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Mid-day meal monitoring required at schools for its efficacy
From remote Chapra in Bihar to blooming Mumbai, whereby children are dying silently due to sheer negligence and lack of proper vision with respect to Mid-Day Meal scheme and Integrated Child Development Services (MDM & ICDS).

The Chapra incident where by 22 children died last month after eating mid-day meal must be an eye opener. And so the cases of children dying in Mumbai slums due to malnutrition and lack of proper healthcare.

MDM and ICDS, the best government welfare schemes, have brought substantial changes, though on the delivery side much more effective things can be done. But it must be also noted that government schemes are not charity but they are justifiable rights which must be delivered efficiently to the beneficiary with due dignity.

As a representative of SC to Advisor on Right to food (Maharashtra), I had visited Wada Vikramgadh-Jawahar-Mokhada in Thane district on 16-17 Oct 2012 and surveyed four anganwadis (AWCs) and four Zilla Parishad schools that serve mid-day meal (MDM).

ICDS is the world's oldest and largest child services program, started in 1975 to tackle malnutrition and provide pre-school education to children younger than six, while midday meal (MDM) is an irreplaceable and crucial programme with the potential to provide food and nutrition inputs to most deserving and vulnerable sections of our population.

I do endorse suggestions made by Dipa Sinha from Right to Food (Delhi) and Nikhil Dey from Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangthan (MKSS) that the standards followed in the states such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu should be made norms to be observed across the country.

Parents and community-based school management committees, mandated under the RTE, must be immediately established and involved in the monitoring of not only the quality of the MDMs but also of the schools as a whole.

Social audit of the scheme, as piloted in Andhra by the state social audit directorate, have already shown great potential to provide an effective platform for citizen-monitoring. Assigning monitoring responsibility to officials at all levels from the village, block, district and state, as seen in Tamil Nadu, must be replicated. The MDM scheme also needs an effective grievance redress mechanism.

The Central government provides 100 gm of food grain per child per day. Many states make additional contribution to improve the quality of the meal.

Orissa adds 0.50 paisa, Rajasthan gives a fruit once a week, and Pondicherry even gives milk. Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Delhi, Orissa and Chhattisgarh provide eggs. Tamil Nadu tops the list with an additional contribution of Rs 3.83 per child per day, which enables an egg a day, and much more.

Also, I endorse to increase the share by the state governments and Centre to make MDM more viable, inclusive in terms of nutrition and effective i.e. to increase by providing a total of up to Rs 10 per child, per day in a 3:1 Centre-state ratio, without being told that our economy will collapse and our credit ratings will fall.

Immediate passage of the grievance redress bill, pending in Parliament, can help by setting up an independent and decentralized mechanism where complaints are addressed effectively and in a time-bound manner.

Apart from legislative and administrative measures, if each one of us promise to give an hour a week to our local government school to help in the smooth running of the  MDM, then results could be great. A good quality MDM can go a long way in ensuring at least a part of the children's right to food. Our money, time and attention can make all the difference.

And also we must look into agreement between World Bank & the Ministry of Women and Child development (MWCD) on ICDS regards to the implementation of the following five key reforms:
1) A simplified, evidence and outcome-based program design
2) Flexibility to the ICDS design from central level
3) Stronger convergence with other line departments at the operational level
4) Strong Monitoring and Evaluation
5) More intensive efforts and resources targeted to the high-burden district

Learning from Chapra incident and things not to be retrograde, I do suggest some strong mechanisms to be evolved by making ‘Food Safety Forums’ by involving health experts, teachers and parents in every school to check the quality, nutritious value of the meal & to prevent the adulteration and contamination of MDM & ICDS foods.

There is also an urgent need to tackle malnutrition in Mumbai & suburb slums by taking proper assessment, survey & making effective implementation of MDM-ICDS programmes on an immediate basis.

I urge Indian government, state of Maharashtra, Commissioner of Supreme Court (Right to Food), and State-Advisor Maharashtra (On Right to Food), Civil Society groups, individuals & media to act upon suggested ideas to ameliorate welfare schemes to their efficacy. 

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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