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Time to explore mid-day meals during holidays

Time to explore mid-day meals during holidays
Highlights

The possibility of providing mid-day meals even during school holidays should be explored, a top HRD ministry official said on Friday in reference to...

New Delhi: The possibility of providing mid-day meals even during school holidays should be explored, a top HRD ministry official said on Friday in reference to the recent death of a Jharkhand girl allegedly due to starvation.

Rina Ray, special secretary in the Department of School Education and Literacy under the Ministry of Human Resource Development was speaking at a day-long conference here on implementation of the National Food Security Act, 2013, in relation to children, lactating mothers and pregnant women, organised by the National Human Rights Commission.

The official said while it has been established that the 11-year-old girl was not being denied mid-day meals, it was true that she could not avail its benefits during the period that preceded her death due to school holidays.

Under the mid-day meal scheme, every enrolled child, aged 6-14 years and studying in classes 1 to 8, is provided hot cooked meals having certain notified nutritional standards. The scheme comes under the HRD ministry's Department of School Education and Literacy. She conceded that any such move might have huge financial implications and that many schemes run by her department were already suffering from "severe financial crunch". Touching upon the contentious issue of Aadhar seeding, the HRD official emphasised that it was "not mandatory", even as she flagged concerns on leakages due to ghost enrolments.

"We will have to strike a balance between the benefits of having an ID and ensuring that no child is denied benefits due to the lack of it," she said. NHRC chairperson H L Dattu lamented about India's position in the recently released 'Global Hunger Index' despite the existence of schemes like mid-day meal and the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS). India stood at 100th place out of 119 nations.

Speaking on the occasion, Women and Child Development secretary Rakesh Srivastava noted the Prime Minister's Office had recently directed the district collectors to meet at least once in three months to review the status of malnutrition among children.

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