NGOs play an important role in the expansion of the Mid-Day Meal Scheme. The State Governments partner with NGOs like The Akshaya Patra Foundation to implement the Mid-Day Meal Programme in order to increase the number of children they reach out to. Thus many NGOs work towards countering hunger and malnutrition.
This Public-Private Partnership (PPP) has proved instrumental in improving the quality and reach of the programme. There are many facets which the Government considers when selecting a non-profit to partner with. Such organisations must be transparent and 'of proven integrity'. Below are the NP-NSPE 2004 criteria for choosing an NGO:
|NP-NSPE 2004 criteria for choosing an NGO
From grain grants to a cooked meal
Once chosen, an NGO must set up a kitchen, carry out the day to day operations of preparing meals and maintain its running costs. As the NP-NSPE, 2004 Guidelines state,
'In urban areas where a centralised kitchen setup is possible for a cluster of schools, cooking may wherever appropriate, be undertaken in a centralised kitchen and cooked hot meal may then be transported under hygienic conditions through a reliable transport system to various schools. There may be one or more such nodal kitchen(s) in an urban area, depending on the number of clusters which they serve.'
In order to implement the programme effectively, therefore, an NGO must be well equipped to handle the logistics of the programme. A non-profit must have ‘financial and logistic capacity to supply the mid-day meal on the requisite scale'.
The Government provides a solution as to how this may be attained. The Ministry of Human Resources Department states:
“The state government shall be fully responsible in implementing the programme through NGOs support either for a cooked meal or pre cooked food variant in eligible schools. To this extent the State Government or the NGO concerned, may mobilize resources for conversion of food grains in to a cooked meal.”
- The Guidelines, in Annexure IX Para 7
This solution has allowed organisations such as Akshaya Patra, who have kitchens across the country, costing an average Rs. 80 million (8 crores), to set up their massive infrastructures and conduct the Scheme in line with Government’s guidelines. It gives NGOs a means to raise funds for the deficit incurred during programme implementation.
As the minutes of the 2008-2009 Programme Approval Board meeting state, “Other expenses such as cooks honorarium, vessels and kitchen construction, transportation are to be borne by NGOs.”
The Government has even made provisions for donations raised. For example in 2003, a committee, headed by the former Chief Justice of India (the National Committee for Promotion of Social and Economic Welfare, Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance, Government of India) recommended Akshaya Patra as an eligible project that could raise donations up to Rs. 220 million (22 crores) with 100% tax benefits to the donors for 3 years.
In 2006 the committee reviewed Akshaya Patra’s programme once again and raised the amount for tax free donations to Rs. 1000 million (100 crores). Another review in 2009 increased that number to Rs. 2000 million (200 crores) for a period of 3 years.
Trust Deeds of the organisations, which the Government is privy to, allow them to raise funds. Akshaya Patra’s trust deed states the following:
8.xi To accept gifts, donations or contributions from individuals, corporate and non-profit organisations around the world so far as they are not inconsistent with the objects of the trust
There is a two-pronged strategy to the Government’s decision to encourage NGOs. By doing so, not only does it improve the quality of the programme, but also promote community involvement. According to the NP-NSPE, 2004 ‘processes should also be set in place to ensure vibrant community involvement so that the mid day meal programme becomes a peoples’ programme.’
NGOs promote community participation through active volunteering and fundraising. They involve all layers of society and help the Government make the mid-day meal scheme a ‘peoples’ programme’.
Keeping it Transparent
The question now arises as to the transparency of operations in a Public-Private partnership. A National level Steering-cum-Monitoring Committee (NSMC) oversees management and monitoring of the programme. As stated in NP-NSPE, 2004, the committee's duties include:
‘Mobilizing community support and promoting public-private partnership for the programme’
‘Monitoring programme implementation, assessing its impact, and taking corrective steps’
One of the conditions for eligibility is that ‘persons managing the affairs of the association or institution are persons of proven integrity’ (National Committee for Promotion of Social and Economic Welfare, Government of India). Another is that ‘the association or institution maintains regular accounts of its receipts and expenditure’. Reports must be submitted regularly by the voluntary organisation.
The involvement of a number of private bodies in the implementation of the Mid-Day Meal Scheme has resulted in visibly better performance.
Nearly 120 million (12 crore) children are so far covered under the scheme, making this school lunch programme the largest in the world. The Government’s multi-faceted approach has therefore shown tremendous results.
By leveraging the unique resources of organisations such as Akshaya Patra to act as its implementing arm and making provisions for them to be as self-sufficient as possible, the Government has successfully involved the entire society in helping the children of our country. These foundations promote community participation through fundraising and volunteering
It has encouraged the private-public partnerships that have been instrumental in ensuring success of the programme. With the aid of these organisations, the Government has managed to scale the scheme to massive proportions.
The scheme has impacted children in many ways. Attendance has increased, classroom hunger has reduced, malnutrition decreased and socialization among children of all castes improved.
On a global scale, the Indian Government has worked hard to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals.