Nobody Can Study On An Empty Stomach - Mid-Day Meal Is A Fundamental Right

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • A petition was filed in Karnataka High Court seeking to direct the State to provide mid-day meals for students of class 6th to 8th standard.
  • The 2 judge bench of Karnataka High Court on 16th March 2021 advised the State to start mid-day meals also directed to reply till 30th March 2021 on whether they intend to start mid-day meals and from when.
  • State showed no signs of restarting the scheme of mid-day meals citing issues due to the pandemic.

BACKGROUND DETAILS

  • Petitioner Radha M filed a petition before the Karnataka High Court urging direction to be given to the State with regards to restarting mid-day meals to students of class 6th to 8th standard as schools have started.
  • During the last hearing on 16th March, senior advocate Jayna Kothari representing the petitioner said that ‘on the pretext of mid-day meals children would receive an education.’
  • Furthermore, she cited a Supreme Court judgement and said dry rations were provided to students when schools were closed but when the schools have reopened and students are regularly attending they should be provided with cooked meals.
  • The state government was reluctant regarding the idea of starting mid-day meals especially in those areas where there was a spike in covid cases.

FURTHER DETAILS

  • The state government in its reply to the court said that they provide dry rations till 10th April to the students while the state would await directions from the central government regarding when to resume mid-day meals.
  • Also the State showed scepticism to provide mid-day meals during a covid situation as they specified that the area surrounding the Kerela-Karnataka borders were hit severely by the covid pandemic.
  • The State government in its latest reply on 30th March asserted that though there is a provision to provide mid-day meals to students of government and aided schools / Anganwadi however, it is not known to them whether it should be provided for students attending schools during covid.
  • However, on 30th March the State replied that they will continue to provide food security allowance in the form of food grains to students attending regular classes in schools from class 6th to class 10th though the second wave of covid in the State has begun.
  • The decision regarding providing meals at anganwadi centres shall be decided based on the advice of technical advisory committee of the Health and Family welfare department.
  • An affidavit filed by the Department of Education said that serving cooked mid meals in the school premises would lead to more infections during corona and they have devised an action plan before the government seeking financial assistance to provide food security allowance for 47 days to students from 10th April to 10th June.

COURT'S OBSERVATIONS

• On 16th March – (1st Hearing)

  • The bench comprising of Justice BV Nagarathna and Justice NS Sanjay Gowda issued directions to the State directing that children aged 3 to 6 years attending Anganwadi should be served hot cooked meals.
  • The court orally observed that as the right to education is a fundamental right under article 21 likewise mid-day meal though a scheme will be considered a fundamental right as one cannot expect students to study on an empty stomach.
  • Also, the court showed its displeasure with the contentions placed by the State and remarked that they were aware of the covid situation for the past 1 year still they did not make any proper strategies.
  • It also directed the State that it should not wait for the central government’s nod and should start providing cooked meals to the students.
  • However, the court gave the State some time to reply till 30th March on whether cooked meals are being provided to children attending anganwadis and other students who are eligible under the category to receive mid-day meals.

• On 30th March – (2nd Hearing)

  • The court orally observed that serving mid-day meals would attract more students rather than supplying food grains.
  • The 2 judge bench comprising of Justice BV Nagarthana and Justice JM Khazi directed the State to decide on resuming the mid-day meals from 15th April for eligible students from grade 6th to 10th who are physically attending the schools.

CURRENT SCENARIO

The matter is listed to be heard on 15th April. The court has directed the State to file a reply by 15th April regarding its decision on restarting mid-day meals for eligible students.

CONCLUSION

It seems that the State is in no mood to start mid-day meal for students who are physically attending schools even though the second wave has started. In each hearing, the court is giving more and more time to State Government to think and make a proper plan in a hope that the State will provide mid meals to students. Though the concerns of the State is also true that preparing and serving cooked meals may increase chances of covid and to avoid such situations they are directly providing food grains to students. Whatsoever, the decision is the important thing as of now is to provide food to children at the time of the pandemic.

 

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JINALI SHAH Online
on 03 April 2021
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