India runs the world's largest free school meal scheme, covering millions of school children. The scheme was put in place after Supreme Court ordered state governments in 2001 to provide free lunches to students in all state-run primary schools. Educators see the midday meal scheme as a way to increase school attendance, in a country where almost half of all young children are undernourished. Here are facts about the scheme.
A school boy washes his hand before midday meal in a village primary school. Photo courtesy: Unicef
REACH: Covers about 113.6 million children in 1.3 million institutions across the country.
BUDGET: Rs. 13,215 crore allocated for the scheme in 2013-14 by the Centre. States paid Rs. 4405 crore.
WHO COOKS? Local women/mother's self help groups, youth clubs engaged by the Gram panchayat/municipality. In Urban areas, centralised kitchens, run by NGOs, supply meals
PERFORMANCE: In 2011-12, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Rajasthan, and Haryana utilised over 90% of their allocations. Bihar and Gujarat used just over 60%. Arunachal Pradesh only 48%.
CONSUMPTION: Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Rajasthan used over 90% of foodgrain allocated, while West Bengal and Bihar used 69% and 64% respectively
MISSING TARGETS: Uttar Pradesh served meals on more number of days than approved. Punjab, West Bengal, Odisha, and Kerala served on fewer days than approved
HIT BY SCAMS
Feb 2011: Odisha's Women and child development minister Pramila Mallick resigned following corruption in the midday meal scheme. Private suppliers had pocketed crores of rupees by supplying cheap and sub-standard dal.
April 2012: A probe by the Karnataka Lokayukta into the supply of food to the Integrated Child Development Services found that department of women and child development officials, in connivance with a contractor, were siphoning off funds meant for the scheme
Source: Accountability Initiative