NEW DELHI (TIP): Midday meal has become a right of students in elementary schools, run by the government or aided by it, with the Centre notifying rules for implementation of the scheme, including payment of food allowance in case of non-serving of the afternoon lunch under the Food Security Act.

A gazette notification of the guidelines, issued on on Sept 30 evening to link the world’s largest afternoon meal programme with the provisions of the Food Security Act, guaranteed that every student within the age group of six to 14 years studying in classes I to VIII will be served midday meal everyday, except on holidays.

It also made provisions for compensating students with payment of the cost of cooking and cost of food items that they are entitled for in case the midday meal is not served at a school due to non-availability of foodgrains, money, fuel or any other justifiable reasons   including absence of cook-cum-helper.

To ensure that discontinuation of serving of midday meal does not continue for more than three to five days, the Centre’s guidelines make it mandatory for the state governments to take action and “fix responsibility” of the person or agency in such cases.

Schools will have to provide midday meal to children from any of the fund available with it, if funds allocated under the Central scheme has been completely spent.

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The guidelines of the Human Resource Development Ministry, which came into immediate effect from the date of its gazette notification, however, does not speaks about how the food security allowance will be paid to students.

Official sources said respective state governments will decide whether the allowance should be deposited directly into the accounts of students or their parents. “In case where neither parents nor students have any account, the allowance can be paid in cash,” it added.

With the guidelines coming to effect, all primary school students are now entitled for midday meal with nutritional value of at least 450 calories and 12 gm of protein, while students of upper primary classes will get food under the scheme with nutritional value of at least 700 calories and 20 gm protein.

Students of Madrasas and Maqtabs, supported under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), will also come under the ambit of the guidelines. Any deviation from the prescribed nutritional value of the afternoon meal to be served to the children will amount to denial of the food security guaranteed under the law and authorities responsible for such conduct can be dragged to a court for legal remedy, official sources said. “In case where a child has not taken food on offer for whatever reasons, no claim of food security allowance shall lie with the state government or the centralised kitchens. Further, no claim shall lie with state government or Centralised kitchen for reasons of quality of food grains and meal,” the guidelines read.

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