Children Will Get Both Aadhaar And Mid-Day Meal, Says Minister Prakash Javadekar

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Children Will Get Both Aadhaar And Mid-Day Meal, Says Minister Prakash Javadekar

Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said no student will be denied mid-day meal.


New Delhi:  Union Minister Prakash Javadekar today said the government will not make Aadhaar mandatory for mid-day meals, but will issue a unique identity to every child so the siphoning of funds earmarked for food served at schools can be stopped. The minister's comment came in face of massive opposition criticism of the plan and the Supreme Court's objection to linking Aadhaar to all welfare schemes. Currently, 7.5 crore children are served food in schools - for many of them, it is the first meal of the day.

Mr Javadekar said he has made it "very clear in parliament" that no student will be denied mid-day meal scheme because he doesn't have Aadhaar. "We will give mid-day meal scheme to all students and we will give Aadhaar to all students," he said.

The mid-day meal scheme was introduced by the erstwhile UPA government in 1995 with an aim to increase enrollment in school in rural areas, where the drop-out rate is extremely high.  It was expected that hot-cooked meals will help draw the students to school and induce them to stay on. It was also expected to help curb undernourishment of children from poor families, which later leads to a number of health problems.

But the government has planned to club it with a host of welfare schemes meant to be linked with Aadhaar - including cooking gas subsidy, MNREGA, pension and provident fund. It triggered a barrage of protests, with the Congress, activists and the civil society expressing concern about a majority of students going hungry if food is served only to students who have Aadhaar.  Such a step, they pointed out, will violate a child's right to education, nutrition and health.

The Supreme Court -- which had made mid-day meal a legal entitlement in a 2001 order --  has also expressed reservation for linking Aadhar to welfare schemes. The court has said it would be an infringement on citizens' Right to Privacy.

"Our aim is to stop theft, not to stop anyone's food," Mr Javadekar said. He said at some of the places where the government linked Aadhaar to the scheme, it has been proved that money was being siphoned off.  "In the current phase, we have found that 4,40,000 bogus of students were registered...  Those students don't exist but their names were registered," the minister added.


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