Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday asked the Central government to restart the mid-day meals in schools. Noting that the Covid-19 pandemic had resulted into shutting down the schools and eventually stopping the mid-day meal scheme, Sonia Gandhi said, “Schools were the first institutions to be closed and the last to be reopened… With the closure of schools during Covid pandemic, the system of mid-day meals was also stopped.”
Raising her point in the parliament, Sonia Gandhi further said that during the pandemic, children were given dry rations and food grains under the National Food Security Act but for children, dry ration is not a substitute for hot cooked meals. Also, restarting the mid-day meal scheme will help to bring back the children who have dropped out of school during the pandemic. She further urged for the provisions in the Budget for cooked food under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) program.
Pointing out the ‘worrisome’ statistics and asking for the intervention of the government, Sonia Gandhi noted that according to the National Family Health Survey of 2019-21, the percentage of children below five years of age suffering from stunting has increased in recent years as compared to 2015-16.
Notably, the Parliamentary Standing Committee had recently raised concerns over the underutilisation of the allocated funds under the PM-Poshan scheme. Only Rs 6,660.54 crore out of the total allocation of Rs 11,500 crore had been spent in this fiscal year till January 31, standing at 57.91 per cent utilization of the total funds, the committee had noted.
Renamed as PM-Poshan scheme last year, the centrally sponsored mid-day meal scheme provides the students of Class 1 to 8 in government and aided schools with one hot cooked meal.