MID-DAY MEAL: A SOCIAL EQUITY PROGRAM
All social equity programs are started with a view to make an impact on the social problems at grassroots levels. However their effectiveness depends on the program structure and strategies adopted to address the issue. In a country like India with wide cultural diversity, no single program can make a substantial dent at grassroots level without the dedication of the implementing agencies. One such project that is being undertaken by the government to address the social issues related to education in India is Mid-day Meal Scheme.
The Mid-day meal scheme can be traced for its origin way back to pre-independent India in 1925 when some school authorities in Madras district implemented the noon meal program to take care of the students need. Similar program was started in Kolkata in 1927 and Kerala in 1941. This scheme was formally adopted by the government in 1958 in independent India. However it was only in 1982 that the government undertook serious step to promote the scheme. It was then implemented with the objective to universalize the scheme in all the states with decentralized features. It was implemented in all government run primary school with the help of local authorities playing the role of implementing agencies. This was further expanded from primary age group to cover the students between the 6-14 years. By 1995, most of the South Indian states had implemented the scheme.
In 1995, the government reoriented its strategy when the stress was paid on the spread of literacy drive making it apt time to reorient the strategy. The scheme provided the government with the best alternative method to not only increase the enrolment of school going children but also addressing the other social problems such as eradication of poverty, eradication of malnourishment and undernourishment among the children. It also provided the government with the opportunity to increase the coverage of the social program with minimal cost incurred which the other poverty schemes failed to do as it was implemented through the primary school. Another benefit it entailed was giving the opportunity to address the issues at the grass root level.
The objectives and strategies of the program have been changed to suit and adjust to the national policy objectives. Initially the scheme sought to integrate the noon meals schemes that were being already implemented by some States and to cover all the States. Under the scheme, the children were given free supply of 100 grams of food grain per child per day. The State governments were required to meet the costs of infrastructure and the cooking cost. Initially, the scheme was introduced in the 2,368 blocks where the RPDS or Employment Guarantee Schemes (EGS) were being implemented and in forty low female literacy (LFL) blocks all over India. Local bodies were declared to be the implementing agencies, with supervision from the district and State levels of the government’s administrative machinery. However with the initial success of the program, the government was encouraged to implement it in all the states.
In 2000, the government’s national policies were focused on making the education and access to education a basic right of its citizen. Thus, literacy drive was launched and the government increased spending on educational infrastructure substantially. A number of primary schools were opened especially in rural areas. The existing one got the fund for improving the infrastructure by setting up buildings. The middle schools and high schools were also covered under the national literacy mission. Despite much spending, the government could not increase the literacy rate as it only helped in increasing the enrollment without substantial decrease in dropout rates.
Thus the re-strategizing of Mid-day meal scheme was done. The authorities combined it with the National Literacy Mission. Also the form was changed as now the school authorities were given the responsibility of providing the cooked food based on nutritional norms prescribed by the UN. This strategy was implemented with the twin objective. First it helped increase in enrolment and retention at the same time it also addressed the issue related to reduce the chronic hunger and malnourishment among the school going age group of children. The Mid-day meal scheme helped in increasing the learning capabilities of the children. Also the parents did not have to bear the additional cost of food.
Initially, the State governments were advised to derive finance from poverty alleviation schemes such as JRY for providing necessary infrastructure and meeting the costs. But, from April 1999 onwards, responsibility for raising their share of funding was transferred to States and Union Territories. In December 2003, Planning Commission of India asked the States to earmark a minimum of 15 per cent of additional Central assistance under the Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yojana (PMGY) for the financial requirements of converting grains into cooked meals.
The scheme also helped in impacting the social problem associated with the rural infrastructure. Thus the gender equity issue and social equity was also addressed as the scheme helped in making the children learn the sharing basis by sitting together and eating from the common kitchen. The school enrolment improved substantially as both the genders entering the literacy drive. This also increased the school enrolment for irrespective of the caste and cultural groups. At the level of India as a whole, the number of children covered under the MDMS rose gradually from 10.36 crore in 2001 – 02 to10.87 crore in 2004 – 05, and then registered a sharp increase to 11.94 crore in 2005 – 06.
MDMS also has the potential for creating awareness among the children about hygiene and clean environment. The Mid-day meal scheme in school provided an opportunity to educate students about the importance of washing hands and plates, of hygienic toilets and of maintaining a clean environment in and around the school. Similarly, a participatory MDMS, where parents will be involved in monitoring the programme, can play an indirect role in improving basic knowledge about nutrition and elementary education among the parents of school-going children.
Despite massive achievement, the scheme is marked with a number of weaknesses and limitations. The scheme lacks the onus to cover the children out of school and drop outs. This is major issue in making the right to education and right to food a fundamental right of the citizen. Another problem associated is resource to fund the scheme is limited. Most of the states failed to meet the cost incurred to provide the cooked food. Also in absence of adequate infrastructure, the scheme could not be provided to many schools. The infrastructural problems associated with the scheme were in terms of not only physical infrastructure as most schools did not even have the proper building and shades to carry out the project. Moreover the human laborer required for cooking the food also lacked, for which the government paid a meager amount.
Thus some of these limitations and weaknesses are being looked into and adequate measures are being taken to step up efforts to make the scheme a big success.
|Midday Meal Scheme|
Primary school children receiving Midday Meal in Maharashtra
The Midday Meal Scheme is a school meal programme of the Government of India designed to improve the nutritional status of school-age children nationwide. The programme supplies free lunches on working days for children in primary and upper primary classes in government, government aided, local body, Education Guarantee Scheme, and alternate innovative education centres, Madarsa and Maqtabs supported under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, and National Child Labour Project schools run by the ministry of labour. Serving 120,000,000 children in over 1,265,000 schools and Education Guarantee Scheme centres, it is the largest such programme in the world.
Under article 24, paragraph 2c of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which India is a party, India has committed to providing "adequate nutritious foods" for children. The programme has undergone many changes since its launch in 1995. The Midday Meal Scheme is covered by the National Food Security Act, 2013. The legal backing to the Indian school meal programme is similar to the legal backing provided in the US through the National School Lunch Act.
Pre-independence and post-independence initiatives
The roots of the programme can be traced back to the pre-independence era, when a mid day meal programme was introduced in 1925 in Madras Corporation by the British administration. A mid day meal programme was introduced in the Union Territory of Puducherry by the French administration in 1930.
Initiatives by state governments to children began with their launch of a mid day meal programme in primary schools in the 1962–63 school year. Tamil Nadu is a pioneer in introducing mid day meal programmes in India to increase the number of kids coming to school; Thiru K. Kamaraj, then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, introduced it first in Chennai and later extended it to all districts of Tamil Nadu.
During 1982, July 1st onwards, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Thiru. M. G. Ramachandran upgraded the existing Mid-day meal scheme in the state to 'Nutritious food scheme' keeping in the mind that 68 lakh children suffer malnutrition.
Gujarat was the second state to introduce an MDM scheme in 1984, but it was later discontinued.
A midday meal scheme was introduced in Kerala in 1984, and was gradually expanded to include more schools and grades. By 1990–91, twelve states were funding the scheme to all or most of the students in their area: Goa, Gujarat, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura and Uttar Pradesh. Karnataka, Orissa, and West Bengal received international aid to help with implementation of the programme, and in Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan the programme was funded entirely using foreign aid.
In Karnataka, Children's LoveCastles Trust started to provide mid-day meals in 1997. A total of eight schools were adopted and a food bank programme and an Angganwasi milk Programme were started. The food-bank programme was replaced by the State Government midday meal scheme.
Initiatives by the central government
The government of India initiated the National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education (NP-NSPE) on 15 August 1995. The objective of the scheme is to help improve the effectiveness of primary education by improving the nutritional status of primary school children. Initially, the scheme was implemented in 2,408 blocks of the country to provide food to students in classes one through five of government, government-aided and local body run schools. By 1997–98, the scheme had been implemented across the country. Under this programme, a cooked mid day meal with 300 calories and 12 grams of protein is provided to all children enrolled in classes one to five. In October 2007, the scheme included students in upper primary classes of six to eight in 3,479 educationally backward blocks, and the name was changed from National Programme for Nutrition Support to Primary Education to National Programme of Mid Day Meals in Schools.
Though cooked food was to be provided, most states (apart from those already providing cooked food) chose to provide "dry rations" to students. "Dry rations" refers to the provision of uncooked 3 kg of wheat or rice to children with 80% attendance.
Supreme court order
In April 2001, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) initiated the public interest litigation (Civil) No. 196/2001, People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India & Others – popularly known as the "right to food" case. The PUCL argued that article 21 – "right to life" of the Indian constitution when read together with articles 39(a) and 47, makes the right to food a derived fundamental right which is enforceable by virtue of the constitutional remedy provided under article 32 of the constitution. The PUCL argued that excess food stocks with the Food Corporation of India should be fed to hungry citizens. This included providing mid day meals in primary schools. The scheme came into force with the supreme court order dated 28 November 2001, which requires all government and government-assisted primary schools to provide cooked midday meals.
The supreme court occasionally issues interim orders regarding midday meals. Some examples are:
|Order regarding||Exact text||Order dated|
|Basic entitlement||"Every child in every Government and Government assisted Primary Schools with a prepared mid day meal with a minimum content of 300 calories and 8–12 grams of protein each day of school for a minimum of 200 days"||28 November 2001|
|Charges on conversion cost||"The conversion costs for a cooked meal, under no circumstances, shall be recovered from the children or their parents"||20 April 2004|
|Central assistance||"The Central Government... shall also allocate funds to meet with the conversion costs of food-grains into cooked midday meals"||20 April 2004|
|Kitchen sheds||"The Central Government shall make provisions for construction of kitchen sheds"||20 April 2004|
|Priority to Dalit cooks||"In appointment of cooks and helpers, preference shall be given to Dalits, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes"||20 April 2004|
|Quality safeguards||"Attempts shall be made for better infrastructure, improved facilities (safe drinking water etc.), closer monitoring (regular inspection etc.) and other quality safeguards as also the improvement of the contents of the meal so as to provide nutritious meal to the children of the primary schools"||20 April 2004|
|Drought areas||"In drought affected areas, midday meals shall be supplied even during summer vacations"||20 April 2004|
The nutritional guidelines for the minimum amount of food and calorie content per child per day are:
|Item||Primary (class one to five)||Upper primary (class six to eight)|
|Protein (in grams )||12||20|
|Rice / wheat (in grams )||100||150|
|Dal (in grams )||20||30|
|Vegetables (in grams )||50||75|
|Oil and fat (in grams )||5||7.5|
In the case of micronutrients (vitamin A, iron, and folate) tablets and de-worming medicines, the student is entitled to receive the amount provided for in the school health programme of the National Rural Health Mission.
The central and state governments share the cost of the Midday Meal Scheme, with the centre providing 60 percent and the states 40 percent. The central government provides grains and financing for other food. Costs for facilities, transportation, and labour is shared by the federal and state governments. The participating states contribute different amounts of money. While the eleventh five-year plan allocated ₹384.9 billion (US$5.9 billion) for the scheme, the twelfth five-year plan has allocated ₹901.55 billion (US$14 billion), a 134 percent rise. The public expenditure for the Mid Day Meal Programme has gone up from ₹73.24 billion (US$1.1 billion) in 2007–08 to ₹132.15 billion (US$2.0 billion) in 2013–14. The per day cooking cost per child at the primary level has been fixed to ₹4.13 (6.3¢ US) while at the upper primary level is ₹6.18 (9.5¢ US).
This is the most widespread practice. In the decentralised model, meals are cooked on-site by local cooks and helpers or self-help groups. This system has the advantage of being able to serve local cuisine, providing jobs in the area, and minimising waste. It also allows for better monitoring (e.g., by parents and teachers).
In the absence of adequate infrastructure (such as kitchen sheds, utensils etc.), it can lead to accidents and maintaining hygiene can be difficult. In 2004, 87 children died when the thatched roof of a classroom was ignited by sparks from a cooking fire,. In 2011, a child died after succumbing to burn injuries she sustained after accidentally falling into a cooking vessel.
In the centralised model, an external organisation cooks and delivers the meal to schools, mostly through public-private partnerships. Centralised kitchens are seen more in urban areas, where density of schools is high so that transporting food is a financially viable option. Advantages of centralised kitchens include ensuring better hygienic as large scale cooking is done through largely automated processes. Various NGOs such as the Akshaya Patra Foundation, Ekta Shakti Foundation, Naandi Foundation, and Jay Gee Humanitarian Society & People's Forum provides mid-day meals.
A study of centralised kitchens in Delhi in 2007 found that even with centralised kitchens, the quality of food needed to be improved. The study also found that when the food arrives and is of inadequate quality, even teachers feel helpless and do not know whom to complain to.
The Ministry of Human Resource Development reported that 95% of tested meal samples prepared by NGOs in Delhi did not meet nutritional standards in 2010–12. In response, the ministry withheld 50% of the payment for the deficient meals.
International voluntary and charity organisations have assisted. Church World Service has provided milk powder to Delhi and Madras Municipal Corporation; CARE has provided corn soya meal, Bulgar wheat, and vegetable oils; and UNICEF has provided high proteins foods and educational support. In 1982, 'Food for Learning' was launched with assistance from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Initially the programme was aimed at scheduled caste and scheduled tribe girls. In 1983, the federal Department of Education prepared a scheme under the auspices of the World Food Programme to supply meals to 13.6 million scheduled caste girls and 10.09 million scheduled tribe girls in classes one to five in 15 states and three union territories. The value of the food itself was $163.27 million per year. Labour, facilities, and transportation costs were to be paid by the state governments. The reaction among the states and union territories was mixed. Many states were interested, but some were concerned about their ability to afford it if the FAO support were to be withdrawn.
Monitoring and evaluation
|Level||Committee||Frequency of meeting|
|National||The national level steering / monitoring committee|
Program Approval Board (PAB)
|State||The state level steering / monitoring committee||Quarterly|
|District||The district level committee||Monthly|
|Municipal||The municipal committee||Monthly|
|Block||The Mandal level committee||Fortnightly|
|Village||Panchayat level sub-committee||Day-to-day functioning of the implementing of the scheme|
|School||School management and development committee|
or Parent Teacher Association.
|Monthly and as when it is |
The government of India Review Missions on Mid Day Meal Scheme, comprising members from the central government, state governments, UNICEF, and the office of the supreme court commissioner was created in 2010 to review the programme and offer suggestions for improvement. The scheme is independently monitored twice a year.
Evaluation of the scheme
The MDM scheme has many potential benefits: attracting children from disadvantaged sections (especially girls, Dalits and Adivasis) to school, improving regularity, nutritional benefits, socialisation benefits and benefits to women are some that have been highlighted.
Studies by economists show that some of these benefits have indeed been realised. The positive effect on enrollment of disadvantaged children (Dreze and Kingdon), on attendance (by Chakraborty, Jayaraman, Pande), on learning effort (by Booruah, Afridi and Somanathan), on improving nutritional inputs (Afridi), on improving nutritional outcomes (by Singh, Dercon and Parker), and so on.
Caste based discrimination continues to occur in the serving of food, though the government seems unwilling to acknowledge this. Sukhdeo Thorat and Joel Lee found in their 2005 study that caste discrimination was occurring in conjunction with the Mid Day Meals programme.
Media reports also document the positive effect of the programme for women, especially working women and its popularity among parents, children and teachers alike. Media reports have also highlighted several implementation issues, including irregularity, corruption, hygiene, caste discrimination, etc. A few such incidents are listed below:
- In December 2005, Delhi police seized eight trucks laden with 2,760 sacks of rice meant for primary school children. The rice was being transported from Food Corporation of India godowns Bulandshahr district to North Delhi. The police stopped the trucks and investigators later discovered that the rice was being stolen by an NGO.
- In November 2006, the residents of Pembong village (30 km from Darjeeling) accused a group of teachers of embezzling midday meals. In a written complaint, the residents claimed that students at the primary school had not received their midday meal for the past year and a half.
- In December 2006, The Times of India reported that school staff were inflating attendance in order to obtain food grains.
- Twenty-three children died in Dharma Sati village in Saran District on 16 July 2013 after eating pesticide-contaminated mid day meals. On 31 July 2013, 55 students at a government middle school fell ill at Kalyuga village in Jamui district after their midday meal provided by an NGO. On the same day, 95 students at Chamandi primary school in Arwal district were ill after their meal.
Despite the success of the program, child hunger as a problem persists in India. According to current statistics, 42.5% of the children under 5 are underweight. Some simple health measures such as using iodised salt and getting vaccinations are uncommon in India. "India is home to the world's largest food insecure population, with more than 500 million people who are hungry", India State Hunger Index (ISHI) said. Many children don't get enough to eat, which has far-reaching implications for the performance of the country as a whole. "Its rates of child malnutrition is higher than most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa," it noted. The 2009 Global Hunger Index ranked India at 65 out of 84 countries. More than 200 million went hungry in India that year, more than any other country in the world. The report states that "improving child nutrition is of utmost urgency in most Indian states".
- ^ abChettiparambil-Rajan, Angelique (July 2007). "India: A Desk Review of the Mid-Day Meals Programme"(PDF). Retrieved 28 July 2013.
- ^ ab"Frequently Asked Questions on Mid Day Meal Scheme"(PDF). Retrieved 24 June 2014.
- ^ abc"About the Mid Day Meal Scheme". Mdm.nic.in. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
- ^"Convention on the Rights of the Child". United Nations. 20 November 1989. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
- ^"India and United Nations – Human Rights". Archived from the original on 2 May 2010. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
- ^"National Programme of Mid-Day Meals in Schools Annual Work Plan and Budget 2011–12"(PDF). Union Territory of Puducherry. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
- ^"Mid-Day Meal Programme". National Institute of Health & Family Welfare. 2009. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
- ^"Tamil Nadu: Midday Manna". India Today Archive. 15 November 1982. Retrieved 29 January 2016.
- ^"Annual Work Plan & Budget 2010–11, Mid-Day Meal Scheme, Gujarat State"(PDF). Government of Gujarat. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
- ^"Appraisal Note: State: Kerala"(PDF). Government of India Ministry of Human Resource Development. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
- ^"Mid Day Meal"(PDF). Press Information Bureau, Government of India. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
- ^"Lessons Outside the Classroom". The Hindu. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
- ^Garg, Manisha; Mandal, Kalyan Sankar (27 July 2013). "Mid-Day Meal for the Poor, Privatised Education for the Non-Poor". Economic and Political Weekly. 48 (30): 155. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
- ^"Agenda note of 5th meeting of National Steering and Moitoring Committee meeting"(PDF).
- ^Dr. N.C. Saxena. "Sixth Report Of the Commissioners"(PDF).
- ^"Right to Food Campaign: Mid Day Meals". Righttofoodindia.org. 20 October 2009. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
- ^ abc"Mid Day Meals: A Primer"(PDF). Retrieved 28 July 2013.
- ^"Legal Action: Supreme Court Orders". Retrieved 28 July 2013.
- ^"SUPREME COURT ORDER OF NOVEMBER 28, 2001". Retrieved 28 July 2013.
- ^ abcdef"ORDER OF APR 20, 2004".
- ^"Guidelines of the School Health Programme"(PDF). Retrieved 13 October 2014.
- ^ abPress Information bureau, HRD, Govt of India (22 December 2015). "Mid-Day Meal Scheme, Nutrition and Corporate Capital". Press Information. Ministry of Human Resource Development (30). Retrieved 8 November 2016.
- ^ abJoyita Ghose (23 July 2013). "the PRS Blog " The Mid Day Meal Scheme". Prsindia.org. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
- ^"123% jump in money allocated for UPA flagship schemes". Business Standard. 1 January 2013. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
- ^ ab"Chargesheet filed in Bihar midday meal tragedy". The Hindu. 22 October 2013. Retrieved 26 June 2014.
- ^"MHRD increases Cooking cost under mid-day meal scheme". IANS. news.biharprabha.com. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
- ^"Interrogating 'best practices' for the Implementation of School Nutrition Programmes in Urban India"(PDF). Archived from the original(PDF) on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
- ^"87 children die in school fire". 17 July 2004. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
- ^"'Gravy' mistake: 8-yr-old girl falls in hot sambar, dies". DNA India. 17 December 2011. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
- ^Towards more advantages from Mid-Day Meals http://www.cordindia.com/images/Midday.pdf
- ^"Capital's MCD schools mid-day meal scheme fails nutrition test!". Zeenews. india.com. 23 May 2013. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
- ^ abc"Historical Background". Nutrition Support to Education: Report of the Committee on Mid-Day Meals. Department of School Education and Literacy, Government of India. May 1995. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
- ^"Mid Day Meal Scheme, First Review Mission"(PDF). Retrieved 2 August 2013.
- ^"Monitoring of Mid-Day-Meal Scheme" (Press release). Press Information Bureau, Government of India. 4 March 2011. Retrieved 2 August 2013.
- ^Future of Mid-Day Meals http://www.epw.in/special-articles/future-mid-day-meals.html
- ^see also http://indiatogether.org/mmassam-education
- ^"Caste and Gender Based Discrimination Under MDMS" (Press release). Press Information Bureau, Government of India. 14 December 2012. Retrieved 2 August 2013.
- ^Lee, Joel; Thorat, Sukhdeo (24 September 2005). "Caste Discrimination and Food Security Programmes". Economic and Political Weekly. 40 (39). JSTOR 4417187.
- ^see http://indiatogether.org/mdmukhand-poverty
- ^"Lid off massive scam in Mid-Day Meal Scheme: 2,760 sacks of rice seized". The Tribune, Delhi. 20 January 2006. Retrieved 2 December 2006.
- ^"Scam shadow on meal scheme". The Telegraph, Kolkata. 14 November 2006. Retrieved 2 December 2006.
- ^"Teacher blows whistle on scam: School Authorities Pocket Money In The Name Of Mid-Day Meal Scheme". The Times of India, Bangalore. 2 December 2006.
- ^"Students fall ill after midday meal in Bihar". The Hindu. 31 July 2013. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
- ^Sengupta, Somini. (12 March 2009) Malnutrition of children in India continues. Nytimes.com. Retrieved on 18 February 2012.
- ^"Madhya Pradesh tops India State Hunger list of 17". LiveMint. 14 October 2008. Retrieved 25 June 2014.
- ^Hunger in India alarming. BBC News (14 October 2008). Retrieved on 18 February 2012.