Monday, December 06, 2021

Food for our children

By EMN Updated: Nov 06, 2013 10:44 pm

[dropcap]P[/dropcap]erhaps in life there are many things that can be excused for whatever reasons that the wayward person(s) may put forth. That is understandable in a certain sense. But can anyone reply to our young children when they have been compelled to hit the streets in Mon attired in their uniforms and carrying aloft placards and banners with the most heart-wrenching words: “We want food”, “we want food every day” and “Stealing your children’s food is a crime”?Someone said that there is honour among thieves because they have to cater for their very own survival in the very first place. However, there have been numerous instances when thieves themselves have had no honour by becoming thieves in the very first place.
Why did our children of Mon agitate for their right to food when even the Government had sanctioned the necessary funds for it? The concept behind the Mid-Day Meals is to feed the thousands of children who attend school and get hungry but cannot afford the noon day meal. To address this the mid-day meal was first introduced over three decades ago by the Tamil Nadu government.
Why has such an event come to pass.? The Opposition might be tempted to strike out on the basis that the ruling Government is corrupt even to this extent. However, in this case it was not necessarily so. The Legislator concerned surely gave directions and thus it was up to the officials concerned to ensure that the programme was implemented when he himself assured the funds required.
What it all boils down to is that surely there has been excessive pilferage on the go. In simple English terms, it means not mere corruption but plainly thievery. A thief is a person who steals something from another. According to criminal law it means a person who commits theft. A thief is a person who steals, especially secretly.
Those responsible for this sad denouement by taking the goods or property of another (and that too, of our innocent young ones) thought that they could get away by stealth without the latter’s knowledge like a thief in the night. But then the world is much more aware these days. They must be made accountable and necessary action taken against them in terms of punitive and deterrent measures. Let the Legislators concerned also try and clear their reputations accordingly.
Tamil Nadu has shown the way by covering high school students under the mid-day meal scheme. The Centre’s mid-day meal scheme is only for primary and middle school students. The contribution of State government in addition to what the Centre allocates for mid-day meals is much higher in comparison to that of other States.
In addition to higher allocation of funds, the State has also worked on community participation in providing school mid-day meals. The State has constituted vigilance committees at panchayat level to supervise mid-day meals.
Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDMS) is a multi-faceted programme of the Government of India that, among other things, seeks to address issues of food security, lack of nutrition and access to education on a pan nation scale.. It involves provision for free lunch on working days for children in Primary and Upper Primary Classes in Government, Government aided, local body, Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS) and Alternate Innovative Education (AIE) Centres, Madarsa and Maqtabs supported under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and National Child Labour Project (NCLP) Schools run by Union Ministry of Labour.
The primary objective of the scheme is to provide hot cooked meals to children of primary and upper primary classes with other objectives of improving nutritional status of children, encouraging poor children, belonging to disadvantaged sections, to attend school more regularly and help them concentrate on classroom activities, thereby increasing the enrollment, retention and attendance rates.
According to the government, it is the world’s largest school feeding programme, reaching out to about 120,000,000 children in over 1,2,65,000 schools and Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS) centres across the country.
Tamil Nadu was followed by Gujarat to introduce MDM scheme in 1984, but it was discontinued in between. From August 1990 to October 1991 MDMS was replaced by Food for Education Programme wherein children with 70% attendance were provided 10 kg of food grains free of cost. Later, from 15 January 1992 MDM Scheme was re-introduced. Bihar so far holds the worst record. Perhaps in percentage ratio our State might also join it if not remedied forthwith.
The Government of India (GoI) initiated the National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education (NP-NSPE) on August 15, 1995 as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme. The objectives of the scheme are to give a boost to universalisation of primary education by mitigating classroom hunger and improving nutritional status of primary school children.
Citing the provisions of Article 21 of the Constitution, in April 2001, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) initiated the public interest litigation (Civil) No. 196/2001, People’s Union for Civil Liberties vs. Union of India & Others famously called as “Right to food litigation.” The demand was for school meals as a matter of right, and enforces this right through Courts if necessary.
The cost of the MDMS is shared between the Central and State governments. At present 75 percent of the scheme is funded by the Central government whereas 25 percent of the funds are provided by the State governments. The Central government provides free food grains to the States. The cost of cooking, infrastructure development, transportation of food grains and payment of honorarium to cooks and helpers is shared by the Centre with the State governments.
Despite the success of the programme, child hunger as a problem persists in India. According to current statistics, 42.5% of the children under five are underweight. This is due to simple reasons such as not using iodized salt. “India is home to the world’s largest food insecure population, with more than 500 million people who are hungry,” India State Hunger Index (ISHI) said.
A report released as part of the 2009 Global Hunger Index ranks India at 65 out of 84 countries. The 2008 report says that India has more people suffering hunger – a figure above 200 million – than any other country in the world, it says. The report also says “improving child nutrition is of utmost urgency in most Indian States.”
Thus, the mid-day meal scheme is not that of the State Government alone. It is part of a wider programme to nourish our future generations. As such, it would be imperative to impress upon those involved in child nutrition of the important role they are playing for a better nationhood and thus be motivated to be sincere in their works. Like teachers they are equally responsible for the growth of our children.
There can be no good learning without proper nutrition. In a deeper sense, Nagaland is much better off because we have sufficient food resources if only we can manage the resources efficiently and in this case diligently.
Let us never see again such posters or banners of our children publicly declaring—or appealing?—“We want more food.”

By EMN Updated: Nov 06, 2013 10:44:06 pm