Against the backdrop of death of 23 children in the mid-day meal tragedy in Bihar last month, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday said the scheme will be reformed and “concrete measures” will be taken to ensure that meals provide under it are nutritious and cooked hygienically.
Addressing the nation from the ramparts of historic Red Fort on the 67th Independence Day, he said the “tragedy” which happened in Bihar should not be repeated anywhere in the country.
“The Midday Meal scheme will be reformed. The meals being provided to our children should not only be nutritious but also be cooked hygienically. We will take concrete measures to ensure this,” Dr. Singh said.
Noting that about 11 crore children are being provided afternoon meals everyday in schools under the midday meal scheme, the Prime Minister said there was need to improve its implementation.
“This programme is of immense benefit for both education and nutrition of children. However, it is necessary to improve its implementation. The tragedy that happened in Bihar some days back should not be repeated anywhere in the country,” he said.
Twentythree children, most under 10 years of age, had died after eating midday meal at a school on July 16 in Saran district of Bihar. The cooking oil used was suspected to be laced with insecticide.
In his address, the Prime Minister highlighted initiatives taken by the UPA to enhance educational infrastructure in the country.
“We have enacted the Right to Education Act to provide every child in the country the opportunity for education. Almost all our children are today being imparted education in Primary schools,” he said, adding the number of young men and women going to college has more than doubled in the last nine years.
Dr. Singh said the UPA government has implemented new schemes for scholarships on a large scale to enable poor children and those belonging to the weaker sections to access opportunities for education.
“Today, the Central government provides scholarships to more than two crore children,” he said.
Talking about government’s initiatives in the area of higher education, he referred to setting up of eight new IITs, seven new IIMs, 16 new central universities and 10 new NITs.
“New institutions have also been opened to boost scientific research. Steps have been taken to attract students to the study of science and encourage Indian scientists working abroad to return to India,” he said.