|Demand of the question|
Introduction. Contextual introduction.
Body. Potential benefits of mid-day meal scheme. Why mid-day meal failed to make a transformative impact?
Conclusion. Way forward.
Mid Day Meal Scheme was launched in 1995 with provisions to provide free meal to about 12 crore children studying in primary and upper-primary classes. The objective behind the scheme is to address the hunger and education, improve the nutrient status and increase the attendance and retention rates among the children. Despite the efforts, the scheme failed to get the proper result. In Uttar Pradesh recently it was discovered that milk was mixed in a bucketful of water for the more than 80 children present that day in a school. A couple of months ago it was reported that plain chapatis were being served with salt in the same state.
Potential and benefits of mid-day meal scheme:
- Mid-day meal promotes the participation of the child in school especially the disadvantaged sections (especially girls, Dalits and Adivasis).
- It help in reducing classroom hunger, promote better learning and facilitate the healthy growth of a child.
- It is an important tool that lead to better enrolment and retention in schools. The increase has been more rapid with respect to girls and children belonging to SC/ST categories.
- Scheme promotes good eating habits like washing one’s hands, finishing ones food, etc.
- It fosters social and gender equality as all children get the same food and must eat together and boosting female attendance in school.
- It is also important to provide nutritional support to children in drought affected areas during summer vacation.
Why mid-day meal failed to make a transformative impact?
- Caste based discrimination continues to occur in the serving of food.
- Implementation issues, including irregularity, corruption, hygiene, inadequate nutritional content etc are there.
- Despite the success of the program, child hunger as a problem persists in India.
- In some schools, food was prepared by using wood which gave bad smell to food and also polluted the environment.
- Teachers themselves cooking take away their core duties of teaching.
- Some schools did not have proper kitchen and store room facilities for Mid-Day Meal preparation.
- The number of students in most of the Govt. primary schools in rural areas is meagre, so the effectiveness of this scheme is at stake.
- There are instances where children come to school only for food, leaving soon after it is served, thus not meeting their educational requirements.
- Bihar Bettiah district and thane district of Pune have employed mothers as quality monitors of mid day meal food served and it has produced good results. This should be replicated in the rest of the country.
- Seeking the help of corporates is an easy way out, opening the door to a system of contractors.
public private partnership must be encouraged for better facilities
- Community monitoring, social audits, decentralised grievance redress systems, public display of information on beneficiaries and menus, etc to reduce corruption and increase accountability in MDM.
- Teachers should not be assigned the responsibility of implementation of Mid-Day Meal scheme as it can hamper the teaching-learning process.
- Cooks should be well paid, so that they work with interest and commitment.
- There should be proper provision of LPG, kitchen and store room for Mid-Day Meal preparation.
- Mandatory reporting the MDM data regularly by the state to the centre with a view to curtail irregularities.
- Ensure timely transfer of funds and good grains to schools.
- The quality of food grains and cooked meals must be checked regularly and all complaints regarding the quality must be solved urgently.
Despite the success of the program, child hunger continues to be a major problem in the country. Government should remove the loopholes in mid-day meal scheme, so that lives of future of the country not sacrificed to fulfill anyone’s greed. Mid-day meal scheme has lot of potential which can be achieved through greater centre-state cooperation and a vigil on the implementation of the scheme