Children under mid-day meal scheme to get aid
31/05/2021

Tags:

Context:

  • 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.

About:

  • 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 (DBT) as a one-time payment.

Fund Allocation:

  • The Central Government will provide additional funds of about ?1200 crore to States and Union Territories.
  • The money comes from the cooking cost component of the scheme.
  • The Central allocation for the Mid-Day Meal scheme in 2021-22 is ?11,500 crore.
    • Its largest component is cooking costs, which cover the prices of ingredients such as pulses, vegetables, cooking oil, salt, and condiments.
    • In 2020, the minimum allocation for cooking cost per child per day was set at ?4.97 for Classes 1 to 5, and ?7.45 for Classes 6 to 8, with the Centre paying 60% of the cost.

Issue:

  • 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.
  • ?100 per child amounts to less than ?4 a day, even if it was a monthly payment,  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 to ensure nutrition security.
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