2.2 The importance of design
Making the mid-day meal scheme effective is as important a campaign issue as merely introducing the scheme. In many states there are inadequate provisions for cooks and helpers. This results in teachers having to spend time in organising, maintaining accounts, etc. Sometimes even the students are involved in the process. These have the potential of disrupting the classroom process and jeopardising the scheme. Clean cooking spaces, sanitation and water facilities are not fully provided for, which can lead to problems of health. Repetitive menu, poor nutrition content and food of a poor quality in general also reduce the potential impact of the scheme. The campaign has been taking up these issues at all levels. Taking cue from the more successful states, the campaign is seeking to suggest improvements in the implementation of the scheme.
The campaign has been taking up the issue of improving the design of the schemes to make them more effective. Poor design of the scheme reduces the benefits that could accrue from the scheme. Infact, mid-day meal scheme was abandoned in some states like Haryana and Orissa some years back where the scheme ran into some rough weather primarily due to poor designs.
Similar problems exist in a host of other schemes the campaign deals with. Take for example the public distribution system. A ‘fair price shop’ dealer cannot even cover his legitimate costs if he is not corrupt. In the case of ICDS in many states, a sole anganwadi worker has to maintain numerous records, cook and deliver food, do health check-ups, provide inoculation etc. In the case of National Maternity Benefit Scheme, to get the benefit of Rs. 500 on one occasion, a mother has to meet four different officials (in different offices) and has to produce a birth certificate, another to show that the child is the first or the second, another to show that she is lives below poverty line. Some schemes have such fundamental problems that they are unlikely to be successful except in small pockets. Others like the mid-day meal scheme and integrated child development scheme are feasible, but need improvement.
Having roots on the ground, the activists of the campaign feel the effect of these problems directly. Some seemingly hopeless schemes have been dumped by the campaign. The attention has gone into those schemes that are practical and a lot of work is going on in the campaign about measures to improve the schemes.