Centre carrying out detailed audit of Mid Day Meal programme in wake of episodes of corruption
The review, to be carried out by a private agency hired by the government’s think tank Niti Aayog, will see a detailed dissection of the scheme in all states and Union Territories.
NEW DELHI: The Centre has begun a largescale audit and review of the Mid Day Meal (MDM) scheme in the wake of repeated episodes of irregularities and corruption in the scheme, reported mainly from Uttar Pradesh last year. The review, to be carried out by a private agency hired by the government’s think tank Niti Aayog, will see a detailed dissection of the scheme in all states and Union Territories and could be its biggest review in several years. Officials in the Aayog and the Union Human Resources Development Ministry said that a detailed audit of the project was necessitated in the wake of repeated instances of irregularities despite several measures in place.
“A major professional services network firm is being hired to see how is the scheme working on the ground,” a senior HRD Ministry official said. Through MDM, food is provided to nearly 12 crore children up to Class VIII for at least 200 days a year in over 11.4 lakh government schools across the country. MDM guidelines stipulate the meals should meet certain dietary stipulations.
Children in Class I-V should get 450 calories per day with 12 gm protein, while those in the upper primary should get 700 calories, including 20 gm protein.
Officials, however, concede that shoddy implementation has often put a question mark on the ambitious programme. “There have been reports that children were fed substandard or adulterated food. There are provisions for regular social audit, field visits and inspections but these are seldom carried out,” said an official in Aayog.
Field visit reports, in fact, are not available after 2014 when the Narendra Modi government took charge and there is no report from monitoring institutions after 2015. “Earlier, experts groups from top institutions such as the Indian Institute of Technology and Tata Institute of Social Sciences were made to visit several schools in each district every year and submit their report, which has not been happening now,” he added. “That’s why we felt the need for a robust, third-party review,” said the official.