Source: Moresha Benjamin / DNA
While education for the city’s underprivileged children is of utmost importance, it is equally exigent that they get regular, nutritious meals.
Recognising this, The Akshaya Patra Foundation (TAPF), a Bangalore-based NGO that operates the world’s largest privately run midday meal programme, is planning to set up a centralised kitchen in the city. It will cater to the city’s state-run schools, as well as to NGOs conducting child education programmes.
“What is the use of education when a child goes hungry and cannot concentrate in class?” saidMadhu Pandit Dasa, chairman of the NGO, which feeds more than a million children at 17 locations in seven states.
“I have come across families who have sold their children’s books so that they can buy a day’s meal,” he added.
The NGO is backed by leading IT firms such as Cisco and Mindtree, high-profile individuals and also common citizens. Sudha Murthy, wife of Infosys chairman Narayan Murthy, is one of the donors. Murthy said, “When I visited their Bangalore centre, I was pleased to see that the kitchen has really good hygienic standards. The cooks wear gloves, and cover their heads. The food is not only tasty but also nutritious.” She playfully added, “There have been times when I have visited them unannounced just so that I can enjoy a delicious meal.”
The NGO’s entry into the city has its share of hurdles. The foundation had been invited twice by the then-CM Vilasrao Deshmukh to set up a centre in Mumbai, but since it was then quite small, the project was not feasible. And now that it is ready, the present rules stipulate that such a programme can be initiated only by women welfare groups, and not by general NGOs. CP Das, TAPF’s vice president, said, “Why stop a good cause on grounds of gender? Are there no exceptions when the only purpose is betterment of humanity?”
The NGO also at the short end of Mumbai’s exorbitant property rates, as it needs a large centrally-located kitchen to reach out to all parts of the city.