought would fit the portfolios best because he belongs to a regional party that claims to look into the welfare of the people.
I also would like to pat the back of organizations like the HYC which bring to light such matters that concern the welfare of the citizens at large.

Yours etc.,

Maitshaphrang Khongwir

Shillong – 8

A Young Airline with promises to break

Editor,

Since the daily operations of flights in and out of Shillong (Umroi) Airport by Indigo Airlines we have seen many other airlines too that are keen to start flights from our lone, young yet developing airport. One of these is Flybig Airlines which has promised and also advertised its operations from Shillong to Delhi. As a regular flier, I was happy to hear this news and had made plans to travel to New Delhi (Indira Gandhi International Airport) on Flybig.

I remember I had planned in the month of January and visited the company’s website to make reservations only to find that Shillong was not on the destination list at all. This left me dumb struck as advertisements and hoardings were seen all over the city boasting of this young and new airline. They had taken on lease SpiceJet’s aircraft at that time for operations as they had not yet received their own aircraft.

Nevertheless, I contacted the customer care service of Flybig only to find out that there was no flight between New Delhi and Shillong and till date this is an impending issue whereby no further notice was received from Flybig Airlines regarding operational status etc. I later learnt that it had started operations in some parts of the country including Guwahati to Rupsi, Dibrugarh, Agartala, Pasighat and other sectors.

Now the question is why do these young airlines make imprudent and tall claims to start flights and then do not fulfil their commitment to serve the people of the State and why is the Government quiet on this matter? We need answers. After all this particular airline had even done an inaugural flight from Shillong to Delhi, and now the services have suddenly stopped. This is ridiculous and an embarrassment for the airline company and for us and our State Government.

I request the AAI Shillong, DGCA and The Transport Department of the State to treat this matter with the seriousness it deserves and resolve it at the earliest.

Last but not the least, I praise Indigo Airlines for their commitment of serving the people of the State and now it is expanding its aviation network to other parts of the North East. Big kudos to the Go Indigo Team. I wish Indigo airlines was given this route (Shillong-Delhi-Shillong) for operations or any major airline of the country to operate. Then we could probably see the Shillong-Delhi connectivity dream come true.

Yours etc.,

Dr. Chanmiki Laloo

Via Email

Time to Audit official Covid stats

Editor,

The false Covid 19 death reporting of Stanborlang Dohtdong (18) is a sign of how callous the health system has become in Meghalaya. A senior officer committing such ‘miscommunication’ cannot be let gone easily through apology. There needs to be thorough investigation and accountability.

This case speaks volumes of the competence levels of health officials employed by the state govt. If one cannot feed a simple statistical data of death into the system, I can fully understand what is to come when faced with bigger tasks. Questions will be asked as to the competence and skill levels including the method of recruitment of such officials and other fellow colleagues who are working in a similar environment.

It raises serious doubts as to how many more such cases of ‘miscommunication’ could there have been in the piles of Covid related data shared everyday by the state govt. Is anyone bothered to look into the details? Isn’t it because of such data that the state continues to adopt a policy of imposing lockdown and other restrictions that seem never ending?

The reported death of an 18-year old should have raised alarm bells immediately in the mind of any sensitive health official to cross check the information as Covid affects the elderly more. Why was not reverification done to reconfirm the case before sharing data with the public? Had not the family of Stanborlang made the revelation, the case would have been brushed under the carpet.

This matter needs to be investigated throughly and urgently. Likewise all Covid related deaths and hospitalisation needs to be audited by a third party to check any anomaly or hidden conspiracy. Media too should be allowed to recheck /verify the names of all dead Covid victims. In the same spirit, all Covid positive cases need to be reverified as RT PCR tests are determined by the technical competence of the person performing the test and the analytical skills of the interpreters.

If more such false cases are found, it would suggest that the number of Covid deaths is much lower than official statistics, and therefore the danger of the disease has been overblown.
Let truth guide us all

Yours etc.,

Bhaskar D

Via email

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