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Centre’s Rs. 100-upgrade to mid-day meal scheme

Context:

The Centre has decided to give about Rs. 100 each to children studying in Class 1 to Class 8 in government schools, who are beneficiaries of the Mid-Day Meal scheme.

However, Right to Food activists say this is insufficient to provide the nutrition security envisaged by this measure.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Issues related to Hunger, Issues related to children, Government Interventions and Initiatives)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the latest government intervention in MDM scheme
  2. Mid-Day-Meal (MDM) Scheme
  3. How the Mid-Day-Meal Scheme came to be-
  4. Has the Mid-Day-Meal Scheme helped?
  5. Criticism of MDM scheme and Implementation

About the latest government intervention in MDM scheme

The money, Rs. 1200 crore in total, will be given to 11.8 crore children through direct benefit transfer as a one-time payment.

This decision will help safeguard the nutritional levels of children and aid in protecting their immunity during the challenging pandemic times.

The total Central allocation for the Mid-Day Meal scheme in 2021-22 is Rs. 11,500 crores and its largest component is cooking costs, which cover the prices of ingredients such as pulses, vegetables, cooking oil, salt, and condiments.

In 2020, the minimum allocation for cooking cost per child per day was set at just under 5 Rs. for Classes 1 to 5 and Rs. 7.45 for Classes 6 to 8, with the Centre paying 60% of the cost.

Mid-Day-Meal (MDM) Scheme

  • The Mid-day Meal Scheme is a school meal programme of the Government of India designed to better the nutritional standing of school-age children nationwide.
  • Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which India is a party, India has committed to yielding “adequate nutritious food” for children.
  • The Midday Meal Scheme is covered by the National Food Security Act, 2013.
  • The programme supplies free lunches on working days for children in primary and upper primary classes.
  • The Scheme benefits the Students of:
    • Government schools,
    • Government aided schools,
    • Local body Education Centres,
    • Education Guarantee Scheme, and alternate innovative education centres,
    • Madarsa and Maqtabs supported under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan,
    • National Child Labour Project schools run by the Ministry of labour.

How the Mid-Day-Meal Scheme came to be-

Post-Independence, Tamil Nadu was the first state to introduce the MDM scheme in the 1960s.

The Central scheme to provide meals to school children began in 1995, however, most states just limited themselves to providing dry rations.

Supreme Court Order: The Game Changer

A Supreme Court order of 2001 provided for all states to introduce cooked meals.

The Supreme Court order specified the states to provide “at least 300 calories and 8-12 grams of protein each day of school for a minimum of 200 days in a year”.

Has the Mid-Day-Meal Scheme helped?

  • Research has shown how hot, cooked food attracted students to schools and improved their nutritional status.
  • MDM has been proven to attract children from disadvantaged sections (especially girls, Dalits and Adivasis) to school.
  • Along with Improvement of regularity, educational and nutritional benefits, socialisation benefits and benefits to women are also highlighted.
  • Hence, the main positives of this scheme are:
    • Avoiding classroom hunger.
    • Increased school enrolment and attendance.
    • Improved socialisation among castes.
    • Reducing malnutrition.
    • Empowering women through employment.

Criticism of MDM scheme and Implementation

  • Despite the success of the program, child hunger as a problem persists in India, 42.5% of the children under 5 are underweight.
  • Some simple health measures such as using iodised salt and getting vaccinations are uncommon in India.
  • Many children don’t get enough to eat, which has far-reaching implications for the performance of the country as a whole.
  • A 2005 study found that Caste based discrimination continued to occur in the serving of food.
  • Media reports have also highlighted several implementation issues, including irregularity, corruption, hygiene, caste discrimination, etc.
  • Poor food quality is a major concern, affecting the health of children (as many media reports show students falling sick dur to lapses in quality checking and control). There are provisions for regular social audit, field visits and inspections but these are seldom carried out.
  • The schools do not function during holidays and vacations which deprives children of their one daily meal.

-Source: The Hindu

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September 2022
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