It is cost-effective and generates income
In the era of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation, fears have been expressed in some quarters about the likely widening inequalities in income and wealth in the society. Attempts have been made to support the argument on empirical basis.
In this context, the responsibility of a welfare state gets enhanced, necessitating it to take additional measures to protect the vulnerable sections of the society. At the same time, the government has to ensure that such measures do not impose substantial burden on the government exchequer.
This calls for cost-effective schemes. Any new scheme will be cost-effective if it complements the existing set of social schemes. The complementary scheme should make use of existing physical and human infrastructure and, thereby, generate substantial benefits with marginal addition in cost.
Tamil Nadu is well-known for its mid-day meals scheme for school children. Studies have highlighted the benefits derived from the scheme. In addition to the mid-day meals scheme, a number of schemes are being implemented to make the process of learning economical faster and interesting.
All the time the focus, for some unknown (may be historical) reason has been on the mid-day meals scheme. No doubt, providing mid-day meals to school-going children improves their nutrition level and makes them attentive in the class. It motivates them to learn the lessons being taught in the class. So, hardly any person with social concerns opposes the scheme.
In this whole argument, one important element is forgotten. Many children come to school either on an empty stomach or insufficient food, especially those from faraway places. Many times, children in the morning are fed with food left over from the previous night. This is all the more true in cases in which the mothers go to work.
As a result, children eagerly wait for mid-day meals and are not active in the morning session. To overcome this problem, the Government of Tamil Nadu, has recently launched the ‘Chief Minister’s Breakfast Scheme’. The implementation of the breakfast scheme in France and in some of the states in the United States reflects the awareness about the utility of the scheme at the international level.
Chief Minister’s Breakfast Scheme was launched September 15, 2022 in 1,545 selected schools in Tamil Nadu covering 114,000 children studying in class 1-5. Being a pilot scheme, it has covered 4.33 per cent of total 35,622 schools and 2.2 per cent of total 5.2 million children enrolled in classes 1-5.
The breakfast is served in between 7.30 and 8.30 in the morning. Children go to the prayer at 8.45. Classes commence at 9 am.
On four days of a week — Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday — Upma with two spoons of chutney is served. For a change, on Wednesday Pongal with Sambar is served. In Tamil Nadu, schools are closed on Saturday and Sunday. The total estimated annual budget for the Scheme is Rs 335.6 millions.
An interesting feature of the breakfast scheme is the cost-effective delivery of the service as it is complementary to the existing schemes.
Requirements such as a stove with gas connection, a lighter, utensils, a knife to cut the vegetable, raw vegetables and other ingredients are already in place and so, the set-up cost comes down.
A practical example: Generally, projects under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) are managed by government officials. However, in Tirupathi, a pilgrimage town in Andhra Pradesh, ICDS projects were managed by a voluntary organisation known as Rayalaseema Seva Samiti in late 1990s.
In 1998, to spread the activities on a wider scale, the organisation was renamed Rashtriya Seva Samiti. It would conduct programmes like non-formal education for school drop-out children, income-generating activities to enhance the income of the mothers by formation of SHGs and skill upgrade of adolescent girls in tailoring, embroidery, among other things. On account of convergence of services, there was effective utilisation of vehicles and other infrastructure.
Further, the income of the anganwadi workers substantially increased on account of multiple roles played by them. In short, the delivery of the services was cost-effective.
In the same way, the morning breakfast scheme makes use of the physical infrastructure (like cooking place and utensils) built for mid-day meals scheme.
Also, the two persons engaged for cooking mid-day meals are given an additional amount of Rs 1,500 per head per month for preparing breakfast. The cooks are happy with the additional income and at the same time, the government doesn’t have to recruit new staff. It is a win-win situation.
In addition to the two gas cylinders allotted for cooking mid-day meals, one more gas cylinder is sanctioned to the school.
The headmaster of the school is given an amount at the rate of Rs 5.50 per child per day to purchase items like rava, onion, groundnut, mustard and sweet oil. Thus, on account of convergence of services, the scheme has become cost-effective.
In other words, with small additional expenditure, the government is able to provide substantial benefits to the children. Parents are also happy with the scheme.
The scheme must be extended to all the schools in the state. Further, the scheme is worth replicating in other states in India.
Views expressed are the authors’ own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth
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