Wednesday, April 17, 2002
Muslim children to get mid-day meals from ISKCON
By Our Special Correspondent
bangalore, april 16.
These children living in a locality included in BMP limits more recently, a most neglected area in the City, will not go hungry at least once a day.
In a major step forward in promoting communal harmony, the Akshaya Patra Foundation, promoted by ISKCON, will be providing mid-day meals to more than 3,000 Muslim children studying in Urdu medium schools in Devarajeevanahalli (DJ Halli), which lies beyond Frazer Town in the Cantonment area. The Minister for Education, H. Vishwanath, launched the programme there on Tuesday.
“Hunger knows no religion,” Madhu Pandit Dasa, Chairman of the foundation, said. “When the Education Department asked us if we can include these schools under the Akshaya Patra programme, we gladly agreed,” he added.
The Sheriff Foundation of India Builders has come forward to share 25 per cent of the expenses on feeding the children in Urdu-medium schools for a year. Several members of the Muslim community have assured the foundation that the rest of the expenses would be met.
The programme has completed two years and covered 23,100 children in 89 schools. A sum of Rs 3.5 crore has been spent by ISKCON on the programme. “This was raised by ISKCON from the generous donors of Bangalore, and not from foreign sources, as it is mistakenly believed,” Madhu Pandit Dasa said. The next year’s budget for the programme was estimated to be Rs. 4 crore.
The administrative cost involved in the programme is two per cent of the expenses, and transportation cost 11 per cent. The cost of food comes to 85 per cent. “Mohandas Pai, Infosys CFO, who is also a trustee of the foundation, said: “The remarkably low administrative cost is largely because ISKCON is bearing most of the indirect costs.”
One of the government rural schools near the City reported a 28 per cent increase in attendance after the programme was introduced. The average increase in attendance in the schools covered so far is 17 per cent. Some of the schools have reported an increase in enrolment by 100 per cent. The average increase in enrolment is about 20 per cent.
Nutritionists have evaluated the meals and certified them to be in compliance with the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for children. As a nodal agency, the foundation has been acting as a catalyst for overall school development In association with the Learning Society, 100 scholarships of Rs.5,000 each have been announced for meritorious SSLC students in Akshaya Patra schools. Infrastructure development and training of teachers have also been taken up in these schools.