2. LESSONS FROM THE CAMPAIGN
2.1 Rights based approach Vs welfare approach
The most significant part of the November 28, 2001 order of the Supreme Court pertained to the mid-day meal scheme. Mid-day meal scheme was instituted in 1995 and on paper it said that all children in all government and government aided primary schools will be provided cooked mid day meal. The order from the court made what was a policy into a legal entitlement for each child studying in government and government aided primary school across the country.
The Supreme Court had also asked the government to implement fully its National Maternity Benefit Programme (NMBS). The programme offers Rs. 500 as maternity benefit to the first two live births of a woman living “below poverty line”. The scheme does not say that all “BPL women” will receive this maternity benefit. So, despite the order saying the scheme has to be implemented fully, maternity benefit has not become an entitlement. NMBS is still subject to the whim of the policy maker on how many are eligible to receive the benefit. Further the local official have a lot of discretion on who gets the benefit.
The entitlement that the order created with respect to mid day meals caught the imagination of the activists and the media alike. When most states missed the deadline to implement the order (all barring Rajasthan), a campaign started in large parts of India.
From March 2002 till date, there has been a spate of activities in regular intervals on the mid-day meal scheme. On April 9, 2002 a national day of action saw demonstrations in over ten major states of India. The issue of non-implementation of the order was raised time and again in the Supreme Court. Petitions were filed in the Ranchi High Court and the Manipur Human Rights Commission. The commissioner of the Supreme Court followed the non-implementation on regular intervals. Localised events were organised in most major states regularly. The spate of activities kept the interest of the media alive in the issue. They too kept a close watch on all aspects of the scheme. The defaulting governments faced a barrage of activities on a regular basis.