Mid-day Meal Scheme
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The Mid-day Meal Scheme is the popular name for school meal programme in India. It involves provision of lunch free of cost to school-children on all working days. The key objectives of the programme are: protecting children from classroom hunger, increasing school enrolment and attendance, improved socialisation among children belonging to all castes, addressing malnutrition, and social empowerment through provision of employment to women. The scheme has a long history especially in Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, and has been expanded to all parts of India after a landmark direction by the Supreme Court of India on November 28, 2001. The success of this scheme is illustrated by the tremendous increase in the school participation and completion rates in the state of Tamilnadu.
12 crore (120 million) children are so far covered under the Mid-day Meal Scheme, which is the largest school lunch programme in the world. Allocation for this programme has been enhanced from Rs 3010 crore to Rs 4813 crore (Rs 48 billion, $1.2 billion) in 2006-2007.
One of the pioneers of the scheme is the Madras Presidency that started providing cooked meals to children in corporation schools in the Madras city in 1923. The programme was introduced in a large scale in 1960s under the Chief Ministership of K. Kamaraj. But the first major thrust came in 1982 when the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Dr. M. G. Ramachandran, decided to universalise the scheme for all children in government schools in primary classes. Later the programme was expanded to cover all children up to class 10. Tamil Nadu’s mid-day meal programme is among the best known in the country.
There is an interesting story about how K. Kamaraj got the idea of a noon meal scheme. The spark is said to have occurred in a small village (now a town) called Cheranmahadevi in Tirunelveli District of Tamil Nadu. K Kamarajar was a very simple person who used to travel in his car (even without the red lamp at the top) and was not accustomed to convoys.
On one such journey, he had to stop at the railway intersection in Cheranmahadevi and got out of the car and waited. He saw a few boys busy with their cows and goats. The Chief Minister had asked one small boy, "What are you doing with this cows? Why didn't you go to school?" The boy immediately answered, "If I go to school, will you give me food to eat? I can learn only if I eat." The boy's retort sparked the entire process into establishing the mid-day meal programme.
Several other states of India also have had mid-day meal programmes. The most notable among them is Gujarat that has had it since the late 1980s. Kerala started providing cooked meals in schools since 1995 and so did Madhya Pradesh and Orissa in small pockets. On November 28, 2001 the Supreme Court of India gave a landmark direction, which made it obligatory for the government to provide cooked meals to all children in all government and government assisted primary schools. The direction was resisted vigorously by State governments initially, but the programme has become almost universal by 2005.
National Programme for Nutrition Support to Primary Education
Although the programme in Tamil Nadu was initially termed as an act of "Populism", the success of the scheme made the project hugely popular. The success was so spectacular that in 1995, the then Indian Finance minister Manmohan Singh hailed the success of the project and suggested that the scheme be implemented all over the country, and thus began the "National Programme for Nutrition Support to Primary Education".
According to the programme the Government of India will provide grains free of cost and the States will provide the costs of other ingredients, salaries and infrastructure. Since most State governments were unwilling to commit budgetary resources they just passed on the grains from Government of India to the parents. This system was called provision of ‘dry rations’. On November 28, 2001 the Supreme Court of India gave a famous direction that made it mandatory for the state governments to provide cooked meals instead of ‘dry rations’. The direction was to be implemented from June 2002, but was violated by most States. But with sustained pressure from the court, media and in particular from the Right to Food Campaign more and more states started providing cooked meals.
In May 2004 a new coalition government was formed in the centre, which promised universal provision of cooked meals fully funded by the centre. This promise in its Common Minimum Programme was followed by enhanced financial support to the states for cooking and building sufficient infrastructure. Given this additional support the scheme has expanded its reach to cover most children in primary schools in India. In 2005 it is expected to cover 130 million children.
The Supreme Court Direction
In April 2001 People’s Union for Civil Liberties (Rajasthan) initiated the now famous right to food litigation. This public interest litigation has covered a large range of issues relating to right to food, but the best known intervention by the court is on mid-day meals. In one of its many direction in the litigation the Supreme Court directed the government to fully implement its scheme of providing cooked meals to all children in primary schools. This landmark direction converted the mid-day meal scheme into a legal entitlement, the violation of which can be taken up in the court of law. The direction and further follow-up by the Supreme Court has been a major instrument in universalising the scheme.
Akshaya Patra and private sector participation in mid-day meals
The State of Karnataka introduced the provision of cooked meals in June 2002. Since then it has successfully involved private sector participation in the programme. The most successful of the ventures is Akshaya Patra, which started with leadership from both ISKCON and secular leaders in the Bangalore community. The programme, now 100% secular, is an independent organization that cooks and distributes lunch to children in Bangalore Municipal Corporation schools. The Foundation gets a corpus from the State government but meets a major share of its costs with donations from private corporations and individuals in the city.
The programme is managed with an ultra modern centralised kitchen that is run through a public/private partnership. Food is delivered to schools in sealed and heat retaining containers just before the lunch break every day. The programme contains one of the best menus in school meal programmes in India with tasty sambar, rice, vegetables and some curd on most days.
Since the success of this programme private sector participation in mid-day meals has increased considerably. Giant software corporations such as Infosys, Bharti and Jindal are major donors to the programme. This model has been successfully replicated in rural Karnataka, Delhi, Hyderabad and other cities.
The foundation is now serving mid-day meals to almost a million children every day and hopes to feed over 20 million children by 2020.
More details can be viewed on www.akshayapatra.org
Other aspects of the programme
The programme in Gujarat also includes regular provision of iron tablets (to counter anaemia) and deworming tablets once in six months. In Tamil Nadu also the children are dewormed at regular intervals.
School meal programmes in other parts of the world
A school meal programme is now a standard welfare measure for school children in developing as well as developed nations. Even countries such as USA have it in many states. World Food Programme, among other organisations, are involved in the programme in many countries across the world.
Impact of the Mid day Meal Program in Tamil Nadu
This program initiated by Kamarajar. Kamaraj is considered to be one of the two key events that led to the realignment of social, economic, political and cultural aspects of the Tamil Nadu. The other event is "Entry in Vaikkom Temple."
Various scams involving Mid-Day Meal Scheme have been unearthed since it was started.
In January 2006, the Delhi Police unearthed a scam in the Mid-Day Meal Scheme. In December 2005, the police had seized eight truckloads (2,760 sacks) of rice meant for primary schoolchildren being carried from Food Corporation of India (FCI) godowns in Bulandshahr District of UP to North Delhi. When the police detained the trucks, the drivers claimed that the rice was being brought all the way to Delhi to be cleaned at a factory. However, according to the guidelines, the rice has to be taken directly from FCI godown to the school or village concerned. Later it was found that the rice was being siphoned off by a UP-based NGO, Bharatiya Manav Kalyan Parishad (BMKP), in connivance with the government officials.
In November 2006, the residents of Pembong village under the Mim tea estate (around 30 km from Darjeeling), accused a group of teachers of embezzling mid-day meals. In a written complaint, the residents claimed that students at the primary school had not got midday meal for the past 18 months.
In December 2006, The Times of India reported a scam involving government schools that siphon off foodgrains under the mid-day meal scheme by faking attendance. The modus operandi of the schools was simple -- the attendance register would exaggerate the number of students enrolled in the class. The additional students would not exist -- they were "enrolled" to get additional foodgrains which were pocketed by the school staff. The scam was exposed, when P Asha Kumari, an assistant teacher at the government model primary school, Jakkur, in Yelahanka acted as a whistleblower. She informed the Lok Ayukta, who conducted a probe and indicted four persons for misappropriation. The whistleblower was harassed by the school staff and requested a transfer. She was transferred to a government primary school at Cholanayakahalli, where she again found the same modus operandi being used to siphon off the foodgrains. She again complained to the Lok Ayukta, who issued notice to the school.
- ^ "Lid off massive scam in Mid-Day Meal Scheme: 2,760 sacks of rice seized", The Tribune, Delhi (2006-01-20). Retrieved on 2006-12-02.
- ^ "Teacher blows whistle on scam: School Authorities Pocket Money In The Name Of Mid-Day Meal Scheme", The Times of India, Bangalore (2006-12-02). Retrieved on 2006-12-02.
'By Alphabetical order using the name of the institution/website'
- Catholic Relief Services
- FRESH Initiative - Focusing Resources on Effective School Health.
- The Partnership for Child Development. PCD is based within the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, in the Faculty of Medicine, at London’s Imperial College.
- Right to Food Campaign, India
- Schools and Health
- World food programme