Reinvent the Midday Meal

By Ajit Chak: Now that a snakelet has emerged in the lenthil or curry of a midday meal in a state nearby maybe the state should take a lead in reinventing the midday meal or maybe the Centre should step in and lay down new guidelines for the midday meal in India.

For one the best thing would be to abolish the midday meal all together. This would be the best possible option as the scheme in some states has become a synonym for corruption. It is not easy to forget the number of scams and the number of points at which the midday meal can be adulterated, tampered with and finally its spirit destroyed and trampelled upon.

A meal that is supposed to provide nutrition to needy children ends up exposing them to unnecessary risks and hazards simply because of the unlimited scope for corruption in it. In fact it is rumoured that a chief minister of a state actually summoned a now deceased liquor baron and told him point blank that if he parted with one-third of the entire fund meant for the scheme in the state he could feed the kids anything he wanted.

Since the nature of the programme is such that food had to reach the mouths of the children it would be better if the scheme were reconceptualised and packaged food, graded, standardised and quality checked were made available to the children rather than meals cooked everyday in unhygienic and unsanitary conditions.

There have been cases where the dal had more pebbles than grains, the gravy more water than vegetables and the rice was of the quality that the school principalÔÇÖs pet Alsatian dog would not eat. All have been reported to the media but since school children do not vote the government of the day remains silent on the issue.

Can the midday meal be reconceptualised and can say a state like Haryana take the lead in doing so or for that matter Punjab. Both states have the inherent capacity to do so. Haryana could use Vita to supply pinni, curd and fruit juice and lassi and traditional namkeen like papadam and mathri, whatever is needed for the children, while Punjab could use Verka. The end product would be far safer, more nutritious and more desirable for the children than fried lizards and boiled snakelets. But then it will be hard to skim off anything from it.


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