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Include milk in midday meals: Centre to states

The Centre is also recalibrating policies to focus on nutrition and hunger with an aim to improve the national nutritional outcomes, another official said requesting anonymity

india Updated: Jan 03, 2018 22:33 IST
Zia Haq
The advisory also asked states to make milk a part of the supplementary-nutrition programmes of anganwadi.
The advisory also asked states to make milk a part of the supplementary-nutrition programmes of anganwadi.(Mint File)

The Centre issued an advisory on Tuesday asking states to include milk in the midday meal scheme and other nutritional programmes with a view to tackle high levels of malnourishment in the country, an official said.

The advisory also told states to make milk a part of the supplementary-nutrition programmes of anganwadi, a chain of 1.4 million mother and childcare centres funded by the women and child development ministry, which also provide pre-school education and health services.

The Centre is also recalibrating policies to focus on nutrition and hunger with an aim to improve the national nutritional outcomes, another official said requesting anonymity

The Centre’s advisory comes amid high milk output, which is more than sufficient to meet the country’s requirement, the official cited in the first instance said. Government data showed that from 2013-14 to 2016-17, India’s milk production shot up by 18.81% to reach 163.6 million tonnes, the highest in the world.

Hunger problem

Despite a series of interventions, such as the National Food Security Act, 2013, India continues to witness a “serious” hunger problem, International Food Policy Research Institute’s (IFPRI) Global Hunger Index (GHI) Report, 2017, stated.

According to the report, “More than a fifth of India’s children under 5 weigh too low for their height and over a third are too short for their age”.

The report ranked India 100th among 119 developing countries, behind Iraq and North Korea, on GHI.

“I hope the Centre assures states that it will make adequate funding provisions. That is the key. In the interest of decentralisation, the menu of school meals is best left to states, according to local preferences but milk and eggs are essential,” said Radhika Singh of Balahita Trust.

Under the mid-day meal programme, the cost of foodgrains is borne by the Centre, while the cost of vegetables, pulses, oil, condiments and fuel is shared by the central and state governments in the 60:40 ratio, in most cases.

In the north-eastern states, the Centre bears 90% of the scheme’s financial burden.

BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh had last year shot down a proposal by one the state’s departments to introduce eggs in school meals, citing religious sensibilities. The state has one of the highest proportions of malnourished children among the states in India.

A Project Evaluation of Entitlement Programmes (PEEP) survey of IIT-Delhi had found that Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh were among states that excluded eggs from school menu.