Mid-Day Meal during COVID – UPSC GS2

Context: No Mid Day Meals were provided during COVID.
Government’s Plan:
  • The Centre has decided to give about ₹100 each to children studying in Class 1 to Class 8 in government schools, who are beneficiaries of the Mid-Day Meal scheme.
  • It is aimed at safeguarding the nutritional levels of children and ensuring their immunity is protected.
  • ₹1200 crore in total would be given to 11.8 crore children through direct benefit transfer as a one-time payment.
  • The money comes from the cooking cost component of the scheme.
  • Children are being given cash in lieu of the mid-day meal in some places and dry rations in others. However, the quantities/amounts are too low to be even adequate for one nutritious meal a day.
  • Noting that ₹100 per child amounts to less than ₹4 a day, even if it was a monthly payment, Right to Food activists also say this is insufficient to provide the nutrition security that is envisaged.
  • With approximately 200 school days, each child should be getting something like ₹900-₹1300 annually [as cooking cost component].
  • Also, while the schools can purchase ingredients at wholesale prices, with the same amount, parents will be able to purchase much less.
Way Forward:
  • In 2020, hardly any State provided free grain or transferred these cooking costs. The children must be transferred the arrears from the previous year as well.
  • Enhanced take-home rations, including eggs, vegetables, fruits, dal/chana, oil must be given in order to ensure nutrition security.

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