Madras Aug 6(ILNS): The Madras High Court has recently asked the Tamil Nadu government to report whether, and to what extent, the midday meal program has been resumed at the next hearing on September 3.
The Tamil Nadu government had informed the Bench comprising of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice P.D. Audikesavalu that it would recommence supply of cooked meals to school-going children aged between two to six at local anganwadis in the state by September 1. Counsel for the petitioner suggested that the State government should resume the delivery of cooked meals from August 15, instead of September 1, and there are voluntary organizations showing a willingness to deliver the cooked meals that may be used for the exercise.
As to expediting the process, the State government submitted that it is attempting to resume the midday meal scheme as soon as possible, but it may not be practical to direct the resumption by or around August 15, and September 1 may be the more reasonable date, though the state will make every endeavor to ensure that the supplies are resumed even earlier, if possible.
The State also clarified that it does not want voluntary organizations to carry the cooked meals for the children in the rural or semi-urban areas and such matters are best left to the discretion of the executive.
The Court noted that the petitioner has taken such keen interest in the matter and the State has furnished details of not only how the scheme would be resumed but has specified right down to the menu and the items that would be served, together with the calorific contents of the ingredients. The High Court acknowledged the fact that Advocate General R. Shunmugasundaram at the behest of the Court, gone out of his way to convene a meeting with the relevant officials to ensure that cooked meals reach school-going children as expeditiously as possible since schools have closed down in the state from or about the end of March 2020.
The bench hoped that the State can ensure that the scheme is resumed as expeditiously as possible and closer to August 15 than September 1.
“But, considering the thought and effort that may have gone into preparing the report, there appears to be little doubt that the State is committed to the resumption; subject, however, to what the situation on the ground maybe, since the State says that the second surge may have abated, but is not altogether over and there are pockets where the number of infections is rising though in the other areas the number of infections has been going down. As far as this Court is aware, the daily number of infections is hovering around the 2000 mark in the State at the moment. The figures have increased a bit after having gone down considerably,” said the Court.
The matter will appear on September 3 for the State to report whether, and to what extent, the midday meal program has been resumed, ordered the High Court.
It is pertinent to note that the High Court has heard a PIL filed by NGO Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group highlighting the need to start door-to-door delivery of cooked nutritious meals for school-going children./ILNS