The Delhi government will provide dry ration to the students of its schools for a six-month period under the mid-day meal scheme, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced on Tuesday.
The move comes in view of the continued closure of schools since March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
"When the schools were closed, we decided to send the money for mid-day meals to the parents' accounts, but now, it has been decided that we will give dry ration for six months," Kejriwal said at a dry ration distribution event at a government school in the Mandawali area.
Under the scheme, dry ration kits containing wheat, rice, pulses and oil will be provided to all eligible students of Classes 1-8 in the Delhi government schools.
"All this while we tried to provide the corresponding amount of the mid-day meal provided to the students in the bank accounts of their parents. But today, we are starting ration distribution at the request of the parents. Each student will be provided with an adequate ration for a period of six months -- July to December, 2020 -- so that there is no lack in providing nutrition to children," the chief minister said.
"We tried our best to provide food to everyone during the lockdown. The Delhi government provided food to 10 lakh people every day and the arrangements for the same were made in all the schools across Delhi, including the central government and MCD schools. Around 10 lakh people were provided lunch and dinner every day and we used to serve them as if we were serving at langars since we had our religious sentiments. We continued with the distribution till people stopped coming for food," the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader added.
Schools across the country were closed in March to contain the spread of Covid-19. They were partially reopened in some states on October 15.
However, the Delhi government has announced that schools will not reopen in the national capital till a vaccine for the coronavirus is available.
"The last nine months have been extremely difficult and we cannot see an end to this difficulty. The vaccine has been made and I hope it will reach our country soon. I pray to god for the vaccine to bring an end to our misery so that our lives can get back on track. But till the time the vaccine does not come, we have to find solutions.
"The most distressed in the last nine months were children. They cannot remain locked up in a room. They have energy and want to play and go to school, but we had never thought that our children will have to study in front of phones and computers because schools will be closed. The whole system has changed," Kejriwal said.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said the non-availability of mid-day meals due to the closure of schools posed a challenge.
"There were many families that were finding it hard to have enough on their plates. Massive unemployment due to Covid-19 has aggravated the issue. We experimented by transferring money directly to the students' accounts. It was the chief minister's idea that it is better to distribute ration rather than transferring money. Hence, we are now providing dry ration to more than eight lakh students in the government and government-aided schools in Delhi," he said.