The documents assessed after an RTI request states that the Trivendra Singh Rawat- led Uttarakhand Government did not provide food to 1.4 lakh children under the mid-meal scheme during April and May. The government has neither provided food nor a food security allowance during these last two months of lockdown. Additionally, the documents also revealed that the government has provided rations to children under the scheme only on 48 days out of 66 working days from March 13 to May 17.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi after announcing the extension of the nationwide lockdown had acknowledged that the poor are facing a food crisis. Thus, assuring provisions of medicines, rations, and essential items, he had appealed to the people to take care of the poor families and fulfill their food requirements. But, the BJP- led state government does not seem to be complying with Modi’s assurance. In other words, one out of five children in the state has not been benefitted by the mid-day meal scheme during this period.
In a letter issued to all state governments and Union Territories on March 20, 2020, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) had asked to ensure that, “Students either get meals or food security allowance even as schools remain closed due to the outbreak of the COVID- 19 pandemic.” In the letter, R.C. Meena Joint Secretary in the HRD ministry stated that “Cooked food should be provided under the mid-day meal scheme to students in government-aided schools as well as government-aided special training centers, madrasas, and maktabs under Samagra Shiksha Scheme.”
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Under sec 9 of the 2015 mid-day meal scheme, if the mid-day meal is not provided in school on any school day due to unavailability of food grains, cooking cost, fuel or absence of cook- cum- helper or any other reason, the state government is bound to pay food security allowance which includes the cost of food grains per child and cooking cost prevailing in the state. However, there are 6, 89,437 students in 17,045 government schools across Uttarakhand. Out of these 4, 05,009 are in primary schools while 2, 84,428 are in upper primary level schools. But only, 5, 51,550 students received food security allowance under Mid- Day Meal Scheme during April. The left 1, 37,887 numbers of students in the state neither received cooked meal nor food security allowance during the month. The situation is no different in May as approximately 20 percent of children could not take advantage of the benefit of the mid-day meal scheme during the month.
In a meeting with state education ministers on April 28, 2020, HRD minister Ramesh Pokhariyal said that “Mid- Day meals or food security allowance will be provided to students even during the summer vacations in schools because of the coronavirus pandemic for children to get adequate and nutritious food to develop immunity.”
The schools in Uttarakhand will remain closed between May 27 and June 30 for summer vacations. During this period, the government has decided to provide mid-day meals on 30 out of 35 working days. In this regard, the state government has written a letter to the Centre asking to allocate funds and food grains. The Uttarakhand government has sought 2494.95 tonnes of food grains from the MHRD, Rs.12.39 crore for cooking expenses, and Rs58.60 lakh conveyance charges for running the mid-day meal scheme during the vacation period.