Wednesday, May 7, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



No free lunch for schoolchildren?

Apropos of Mr A.J. Philip’s article No free lunch for schoolchildren: Punjab should take the lead in mid-day meal scheme (April 28), despite considerable progress in education, Punjab, like several other states, continues to face enormous challenges in its quest to achieve education for all. The Centre has taken several steps, some even unorthodox, result-oriented and time-bound, to achieve the goal of universalisation of primary education. The national programme for nutrition support to primary education, popularly known as the mid-day meal scheme launched by the Prime Minister sometime back, was by far the most ambitious social welfare package.

Even though there was an element of populism in it, the scheme, if implemented in right earnest, could revolutionise education. The scheme has worked wonders in Tamil Nadu where it is regarded as the most significant factor in improving the ratio of child retention in schools.

Recent experiences have shown that enrolment in schools by itself is of little importance if children do not continue beyond one year in schools. Many of them do not even see the school for more than a few days. The problem of dropouts seriously dilutes the impact of the large investments being made in primary education. Nearly half the children who enter Class I drop out before reaching Class V and two thirds before Class VIII.


The mid-day meal scheme in Punjab, one of the most prosperous states in India, can make a world of difference to the dropouts and to those who have little incentive to go to schools. Needless to emphasise, the success of any educational programme at the primary stage depends on complementary actions like adequate nutrition and effective healthcare. Perhaps, it was without the effective meal scheme that the goal of education for all by the year 2000 remained elusive. It should no longer be so for Punjab.



The comparison of the mid-day meal scheme with the langars in the gurdwaras, I am afraid, is not really right. There is a religious fervour and devotion beyond the gurdwara langars. This is obviously missing in the mid-day scheme in schools. The gurdwara langars are highly organised which have been evolved and improved upon after years of experience. This is lacking in the schools. Voluntary sewa by the devotees greatly helps in keeping down the cost of the langars. This is not so in the school scheme.

Cost factor apart, many states are finding it difficult to implement the mid-day meal scheme for various reasons. Teaching suffers if teachers play the role of cooks.

WG-CDR C.L. SEHGAL (Retd), Jalandhar


The writer has not mentioned any of the problems inherent in the mid-day meal scheme. The teacher’s primary duty is to teach. He/she should not be overburdened with such tasks like preparing meals for students, enumeration of voters, conducting surveys, performing election duties and doing clerical work.

At present wheat is being distributed among the primary school children. The majority of them sell the wheat to the village shopkeepers and purchase toffees and ladoos in return. Langar in the holy places, prepared with great devotion and cleanliness, is essentially maintained well because a number of volunteers take pride in serving the sangat. The government should also involve other agencies and NGOs to make such programmes click.

RAVI KUMAR, Chheharta, (Amritsar)


Admittedly, there is no scarcity of foodgrains in Punjab and there is no hitch in serving mid-day meals to the school children but the problem is that of implementation. The government schools are in a mess. No proper buildings, adequate staff or basic amenities. By the way, where is the infrastructure available in our schools to run the mid-day meal scheme — kitchen, cooks, ayahs, utensils, regular supply of food materials?



Exposing the extremists

Syed Nooruzzaman has thrown a flood of light on the concept of true jehad in his article, Slaughter of the innocent is not Jehad (The Tribune, April 23). When he says that jehad involving violence must follow religious oppression, i.e. when Muslims are undergoing oppression because of their adherence to Islam, he is only paraphrasing the concerned Quranic verse. No one who has gone through the Quran can disagree with the author on this count.

However, what is more important in the Indian context is the response of the Muslim community to the interview of Lashkar-e-Toiba chief Hafiz Sayeed, in which he categorically states: “We have no choice but to respond by killing Hindus.”

It is sad to note that the statement issued by the head of the terrorist outfit justifying the killing of Hindus, simply because they happen to belong to a religion other than the one of those of the terrorists, has not been condemned by the Muslim community. I think if they condemn the statement in a sincere and strong way, that will help improve Hindu-Muslim relations.



Kudos to IAS topper

The news of our Patiala boy having topped the Indian Administrative Service examination this year is greatly encouraging. This will inspire every IAS aspirant. By securing the first position in this most prestigious examination in the country, Mr Ankur Garg has brought honour for himself, his family as also Punjab.

To pass the IAS examination at the age of 22, that too, in the very first attempt, is really wonderful. Wishing him all success and the very best in his endeavours.


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