No Aadhaar? No Mid-Day Meal For You, Says HRD Ministry

Students and cooks have been given time until June 30 to enrol for an Aadhaar number.

New Delhi: School students across India will now be required to register or have an Aadhaar number if they want to avail of the central government’s mid-day meal scheme, according to a new government notification issued last week.

The notification, issued by the human resource development ministry also points out that cook or helpers who work to administer the midday meal scheme will also be required to sign up and furnish an Aadhaar number

“This notification will be applicable across the country, except Jammu and Kashmir, Meghalaya and Assam,” a Hindustan Times report stated.

The midday meal scheme is a popular food programme in most states across India that is designed to help improve attendance while providing adequate nutrition to potentially malnourished students.

According to the HRD ministry website, the central mid-day meal scheme, in 2007, “was extended to cover children of upper primary classes (i.e. class VI to VIII) studying in 3,479 Educationally Backwards Blocks (EBBs)”.  “The nutritional norm for upper primary stage was fixed at 700 Calories and 20 grams of protein. The Scheme was extended to all areas across the country from 2008,” the website says.

The decision to link the Aadhaar biometric authentication system with mid-day meal scheme comes on the back of a number of government schemes being linked to Aadhaar. Much like the way the Modi government has decided to make an Aadhaar number mandatory for the EPS and MNREGA schemes, the HRD ministry has allowed students until June 30 to enrol for an Aadhaar card.

“The use of Aadhaar as identity document for delivery of services, benefits or subsidies simplifies the government delivery process and enables beneficiaries to get their entitlements directly and in a seamless manner,” the HRD ministry notification said.

Experts pointed out that the move was to ostensibly help curb any losses stemming from the midday meal programme: Totally 13.16 crore children are enrolled across India, with 10.03 crore children availing of a mid-day meals across 11.50 lakh schools (as of 2015-16).