Over 500 students, led by AASU and other students bodies, blocked NH-37 in Tinsukia on Saturday Credit: EastMojo image 

Tinsukia: Over 500 students blocked National Highway 37 at Panitola locality in Assam’s Tinsukia district on Saturday demanding the resignation of education minister Siddhartha Bhattacharya and roll-back of decision allowing NGOs to serve mid-day meals in the state.

As per sources, the protesters were led by the All Assam Students’ Union regional committee of Panitola, Asom Jatiyatavadi Yuba Parishad, All Tai Ahom Students’ Union among others. The protesters later submitted a memorandum to the deputy commissioner of the district through the circle officer who was present at the spot.

The development comes a day after around 82 students of Baruahola High School at Panitola, around 15 km from Tinsukia district, fell ill after eating the mid-day meal served by a centralised kitchen by an NGO — Ghanshyam Seva Samiti. Students of Panitola Girls’ High School and Dinjan TE LP School also submitted two separate written complaints to the district elementary education officer (DEEO) of Tinsukia.

Speaking with EastMojo, Asom Jatiyatavadi Yuba Parishad general secretary Pranjal Neog said that the quality of food served through the centralised kitchen by NGO Ghanshyam Seva Samity is so poor and bad that even dogs can’t eat it. He also expressed that it was just a day before when several students of a government school in the locality fell ill after eating the midday meal and many of them even complained that the food tasted “sour” and was “smelling”.

“We demand that the decision to allow NGOs to serve midday meals be immediately rolled back,” he added.

Neog further added that the education minister had recently announced that healthy food will be provided to the students through the new midday meal system and there will be no complaint about it. So if that is true how come students are falling ill now after eating the food, he questioned.

“We demand the immediate resignation of the education minister,” he added.

Neog also expressed that the midday meal scheme was going on smoothly until the government decided to introduce a centralised kitchen setup. “We ask for a high-level inquiry to find out why such decision was taken in the first place and also the reason to select an NGO with tainted history,” Neog said.

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