Saturday, April 05, 2008

Biscuits Vs Hot Meal : which is better?

Women and Child Development Minister, Mrs Renuka Choudhary, last month came up with a 'Tughlaq' suggestion that the children in the thousands of anganvadi's could not be given hot cooked mid day meal as there is a scarcity in the infrastructure or clean drinking water for cooking. Her suggestion was thus to stop the hot mid day meal and replace it packaged food like biscuits and snacks along with milk.

Is this decision a result of the vast lobbying that the buiscuit lobby did on the Integrated Child Development Scheme, which takes care of the Mid-day meal scheme? The Biscuit lobby eyes a multi-thousand crore market in front it, if it gets an opening thru these schools. Another point that be noted here is that whenever there has been an agricultural crisis in the country, especially that concerns wheat, biscuit manufacture has been stopped by the government. So is this lobbying to take over the mid-day meal, a kind of immunity from any kind of government ban if such a crisis arise?

Recently, in teh last budget speech, PC has extended the mid-day meal scheme to the upper primary classes too in educationally backward blocks in all government and government aided schools. till, now, as per the website of the WCD ministry itself, the government has been able to provide food for 120 million children everyday, and it employs two women per school for a group of 25children. The basic idea was to provide employment to rural women, who could inturn provide good food for their own children as well. By extending this benefit to upper primary schools, the governmemt has laid down a roadmap with a vide scope of employment for poor women in rural areas.

If WCD Minister's suggestions are implemented, many women will be unemployed, and more children will be malnourished. With packaged food, quality will always be in question. It is time concerned groups and courts take notice of this rooting corruption in the ICDS programme and bring in steps to stop WCD Ministry from going ahead with its plans. Else, we will end up bringing up an unhealthy childforce!

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