It defeats the purpose of the mid-day meal scheme — to motivate poor send their children to school; it also aims to feed a Child without Gender Bias.
The Government of India has recently made Aadhaar mandatory for mid-day meal scheme beneficiaries. By June 30, the beneficiaries must be enrolled in the Aadhaar scheme, if they still want free mid-day meal at school. Who’re these beneficiaries? … Children, who come to school for the meal.
What’s the need to link Aadhaar Card to mid-day meal?
The government says that Aadhaar cards are necessary since it made the process of delivery of services easier, smoother and transparent.
A senior HRD ministry official told a TV Channel,
“The use of Aadhaar as identity document for delivery of services, benefits or subsidies simplifies the government delivery process and enables beneficiaries to get their entitlements directly and in a seamless manner,”
Is there a real need to make Aadhaar mandatory to feed poor children ?
After giving much thought to the Government decision, I found the decision Sad.
I think a country like India with high percentage of malnourished children must not verify its children for food (India ranks high among the countries in the world which have a high percentage of malnourished children and; ranking 67 among 80 countries in the Global Hunger Index).
Instead the focus must be on whether mid-day meal is regularly cooked in the schools. If yes, then it must ensured it’s as per the Government nutrition standards.
If the Government really wants to get rid of the corruption in mid-day meal scheme then it must monitor the providers. And not the beneficiaries.
Focusing on who eats the mid-day meal at school is unnecessary
Over the time, it has come to light that the corruption and irregularities in mid-day meal scheme is not because of who eats the cooked food at School. There’s nothing wrong in a hungry child, whether enrolled in the school or not, eating the food.
What’s wrong is a scenario where mid-day meal is not cooked at all.
Hence instead of verifying who’s eating the cooked mid-day meal at school; the Government must monitor those who’re instrumental in bringing that food to the child’s plate.
There’s no rocket science to understand this distinction, especially in a society which believes in feeding food to the poor.
A not so good implication this decision can have
Majority of poor for who mid-day meal is the primarily motivation in sending their children to school is the one square meal served at school, will be left out.
This Government is pushing Aadhaar Card and associated verification in unrealistic time windows. For instance, six months to verify mid-day meal beneficiaries is not possible.
Because of this June 30 2017 deadline, a lesser number of mid-day meal beneficiaries in Government records. In short, majority of real beneficiaries will be left out.
If later on the Government plans to transfer the mid-day meal benefit directly to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries, then God forbid it may not end like the cash LPG subsidy, where increasing number of people claim that they have not received LPG subsidies for months now.
To conclude, it’s not good to verify the beneficiaries of mid-day meal scheme, particularly at this stage. It not only defeats the purpose of the mid-day meal scheme, which is to motivate poor send their children to school; it also has a likelihood of shrinking down the number of those who need the scheme.
Up till now the cash LPG subsidy has not proved to be beneficial. The cash LPG subsidy model may not be affecting the people directly; but if the same happens to the mid-day meal, then a large section of malnourished poor children will be severely affected.
There’s one more reason as to why Cash subsidy will not work for mid-day meal. Due to poverty and other societal biases, the benefit will either not reach the malnourished child or the female child will not get her share of benefit. That’s why it becomes necessary to feed children (irrespective of their gender) with nutritious meal at least once a day in School.
The Government must monitor those who’re instrumental in bringing the the cooked meal to these children.