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Mid-day Meal Scheme Dogged By Problems Old And New

Publish Date : October 29th, 2012 | Print Article |4,267 views

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The Mid-day Meal Scheme (MDMS) was conceived with the aim of increasing the gross enrolment ratio in primary schools in the country, especially in rural areas, where educational facilities were still lagging behind and students still worked on farms and fields to support their parents. Originally, the Government initiated a programme called “Nutritional Support to Primary Education” which was formally launched on 15 August 1995. This programme was confined to a few areas but in 2001, the name of the scheme changed to the “Mid-Day Meal Scheme” and it was expanded into a country wide programme. The agenda behind introducing the scheme was to fulfil the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG) in which primary education was one of the goals. In a landmark order dated 8 November 2001, the Supreme Court of India directed all State Governments to introduce cooked mid-day meals in primary schools within six months. The scheme was basically aimed at enhancing the number of enrolments, the retention ratio of the primary students and maintaining good attendance in the classes. The MDMS also aimed at improving the nutritional levels of the children in schools by providing good food. The MMS is run by the local authorities with substantial help from the school management committees, village Panchayats, teacher associations etc. Some of the Non government Organisations (NGOs) have taken up the responsibility of cooking food for the children and sending it to the schools within the stipulated time in the urban areas while the women self help groups have taken up this responsibility in the rural areas.
Education and health are the two most important elements for children and MDMS aspires to achieve education and health targets through proper implementation. The scheme is aimed at promoting the participation of children in school by teaching them good eating habits and providing them good food resulting in the reduction of ‘classroom hunger’. The scheme also incorporates the objectives of social and gender equality as all the children in the schools irrespective of caste and creed eat the same food.
Education and health are the two most important elements for children and MDMS aspires to achieve education and health targets through proper implementation. The scheme is aimed at promoting the participation of children in school by teaching them good eating habits and providing them good food resulting in the reduction of ‘classroom hunger’. The scheme also incorporates the objectives of social and gender equality as all the children in the schools irrespective of caste and creed eat the same food.

Objectives
The main objectives of the Mid-day Meal Scheme are:

  1.  Universalisation of primary education in accordance with the guidelines framed by the Government of India in 2006.
  2.  Achieving social and national integration in the country.
  3.  Thrust towards removal of poverty.
  4.  Improving the nutritional and health standards of children in the country.
  5.  To reduce the number of drop outs.
  6.  To motivate poor people to sending their children to school.
  7.  Create opportunities of supplementary employment in the rural areas.

Timely supply of food to schools is the primary challenge for MDMS. Other challenges include :

  1.  Proper implementation of the scheme with the cooperation of the state government.
  2.  Maintenance of buffer stocks at the school level.
  3.  Pushing up enrolment rates significantly.

However, although MDMS has been hailed as a very innovative programme, several serious deficiencies continue to hamper its proper implementation. A major and wide spread deficiency is that the mid-day meals are irregular in schools. The reasons that have been identified as the causes for this problem are that the Sarpanches of some areas do not co-operate in the implementation of the scheme and the delivery of food grains is not made at the scheduled time. In some areas, mid-day meals are a health hazard as they are not prepared in hygienic conditions. It has been found that the mid-day meal scheme also disturbs the class room process as the teachers are asked to spend their precious time in cooking instead of devoting themselves their prime duty of teaching. In some places teachers and the Sarpanches of the area deliberately show false higher enrolment in the schools and keep the food grains thus rendered ‘surplus’ for themselves. The poor arrangement of kitchens is another major area of concern and in some places the nutrient level of the food provided to the children in the schools is extremely low. And perhaps most important, it has been found that even where and if enrolment has actually increased, the children come mainly for the food rather than focusing equally on studies. Now with rising prices affecting the daily cost of living, this could become more of a challenge as many parents will be keen that children work and bring in more money. New awareness programmes will be required to meet these and other challenges.

Serious New Question Marks

According to a PTI report from Kanpur, “amid concerns that mid-day meal programme could be hit by the cap on subsidised LPG cylinders, village heads have voiced their inability to provide meals citing “tight budget” as the reason.
In a letter to the District Magistrate, the village heads have urged the administration to provide subsidised LPG cylinders to government schools failing which they will stop providing mid-day meals to children from October 15.
“We cannot purchase cylinders for over Rs.1,100 given the tight budget,” they have written.
“Village heads get Rs.3.11 per child in primary school andRs.4.65 per child in junior high school. In the given budget, we need to provide mid-day meals to students of class 1 to 8 every day,” President, Gram Pradhan Sangh, Balendra Singh told PTI.
“The mid-day meal is getting costlier with the price hike. Till now, we used to get the cylinder for Rs.400 but spending Rs.1,100 for the same now will not be possible and we will not be able to provide meals to students,” Singh said.
He said the price of commodities has been increasing at a very fast pace, however, the budget for the programme has not been increased.
HRD Minister Kapil Sibal had recently said the issue will be “certainly” addressed.
In a letter to Petroleum Secretary G C Chaturvedi last month, Additional Secretary in the HRD Ministry Amarjit Singh had requested that instructions be issued to public sector oil marketing companies for supply of LPG cylinders to schools for mid-day meal scheme at subsidised rates.

Governor orders enquiry into mid-day meal scheme

NAGPUR: Maharashtra Governor KSankaranarayan has ordered an enquiry in mid-day meal scheme following large number of complaints about poor quality of food.
A large number of public representatives had lodged complaints with the state government and Governor that the meals provided under the schemes was not fit for eating.
The woman and child welfare department had conducted an enquiry in this regard and admitted that the quality of food was very poor. However, as the matter had also been taken up by Bombay high court, the department has refused to take action against concerned officials saying that the matter was sub-judice.
When this was brought to notice of Sankaranarayan, he ordered an enquiry into these two schemes. He has ordered that divisional commissioners should form squads for a tribal-dominated taluka and a general one in each district. The quality of food provided under these schemes should be checked on spot. A detailed report pinpointing the irregularities should be submitted at the earliest.

Category: Politics

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