With a view to enhancing enrolment, retention and attendance and simultaneously improving nutritional levels among children, the National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education (NP-NSPE) was launched as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme on 15th August 1995 (MHRD website). It became mandatory in 2001, every child enrolled in a government and government aided primary school was to be served a prepared mid-day meal with a minimum content of 300 calories of energy and 8 to 12 gms protein per day for a minimum of 200 days. Over the years, the scheme was seen various revisions and extensions.
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Although this scheme is centrally sponsored, the Mid-day Meal Scheme (MDMS) is a highly coordinated scheme with several actors at various levels that are essential for its functioning at the state, district, block, Gram Panchayat , local government and school level. India’s government mid-day meal program is the largest in the world, feeding 120 million students per day (Newton, 2016).
Certain states in India had their own mid-day meal schemes prior to it being introduced by the Central government in 1995. As far back in 1925, in pre-independence India, a mid-day meal program was introduced for poor children living in the Madras Corporation area in Tamil Nadu (GoI 1995:2 as cited in Swaminathan, add year). The next year, the Madras government introduced a compulsory elementary education scheme, which included the Madras Corporation. This program continued till 1982-83, when a new scheme was introduced, replacing it. The new scheme called the Puratchi Thalaivar MGR Nutritious Meal Programme (PTMGR NMP) was introduced in rural areas for pre-school and primary school children i.e. children aged from 2 to 9 years. The scheme was later extended to urban areas (Sept 1982), to old age pensioners (Jan 1983), to school students aged from 10 to 15 years (Sept 1984) and pregnant women (Dec 1995). Other parts of India too had their mid-day meal scheme before the government initiative in 1995 such as some parts of Kerala (1941), Bombay (1942), Bangalore city (1946), Uttar Pradesh (1953) and Gujarat (1984).
By 1990-1991, twelve states had implemented the mid-day meal program using their own resources. In 1995, the NP-NSPE was launched in certain blocks. Central assistance provided free food grains (100 gram/ child/ school day) and transport subsidies capped at Rs. 50/ 100 kg. By 1997-1998, the program was extended to all regions of the country. In 2001, the Supreme court mandated the mid-day meal be implemented by all states. In the states or Union Territories where dry rations instead of cooked meals were provided, the Supreme Court ordered that cooked meals must be provided within three months in all government and government-aided primary schools (classes I to V) in all half of the Districts of the State (in order of poverty) and must extended the provision of cooked meals to the rest of the state.
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