Patna High Court orders Bihar government to continue Mid-Day Meal Scheme

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The Patna High Court on Friday asked the Bihar government to “continue schemes like the Mid-Day Meal and the Sarwa Shiksha Scheme to provide meals or ration as feasible along with textbooks and notebooks to government school students”.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice S Kumar ruled that “the government had to ensure that statutory benefits under the Food Security Act are disbursed in a timely manner, and updated records are maintained for the same.” The Court order was in response to a suo motu cognisance it took of a June 7 story by the Indian Express, highlighting how children in Bhagalpur district had taken to selling scrap due to discontinuation of Mid-day Meal Scheme after schools closed because of the Corona Virus. The National Human Rights Commission also took suo motu cognisance of that story.

The bench asked the government to “procure and prepare digital lectures for students of all classes; install community-level television sets and distribute radio sets and ensure the increase of reach of remote learning platforms”.

“Perhaps, at the community level, small batches of children can be shown lectures on televisions, while maintaining social distancing norms.”

According to Patna High Court, penetration of mobile handsets in Bihar is bigger than TV and radio sets, the administration should “consider devising and implementing an action plan to utilise” these mediums.

“To ensure engagement, consider expanding the possibility of waiver of telecom charges on the mobile handset or telephone being used for accessing educational programmes. Use Telecom/digital infrastructure to mark the daily attendance of students. A call placed on the designated toll-free number may be programmed to record the daily attendance of the concerned student.”

It asked the government to “organise a robust “Back to School” campaign in the wake of this pandemic to ensure that a minimal dropout rate is achieved.”

The court also asked the government to monitor nutritional health of children by leveraging the reach of Anganwadi workers, who can keep track of children’s growth by recording the weight and height of children at regular intervals.

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