Contractor system: the rot within

A former employee of Modern Foods, a public sector unit later taken over by Hindustan Lever Limited that used to provide bread under ICDS in Uttar Pradesh until 2003, tells Down To Earth the inside story of how small players exploit the contract system on the condition of anonymity.

Winning bids: Small contractors are able to quote extremely low prices in tenders invited by state governments because they do not have the right set-up to provide hygienic food. They may have just one cook instead of a full-fledged staff and in the name of a food technician, a supervisor. Most operate out of small, unhygienic places.

Technical expertise: Ideally, bids should be considered on the technical expertise of a contractor. But it does not happen. Small bakeries mushroomed after the government allowed bread in SNP. They came up without much technical expertise or infrastructure. Some even said that they did not require proper set up for manufacturing bread.

Quality checks: Food sent to anganwadis is usually not the same that is sent to laboratories for quality check. Contractors often bribe lab technicians to approve the orders. No wonder it ends up being used as cattlefeed.

Shelf life: The person handling distribution of packets usually does not have technical expertise. So while contractors claim long shelf life of their product, nobody keeps a tab on distribution. Chances are that food packets distributed to some places might be outdated.