Schoolchildren eat their free mid-day meal, distributed by a government-run primary school in Chapra district (Representative Image: Reuters)
The Cabinet on September 29 renamed the existing Mid-Day Meal Scheme as Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman Yojana (PM POSHAN).
Much like the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, the government will provide one cooked hot meal in government and government-aided schools.
Moneycontrol explains how the revamped version of the scheme is different from the existing one.
What is the Mid-Day Meal Scheme?
The nationwide Mid-Day Meal Scheme was launched in 1995 by the Narasimha Rao government. In 2001, the Supreme Court ordered state governments to provide free lunches to students in all state-run elementary schools.
The scheme was launched in order to increase school enrolment and improve the nutritional status of millions of undernourished children across the country.
What is PM POSHAN?
PM POSHAN is a revamped version of the existing Mid-Day Meal scheme. Meals will now be extended to students studying in pre-primary levels or Bal Vatikas of government and government-aided primary schools, in addition to those already covered under the scheme.
It is expected to benefit 11.80 crore children studying in 11.20 lakh schools across the country.
PM POSHAN has been launched for a period of five years, from 2021-22 to 2025-26, with a budget of Rs 1,30,794.90 crore. This includes Rs 54,061.73 crore as the Central government’s share and Rs 31,733.17 crore as State governments’ share. The Centre will also bear an additional cost of Rs 45,000 crore for food grains.
How is the revamped scheme different?
While the earlier scheme focused solely on providing nutritious meals, PM POSHAN will also monitor the nutritional levels of schoolchildren, among other things.
A nutritional expert will be appointed in every school to ensure that BMI, haemoglobin and weight levels of the students are monitored, as per a report by The Print.
Furthermore, special provisions for nutritional items will be made for children in districts that have a high prevalence of Anemia.
The government is also considering developing nutrition gardens on school campuses with active participation by students.
Under the aegis of the scheme, cooking competitions will be encouraged at all levels — right from the village to the national level — to promote ethnic cuisine and innovative menus based on locally available ingredients.
Implementation and auditing
Additionally, to support Vocal4Local and fulfil the objectives of the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative, PM POSHAN will involve Farmer Producer Organisations (FPO) and Women Self Help Groups in the implementation of the scheme.
The government says it will also bring about structural changes in order to enhance transparency. Social audits will be made mandatory for each school in every district under PM POSHAN to oversee and check implementation of the scheme.
The government added that it would engage university and college students to monitor implementation of the scheme through field visits.