Despite its transformative potential the mid-day meal is perceived as charity and not a civic responsibility. Comment.
Ever since being made compulsory by the Supreme Court, the mid-day meal scheme has received considerable appreciation not only from India but from all quarters of the world. The scheme is the world’s biggest of its kind and with any scheme of its size, it will come with a bunch of problems, some more serious than the others.
From minor problems like central funds going missing, or procuring sub-standard food, lack of payment to suppliers, etc. To major problems the kind the nation witnessed in Uttar Pradesh where recently it was discovered through a video that 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.) a couple of months ago it was reported that plain chapatis were being served with salt in the same state.
There are far more horrifying stories than simply adulteration of food or lack of food. 6 years ago in rural Bihar 23 children had diet after eating a meal, the inquiry revealed that the oil used for cooking the meal was stored in a can that was originally carrying a pesticide. It was put to use without even being washed properly.
Aside from such accidents, the scheme suffers from other problems related tot he attitude of the people involved. Anyone visiting a mid-day meal school can notice that the entire affair is miserable, collective eating could serve as a time to rest, reflect and interact with classmates instead we have division along caste and religious lines, everyone feels hassled. Other people involved like the cook consider it to be a chore and the items selected for it are the cheapest ones available.
The scheme is considered a charity and not a civic responsibility, with both poor and rich making every effort to send their kids to better private schools, government schools are viewed as places for the poor. The mid-day meal is associated, by both the people and the state, with poverty. Just like every other scheme or things that delivers services to the poor, the mid-day meal also insists on the cheapest among the cheapest. The menu, the money, the quality of the food, remuneration of workers all of which show the value India places upon its children.