The Mid Day Meal program is a school lunch programme in India which was initiated with the very noble idea of providing adequate nutrition and protein to disadvantaged children during the course of school day through a free lunch. The initiative has, of late, come under fire after 24 students died after consuming their mid day meal.
Alongside the the nutritional benefits of the scheme, another objective of this program is to provide children with a common ground for social interaction that is irrespective of caste, allowing them to sit together and have a meal. The flow on benefits of this initaitive are bossting school enrolment numbers.
In 2001, the Supreme Court of India gave a landmark direction to the government to provide children studying in all government and government-assisted schools with cooked meals, free of charge to the children's families. The Government of India’s Mid Day Meal website states that the Mid Day Meal is the world’s largest school lunch program, reaching out to about 12 crore children in over 12.65 lakh schools/EGS centres across the country.
There have been various scams which have been unearthed since the start of this program, with the term "corruption" never far fro the vernacular used by those anaylsing or critiquing the scheme due to theft/siphoning of the food grains, irregularities in filling out the attendance register of students and even embezzling mid day meals.
Last week, the mid day meal program came under international scrutiny and criticism when 24 children in Bihar died and many more became critically ill after eating their mid day meal. Forensic analysis carried out found that the meals had traces of organophoshphrous, with is commonly found in insecticides and is poisonous to humans.
As this is a government-run project, stricter, government-led regulation must be put in place to help ensure contamination doesn't re-occur in the future. Lessons mut be learned from these incidents and their outcomes assessed before any new project is kicked off. The government also needs to seriously look into India’s current hunger situation where it is ranked 65 out of 84 countries on the global hunger index and try to come up with a plan where programs like this, which are extremely altruistic at heart, can be linked up for the betterment of the society and are not ridiculed by the officers in charge for there own personal gains and motives.
Author: Ajay Pal Singh Chabba/ RESET editorial
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