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Hamilton College

Publication Date

Fall 2012

Program Name

India: Sustainable Development and Social Change


The Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDMS)—the world’s largest school lunch program—was launched by India’s central government in August 1995 with the lofty goals of “enhancing enrollment, retention, and attendance while simultaneously improving nutritional levels among children.”[1] 17 years later, particularly following prominent Supreme Court orders in November 2001 and April 2004, MDMS has become a key program for the government, now serving about 105 million primary and upper-primary schoolchildren in 1.2 million schools.[2] When implemented properly, MDMS has had a noticeable positive impact on student attendance and enrollment, alongside a reduction in teacher absenteeism. Yet grave disparities in application nonetheless persist in MDMS between states. For this project, I examined MDMS in the underachieving state of Uttar Pradesh; a 2010 report by the UP Advisor to the Supreme Court Commissioners called the overall performance of MDMS in the state “far from satisfactory.”[3] Specifically, I analyzed the role of parents, teachers, and local institutions in providing MDMs. While the meals are funded by the central and state governments, implementation responsibilities lie with the locality and consistent local participation is requisite for high-quality lunches. After a month of interviews, schools visits, and community observations in Lucknow District, UP, I learned that, while UP’s MDMS has improved in recent years, both community participation and local institutions remain quite weak, especially in urban schools. Although there were many reasons for this weakness, a disconnect between distribution NGOs and schools and the slow progress of building School Management Committees (as required by the 2010 Right-to-Education Act) were two key factors. By the end of this essay, I conclude that giving parents opportunities to meaningfully participate and making school data more accessible will be necessary for not only the betterment of MDMS, but for the improvement of India’s public education system writ large.

[1] India. Ministry of Human Resource Development. Department of School Education and Literacy, Mid-Day Meal Scheme. National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education (Mid-Day Meal Scheme), 2006, GUIDELINES. P. 2

[2] India. Ministry of Human Resource Development. Department of School Education and Literacy. Working Group Report on Elementary Education and Literacy. P 171

[3] Dhuru, Arundhati. Status of Implementation of Food Schemes in Uttar Pradesh P 38


Civic and Community Engagement | Education | International and Community Nutrition | Nutrition | Politics and Social Change | Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education


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