According to minister of State for Human Resources Development, Govt. of India D Purandeswari, over 13 crore children across the country are receiving benefits from the mid-day meal scheme. But the concern is how well this scheme is working? The planning commission of India, which evaluated the scheme at the ground level found several shortcomings in the implementation of the scheme. As recommendation, the plan panel has suggested that public private partnership will ensure better delivery of services and therefore a better performance of the scheme. Launched in 2005, the school meal programme is one of the most successful programme of govt. of India. It aims to protect children from classroom hunger, increase school enrollment and attendance, check malnutrition and empower underprivileged section of society. The study of the planning commission focused on to assess the extent to which CMDM (cooked mid-day meal), availability of infrastructure for implementation of CMDM, improvement in attendance, retention and nutritional status of children and to assess to the extent to which CMDM has succeeded in achieving the objectives. The study also tried to find out the impact of CMDM on teaching and learning activities in schools. The survey covered 17 states, 48 districts, 480 schools and 4,800 beneficiary students for a period of six years. Some of the findings in the report are: Teachers were found to be actively engaged in implementation of the scheme, which was adversely affecting the teaching process. Pupils spend an average of 9.83 hours a week in washing dishes and utensils in Rajasthan schools. About 75% schools running mid-day meal scheme have no access to drinking water in states such as Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkand, Maharashtra,Meghalaya and West Bengal. Students too spend considerable time in washing utensils that was adversely affecting the learning process. Average time spent by students in washing utensils was 15 minutes (Jammu & Kashmir) to 9.83 hrs (Rajasthan) in a week in the sample selected states. Rajasthan was at the forefront with nearly 50% found involved in washing utensils, closely followed by West Bengal (45.1%) and Arunachal Pradesh (38.14%). According to the study, the scheme has not even been able to dispense the “economic reason” which prevents children from coming to school, which was its main objective. As per the data collected, only 23% from SC and 13% from ST category have been benefiting from the scheme. About one fifth of the beneficiaries in Bihar, Rajasthan and West Bengal reported that they do not get adequate meals at school. While, a large number of students expressed satisfaction about quality of meal in Rajasthan (80%) but other states like Bihar about 72% of the beneficiaries have responded that the quality of food is poor and 77% say that they are not satisfied. Experts too support the planning commission’s recommendation on PPP mode as one of the best model for better service and performance of the scheme. According to D. Jagannatha Rao, former bureaucrat and renowned educationalist who authored a book on Elementary Education in India: Status, Issues and Concerns argues that the Akshaya Patra Program bears an eloquent testimony to the efficacy of successful collaborative efforts between governments and the foundation. The inherent strength that Akshaya Patra stresses is that willingness to work in remote areas, ability to set in motion a participatory process in identification of the needs, the design and implementation of programmes, the readiness to mobilize and use local resources, effective service delivery and freedom to innovate.
PPP model best suited for implementing Mid day meals