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Centre falls for Maya’s meal plan

Human resource development (HRD) minister Kapil Sibal never tires of arguing publicly that politics should be kept out of education — and his ministry appears to agree.

delhi Updated: Jun 30, 2011 22:59 IST
Charu Sudan Kasturi

Human resource development (HRD) minister Kapil Sibal never tires of arguing publicly that politics should be kept out of education — and his ministry appears to agree.

The HRD ministry is planning to adopt a radical technology-based strategy used by the Centre’s political rival Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh, to track whether students across government schools are receiving their mid-day meal (MDM).

The ministry is preparing a blueprint to use an Integrated Voice Response System (IVRS) to daily reach out to every government school, to obtain data on the number of students accessing the MDM that day, top government sources have told HT. The ministry has set a target of March 2012 to roll out the project.

The MDM currently covers over 12 million students everyday and is the world’s largest school lunch programme.

The IVRS will be used to make outbound calls to teachers and administrators at school during lunch time, sources said. The data collected will be stored on a database which the government will set up. “The idea is to capitalise on the omnipresent mobile phone today to reach out and track the mid-day meal scheme,” a source said.

The ministry monitors the lifting of grains from godowns, the disbursement of funds to states, and the utilisation of these funds to purchase food, equipment and to pay salaries to cooks and assistants.

But it has no mechanism at present — other than surveys and research studies — to determine exactly how each school uses the food and equipment provided to it.

The Mayawati government in 2010 launched a project to use the IVRS to track the implementation of the MDM across UP government schools. The idea has been lauded by educationists and researchers.