In one year — between 2014-15 and 2015-16 — there has been an increase in the number of students suffering from nutritional deficiency and substance abuse, Delhi government data has revealed. The data, procured through Right to Information (RTI), shows that in 2015-16 there were 33,438 children with nutritional deficiency as against the 15,212 in 2014-15. The data pertains to students of the Delhi government and aided schools.
In a bid to improve the nutritional status of school children, the mid-day meal (MDM) scheme was started in 1995. Covered by the National Food Security Act 2003, the central government provides assistance to the state governments for the scheme. The programme covers children from nursery to Class 8. There were a total of 6,78,468 children in Delhi, covered by the MDM, and 1,822 schools were covered in 2015-16.
Along with the MDM, there is also an ICDS scheme which is to provide additional nutrition through anganwadis.
With nutritional deficiency, the number of children with stunted growth also saw an increase. While in 2014-15, there were 1,921 children who were stunted, a year later, the number jumped to 3,894. The number of students under substance abuse has also increased in the same period. While there were 261 of them in 2014-15, the number jumped to 302 in 2015-16.
The RTI was filed by an NGO, Matri Sudha, which deals with health and education of women and children. “There is a lack of co-ordination between different agencies because of which the benefits do not reach the students. Due to this we have also filed a PIL in the High Court,” said Arvind Singh of Matri Sudha.
A number of children studying in government schools were also found to be suffering from anaemia, shows another RTI filed by the same NGO. The RTI reply said that on July 2015, 87,144 students were found to be anaemic out of 46,9,144 children screened in 350 schools. While in 2014 in 984 Delhi government schools, 1,93,084 children were anaemic. The numbers suggest anaemia is more common among girl students.
Acknowledging these problems, the government said that these were the reasons for them to extend the MDM for girl students. “We have introduced bananas and eggs, which will be served from July this year. This is costing government Rs 90 crore apart from the what the central government gives. We have also extended the scheme to girl students of classes 9-12 as we know they are doubly marginalised in terms of nutrition,” said Atishi Marlena, advisor to the Education Minister Manish Sisodia.