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INVESTIGATIVE : Tale of Mid Day Meal Scheme in Arunachal Pradesh

The implementation of Mid Day Meal (MDM) Scheme by the Government of India has unquestionably boosted and universalized the Primary Education. It not only drives away the chronic hunger of the primary students which has been the main reason in keeping children away from the school but also enhance the enrolment, retention and attendance of the students. Mid day meal also has at the same time improved the nutritional level of the children. It especially gives a new hope for those children belonging from the most deprive section of society as it provide education and nutritious diet to them which is an unaffordable charge for them.
In Arunachal Pradesh, the scheme of mid day meal seems to be flourishing and gaining its objectives in a way as according to a research made by this journal, almost all the headmasters and teachers from different government schools do approved that there has been an increased in enrolment and attendance of the students.
As the state’s major population is from backward classes the mid day meal scheme is like a boon for them. Dr. Jumini Rina, Headmaster of Govt. Middle School Niti Vihar, Itanagar said that “Children from primary level often used to run away from the school but now they are eagerly waiting for the MDM”. The Joint director, Elementary Education Shri Monya Nyori seeing the worthy operation of the mid day meal in the schools said that “Because of the launching of the mid day meal even the most deprive section of the society is getting education and nutrition”. As a whole the scheme is very good, he added.
The state is entitled to cover 3353 Government Primary and Upper Primary schools under the mid day meal scheme. However, due to complex topographical locations only 3316 schools are being covered in this scheme.The far-flung schools located near the border are still to serve mid day meal. They are either not entitled to MDM scheme because their enrolment is less or the commodity could not be reach there. The State Coordinator for MDM Shri Gyati Lailang informed that as those (far-flung) schools are very far from district headquarter and located in a hilly region, there is a problem in transportation and further there is less enrolment in such schools. Government schools at Taksing, Kibitho, Anjaw, Lemiking and many more schools in Arunachal Pradesh are still not covered under this scheme though they are entitled to this. Such negligence from the concern authority is shockingly unacceptable. If the government had implemented it, it must also approve a provision to indulge every school under the scheme. When enquire about such negligence the concerned department only says that they are looking into this matter and have written proposal to the Ministry of Human Resource and Development, Delhi.
Appreciating the concept and purpose of initiating the mid day meal, however, when it comes to the management then we could see the miserable performance in many places. The scheme’s objective is to increase the enrolment in the schools, to cast away the social barrier of kids and to generate employment for women as cook is lacking in managing its possessions due to the lack of close monitoring and post guidelines which is creating hurdles. Many Government schools in the state face lots of troubles to manage things. In the writing of this, LES found several such government schools within the Capital City that were not serving cooked mid day meal which according to the MDM guidelines they should be serving in all working days i.e. 6 days. Some schools serve it for 3 or 4 days.
There have been many comments from the teachers; why they are not able to serve MDM to the children. The sole reason for this is the untimely release of funds and the conversion cost which is (Rs) 3.59/- and (Rs) 5.38/- per head per day for the primary and upper primary child respectively. The state government releases the fund on quarterly basis which creates hurdle for the school authorities. Therefore, many schools are not serving cooked Mid Day Meal because the fund is not yet released to them.
Toko Raja, Headmaster, Govt. Middle School ‘P’ sector, Itanagar, informed that his school is not serving cooked mid day meal as the fund is not yet released to them. He further informed that the condition of the school infrastructure is also in the bad condition. When it rains the students had to pull out their umbrella while the teacher is teaching inside the classroom.
Some schools provides cooked mid day meal by taking credits from the nearby shopkeepers. “Funding is not regular and schools are never paid in advance, so the school authorities have to make arrangements on their own level to continue the provision of mid-day meal”, said a teacher under the ground of anonymity.
Other factor responsible for unsuccessful implementation of MDM is the scarcity of water. Almost all the government schools are in acute shortage of water as a result of which it could not provide mid day meal to the students. When asked about what the concerned authority is doing to the Block Education Officer, Yupia, T. Phuntso, he replied that they have approached and written many a time to the PHE department but in vain as the excuse they had always received was of unfavorable topography. If this is the situation of the State Capital, wonder what would be the condition of other places?
It is not that every government schools in Arunachal does not serve mid day meal. There are many schools which are fulfilling the objectives of this scheme. But, sometime certain incidents creates hurdle in its execution and hence, postponement. Shri Nabam Rudo, Headmaster, Govt. Middle School Rono informed, “There have been instances when some miscreants (may be the students) puts Dendrite (Drug) and other toxic substance in the school’s water source which leads to postponement of the mid-day meal during that particular day. The case has been reported to the nearest police station and is registered under Case. 29/15 under section 457/380 IPC and one person have been arrested on suspect case.”
Many school authorities and teachers are of views that the conversion cost according to the MDM guidelines is very low if it is compared to that of the price of prevailing market commodity. Notably, students of Classes I to V are to be provided 100 gram food and of Classes V to VIII, 150 grams of food daily. The menu is set without taking into account local requirements of the consumers, as a result of which many students do not enjoy the food. Additionally, the honorarium of a cook-cum-helper is very less which is Rs 1000/- per month. At present it become very difficult to find cook in this amount which has been the cause of not serving mid-day meals in the schools. Since finding a cook to work under impractically less honorarium per month is a trouble for most of the schools, some of the teachers opined that there should be one centralized kitchen where MDM could be prepared and thereafter distributed to various schools. It will not only lighten the burden but will also help in smooth functioning of school.
It is also not to be kept unnoticed that providing hygienic food and nutritious diet to every child to enable them to participate more in educational co-curriculum activities is the main concern of the government in implementing this scheme. But if the place that needs to be hygienic is itself non-hygienic then how one can obtain a hygienic food. In most of the schools, kitchen shed are in deplorable condition. The half portion of their wall is damaged. Small animals and pests can enter and pollute the food grains. One of the schools’ Headmasters said that since 2008-09 no revise fund or maintenance cost has been allotted despite several written approaches. BEO Yupia, T. Phuntso said that “we have been writing proposal for last three years to the Government of India but there comes no response”. Ms. Mokir Kamki and Ms. Sorang Sonari, Headmistresses at Govt. schools informed that they have submitted a proposal for renovation of kitchen sheds and toilet to Shri Gaya Prasad, Director, MHRD, GOI on his visit to the state on 17th May, 2015 but there is no update till date.
Mid Day Meal Scheme which has been implemented in the State to a great extent had attracted more children to schools. But only pondering at the increased of the enrolment and attendance of students should not be the only objectives of the mid-day meal. It should also focus on itsabilities of how it can endow with a good quality hygienic food to the children.

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