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Amend food security Act, ensure midday meal to poor kids in private schools: Plea to Modi

By Our Representative

A senior Ahmedabad-based environmentalist, Mahesh Pandya, has pleaded before the Government of India to amend Section 5(1) (b) of the Food Security Act, 2013 in order to enable poor students admitted to unaided private schools to get midday meal, compulsory for primary school children under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009.
In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with a copy to Niti Aayog vice chairperson Dr Rajiv Kumar, Pandya, who heads Paryavaran Mitra, said, as of today, the Food Security Act ensures only poor child attending either government or government-aided schools mid-day meal.
Paryavaran Mitra enjoys observer organization status to the The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Pandya personally enjoys special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.
The Food Security Act, 2013 section 5 (1) (b) states, “In the case of children, up to class VIII or within the age group of six to 14 years, whichever is applicable, one mid-day meal, free of charge, everyday, except on school holidays, in all schools run by local bodies, Government and Government aided schools, so as to meet the nutritional standards specified in Schedule II.”
Regretting that this provision fails to address the need of poor children who are admitted to unaided private schools under the RTE Act, under which 25% of the seats are reserved for them, Pandya said, “There is no provision as of now to fulfil the nutritional requirement of a child belonging to economically weaker section admitted under the RTE Act in unaided private schools.”
This forces these children “to arrange for themselves the food requirement during the school hours”, he said, adding, “These children lack funds and adequate facility to bring good nutritional food to school. They either manage to feed themselves through sub-standard packaged food or even go empty stomach during school hours.”
Claiming that this contributes to their malnutrition and failure to get macro-nutrients such as proteins and micro-nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, Pandya said, this unavailability of food in private schools is also a hindrance in India’s fight against malnutrition among children.
Further pointing out that this creates “social inequality among kids and this inequality creates social complexity in students admitted under RTE Act”, Pandya said, this in turn leads to mental stress, adding, if this is issue not addressed, “We may see such students dropping out of such schools due to hunger, malnourishment and social embarrassment.”

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