Agartala: Quality of
food, stocktaking and complaints. All these and more will soon be
streamlined with the central government finalising plans for a
computerised monitoring system of the midday meal scheme that
reaches out to 110 million children across the country.
The world's largest school feeding programme, which covers
children in 1.5 million schools and educational institutions and
has helped increase literacy, will soon be more effective, promise
"Of the 11 crore (110 million) school students that come under the
midday meal scheme, 37 percent or four crore (40 million) children
are extremely poor and belong to very needy families," Amarjit
Singh, joint secretary in the human resource development (HRD)
ministry, told IANS.
"To make the midday meal programme more effective and purposeful,
computerised monitoring systems of the scheme are being introduced
across the country," he stated.
The National Informatics Centre (NIC), under the union ministry of
information technology, has developed an Integrated Voice Response
System (IVRS) as a monitoring tool.
Under the new system, the teacher in-charge of the midday meal
programme will feed information to the IVRS through the mobile.
This information will be automatically conveyed to the district
administration for appropriate action.
"The quality of food being served through the midday meal
programme, checking to see whether one month stock of food is
available in advance, whether there is any complaint about the
scheme... it would be monitored among others under the new
system," Singh said.
He said the computerised monitoring system was essential as the
present manual supervision systems were not effective in the
remote, backward areas of the country and in the mountainous
Singh was here with other senior government officials to conduct a
two-day regional workshop on the midday meal programme. The
workshop was attended by officials of the eight northeastern
states and West Bengal.
Similar regional workshops were held in Jaipur, Hyderabad and
According to Singh, the midday meal programme had led to an
increase in literacy in many parts of the country. Besides, the
male-female gap in education had also come down to 16 percent from
the earlier 25 percent.
"The scheme has been playing a significant role in maintaining
national integration as well. Hundreds and thousands of children
belonging to different religion, caste, class and communities are
taking same meal sitting together in a row."
The central government has allocated Rs.10,380 crore for the
midday meal programme. With the state's contribution, the
allocation would be Rs.14,000 crore in 2011-12.
The programme was first introduced in 1925 for disadvantaged
children in the Madras Municipal Corporation. By the mid-1980s,
Gujarat, Kerala and Tamil Nadu and the union territory of
Pondicherry had universalised a cooked midday meal programme with
their own resources for primary school children.
By 1990-91, the number of states implementing the midday meal
programme with their own resources on a large-scale basis had
increased to 12.
"With a view to enhancing enrolment, retention and attendance and
simultaneously improving nutritional levels among children, the
National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education
(NP-NSPE) was launched as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme on August
15, 1995, initially in 2408 blocks in the country. By the year
1997-98 the NP-NSPE was introduced in all blocks of the country,"
an official document said.
Since April 2008, the programme has been covering all children
till Class 8 in government, local body and government-aided
primary and upper primary schools and madrassas and maqtabs
(Islamic seminaris and schools) supported under the Sarva Shiksha
Abhiyan (Education for All).
Chakraborty can be contacted at email@example.com)