As Delhi schools remain shut, students yet to receive mid-day meal allowance since April
The Centre on March 20 directed states to either provide cooked meals or food allowance to students till schools reopen. In March, between Rs 78 and Rs 95 were transferred to accounts of students of Delhi government and municipal schools.Updated: Jul 05, 2020 01:33 IST
The central government’s mid-day meal programme – according to which students up to class 8 are served cooked, nutritious meals during school hours – has taken a hit as schools remain shut since March in view of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
Despite the Centre’s order to provide food security allowance to students amid the lockdown, parents of students of both government and municipal schools in Delhi say they have not received the subsidy since April.
The mid-day meal scheme, which aims to provide food security to children from economically weaker families and increase enrolment in public schools, is channelised through state governments.
Delhi schools have been shut since March 19. The Centre on March 20 directed states to either provide cooked meals or food allowance to students till schools reopen. In March, between Rs 78 and Rs 95 were transferred to accounts of students of Delhi government and municipal schools.
Kulsum Khatun, a resident of Jagdamba camp in Sheikh Sarai, said she has not received any money in the accounts of her two daughters (ages 7 and 9 years) since April. “My two daughters study in a government school in Malviya Nagar. We received around Rs 95 in March but nothing after that. Mid-day meals were very important for us since we hardly make enough to feed them twice a day. Under the lockdown, neither my husband, a a rickshaw puller, nor I got any work,” she said.
Like Kulsum, many families from disadvantaged sections were dependent on the meals to feed their children at least once a day.
Kamlesh Devi fromJahangirpuri, said her two children – 5-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son – study in a municipal school but have not received any food allowance in this academic session (since April). “They would get chana, puri and halwa in the meals. Ever since the lockdown, my kids could not get any of these items. My husband is a mason . We can only afford chapatis once a day. In other meals, we generally have tea and biscuits,” she said.
An NGO, Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan, wrote to chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s office on June 30. “Since the closure of schools on account of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government has sanctioned food security allowance for the month of March. No meals or food security allowance has been provided for April, May or June. We, therefore, urge you to ensure that mid-day meals are immediately restarted or food security allowance is provided to all eligible children without any delay,” the NGO said in the letter.
Yogesh Pratap, deputy director at the directorate of education (DoE), said there has been some delay due to the situation but the government has started the process of transferring the allowance. “First, we will cover lower primary classes (nursery to fifth) and transfer Rs 360 as food security allowance in the accounts of these students for April, May and June. Then we will start the process for upper primary classes (sixth to eighth) and send Rs 480 for three months.”
Officials at the south and north corporations said they are yet to receive funds from the state government. Ira Sehgal, the north body’s spokesperson, said, “We have not received funds from the Delhi government since April for the food allowance.” An official from the south corporation cited the same reason.
Binay Bhushan, DoE, said: “The department has been regularly transferring money to the civic bodies. They have enough money to transfer food allowance to students.”
Arun Kumar, spokesperson for the east civic body, said, “We are processing the allowance of April. It will be transferred by next week. We are trying to send the rest by the end of this month.”
Ranjana Prasad, member of the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR), said, “The delay in providing nutritious food to children can aggravate problems of malnutrition. We had, last month, written to the government to take this issue on priority and resume the mid-day meal scheme.”
An advisor to Delhi Education Minister Manish Sisodia said, “The government has started the procedure of transfering food security allowance to the accounts of the students. There has been a delay because majority of the officials have been engaged in covid duties since March.”