THE HUMAN Resource Development (HRD) Ministry asked state governments on Friday to begin providing hot cooked Mid Day Meals (MDM) or food security allowance to all students in classes 1 to 8 for as long as their schools remain closed to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The Union government had announced a nationwide shutdown of classrooms on March 16 in a bid to break the chains of transmission of the novel coronavirus. Some states such as Delhi and Kerala had closed schools, much before the Centre’s announcement, till March 31.
Kerala is already providing hot-cooked meals to students at home. Emulating Kerala, West Bengal announced similar measures Thursday.
The ministry’s order comes after the Supreme Court issued notices to all state governments this week to explain how they would ensure the midday meals reach the vulnerable while schools stay shut.
“As the country is passing through difficult times of the Novel COVID-19 outbreak, the state governments and union territories are advised to provide hot cooked Mid Day Meal or Food Security Allowance, whichever is feasible, to all eligible children till such time their schools are closed due to Novel COVID-19,” states the letter written by Joint Secretary R C Meena to all state government on Friday.
What the rules say
The Union government’s Friday order draws power from the MDM Rules 2015, which envisage a situation when meals cannot be provided to students on account of unavailability of foodgrains, cooking cost, fuel or absence of cook-cum-helper. In such a situation the government expected to provide a food security allowance to each child consisting of foodgrains and cooking cost entitlement.
“The modalities for this purpose may be decided by the respective States and UTs, suitable to the prevailing circumstances,” the letter says.
The MDM scheme covers all school students studying in classes 1 to 8 of government schools, government-aided schools, special training centres, including madrasas and maqtabs supported under Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan. Currently, there are 9.17 crore students covered under this scheme.
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