Nearly 2 decades have passed, making mid day meals a part of routine in government schools across the country. The nationwide two-decade long journey has slowed down the reform process of the mid day meal program, but the incidents related to it have continued to unfold. Recently a similar incident involving mid day meal was observed in which a liter of milk was mixed in a bucket filled with water to distribute it among the 80 children present in the school. Such incidents are obviously shameful and make it clear that the implementation of this program needs to be given serious attention as soon as possible.
Mid day meal program
- The mid day meal program was implemented across the country on August 15, 1995 as a centrally sponsored scheme.
- Subsequently, in September 2004, a system of serving menu-based cooked hot food was introduced, making a big change in the program.
- Under this scheme, there is a provision to provide minimum 300 calories of energy and 8-12 grams of protein per day for the lower primary level and minimum 700 calories of energy and 20 grams of protein for the upper primary level for a minimum of 200 days.
- The Mid-day meal program is a multipurpose program and is associated with the nutrition and development of the future generations of the nation. Its main objectives are:
- Promoting universalisation of primary education.
- To increase enrollment of students in schools and encourage students to attend school.
- Stop school drop-out
- Enhancing the nutritional status of children and promoting the level of learning.
- In a recent study conducted by an NGO called ‘Council for Social Development’, it was revealed that currently more than 45 million children in the age group of 6-18 years are not able to get school education, which is the total of the age group About 16.1 percent of children. Be aware that most of these have the right to free and compulsory education.
- According to the statistics, every fifth child is deprived of school education in big states like Odisha (20.6 percent), Uttar Pradesh (21.4 percent) and Gujarat (19.1 percent).
- It was also revealed in the study that about 99.34 percent of the total children who did not get school education were from economically and socially weaker sections. The study found that about 58.19 percent children are those whose father’s annual income is less than 50000.
- Also, out of the total number of out of school children, fathers of 51.18 percent and mothers of 88.45 percent are illiterate.
- Apart from this, another problem related to children in India is undernourishment. According to the recently released ‘The State of the World’s Children – 2019’, one in every 3 children up to the age of 5 in the world suffers from malnutrition or underweight.
- The above data clearly shows the status of basic human rights of Indian children such as access to food and education etc. In addition, these statistics also present a policy challenge to meet the educational and nutritional needs of school children.
There is a long history of providing mid-day meals
- Be aware that there is a long history of providing mid-day meals in Indian schools. The concept of providing food to students in India was first introduced in the primary schools of Tamil Nadu in the year 1925 by the then British Government.
- Later the French administration also made its debut in the Union Territory of Puducherry in the early 1930s.
- After independence, such a scheme was once again introduced in the state by the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu with the aim of attracting more children to schools during the year 1962-63.
- Due to the wide spread of the scheme in 1985, the governments of Gujarat and Kerala also decided to implement it. Though the scheme was soon discontinued in Gujarat due to some reasons, it continued in Kerala and was also reformed as required.
- In 1990-91, twelve other state governments decided to implement the scheme in their respective states, following which a mid-day meal program was launched in August 1995 to improve the nutritional level of school children.
Importance of program
- This scheme helps to increase socialization among school children by promoting simultaneous eating habit. Having lunch together enhances unity and harmony among various religious groups.
- By reducing the discrimination between different castes, religions and religions, it motivates students to become good citizens.
- This scheme acts as an incentive for parents of poor children to send children to school. At the same time it also plays an important role in increasing the literacy rate of the country.
- This scheme can also prove to be important in reducing poverty in the country, because the more people educated and healthy by it, the more they will contribute to the development of the economy.
- It is noteworthy that the mid-day meal program has become the world’s largest program of its kind by providing food to more than 120 million children in more than 10 million schools, which requires a huge workforce for its successful implementation. .
- According to the statistics presented by the government, about 26 lakh people have got employment in this country.
- The Government should encourage community support and public-private partnership to run this program as far as possible under the prescribed guidelines of the Mid-day meal program.
- Food quality: According to a CAG report on food quality, 1,876 out of a total of 2,012 samples of foodgrains taken during the study failed to meet nutritional standards, meaning that the mid-day meal program Under it, 80 percent of the food served to children does not meet the quality standards. Experts believe that the main reason for this is that under this scheme attention is given to the quantity of food more than the quality of the food. Recently the Ministry of Human Resource Development released the data, they received a total of 35 complaints from 15 states and union territories regarding poor food quality in the last 3 years. Experts believe that the government’s focus is only on the number of schools it is able to cover and deliver food, no one wants to pay attention to the quality of food.
- Caste and Religion: A large number of complaints regarding the mid day meal program are also due to caste-based discrimination. In most incidents based on caste discrimination, it is seen that either upper caste children refuse to eat food cooked by SC / ST women or Dalit and backward class students are forced to sit separately from others. . It is to be noted that the main objective of this scheme is to develop a sense of sharing among students from different backgrounds, but the incidents show that it has failed to achieve its objective.
- Lack of inspection system: Most of the children studying in the government schools of the village are very poor and the food available under the mid day meal program is the last option for them. In such a situation, this food can also prove to be dangerous for them, because there is no system to inspect the food. The Bihar incident of 2013 is a direct example of this, where 23 children died after eating lunch in school.
- Corruption: In the year 2015, an audit report conducted by the CAG talked about financial mismanagement under the Mid Day Meal Program. The report revealed how the food supply company in Karnataka used far less grain than the required parameters within a year, which clearly pointed to corruption.
- The Mid Day Meal program has received much acclaim from the date of implementation, as it is the largest scheme of its kind in the world.
- Many experts believe that to make the plan a success, it is necessary to try to make it an aspect of the curriculum. In fact, the biggest reason for this plan not being fully successful is that despite having transformational potential, this scheme is seen as charity.
- Whereas to make it successful, it is necessary that the government should see it as its responsibility towards children.
- Lack of workforce is a major problem in the implementation of the scheme, which needs to be given the earliest attention.
Despite all the problems, it cannot be denied that the mid-day meal program has played an important role in the development of economically and socially vulnerable children. However, the program still needs improvement. It is necessary that the government changes its approach towards the implementation of the scheme and attention should also be given to quantity as well as quality.
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