The Trivendra Singh Rawat-led Uttarakhand government has not provided food or a corresponding food security allowance to over one lakh children during the last two months amid the coronavirus lockdown.
The Wire accessed documents under the Right To Information (RTI) Act which states that the Uttarakhand government did not provide food to 1.4 lakh children under the mid-day meal scheme during April and May.
Additionally, the document has also revealed that the state government provided rations to children covered under the scheme only on 48 out of 66 working days between March 13 to May 17, 2020.
Mid-day Meal (MDM) Scheme In The State
The documents provide district-wise details of the scheme followed in the state.
It states that there are 689,437 students in 17,045 government schools across Uttarakhand.
However, only 5,51,550 students received food security allowance under the MDM scheme during April.
Therefore 1,37,887 students in the state received neither cooked meal nor food security allowance during the month of April.
Referring to the data for the month of May, only 5,51,550 students out of a total of 6,89,437 received food security allowance for the month.
It can be concluded that one out of five children could not avail the benefits of the mid-day meal scheme for both the months during the lockdown.
For the month of March, however, all 689,437 students in 17,045 schools availed the benefit from the mid-day meal scheme, according to the document.
It also laid out the fact that the schools remained closed due to COVID-19 for 66 days, from 13 March 2020 to 17 May 2020.
Meanwhile, either meal or food security allowance was provided for only 48 days during the three months.
The state government had written a letter, dated May 5, asking the Centre to allocate fund and food grains.
The Uttarakhand government has sought 2494.95 tonnes of foodgrains from the MHRD, Rs 12.39 crore for cooking expenses and Rs 58.60 lakh conveyance charges for running the mid-day meal scheme during the vacation period, reported The Wire.
Ministry of Human Resource Development Advisory On MDM During Lockdown
The Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry had advised the states and Union Territories to either provide meals or an equivalent food security allowance to the students eligible under the scheme.
In a letter addressed to the governments, RC Meena, Joint Secretary in the HRD ministry, said that students in schools, training centres and madrasas are to be provided one hot cooked meal under the scheme every day.
However, if the institutions remain closed under unusual circumstances which might include nonavailability of food grains, cooking cost, fuel or absence of cook or any other reason, the state government should pay the food security allowance.
Thus, under the given circumstance, schools have remained shut in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak and thus the central government decided to continue meeting the nutritional requirements for the students.
The Centre was of the opinion that the health of the country's children should not be compromised during a global pandemic.
HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank said to protect the health and promote immunity among school-going children, he has advised the states and Union Territories to provide freshly cooked meals or food security allowance to eligible children till schools are closed due to coronavirus outbreak.
Other States On MDM Scheme
The New Indian Express, on April 2, reported that the southern Indian state of Telangana had not taken any policy decision on Centre's advisory regarding the mid-day meal scheme.
The state has around 20 lakh students enrolled in government schools who are eligible for the mid-day meal scheme.
The publication quoted a senior official of the School Education Department saying that there have been no specific directions from the State government to them on the measures to be taken to continue the mid-day meal scheme.
Meanwhile, the New Delhi Municipal Council decided to give 'food security allowance' to the students to meet nutritional requirements and safeguard immunity against during COVID-19 outbreak.
Reports suggest that the council opted to transfer a fixed amount directly to the bank accounts of either students or parents.
The Asian Age reported that Assam's Chief Secretary, Kumar Sanjay Krishna had said that meals would be delivered to all the students below 14 years of age right through to the end of the lockdown.
Reportedly, forty lakh students in Assam are not going to school on account of the coronavirus lockdown.
Also Read: Bihar Govt Instructs Schools To Use Mid-day Meal Food Grains To Feed People In Quarantine Amid Rising COVID-19 Cases