Schools in many Bihar villages are shut due to COVID-19 lockdown leaving the children dependent on midday meals go hungry. To ensure that children continue to get food, the state government has ordered authorities to distribute ration among school children for three months and transfer money to their bank accounts, or to their guardians, The Indian Express reported.
The order comes amid media reports of the plight of the children of Musahari tola, Badbilla village who were resorting to rag-picking after the food scheme came to a standstill due to the coronavirus lockdown.
Referring to the coronavirus lockdown, Bihar Additional Chief Secretary (Education) R K Mahajan wrote in the order, "In this situation, under the Food Security Act, for 24 working days in May, 30 days of summer vacation in June, and 26 working days in July (a total of 80 days), food will be given in fixed quantity to children and replacement cash amounts will be given by DBT into their accounts."
As per the order, while the children in classes 1-5 will get 8 kg of ration and Rs 358 via DBT, at a daily rate of 100g and Rs 4.48 for 80 days, students of class 6-8 will get 12 kg of ration and Rs 536, based on a daily rate of 150g and Rs 6.71 for 80 days.
While earlier on March 14, a state directive had mandated money to be sent to the accounts of children or guardians in lieu of mid-day meals for 15 days every month, school teachers had told the media that many parents used the money for other purposes due to the lockdown crisis. However, officials said that the new order will ensure that the children will get food.
"Payments under DBT were made until May. Now ration will be given after headmasters are notified from tomorrow. Money in lieu of oil and other food items, which was given during MDM, will also be handed over for three months," Subhash Gupta, District Programme Officer, Mid-Day Meals (MDM), Bhagalpur, said.
Earlier, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) took suo motu cognizance of The Indian Express report on the plight of the children and issued notices to the Secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy, Union HRD Ministry, and Chief Secretary of Bihar, seeking a detailed reply within four weeks.