The story of mid-day meal scandal in Bihar was just shocking. And more shocking were the stories from different parts of the country that appeared in media just after that incident. However, why does it happen in India so often? One reason is certainly the degradation of the moral values in the mind and heart of the people at large who want to make money at all cost from every possible source. Unfortunately, the most affected are the poor and deprived lot of the society.
The idea of mid-day meal is great for at least two reasons.It provides a minimum amount of nutritious food for the deprived and it also serves as an incentive to come and be in the school at least till the meal is served. But the idea that gives birth to a policy but be followed with the design of the scheme with built in quality control system through clear cut fixation of the responsibility of the different persons responsible in carrying out the task. Quality design and control must follow some sort of FMEA (Failure Mode Effect Analysis) to ensure that all possible means of failures have been considered in advance. Next in the chain of actions must be the detail working of policy deployment that fixes the responsibilities for the operative aspects of the policy. Without the well thought out detail design, no policy of entitlements even with best intention can be successful in a country like India. The government and the leadership must learn to appreciate these management techniques that have been successfully used in the industry.
However, after visiting some schools in Bihar in my last visits to Bihar, I have an opinion of mine about the way mid-day meal scheme is run. It would have been nice if the mid-day meal would not have been cooked right in the school premises with headmaster as its head administrator. How can the headmasters who are not able to motivate and manage their teachers to teach effectively, can take responsibility of the mid-day meals too?
For providing a mid-day meals to a good number of school children as a regular way, a suitably organisation with its manpower to look after all the necessary operations and the infrastructure for purchasing the inputs, cooking (hygienic kitchen), feeding, and trashing for keeping the overall hygiene under control, must be in place for every school. The extent of work will depend on the number of students to be fed. Is the administration ready to do all these or just wish to keep on passing the buck to someone when the problem arises or a massacre happens?
A suitable woman entrepreneur of the nearby village can be selected and encouraged to get prepared and supply the mid-day food to the school children. Even a trained women cooperative can take up the task. The panchayat head can appoint some very senior man or some ex-service man to help and supervise the task.
All the schemes require the accountability of its execution fixed to right persons who are paid to carry out the responsibility. The scheme is necessary for a country such as India with so much of poverty and malnutrition, but it requires a good management too, as even ministers responsible are considering it impossible to control the quality of food provided in mid-day scheme.
We must learn lessons and take the corrective measures.