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Midday Meal and Supplements

Context:

From the next academic session, Karnataka is likely to become the 13th state to provide eggs under the midday meal scheme, which is among the largest initiatives in the world to enhance nutrition levels of school-going children through hot cooked meals.

Relevance:

GS II- Government Policies and Interventions

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. What is usually on the menu?
  5. Do the Centre and states run the scheme jointly?
  6. Criticism of MDM scheme and Implementation

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.

What is usually on the menu?

  • The menu varies from one state or Union Territory to another.
  • But the authorities need to ensure that the nutritional component of the meal made up of rice, pulses, vegetables, oil and fat provide at least 450 calories and 12 gm protein to children in primary grades.
  • For upper primary children, the requirements are 700 calories and 20 gm protein.
  • The variations are in the cases of additional items such as milk, eggs, chikki, or fruits that the states provide as supplementary nutrition, the expenses for which are borne by the state government.

Do the Centre and states run the scheme jointly?

  • Under the rules, the allocation of Rs 4.97 per child per day (primary classes) and Rs 7.45 (upper primary) are shared in 60:40 ratio with states and UTs with a legislature, and 90:10 with the Northeastern states, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, while the Centre bears 100% of the costs in UTs without legislature.
  • But the states and UTs that supplement the meals with additional items such as milk and eggs contribute more.
  • Components such as payments to cooks and workers are also split in the same ratio between the Centre and states.
  • However, the Centre bears the entire cost of foodgrains and their transportation, and also handles the expenditure on management, monitoring and evaluation of the scheme.

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: Indian Express

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