A proposal to revamp the Mid-Day Meal scheme includes extending the service to unaided private schools in tribal, Schedule Castes and minority dominated districts

The Mid-Day Meal scheme could be next extended to unaided private schools in tribal, Scheduled Castes and minority dominated districts, if a proposal by the Centre to revamp the scheme under the 12 Five-Year Plan passes through. The revamped scheme will also cover children studying in pre-primary classes located in the premises of primary schools.

Moreover, in the wake of the Chhapra mid-day meal tragedy where 23 children died after consuming food laced with pesticide, the government has asked Accreditation Board for Laboratories (NABL)-recognised laboratories to collect the samples from the field for testing on parameters such as microbiological presence or absence of e-coil, chemical parameters such as moisture content, fats, proteins and calorific value of the meals served.

“Reports are useful”

“These reports have been useful for enhancing the effectiveness of the scheme. The State/Union Territories have also been requested to consider engaging Food Safety and Standards Authority and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research institutes or NABL-recognised laboratories for carrying out sample checking of mid-day meal, to ensure quality meal to the children,” Union Human Resource Development Minister M.M. Pallam Raju said while answering a question in Parliament.

Mr. Raju said that there is a detailed mechanism for supervision of the meal scheme through periodical reports and monitoring at the local level through the school monitoring committees as well as by the State government officials. In addition, the Centre also ensures independent monitoring through 41 monitoring institutes such as IIT-Chennai, Visva Bharati University and XLRI among others. The Joint Review Missions (JRM) visits the States at regular intervals. In the current year, seven JRMs have been conducted; and 13 more are planned. In addition, surprise visits are made from time to time; three such visits have been carried out in the current year in Maharashtra, Jammu & Kashmir and Assam.

The implementation of the scheme is monitored by the district, state and national level steering-cum-monitoring committees. The district-level vigilance and monitoring committee meeting under the chairmanship of the MPs from the district has also been activated. Mr. Raju has personally written to all MPs to ensure that the quality of meal served in schools is good.

Norms of assistance

The Centre would also revise the norms of assistance by enhancing cooking cost by basing the mid-day meal price index exclusively on the basket of items.

Transportation assistance of Non-North Eastern Region States is also sought to be raised to Rs. 150 per quintal from its existing limit of Rs. 75 per quintal. The monthly honorarium of cook-cum-helpers would be raised from Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 1,500 during 2013-15 and Rs. 2,000 during 2015-17.

The Management Monitoring and Evaluation (MME) rates would be revised upwardly by three per cent of the total recurring Central assistance for the cost of food grains, cooking cost, transportation assistance and honorarium to cook-cum-helpers.

Similarly, revision of norms for Central assistance for the procurement of kitchen devices for new schools and replacement of kitchen devices after five years of their sanction would be increased to Rs. 15,000 per school. This would be shared between the Centre and the State in the ratio of 75:25 except for the NER States where the sharing would be in the ratio of 90:10.

Meanwhile, the HRD Ministry and the Ministry of Tourism are working together on training master cooks engaged under Mid-Day Meal scheme.

Training master cooks

The Ministry of Tourism has agreed to provide training to selected cook-cum-helpers as master trainers through Hotel Management Institutes and the Food Craft Institutes (FCIs). A ten-day full time course will be organised that will include knowledge dissemination regarding the caloric and nutritive values, the methods of cooking for retaining the nutritive value of cooking ingredients, awareness regarding the issues of malnutrition and also the benchmarking of nutrition levels and the importance of regular washing of hands.