Mirror Now Debate: Should mid-day meals have a non-veg option?

A debate was hosted by Mirror Now on June 4th 2019, the full video of which can be seen below:-

Links to some of the facts presented in the debate:-

1. The “Revised Guidelines 2017 for engagement of Civil Society Organizations/ Non Govt. Organisations (CSO/NGO) in Mid Day Meal Scheme)”  issued by MHRD states in para 2.11 that

2.11 The CSO/NGO should not discriminate in any manner on the basis of religon, caste and creed, and should not use the programme for propagation of any religious practice

2. The Minutes of Review Meeting in 2013 the relevant extracts from which are quotes below:-

ii) Coverage of Children

Secretary drew the attention of the State Government to the low coverage of the children at the primary stage in Bangalore (U), Mangalore (DK), Udupi, Dharwad and Bijapura districts and at upper primary stage in districts of Bangalore (U), Dharwad, Ramanagara, Uttar Kannada, Bellary respectively. Secretary advised the State to look into the downward trend in coverage of children in the above districts.

iv) Lifting (availability) & Utilization of Food grains

Low Food grain utilization has been found in Bangalore (U) and Bangalore (R), Kodagu, Ramnagar, Mandya, CHikkamangalur, Kolar, Dharwad and Hassan. The reason for the low utilization of foodgrain was attributed to low intake of meals by the children. The State assured to look into the reason for low utilization of foodgrain in the above mentioned district poorly performing districts with regard to utilization of foodgrain.

Monitoring Institute’s Report pointed out that the quality and quantity of MDM should be improved especially in the schools where MDM is supplied by NGOs/SHG.

Thus the Programme Approval Board (PAB) noted with concern, the low coverage (see Table 1) and low utilization of foodgrains as against the norms across few districts in the state. Coverage represents the percentage of total children enrolled in the schools covered under MDM who have opted-in. Low utilization of foodgrains represents lower consumption of food when compared to the norms by those who have opted-in. One serving of meal under the scheme is required to contain 100 gms of foodgrains for children in Primary (Classes 1-V) and 150 gms in Upper Primary (Classes VI-X) schools. As against these norms, the estimated utilization was 90 gm (90%) and 135 gm (90%) in Primary and Upper Primary schools respectively i.e. those children who had opted-in, were eating much less than the prescribed norms.

Table 1: Coverage under MDM for select districts during 2012-13

DistrictCoverage (Avg Availed MDM/Total Enrolled) (%)
PrimaryUpper Primary
Bangalore (U)8386
Mangalore (DK)9093
Uttara Kannada9588

Source: Adapted from Karnataka Fact Sheet for AWP&B 2013-14.

3. After looking into the reasons for this downward trend, a Circular was issued by Food Commissioner dated 28.12.2013, prescribing a menu including onions (garlic is classified as spices and are not explicitly mentioned as ingredients in the menu), stating the following rationale for taking this action:-

“Objecting to the poor utilization of food grains allotted by the Central government and the low coverage of children in schools being supplied by NGOs, the Central Government has identified Bangalore (Urban) and Dharwad district as the Special Focus Districts. The NGOs which are involved in implementation of Mid-day Meals scheme across the state are supplying same kind of food every day to schools, using same kind of vegetables every day and instead of using food ingredients as per the local food customs, are preparing food following their own organization’s food practices and supplying it to children. Because of this, not only are children not eating the food with enjoyment but monitoring institutions have also raised objections. Not only that, during visits to schools, the opinion sought from children also supplements this.”

4. In Bangalore Urban Akshaya Patra supplies food to 60% of the 2000-odd government-run and government aided schools. The latest available data shows that the situation in Bangalore (U) and Dharwad districts have either worsened or remained where it was in 2013. AT the upper primary level, the coverage in Bangalore (U) district is below 80%. This implies that one child in every 5 children has opted out of the scheme!

5. Inclusion of Eggs in Mid-day Meals in Karnataka: A White Paper submitted to the government in Feb 2019 by the group, points out that 94% children studying in government-run and government-aided schools in Karnataka come from SC, ST and OBC a majority of them have no issues with eggs, and in fact have been demanding them for several years now. The White Paper also points out that inclusion of eggs for 5 days in a week will cost only a 2.5% hike in current budget of education department. When relatively resource-poor states like Jharkhand and Chattisgarh can find budgetary resources for providing eggs, certainly Karnataka with its relatively better budgetary position and high incidence of malnutrition and anaemia in the State, can and should prioritise inclusion of eggs in the scheme.

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