Relevance : GS Paper II
Theme of the article
Despite its transformative potential, the mid-day meal scheme is perceived as charity, not a civic responsibility.
A video revealed recently show how one litre of milk was mixed in a bucketful of water so that it would suffice for the more than 80 children present that day in a school in rural Uttar Pradesh (U.P.). This was somewhat similar to the one reported from U.P. a couple of months ago in which plain chapatis were being served with salt.
Two decades have passed since the mid-day meal became a part of the daily routine in government schools nationwide. In this long passage of time, procedures have stabilised but accidents continue to occur. Funds from the Centre flow smoothly though procurement of food items faces hurdles of different kinds.
The Bihar tragedy
Six years ago, 23 children had died after eating a mid-day meal. Inquiry revealed that the oil used for cooking the meal was stored in a can that originally carried a pesticide. It was put to use without even being washed properly.
Major kinds of issues with the mid-day meal
- First, there are cases of bad food, leading to food poisoning.
- The second kind is about cheating.
- Then there is the third category, pertaining to caste bias and discrimination.
Not considered a civic responsibility
- The scheme is perceived as charity, not a civic responsibility. With the growing shift of the better-off parents to private schools, government schools are viewed as places for the poor. Therefore, the mid-day meal is associated — both in public perception and state policies — with poverty.
- Like other schemes that serve the poor, this scheme is also covered by norms that insist on the cheapest. The menu, the money, the cook’s remuneration, the infrastructure — they all show the value India places upon its children.
- Nor is the scheme conceived as a pedagogic resource. Otherwise, it would have been implemented at private schools as well.
Children receiving a litre of milk mixed in a bucketful of water will surely understand the concept of cheating better than that of fair play. Who is going to convince them that honesty is a good policy?