Madhya Pradesh: A Report on the Implementation of the Mid-Day Meal Scheme in Four Districts

Visiting Madhya Pradesh

A Report on the Implementation of the Mid-Day Meal Scheme in Four Districts on Madhya Pradesh
By: Nick Robinson, Yale Fox Fellow at Jawaharlal Nehru University

Summary

This investigation on the implementation of the Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDMS) is based on interviews conducted in four districts of Madhya Pradesh (Bhopal, Seoni, Barwani, and Sheopur) during the last weeks of March, 2007. The key finding is that while the MDMS has been widely applied, it clearly suffers from major failures in its execution. If the government would make some basic alterations to this system, it could prove to be a great asset to the nation.

Originating in Tamil Nadu in the 1950s, the Mid-Day Meal Scheme is a government-run program whose goal is to provide primary school children with one meal per day. In November of 2001, the Supreme Court ordered that this program extend to all states, and specified that all meals must contain a minimum of 300 calories and 8-12 grams of protein. The goals were to: provide nutrition to primary school students across the country, and to help increase attendance in schools. Some key issues which are preventing the program from running smoothly and the children from receiving their mid-day meal are:

  • Vast corruption (from the government officials to the teachers themselves)
  • The meager amount of money per student is not enough to purchase food as well as a cook to prepare it; often times teachers (whose attendance is already infrequent) end up doing this themselves, taking away from the time during which they should be educating the children
  • A lack of basic infrastructure means that many children also do not have access to drinkable water
  • Parents, who rarely know what they are entitled to, usually do not realize that their children are not receiving as much as they should be; even when they do pick up on this, they do not know where to turn to voice their complaints.

“In theory, it is a good scheme, but in practice, it is distracting both teachers and students.” Providing independent staff to coordinate meals, and guaranteeing cooks at least a minimum wage salary, will allow teachers to focus on their primary responsibility: educating the children. Making a flow of accurate information (including attendance, number of meals provided, and comments on the program) readily available to the people whom this plan effects will help minimize the corruption which is eating away at the soul of this plan. And increasing the amount of money given per student to ensure that proper nutrients are provided, along with providing drinkable water on all primary school premises will help foster a healthy community of children nationwide.