Caste virus in MID-DAY meal scheme


The government’s flagship Mid-Day Meal scheme for schoolchildren in the age group of 6-14 is doing fine except in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya and Haryana. A first-of-its-kind study of MDM commissioned by the HRD ministry also revealed an interesting fact that caste discrimination in serving food did not exist in caste-ridden states like Bihar, UP and Madhya Pradesh but in Haryana and Karnataka.

The study, conducted by various state universities and premier social science institutes like Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Jamia Millia Islamia and IIM, Bangalore, said that in most states, children were being given ‘hot food’ with enough supplements like fruits, eggs and green vegetables.

Of the four states where MDM’s progress was poor, the study by Kurukshetra University found caste discrimination in serving food to children in Rewari district of Haryana. In Kurukshetra, cases of fake enrolment, in order to compensate pilferage in foodgrain under MDM was found. Also, the programme was not being inspected by officials of the state government. In other poor performing states like Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Meghalaya, the study noticed lack of uniformity in the implementation of MDM. Even fruits, eggs and green vegetables were not served regularly.

Caste discrimination was noticed in Karnataka, a state that has otherwise performed well. The study by Institute of Social and Economic Change, Bangalore, and Regional Institute of Education said caste discrimination in Yelandur block was a cause for concern.

On the other hand, in Bihar, the study by Jamia Millia Islamia found that 80% of sampled schools served hot meals, generally khichri. Nearly 70% students, teachers and parents said there was a weekly menu, though limited. Students were encouraged to maintain hygiene. Another interesting fact was that 90% of cooks were from underprivileged classes, especially women.

In UP, the study found that 90% of students were satisfied with the quality and quantity of meals served. For instance, in Varanasi district, the menu was displayed in 88% of schools and 76% of schools served food according to the menu. More than 80% of cooks were from OBC category while the percentage of SC cooks ranged from 7% to 14%.

In West Bengal, children were happy with the hot food served to them, and there was no gender or caste discrimination in serving of meals. However, there were other problems. Some schools discontinued classes after serving meals, there were underaged and overaged children in primary schools due to the attraction of MDM, and the quality of foodgrain was bad.


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