Government and aided school students in Karnataka not given dry rations since June
When schools closed due to COVID-19 in March and midday meals were stopped, the State government provided dry ration kits till May
Lakhs of students in government and aided schools have been deprived of dry ration kits since June. When schools closed because of COVID-19 in March and midday meals were stopped, the State government provided ration kits that included rice and toor dal for three months till May.
However, it has not distributed rations to students for five months from June to October.
Around 48 lakh children from classes 1 to 10 depend on the midday meals and a majority of them come from lower socio-economic backgrounds and marginalised communities.
Siddharth Joshi, an independent researcher with the Aahara Namma Hakku, Karnataka, filed a RTI application with the Department of Public Instruction to find out the months when dry rations were provided and the reasons for not doing so in certain months. “The midday meals’ office forwarded the query to district offices to respond. Officials from two districts[Tumakuru and Kolar] have told us that they gave dry rations till the end of May,” he said.
Dry ration kits have not been distributed in other districts too. V. Anbu Kumar, Commissioner for Public Instruction, said that they were waiting for a government order in this regard. “I have learnt that the order is almost ready. As soon it is issued, we will distribute rations for June and July. A proposal for the subsequent months has also been sent to the government,” he said.
Activists, however, pointed out that the delay has already affected students who depended on the midday meals and the ration kits.
Manjunath S., an auto driver whose two children study in a government primary school in Bengaluru, said, “I had no steady source of income in the last two months. I am able to provide only two meals a day for my children. If the school had provided rations, it would have taken care of the food requirements of my children.”
The midday meal is a right under the National Food Security Act. “The Ministry of Human Resource Development too had instructed State governments and Union Territories to ensure that they either provide hot meals or give food security allowance comprising food grains and cooking costs to eligible children for the duration,” said Mr. Joshi.
Sylvia Karpagam, a public health doctor, said that there is an urgent need to ensure that the rations are supplied to children as there is a nutrition crisis among several families, which have been pushed into poverty owing to the pandemic. “The government should provide oil, milk powder, and eggs to meet the nutritional demand of children,” she added.