Government

Aadhar Order on Mid-Day Meal Denounced as ‘Attack On Children’s Right to Food’

The Right to Food Campaign responds to the HRD ministry’s recent mandate on linking Aadhaar with the mid-day meal scheme.

Schoolchildren eat their free mid-day meal, distributed by a government-run primary school at Brahimpur village in Chapra district of the eastern Indian state of Bihar July 19, 2013. The midday meal scheme of giving school pupils a free lunch is the largest such programme in the world. It has been widely lauded as one of the most successful welfare measures in India, home to a quarter of the world's hungry, because it also boosts school enrolments and helps children to continue studies. For millions of poor families, the lunch is the only full meal their children eat in a day. That encourages them to send them to school, and not keep them home to help with chores. For this reason, despite being poorly managed, the scheme draws a lot of support from non-governmental organisations, rights activists and the United Nations. Picture taken July 19, 2013. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi (INDIA - Tags: HEALTH FOOD EDUCATION SOCIETY) - RTX11TH8

RTFC has demanded an immediate withdrawal of the notification. Reuters/Adnan Abidi

New Delhi: According to a notification issued by the human resource development ministry last week, children at schools across the country will now be required to either register or have an Aadhaar number in order to avail of the government’s mid-day meal scheme.

Additionally, as per the government’s notification, any cooks or helpers who work to administer the midday meal scheme will also be required to sign up and provide an Aadhaar number. The HRD ministry has allowed students until June 30 to enrol for an Aadhaar card.

In response to the imposition of Aadhaar on the mid-day meal scheme, the Right to Food Campaign has issued a statement opposing the move, calling it is an attack on children’s right to food and demanding the immediate withdrawal of the notification.

The Wire has reproduced the Right to Food Campaign’s statement below: 

The right to food campaign strongly opposes the central government’s move to make Aadhaar compulsory for children under the mid-day meal scheme in government schools. This is nothing but an attempt to coerce people to enrol their children under Aadhaar.

School meals are an important entitlement of Indian children, legally enforceable under Supreme Court orders as well as under the National Food Security Act. Numerous studies show that India’s mid-day meal scheme has made an important contribution to higher school attendance, better child nutrition and more effective learning. Mid-day meals also help to break the barriers of class and caste by imparting to children of diverse backgrounds a habit of sharing meals.

No conditionalities can be imposed on this critical entitlement of Indian children. Making Aadhaaar compulsory for the mid-day meal would serve no purpose, and is bound to disrupt instead of helping this important programme. Further, this move is a violation of Supreme Court orders.

In a series of orders, the Supreme Court has made it clear that Aadhaar cannot be made compulsory for any services to which people are otherwise entitled. It has also made it clear that the Aadhaar Act does not supersede these orders, until such time as the court settles the issue of compatibility of Aadhaar with the right to privacy.

During the last few years, Aadhaar has been made compulsory for a growing list of welfare schemes, under the garb of making them more effective. In fact, this imposition has led to serious disruptions, such as elderly people without Aadhaar being bumped off pension lists, NREGA workers being denied their wages due to Aadhaar seeding errors and PDS card holders being deprived of their food rations because of technical glitches with Aadhaar-based biometric authentication. The government has paid no attention to the mounting evidence of these disruptive effects. Reason: the real purpose of this drive is to put pressure on people to enrol with Aadhaar. The need of the hour is to stop this rampage, not to extend it further, least of all to programmes like mid-day meals that are critical for the well-being of Indian children.

The right to food campaign demands immediate withdrawal of the illegal notification seeking to make Aadhaar compulsory for midday meals. It also calls on state governments to desist from implementing this illegal notification.

Steering committee of the Right to Food Campaign:

National networks: Kavita Srivastava and Dipa Sinha (Conveners Right to Food Campaign), Annie Raja, (National Federation for Indian Women), Colin Gonsalves , (Human Right Law Network), Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey and Anjali Bhardwaj, (National Campaign for People’s Right to Information), Madhuresh, Arundhati Dhuru and Ulka Mahajan (National Alliance of People’s Movements), Kashinath Chatterjee and Asha Mishra (Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti), Ashok Bharti (National Conference of Dalit Organisations), Anuradha Talwar, Gautam Modi and Madhuri Krishnaswamy (New Trade Union Initiative), Binayak Sen (People’s Union for Civil Liberties), Subhash Bhatnagar (National Campaign Committee for Unorganised Sector workers), Paul Divakar and Asha Kowtal (National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights), Mira Shiva, Radha Holla and Vandana Prasad (Jan Swasthya Abhiyan), Ranjeet Kumar Verma, Prahlad Ray, Praveen Kumar, Anand Malakar (Rashtriya Viklang Manch), Lali Dhakar, Sarawasti Singh, Shilpa Dey and Radha Raghwal (National Forum for Single Women’s Rights), G V Ramanjaneyulu, Kavita Kuruganthi (Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture), Jashodhara (National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human Rights), Ilango (National Fishworkers Federation), Zasia, Sonam, and Noor Jehan (Bhartiya Muslim MahilaAndolan).

State representatives: M Kodandram, Rama Melkape, Veena Shatrughana (Andhra Pradesh), Gangabhai and Samir Garg (Chhattisgarh), Abhay Kumar (Karnataka), Suresh Sawant, Mukta Srivastava (Maharashtra), Balram and James Herenj, Gurjeet Singh, Dheeraj (Jharkhand), Ashok Khandelwal, Shyam and Vijay Lakshmi (Rajasthan), Sachin Jain (Madhya Pradesh), Joseph Patelia, Sejal Dand, Neeta Hardikar and (Gujarat), Saito Basumaatary, Raju Narzari, Bondita Acharya and Sunil Kaul (Assam), Rupesh (Bihar), V Suresh (Tamil Nadu), Bidyut Mohanty Raj Kishore Mishra, (Orissa), Ranjeet Kumar Varma, Bindu Singh, Sabina and Richa (Uttar Pradesh), Amrita Johri, Abdul Shakeel, Vimla, Koninika Ray and Rajender Kumar  (Delhi), Fr Jothi SJ and Mr. Saradindu (West Bengal).

Individual representatives: Manas Ranjan, Vidya Bhushan Rawat, Ankita Aggarwal, Swati Narayan, Ritu Priya and Aditya Shrivastava.