Way back in 1925 Madras Municipal Corporation started the concept of offering meals for disadvantaged children.

Offering food was seen as an incentive to encourage school participation especially from children of poor parents.

Today, that concept has grown into a major project positioning India as the world’s largest school feeding programme via its Mid Day Meal Scheme. One of the rationales for this programme – to stem school dropouts – appears to have been achieved as data shows.

This week IndiaSpend’s Sourjya Bhowmick takes a look at the performance of the Mid Day Meal Scheme against the budgetary allocations that it gets.

The school feeding programme has its share of problems and criticisms but data does indicate an impressive performance at a macro level. Yet, a number of issues remain as stumbling blocks.

India’s Mid Day Meal Scheme is the world’s largest school feeding programme that reaches out to about 12 crore children (though the outcome budget says it is 11 crore) in over 12.65 lakh schools all over the country. The government in its Budget for 2012-13 (April-March) has allocated Rs 11,009 crore to the total Mid Day Meal Programme this year.

Mid Day Meal was introduced as a centrally sponsored scheme in 1995 in 2,408 blocks of the country.

The main idea was to encourage school enrolment, attendance as well as improve the nutrition intake of children. Eventually the scheme was extended to all the blocks in the country covering students of Class I-VII (in place of Class I-V) in the 3,479 educationally backward blocks to even Government aided schools. Today, the Scheme covers primary and upper primary school children across the country, Government aided schools as well as students who study under the Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS) and the Army Institute of Education (AIE) centres.

Cost of the Programme

The cost break up for the scheme is;

  • Cooking Cost per child is Rs 2.89 at primary school level and Rs 4.33 at upper primary level in 2011-12. This cost is shared between the Centre and the states in a ratio of 75:25.
  • Honorarium of cook cum helper is Rs 1,000 per month. At present, there are around 26 lakh cook cum helpers and of these 85% are women.
  • Transport subsidy for food grains is Rs 125 per quintal for special category states and Rs 75 per quintal for other states.
  • Provisioning and replacement cost of kitchen devices at an average of Rs 5,000 per school.
  • Assistance to construct kitchen cum store of a maximum of Rs 60,000 per unit.

Mid Day Meal Allocations

The following table will give you an idea how much is allotted every fiscal for this scheme over the last few years:

Budget YearAmount ( Rs In Crores)Revenue ExpenditureReleases
2012-201311,009
2011-201210,38010,3802,583 ( till 31st May’11)*
2010-20119,4409,4409,128
2009-20108,0007,3596,938
2008-20098,0008,0006,540
2007-20087,3246,6785,835

* The Central Expenditure till December, 2011 was Rs 7,593 crore.

Source: Mid Day Meal

A total amount of Rs 54,153 crore has been budgeted for this scheme between 2007-08 and 2012-13. The total outlay for the Eleventh Five Year Plan was Rs 48,000 crore. The outlay for the Tenth Five Year Plan was Rs 5,900 crore.

Performance of Mid Day Meal

The performance of this programme is well highlighted in the Outcome Budget of 2012. The achievements of the scheme are:

  • Regular mid day meals have been provided to 11.07 crore children until now (7.6 crore at primary level and 3.4 crore at upper primary level and 3.8 lakh in other government funded schools in a total of 12 lakh schools.
  • Construction of kitchens has been sanctioned in 8,71,000 schools during 2006-07-2011-12. Of these, 5,77,000 kitchens have already been constructed and 1,29,000 are in progress.
  • In this same period 11.31 lakh kitchen devices (stove, chulha etc) were sanctioned. Of these, 10.18 lakh were procured by June 2011, indicating a 90% procurement rate.
  • At present, 24 lakh cooks are currently engaged thereby generating around 240 million of person-days of employment per annum.

Data indicate that the Mid Day Meal’s performance is largely impressive. But there are a few aspects of the programme, especially infrastructure, where achievement is lagging behind. These are:

InfrastructureNumber of Facilities With This InfrastructureTotal Number Of Facilities In IndiaAchievement In %age
Gas Based Cooking2,72,97612,63,25622
Toilet Construction7,30,80512,63,25658
Drinking Water Facilities8,52,67912,63,25667

(As On March, 2011)

Source: Mid Day Meal

The Mid Day Meal data also shows that many of the states’ performance on the programme is good in most parameters.

Driving Factors

Overall, monitoring and implementation are important factors for execution of social programmes in India.

There are 42 national level institutions, including some of the Indian Institute of Managements, which monitor the Mid Day Meal scheme.

Non-governmental organisations like Akshaya Patra in Bangalore and Nandi Foundation play an active role in implementing the programme.

Akshaya Patra had its own school feeding programme before the Mid Day Meal programme took its proper shape. It has expanded its own operation and also acts as an implementing agency of the government.

Nandi Foundation runs its operation in 3,19,300 schools, covering five states –Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Rajasthan. The total number of meals it has served during February 2003 to January 2012 is 74,18,62,548.

The management and implementation of the programme is done by Panchayats, Self Help Groups and NGOs. Most importantly, school management, village education committees and parent-teachers committees monitor the scheme.

Representatives of the Panchayats have been vested with the duty of monitoring cleanliness, cooking, and availability of goods on a daily basis. State government officials are recommended that 25% of all primary schools are visited every quarter. Food Corporation of India (FCI) is also responsible for the uninterrupted availability of food grains and is asked to advance quantity of food grains for upto one month.

There are reports emanating from various states of glitches in the programme. Most of these are on infrastructure and delay in procurement.

Despite these issues and problems the Mid Day Meal Scheme appears to be achieving its objective. The country’s Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) has been steadily increasing over the last few years in primary as well as upper primary schools, especially among girl students and those from scheduled castes and tribe communities. The GER for Upper Primary Schools (V-VIII) was 70 during 2004-05, and it increased to 81.5 in 2009-10. The GER for the Primary School level was 107.8 during 2004-05 and it increased to 115.5 in 2009-10.

The school dropout rate has also decreased. The school drop-out rate for elementary education (I-VIII) was 51 in 2004-05, but it came down to 43 in 2007-08. The drop-out rate for the Primary level (I-V) was 29 during 2004-05 and it decreased to 25 in 2007-08.

The world’s largest school feeding programme is seemingly chugging along on the right track.

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