The very concept of Mid-Day Meal scheme was introduced on the year of 2000 by Akshaya Patra Foundation and was later passed as a mandate by Supreme Court of India on the year 2001. The sole purpose of the scheme is to provide wholesome freshly cooked hot lunch to all the students in the government and government aided schools in India. Usually the meal should be a whole mix of carbohydrates, proteins and various vegetables as per the bodily requirements of the children. The goal of such a scheme was to encourage the parents to send their wards to schools, to increase the school attendance and to do away with the norm of child labour, to prevent the child from being hungry at the time of attending the classes and thus to avoid malnutrition, and finally to improve the socialisation among the castes and last but not the least, to promote women empowerment.
The ultimate goal – to provide at least one of the three daily meals required for the proper growth of the children.
The scheme was institutionalized by the designated states and the schools and things were going fine until the pandemic hit the world. During the month of March, the lockdown was declared by the nation and there rose comprehensions among the low wage workers. They were worried about one of the most important thing on earth – what will happen to our mid-day meal and how can we arrange food for our children? The reason being the mid-day meal was one of the main reason as to why their parents sent their wards to school and they were worried about how to relinquish their daily requirements. But, like a godsend, the Government of India declared that even though the schools will be closed owing to the social distancing, the schools will still have to arrange the benefit of mid-day meal or any other substitute of equal value to the children and their families. Not only that, the Government also passed that if and when necessary, required assistance will be rolled out for the underprivileged.
The Government of India rolled out various schemes under which various states had to provide the mid-day meal scheme to the students. Some of such initiative are:
- West Bengal – Ensured the distribution of the meals to their wards’ home amidst the curfew.
- Odisha – Facilitation of Public Distribution System (PDS).
- Chhattisgarh – Provision of mid-day meal to the parents of the children for about 40 days, with the difference in quantity by the primary and higher secondary school.
- Kerala – Delivery of meal supplies to homes of their children.
- Bihar – Transfer of the monetary amount of the mid-day meal, as a substitute of the food, to the accounts of their parents.
- Maharashtra – Provision of the meals only to rural children.
- Assam – Provision of mid-day meals to about 40 lakhs students.
Each and every state has taken the initiative to make sure that the meal reaches their students at times of distress. There also exists an underlying fear among the administration that if the meal is stooped, then it will automatically lead to the un-enrolment of the students whose attendance is already irregular and this will definitely push up the levels of illiteracy and unemployment.
States are putting in continuous efforts to make this journey smooth for the students. For instance, West Bengal has announced the decision to provide masks, sanitizer, as well as basic protein items such as pulses, soya bean which will be handed to the parents. They are going an extra length by providing stationery items to those students affected by Amphan.
It is very responsible on the part of Government of India to ensure the provision of mid-day meal and this help will definitely go a long way to build the future of India.