Midday meal scheme covers 11.4 crore children in India

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New Delhi, Jan 8 (UNI) About 11.40 crore children studying in both primary and upper primary classes across India, are beneficiaries of the national mid-day meal scheme, the largest school feeding programme in the world.

Due to its undoubted success, the Centre has extended the mid-day meal programme to children in classes VI-VIII in 3,479 Educationally Backward Blocks (EBBs) covering about 1.7 crore more upper primary children since October 1, 2007.

By 2008-09, the programme would cover all areas across the country, an official release here said.

At the primary stage of education, 950,000 Government (including local body) and Government aided schools, and the Centres run under Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS) and Alternative and Innovative Education (AIE).

Under the revised scheme, in addition to extension of the Scheme to upper primary stage, attempt has been made to have central assistance for cooking costs based on Inflation Adjusted Index (Consumer Price Index) every two years starting 2008-09.

Besides free foodgrains of 100 grams per child daily in primary stage and 150 grams per child per school day in upper primary stage, the Centre also provides to States and Union Territories, assistance of a minimum of Rs 1.50 and Rs 2 towards cooking cost per child a day in primary and upper primary classes respectively. The states' contribution is between 20 and 50 paise per head.

In addition, Central Government also provides subsidy of Rs 125 for transportation of foodgrains from FCI depots to schools a quintal for 11 Special Category States and Rs 100 for other States/UTs.

It has also doled out Rs 60,000 towards construction of kitchen sheds per unit and Rs 5,000 for procurement of kitchen devices.

Importantly, cooked mid-day meal is provided even during summer vacations to children in areas declared by State Governments as drought-affected areas.

A sum of Rs 7,324 crore was provided for the scheme, representing 37 per cent increase over the budget for 2006-07, in the Union Budget 2007-08.

According to Ministry sources, the mid-day meal programme has helped in promoting school attendance, preventing class room hunger, instilling educational values and fostering social and gender equality.

In an effort to ensure the involvement of mothers of 12 crore children covered under the scheme to supervise the preparation and serving of the meal, the mothers are being encouraged to come forward and take turns to supervise the feeding of the children, thus ensuring regularitly and quality of the meal.

This initiative is aimed at giving mothers a voice and a role and greater ownership of the programme. States have been requested to launch a concerted campaign for mass mobilisation of mothers.

Among the states, 8147690 children in Maharastra were fed under the scheme with NGO partnership of Mumbai ISKCON and women groups, namely, Mahila Mandals which had been entrusted the task of cooking and serving the meals during 2006-07.

UNI SD BDP AS1832

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