No Mid-Day Meal, Jharkhand 9-Year-Old Hunts Rats, Squirrels For Lunch

Since she does not get mid-day meal in school, Pinki hunts for rats, squirrels and rabbits to eat.

Sahebganj, Jharkhand: Nine-year-old Pinki Paharin lives in an isolated tribal village in Chuha Pahar, situated atop the Rajmahal Hills in Sahebganj district of Jharkhand. Her village has a primary school where her name has been registered since she was 5 years old.

According to the government data, against her name, money is released regularly for her to have a nutritious mid-day meal that includes rice, green leafy vegetables and lentils.  In reality, however, Pinki doesn’t get this food. Instead, she hunts for rats, squirrels and rabbits to eat.

In this year’s budget allocation, Rs 10,000 crores have been allocated for 10.03 crore children in 11.5 lakh schools nationwide. Between the central and the state government, Rs 4- Rs 6 is being given per child per day for a nutritious meal.

The question thus is- why is Pinki hunting wild animals for her lunch?

In primary school in Jharkhand’s Chuha Pahar, no school teachers or mid-day meals for students.

Launched in 1995, the Mid-Day Meal Scheme was set out to achieve two things: to boost school attendance and to provide nutrition.

With dedicated nutrition goals (450-700 calories and 12 to 20 grams of protein) for primary and upper primary school children, the programme was welcomed for its potential to end chronic malnutrition and starvation.

The scheme looks more promising with the state and central governments dedicated to its funding. The funding is shared in the ratio of 60:40 between Centre and the states; except in 8 northeast states (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura) and three Himalayan states (Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand) where it is 90:10 and for the Union Territories which has 100 per cent central funding since April 2015.

The ground reports, however, show a very different reality.

Empty primary school classroom in tribal village in Jharkhad’s Chuha Pahar area.

NDTV and Video Volunteers’ Teams visited the schools in the hilly regions of Sahebganj to take stock of the situation. The classrooms were found to be empty. Villagers complained that teachers refuse to come to the schools as there is no motorable road connecting the main city to these villages.

Home to the Sauria Paharia adivasi community, the villages in Rajmahal hills are surrounded by stone mining quarries. A one-way journey can take over an hour on foot.

An SMS-based monitoring system was put in place by the government last year to plug loopholes and ensure transparency.  The idea was to manage stock of food by maintaining the inventory on the basis of meal consumption. Through this service, the school authority would send daily updates on attendance, weekly stock update, stock received for rice and amount received for cooking cost that would show up on the MDM report website.

The reporting team got prior information that this service was being misused and teachers come to school only during the national holidays – sing the national anthem, feed the children sweets, take photographs as evidence and submit it to the education department. Keeping this in mind, the team visited the school on the Republic Day.

When a teacher was asked why his attendance was low, he complained about the distance, his salary and his inability to speak the tribal language.

Mohammad Fasi-ud-Jama, teacher at the school said, “I speak in Hindi, and they use Paharia. They understand very little of what I teach.” When asked if he had shared these concerns with the authorities, he didn’t reply.

He said the money for mid-day meals came regularly, which he gave to the village pradhan along with the dry rations. Messa Paharia, the village pradhan acknowledged that they were informed when the dry rations arrived but said no mid-day meals were being cooked and no teachers were coming to school.

“We get rice supply, we can serve khichdi, but students don’t come. If the teachers come, students would gather in the school and eat,” said Messa Paharia.

He further said that they don’t distribute the rice and eat them together during village meetings.

“The gram sevak does his job. So do the bureaucrats. But the village teacher doesn’t,” he said.

The mid-day meal scheme is yet to reach tribal villages of Jharkhand.

The team found out that due to corruption, pilferage and lack of monitoring in the village, several children like Pinki Paharin are going hungry, suffering from acute infections and malnutrition.

The Jharkhand Economic Survey 2015-16, however, states the opposite. It says that more students in the state have access to facilities like free education and mid-day meals in the primary and the upper primary levels of education as compared to the national level.

The government has announced that starting July, children and parents with valid Aadhar cards will be given mid-day meals. Activists say that while this may weed out corruption, it will not help children like Pinki.

The current state of affairs leave some pertinent questions: Why is the government not closely monitoring Rs 10,000 crore that it spends annually on this ambitious project?  And who is answerable for Pinki Paharin not receiving the nutrition promised to her?

Note: NDTV along with Video Volunteers, an international organisation that empowers marginalised communities to report stories, travelled to schools in Sahebganj district Jharkhand as a part of the NDTV Every Life Counts campaign. All data has been sourced from Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Minsitry of Women and Child Development and Save the Children.


  1. Greetings from California! I’m bored at work so I decided to check out
    your site on my iphone during lunch break. I love the knowledge you present here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home.
    I’m surprised at how quick your blog loaded on my phone
    .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow, fantastic blog!

  2. I used to be recommended this blog via my cousin. I am no longer certain whether or not this put up is written via him
    as no one else recognize such specified about
    my problem. You are wonderful! Thank you!
    maglietta manchester united

  3. Weren’ much worse things reported during earlier regimes? why do people expect the present government to do something in a jiffy that previous governments couldn’t do in decades? Why blame PM for the corrupt and malpractices of others? Why drag PM every time something goes wrong somewhere in our nation? It is ridiculous?

  4. Didn’t these things happen earlier? Much worse things have been reported during earlier regimes! Was poverty alleviated in spite of “Garibi Hatao” sloganeering? What could not be done by previous governments for decades, do people expect the present government to do in a jiffy? What sort of logic is this? Why blame PM every time when others indulge in corruption and malpractices or fail to do their duty? This sounds ridiculous!!!

    Jago Bharat ke Neta Jago, ab thoda break do paisa kamaneka , peechey darwajase. Aur desh ki bhalayi keliye kuch kaam karo.

  6. Good job NDTV.. God knw der r how many kids lyk dis.. wats the use of India moving forward.. all these issues are bringing all the efforts down.. state government has to ensure that all these incidents do not occur, but these officials do not have time to look afta all these coz they feel these are alll silly issues n need not be addressed. Let us make sure we don’t waste food and help the needful near by us.

  7. How do I help. Need contact information. Can I get a method to help? I will also make sure that this is heard in the highest echelons of government.

    Please can you share info to help….

    • Even I want to help in any which way possible .Please share with me as well.

      Shweta choudhry

    • These communities live by forest and they do hunt/kill rabbits, some birds and small animals for food .. the report does not look like as it is advertised .. India is a diverse place, i dont see ppl in this community will like to eat bread butter, as they have there own traditional food

    • Good Morning Sir,
      View the video and check for the questions in it related to School, teachers and midday meals.
      Thanks and regards

    • Exactly, it is made to appear that the child is out of desperation is doing.
      Careful juggling of words.

      NDTV will not publish my comment i know it.

  8. Hope the vibrant flying elephant of Jharkand reaches them shortly..It’s such a shame politicians rush to Goa within hours to curbed power but ignore these articles very smartly..Can’t help acche din vl now get extended further..

  9. Acha din again !!
    One of the most disgraceful act by Central government making Aadhar cards compulsory for free education and mid-day meals in the primary and the upper primary levels. It is the best crime against nation and humanity. It is to be restored immediately!!

  10. Whatever good happens, it is done by PM & If anything not good comes to notice, it is done by others which actually defame the efforts put in by him.
    Shouldn’t he be aware of this situation & ensure that people’s hard earned money does not go in vain.
    Is the state government ever reviewed upon the various schemes?

  11. Where exactly is my tax money going to, if it is not going to her or others like her????

    Merit and talent needs opportunity equality and justice first.

    Why do 20 percent priviledged caste have UNDECLARED 52 PERCENT RESERVATION?? What merit and talent is that??

  12. Where exactly is my tax money going to, if it is not going to her or others like her????

    Merit and talent needs opportunity equality and justice first.

    Why do 20 percent priviledged have undeclared 52 percent reservation?? What merit and talent is that??

  13. We have a long long way to go. The things which should have on priority for the first Govt after independence are still not completed.

  14. Most disgraceful disparities in Indian life. Some Indian’s can afford $1 billion home while others are literally living by hunting rodents in wildlife. Perhaps even to date some communities are left behind with stone age survival techniques. Kudos to NDTV to bringing those communities to world media.

  15. It is very sad news. Today while taking lunch in Abu Dhabi, found that this news is broadcast in Pakistani channel with black color on our PM’s face. People from all corners (more importantly respective state Governments, Police, Administration, Panchayts, and so on) are requested to work their work honestly with a bit of nationalism which will support our PM’s honest efforts to make a new India.

Comments are closed.