A local journalist Pawan Jaiswal working in Mirzapur district of eastern Uttar Pradesh was exercising it. He filmed students at a government school eating rotis with salt as part of their mid-day meal in the school corridor.
After the video was shared by a leading news agency, it went viral and national media too picked it up that led to an outcry over the implementation of the Centre’s flagship scheme in UP.
For the uninitiated, the mid-day meal scheme is designed to provide a minimum of 450 calories to each child everyday studying in government primary schools. As per guidelines, the mid day must contain at least 12 grams of protein and must be served at least 200 days a year. If we get into details, the meal must include pulses, rice rotis and vegetables. Fruits and milk must also be included on certain days, as per the meal chart.
Now, Pawan Jaiswal did his job and the government must have ideally taken corrective measures and suspended negligent officials which they did too.
An inquiry into the incident found that it was the fault of the teacher in-charge of the school and the supervisor at the gram panchayat, both of whom were suspended once the incident was brought to light.
But then where did the journalist story go wrong? Well, in an ideal situation, the government must have thanked the reporter for holding a mirror to the poor plight of the school and congratulated him for doing his job. But, that was not the case!
Shockingly enough, the journalist was booked and an FIR was filed against him. In its complaint, Block Education Officer of the area accused the journalist, Pawan Jaiswal, and a representative of the local village head of conspiracy to defame the Uttar Pradesh government.
The three-page FIR, mentions that only rotis were cooked in the school, that day when the video was shot, and adds that the village head's representative should have arranged for vegetables rather than calling the reporter.
And wait, this doesn't stop here! The FIR goes on to state that the video was shot by the local journalist, who works with a newspaper, and then forwarded to the news agency. The video was widely shared on social media and defamed the state government. Now, the government has put forth an argument asking why a newspaper reporter should filming the story?
Pawan and the village head's representative have been accused of cheating and criminal conspiracy. This is nothing but a direct threat to the journalist asking him not to perform his duty.
Meanwhile, the journalist community has come together in support of Pawan Jaiswal. The Editors Guild of India has also issued a statement condemning the UP government’s decision to book Jaiswal under sections of the criminal law and has called it a “classic case of shooting the messenger”.