'The Modi government is doing a good job but corrupt officers are siphoning off funds,' says journalist Pawan Kumar Jaiswal against whom an FIR has been filed for his video expose of school children being fed salt and rotis as their mid-day meal.
A few days ago, a video showing the poor quality of a mid-day meal in Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh, went viral, with many slamming the school and district authorities.
In the video, shot by journalist Pawan Kumar Jaiswal, students of the Siyur primary school in Jamalpur block, Mirzapur district, were being served salt and roti in their mid-day meal.
What Jaiswal felt was a laudable act displaying the callous attitude of the authorities and their corrupt ways backfired on him after he was booked under sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharging duty), 193 (false evidence) and 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code.
A distraught Jaiswal, who says he lives in fear of his arrest, narrates what happened to Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com and the reason why he chose to stand up to the authorities.
"I got a call on August 22 from a source of mine informing me of the pitiful condition of food being served at Siyur primary school. I was informed that children were being served salt and roti for their meal at the school.
When I reached at 12.07 pm I saw a bucketful of rotis and started shooting my video. I saw that the children were being served two chapattis and salt with a little red chilli powder. I was shocked to see that.
I then spoke to children of the school and they told me that they only get this to eat. They are supposed to get milk and vegetables, but the authorities were not providing them with those nourishments.
I spoke to the shiksha mitra (teachers appointed by the state government on contractual basis) and she told me that she had 94 children in the school and that her own children eat this. 'I earn Rs 10,000 and cannot do anything more,' she said, adding that her bosses's children study in other schools so they were not bothered about this.
I then published the news in the Jan Sandesh Times. Almost immediately the district magistrate took my video and started investigating the case, which led to the suspension of two teachers.
Next day, higher authorities visited the school and spoke to the students and staffers and were informed that they are only served rice and salt for lunch. Their investigations led them to believe my story.
However, while Chief Development Officer Priyanka Niranjan was investigating the case, she called me for my statement.
I told her I was a journalist and hence reported the incident. It was up to her if she wanted to probe it further.
She then told me that I was not co-operating with the investigation and asked about the source of my story.
She requested me to give her the audio and videos of the conversations that I had with my source and videos that I shot in school. I had no idea what would happen next.
On August 31, Mirzapur District Magistrate Anurag Patel stated that I was to be charged under sections 420, 120B, 193, 186 of the Indian Penal Code. They charged me stating that I was obstructing a government servant from doing work and also cheating them by making this video.
And if that wasn't shocking enough, they further stated that since I was a print reporter I should not have shot the video as it was an illegal act. I could take a picture of the children eating salt and roti, but not shoot a video as I was going beyond my job description of a print media reporter.
I was also told that he would destroy me because I was defaming the zilla. As of now, I am not hoping to get justice from anywhere because I have been framed under false charges.
I made the video to expose these corrupt bureaucrats but, in turn, I am being charged with defaming the Uttar Pradesh government.
Instead of taking action against the government officers for siphoning off funds, I am being investigated for the case. I don't trust anyone now. I am living in fear of getting arrested.
I am not saying the UP government is wrong. The government is doing a good job but these corrupt officers are not letting the benefits reach the poor people. There is a whole syndicate that is involved in the corruption.
When I made the video I thought that the children will get a good meal after my report. I started crying when I saw those kids eating salt and roti. The UP government has budget of Rs 11,000 crore for this mid-day meal scheme.
The only good thing is that the entire village is with me and they believe my story. They are standing by me.
I feel sad now that I am being chased as a criminal. The Modi government is doing a good job, but corrupt officers are siphoning off funds.
They are deeply entrenched in the system and they save each other all the time. No one can uproot this system. This news has made them run for cover and they don't know what to do so they are targeting me.
The only silver lining is that I heard that the children of the school are now getting chocolates to eat."