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Mid-day Meal Scheme

Context:

Responding to criticism on not starting mid-day meals despite opening of schools a week ago, the Delhi government said that it has been distributing dry rations instead as only half of the students were attending its schools.

  • For 100% children to get the benefit of mid-day meal, door to door delivery of dry ration is being done now. As soon as there is 100% attendance in schools, door to door ration delivery will be stopped and mid-day meals will be started.
Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Issues related to Health and Nutrition, Issues related to Children, Welfare Schemes, Government Policies and Initiatives)

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. About the PM POSHAN (Poshan Shakti Nirman) scheme (New MDM)
  2. How the Mid-Day-Meal Scheme came to be?
  3. Has the Mid-Day-Meal Scheme helped?
  4. About the recent study on long term impact of MDM scheme
  5. Criticism of MDM scheme and Implementation
  6. PM Poshan Shakti Nirman scheme is not to be confused with: Poshan Abhiyaan

About the PM POSHAN (Poshan Shakti Nirman) scheme (New MDM)

  • The PM Poshan Shakti Nirman scheme aims to give a hot cooked meal to 11.8 crore government school students from Classes I to VIII.
  • From FY 2022-23 it will also cover the 24 lakh children studying in balvatikas, the pre-primary section of government schools. The balvatikas offer one year of pre-school classes.
  • The PM POSHAN scheme has been approved for the next five-year period until 2025-26, with a collective outlay of ₹1.31 lakh crore, including ₹31,733 crore as the share to be borne by the State governments.
  • It has been rebranded to provide a new shape to the policy “to enhance the nutrition levels of schoolchildren”.
  • It is expected to improve nutritional status, encourage education and learning and increase enrolments in government schools.
  • The extension of mid-day meals to pre-primary students, who are to be incorporated into the formal education system, was a key recommendation of the National Education Policy (NEP), 2020.
  • However, there has been no progress on the NEP’s other recommendation to start offering breakfasts to school students.

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”.

Supreme Court on MDM during Pandemic

  • The SC alerted state governments “Non-supply of nutritional food to the children as well as lactating and nursing mothers may lead to large-scale malnourishment, particularly in rural and tribal areas.”
  • Taking suo motu cognisance of the matter the Court asked states to ensure that “schemes for nutritional food for children are not adversely affected”.

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.

About the recent study on long term impact of MDM scheme

  • Girls who had access to the free lunches provided at government schools, had children with a higher height-to-age ratio than those who did not.
  • The prevalence of stunting was significantly lower in areas where the mid scheme was implemented in 2005.
  • The linkages between midday meals and lower stunting in the next generation were stronger in lower socio-economic strata and likely work through women’s education, fertility, and use of health services.

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.

PM Poshan Shakti Nirman scheme is not to be confused with: Poshan Abhiyaan

  • The term ‘POSHAN’ in the name of the programme stands for ‘Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nutrition’.
  • POSHAN Abhiyaan launched in 2018 aims at improving the nutritional status of Children from 0-6 years, Adolescent Girls, Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers.
  • According to ‘Mission 25 by 2020’, the National Nutrition Mission aims to achieve a reduction in stunting from 38.4% to 25% by 2022.
  • POSHAN Abhiyaan focuses on convergence among partner Ministries leveraging technology and Jan Andolan among other things, to address issue of malnutrition comprehensively.
  • Near-real time reporting by field functionaries and improved MIS is aimed at smooth implementation of scheme and better service delivery.
  • It also targets stunting, under-nutrition, anaemia (among young children, women and adolescent girls) and low birth rate.
  • It will monitor and review implementation of all such schemes and utilize existing structural arrangements of line ministries wherever available.
  • Its large component involves gradual scaling-up of interventions supported by on-going World Bank assisted Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Systems Strengthening and Nutrition Improvement Project (ISSNIP) to all districts in the country by 2022.
  • Its vision is to ensure attainment of malnutrition free India by 2022.
  • Implementation of POSHAN Abhiyaan is based on the four-point strategy/pillars of the mission:
    • Inter-sectoral convergence for better service delivery
    • Use of technology (ICT) for real time growth monitoring and tracking of women and children
    • Intensified health and nutrition services for the first 1000 days
    • Jan Andolan

-Source: The Hindu

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