The first meeting of the Empowered Committee for Mid Day Meal Scheme met in New Delhi. The Committee presided over by the Human Resources Development Minister Dr. M. M. Pallam Raju decided to place more emphasis on quality, hygiene and safety aspects of the mid day meal.
The Committee noted the increasing trends in coverage of children under the Mid Day Meal Scheme. The coverage has increased from 104.6 million children in 2010-11 to 106.7 million children in 2012-13. The Committee also appreciated the increase in coverage in the States of Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal during the same period. The Committee expressed satisfaction with the reduction in the number of poorly performing districts from 177 to 111.
However, they exhorted the States of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, J&K and Chhattisgarh to focus on the poorly performing districts.
The Committee thereafter reviewed the performance of the completion of kitchen-cum-stores and while appreciating the steps taken by Bihar and Maharashtra in completing the incomplete kitchen-cum-stores, asked the other States to take necessary steps to complete the kitchen-cum-stores to ensure safety, hygiene and quality of food.
The Committee felt that appropriate steps need to be taken to enhance drinking water and sanitation facilities in all the schools in convergence with Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
The Scheme of Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation for water supply to all the schools should be circulated to all the States. The Committee appreciated the steps being taken to promote hand washing in schools. The Committee also felt that there should be greater convergence with the Ministry of Health on the School Health Programme, through their Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram. Similarly, the Emergency Trauma services of the States should be utilized in case of any untoward incident in any school.
The Committee reviewed the work of 19 Joint Review Missions, which have been undertaken in different States and desired that the meetings of the District level Vigilance and Monitoring Committee under the Chairmanship of Member of Parliament should invariably be held at quarterly intervals to review the above issues.
The Committee also desired that the MDMS should ensure active participation of the School Management Committees and Panchayati Raj Institutions for effective implementation of the Scheme.
Dr. Raju said that there is a need to consolidate the Mid Day Meal scheme and efforts should be made to ensure that quality is not compromised. The Minister exhorted the States to learn from each other's best practices.
The Education Minister of Bihar Shri P K Shahi said that the State has taken several steps to ensure better infrastructure for the Mid Day Meal scheme. He said that those schools which do not have the land to construct their own kitchen have been tagged with nearby schools.
The meeting was attended, among others, by the Ministers of State Mr. Jitin Prasada and Dr. Shashi Tharoor, Ministers of Education of Bihar and Meghalaya, representatives of the various ministries of the Government including Health and Family Welfare, Panchayati Raj, Women and Child Development and Minority Affairs. Representatives of several NGOs also gave their inputs on the issue.