New Delhi: The central government is making alternate arrangements to ensure that school-going children are not denied the basic nutrition they get through mid-day meals, at a time when schools are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ThePrint has learnt.
The Ministry of Human Resource Development is set to ask all states to make arrangements of either delivering food grains or cooked meals to the homes of the beneficiaries, or depositing money in their parents’ accounts, until such time as schools remain shut.
Students in the age group of 6 to 14 years — in classes 1 to 8 — across government schools are the beneficiaries of the scheme.
First time for such measures
Senior officials in the ministry said this is probably the first time that the government has had to resort to such measures.
“There is a provision in the rules to make alternate arrangements for providing mid-day meals in case the schools are shut because of unforeseen circumstances, and this is such a scenario,” said R.C. Meena, joint secretary in the HRD ministry who handles the mid-day meals scheme.
“We have decided to make alternate arrangements for making sure that children get their meals. This will be communicated to all the states soon enough,” Meena said.
“In usual circumstances, when schools are shut for summer vacations, children are not provided meals through an alternate way. (But) since this is an unusual situation, we have to make arrangements,” he said.
Meena said these alternate arrangements will not cost the government anything extra.
“It will be left up to individual states, how they wish to make these arrangement — whether they supply uncooked grains, cooked meals, or give money to the parents,” Meena said.
How many children will benefit?
Officials figures of HRD ministry show that as on 31 December 2019, over 11.60 crore children are beneficiaries of the scheme. The budget for the scheme for the year 2020-21 is Rs 9,266.67 crore.
The Supreme Court Wednesday asked schools about their plans to ensure that students get mid-day meals during the shutdown due to the coronavirus. The court took suo motu cognisance of the matter and sent a notice to all states, enquiring about their plans.