In the last week two significant events, both entirely different, have caused concern. The first is, the death of 23 children in Bihar due to bad food served to them in the mid-day meal programme. First it was thought that it is a pesticide or insecticide that accidentally got mixed with the food. But as the investigation is proceeding, and with the arrest of the principal of the school, the Chief Minister has also said that it does not look like accidental deaths, which means that the matter is far more serious. That means that there has been deliberate mischief in the programme. Some people are making money even at the cost of risking the lives of human beings and that too of children. After that report has come, similar reports are coming from different States which means that in organised way the mid-day meal programme has been mal-administered over the years and in the current atmosphere of the country, with scams and corruption rampant, this mid-day meal programme which costs thousands of crores of rupees has also become a victim of corruption. What steps can be taken varying from discontinuing the programme altogether to give direct cash benefit to continuing the programme with stricter regulation there are all sorts of suggestions that are coming but one thing is clear : that something will have to be done as it cannot continue as it is you spend money and on top of it children die. This is absolutely unacceptable. Some States have good infrastructure. This programme first started in Tamilnadu but some States started this programme without having an infrastructure. The Central Government is funding this but all States cannot follow the same model. The model has to differ from State to State, depending on the administrative level and the efficiency level of the State.
The second thing that is not so serious but is a little disturbing is the issue of a US visa for Narendra Modi. There can be two arguments. One can say that an elected Chief Minister of any State in India should not be refused a visa to America just like a Governor in America, whether you agree with him or not, cannot be refused a visa to India. This visa was refused many years ago. At that time also the Congress Government was at the Centre, which did not protest. It was the Central Government which could have protested to the American Government. We also do not agree with Narendra Modi but a person visiting US is a small thing and he is not the one who will stay on in the USA that they have to be careful to refuse him a visa. But that is not the point. Now there are two things that have been very disturbing.
First of all, it was Rajnath Singh, the President of the BJP who goes to America and tells the press that he is going to request the US administration to give a visa to Narendra Modi. It is not the job of a political party President. I am sorry. A visa has to be applied for by an individual. If at all somebody has to talk to the US Government, it is the Government of India and not the President of a political party. He would be demeaning himself before the US administration. Second, equally disturbing is the group of 65 MPs writing a petition that please continue to refuse the visa. Who are these MPs of various parties opposed to BJP? 19 of them have said they did not even sign the memorandum. Those who have signed, have they thought over what they are doing? Is it the job of members of Indian Parliament to make a petition to the US administration? You are degrading yourself. You are degrading Indian Parliament. I do not know what the Prime Minister thinks of this matter. It is high time and I have been saying this repeatedly that the Prime Minister must act. It is time he acted as a Prime Minister of the country. He must pull up these MPs that this is not your job. Your job is to debate in the House from where they have been absenting themselves. They are drawing their salary and allowances and absenting themselves and they have time to write to the US administration. They should become rational. The election year is coming. I understand the anger among the political parties. I am also angry on many subjects but that does not mean that we should allow it to affect our behaviour, our parliamentary behaviour, decorum, public life – they all have to be maintained. That’s what India is known for right from Independence and I do not think we should lose it.