New Delhi: From supplying dry rations to deploying grassroots anganwadi workers, states across India are trying different ways to ensure government school students are not deprived of mid-day meals amid the national Covid-19 lockdown.
The Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) had last week asked states and union territories to ensure the continued supply of mid-day meals to students despite the closure of schools around the country to check the spread of coronavirus. The suggestions offered were delivering packaged meals or the equivalent amount of foodgrains to students at home, or depositing money in the bank accounts of their parents.
The governments in different states quickly stepped up, with Assam, West Bengal, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh — as well as the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir — announcing that they will ensure the delivery of mid-day meals to students.
While the 21-day national lockdown declared by PM Narendra Modi only kicked in Wednesday, schools around India had been closed long before to protect students from the pandemic.
Delhi yet to chalk out a plan
Assam Chief Secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna said Wednesday that the government would ensure the state’s 40 lakh students are provided mid-day meals at home.
“We have ensured that the students do not go to sleep hungry and, for that, the state government has decided to provide mid-day meals to students at home,” Krishna told the media.
West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh will be delivering raw materials — a measure most states and union territories are adopting to tide over the lockdown.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said at a press conference Wednesday that mid-day meals would be sent to children’s homes through anganwadi workers, who are exempt from the lockdown because they qualify as an essential service.
The state had announced last week that it would give rice and potatoes to beneficiaries of the mid-day meal scheme, which is meant to ensure hot, nutritious meals for government school students as an incentive for enrolment.
Even Karnataka will tap anganwadi workers to ensure the delivery of mid-day meals to students.
On 24 March, Andhra Pradesh had announced that the state government will provide raw grains for 10 days to students at home, through Grama Sachivalayam workers and other volunteers.
Kerala has already been providing mid-day meals at home through anganwadi workers, since the second week of March, even before the central government issued instructions.
Some districts in Jammu & Kashmir started delivering dry rations at home on 25 March.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had also declared on 23 March that the government would home-deliver packets of cooked meals to students, although he didn’t clarify how exactly it will be done.
ThePrint approached multiple people in the Delhi government through texts and phone calls to ask how the administration plans to implement the scheme, but didn’t get a reply.
Sources, however, said the government’s plans to deliver cooked meals were not panning out. The sources added that they were now exploring the possibility of transferring money to the parents’ account.
Meanwhile, the central government is monitoring the situation and getting regular updates from states. The central government only plays a supervisory role as far as mid-day meals are concerned, with the implementation of the scheme the mandate of states.
With inputs from Aneesha Bedi