Centre plans to make midday meal scheme competitive

The Centre is set to make the implementation of the midday meal scheme “competitive”, with the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry developing a system of ranking the states’ performance.

The best among all the states “will be honoured,” sources told Deccan Herald.

A committee of experts set up by the ministry is in the process of “fine-tuning” the methods to be applied for ranking the states based on their performance on various key parameters. Quality of food being served to the children in schools will be the key indicator among others.

The ministry’s move comes following the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s focus on outcome-based implementation of Centre-sponsored schemes.

“The basic idea behind bringing in a comprehensive ranking system is to improve the implementation of the programme. It is expected that the ranking of the states will not only create a competition among them but also among districts as they would seek to compete with one  another in order to be honoured as the best,” sources said.

The midday meal scheme has contributed in enhancing enrolment, retention and attendance of children in schools across the country, but the quality of the food being served under the flagship programme continues to be a major concern.

As many as 29 incidents of children getting sick or dying after consuming contaminated midday meals were reported from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha till July this year.

“Such incidents are the result of lacunae in the implementation of the scheme. There are guidelines, but it is found they are not followed in letter and spirit in many cases. The ranking system will be giving the ministry a chance to flag the specific areas where states need to take corrective steps,” sources said.

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