Four independent trustees, including Chairman of Manipal Global Education Mohandas Pai, have resigned from The Akshaya Patra Foundation (TAPF). The other independent trustees who resigned include former Infosys Chief Financial Officer V Balakrishnan, co-founder of ChrysCapital Raj Kondur and adviser to Manipal Education and Medical Group, Abhay Jain.
Two new members have been appointed to the board of trustees. KV Chowdary, who formerly served as the Chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes is now Chairman of the Audit Committee at TAPF. Kaushik Dutta, former partner of PWC, is now a member of the Audit Committee.
â€śThe outgoing trustees â€” Sri Mohandas Pai, Sri Abhay Jain, Sri V Balakrishnan and Sri Raj Kondur have rendered extraordinary service from the days of inception of Akshaya Patra in the year 2000. We are immensely grateful to them for their dedication and invaluable guidance. We welcome the new trustees and members of the Audit Committee and look forward to working with them to enhance and enrich our service to the children of our country,â€ť said Madhu Pandit Dasa, Chairman of TAPF.
A source with TAPF told TNM that the resignations were related to an internal matter, which led to disagreements between trustees.
In the year 2000, Mohandas Pai and Abhay Jain met ISKCONâ€™s President Madhu Pandit Dasa in Bangalore, where the idea to start Akshaya Patra was conceptualised. In July 2000, ISKCON began feeding government school children from the templeâ€™s kitchen. In 2001, TAPF was established and now provides mid-day meals to government school children in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Tripura and Assam.
â€śOver the last two decades, our trustees have played a crucial role in helping the organisation grow into the worldâ€™s largest NGO-run school feeding programme. Akshaya Patra will be ever grateful to them,â€ť said Sri Chanchalapathi Dasa â€“ Vice-Chairman of the Foundation.
Speaking to TNM, a member of the trust said that TAPF is now looking at revising their mid-day meal scheme and customise it to empower community-based kitchens, and also provide food native to respective districts or regions.
TAPF is also looking at working with anganwadi cooks, and paying them salaries which would be equal to the amount paid by the state government. â€śWe want to call them school mothers. A lot of them were apprehensive and scared that the government would stop paying them. We have assured them that in addition to the governmentâ€™s salaries, Akshaya Patra will give them additional salaries,â€ť the trustee said.
TAPF is also planning to empower women self-help groups in rural areas to become cooks in these community-based kitchens. TAPFâ€™s kitchens will be free after 10 am every day, and the foundation plans to train the women in self-help groups with food and beverage service skills. â€śThe people in rural areas are some of the best cooks in the country. The training will be related to various foods, recipes and presentation of the food. We are planning to offer them jobs in Akshaya Patra kitchens itself,â€ť the member of the trust added.
Additionally, TAPF is in the process of creating a proposal wherein farmers would be asked to grow produce and sell it directly to Akshaya Patra. After the Agricultural Produce Market Committees were disbanded with the new Farm Acts earlier this year, the regulations for contract farming were reduced. Akshaya Patra plans to contract the farming of crops that it requires for the mid-day meals, and purchase it for the community-based kitchens. â€śWe are planning to hold talks with farmers at taluk-level and ask them to grow crops and give us the milk. This is still under the planning stage,â€ť the member said.
TAPF has also hired the consultancy services of chef Sanjev Kapoor to help develop recipes for the mid-day meals, as food habits vary from district to district.