Two very different reasons explain why children have stopped attending school in two different parts of the country ~ the Kashmir Valley and the district of Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh. And thereby hangs a tale.

While disturbed conditions in Srinagar hardly need a recital, the midday meal has made a mockery of the Right to Education Act in a swathe of UP, now helmed by an ascetic from Gorakhpur.

Indeed, the roti-and-salt menu has led to a boycott of primary schools in Mirzapur, with parents refusing to send their children to school to pursue their search of learning.

To that has now been added the concerted protest by guardians against a case that has been filed by the district administration against the journalist who broke the news, filmed the lunchtime aberration, and then extensively circulated the video.

The camera doesn’t lie and the administration in Lucknow has been engaged in a strained effort to cover up an ugly truth and rather pathetically so.

It thus comes about that a criminal case has been lodged by the district administration against the local reporter, Pawan Kumar Jaiswal, and two villagers who had tipped him off. While one of the villagers has been arrested, the journalist is reported to be in hiding. The children richly deserve the benefits of the Right to Education Act. Far from it.

They have in point of fact countenanced the administration’s callous indifference towards the midday meal, let alone the calculated malevolence against those who discharged their professional duty. In the net, they are deprived of the midday energiser and no less crucially, the fundamental right to learn.

The press can well do without the homilies of the DM, Anurag Patel, specifically that a print journalist is not authorised to shoot a video and extensively circulate the same.

That unsolicited piece of advice flies in the face of the admission by a midday meal cook that salt and chapattis are almost routinely served. The short point must be that the culprits ought to be punished and the case against the journalist and the villagers dropped.

The administration has made a feeble attempt to cover its murky track.

There may be hope yet for the children in view of the spirited movement by the parents against the state government ~ “We won’t tolerate this drama by the district administration and the education department. It is because of them that the childen are being served salt and chapatti. But they ordered the police to book the journalist and the two villagers who had tried to clear the mess in the school.”

The parental intervention has been suitably pregnant. Let truth be told and the fundamental right to learn restored in Mirzapur.