What is Mid-Day Meal?
On November 28th, 2001 the Supreme Court of India passed an order stating:
"We direct the State Governments/Union Territories to implement the Mid-Day Meal Scheme by providing every child in every Government and Government assisted Primary School with a prepared mid-day meal."
Mid-Day Meal Scheme aimed to:
avoid classroom hunger
increase school enrolment
increase school attendance
improve socialisation among castes
address malnutrition and
empower women through employment
The Akshaya Patra Foundation, which was by then successfully implementing its own school lunch programme in Karnataka, was called in to give testimonies for verifying the efficacy of the scheme; post which the mandate to implement Mid-Day Meal Scheme was passed.
In order to successfully carry out this mandate, each State Government then started its own Mid-Day Meal programme. Initiated by the Government of Karnataka, Akshara Dasoha is one such scheme in place.
One challenge that the Government faced was that of successful implementation. As per the NP-NSPE, 2006 [Mid-Day Meal Scheme] Guidelines, wherever possible, the Government would mobilize community support and promote public-private partnership for the programme. Not-for-profits, such as Akshaya Patra, are therefore encouraged to set up operations and they act as the implementing arm of the Government.
‘The recognition of the role of voluntary agencies in partnering Government initiatives by the Centre may have had some influence in the initiatives taken by the Government of Karnataka to bring several NGOs into major Government sponsored programmes’
---Karnataka Human Development Report, 2005
In fact, as the Karnataka Human Development Report 2005 explains, the Government of Karnataka was the ‘first to take this step’ of involving NGOs in development programmes. The report states that this ‘involvement of the NGOs in multilateral/bilateral programmes, raises the level of co-operations to another level. The NGOs become not only implementers; they also find a place in designing and managing programmes together with Government at all levels.’
This pioneering move, by the Government of Karnataka, to make NGOs the implementing arm of the Government has been one of the major reasons for its success in attaining the goals of the programme. The achievements of these private-public partnerships have even influenced the Central Government. By setting up and encouraging private-public partnerships, the Government is successfully leveraging the skills and resources of the private sector for the greater good. Today, India's Mid-Day Meal Scheme is one of the largest school lunch programme in the world. 104 million children were covered in 1.15 million schools during 2013-14.