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Relevance: issues with the Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDMS)
Synopsis: Analysis of data shows that India has fewer states now providing egg in mid-day meal schemes, even fewer are provisioning fruits and only a third of the states/UTs are giving milk to children.
In June 2021, the Kerala High Court put a temporary stay on a controversial order passed by the Lakshadweep administration banning chicken and meat from the mid-day meal scheme. While passing the order, the division bench asked the government why it was upsetting the food habits of the region.
Lakshadweep is among the few states which offer meat and chicken to its school going students as part of the mid-day meal programme.
Issues with MDMS
Analysis of annual work plan and budget reports from the states for 2015-16 and 2020-21 shows the following issues:
On provisioning of meat/chicken:
- While five states offered meat/chicken/fish in their mid-day meal scheme in 2015-16, the number has now reduced to three. (Tripura only offers chicken sometimes, whenever local social workers provide it).
- Jammu and Kashmir has stopped offering meat products, and so has Nagaland.
- In fact, of all the states, Lakshadweep remains the only state which offers a meat/chicken/fish diet four times a week to its school-going children.
On provisioning of eggs:
- Although the National Institute of Nutrition has recommended egg as part of the mid-day meal diet, less than half of the states and UTs have implemented the scheme.
- According to 2020-21 data of the 36 states and UTs, only 15 offered egg to students.
- There is a wide variation among states in the provisioning of eggs. In Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, the states serve eggs five days a week; in Odisha, Puducherry and a few other states, it is served twice a week.
On provisioning of fruits:
- Milk and fruits are rarer commodities. Even though demands have been made to include milk in mid-day schemes, analysis shows that only 11 states till now have made provisions to serve milk—higher than 8 in 2015-16.
- Only 6 states made provisions to serve fruits in 2020-21, and the count has declined from 2015-16 when 12 states were serving fruits.
- The centre’s expenditure on mid-day meal programmes has remained constant over the years.
- In 2014-15, the centre allocated Rs 11,051 crore towards mid-day meal scheme programme, the following year allocation had fallen to Rs 9,236 crore. In 2019-20, only Rs 9,699 crore was allocated towards the programme.
- The centre shares 60% of the cost in the programme with the rest borne by the states.
- In the case of union territories, the entire cost is borne by the government of India and for the north-eastern states the share is 90:10.
Success under MDMS
- Reduction of stunting: A recent study published in Nature Communications showed that the prevalence of stunting was significantly lower in areas that implemented the mid-day meal scheme in 2005. Women who received mid-day meal benefits in school were less likely to have stunted children.
- Increasing enrollment: One of the goals of the mid-day meal scheme was to increase enrollment. Some areas like Jammu and Kashmir still use eggs and other items as incentives to drive enrollment in schools.
|Also Read: Mid-day meals leave a long-lasting impact|
- Provisioning of milk, eggs and fruits can help provide micro-nutrients for the body.
- The calorie and nutritional prescription is based on the nutrient gap that is prevalent in children of different age group. Hence, the food under MDMS should be seen just as a supplement. It should fill the nutritional gap in the diet of the children, not substitute it.