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Midday meals must from Jan: SC
November 24, 2004 19:42 IST
The Supreme Court has fixed January 2005 as the deadline for all states to provide meals to students up to class V, as the Centre has decided to provide an additional Re 1 per child to meet cooking costs.
"We direct that every child eligible for cooked meal under the midday meal scheme in all states and Union territories be provided with the said meal immediately and, in any case, not later than the month of January 2005," a Bench of Justice Y K Sabharwal and Justice S H Kapadia ordered recently.
The court, while dealing with a public interest litigation filed by the People's Union For Civil Liberties, made it clear that "it would not be open to the state governments or the Union territories to delay the implementation of the scheme beyond January 2005 on the ground that the necessary assistance has not been released by the central government".
The court noted with concern the poor implementation of the scheme in many states, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand, on the ground of increasing cooking costs.
It said the cooking costs could be claimed from the Centre. The Bench asked the chief secretaries of the governments concerned to file affidavits by December 16 stating steps being taken to implement the order. The court also asked them to file an additional affidavit by the second week of January 2005 detailing the full implementation of the direction.
The court said the responsibility of monitoring the implementation of the scheme was essentially that of the central government, as it was providing assistance. It directed the Centre "to file, within four weeks, an affidavit stating how it proposes to manage, monitor or evaluate the midday meal scheme so that the benefit under the scheme reaches those for whom it is meant".
The court then turned its attention to the poor implementation of the Antyodaya Anna Yojana, under which the "poorest of the poor" are to be issued a red card entitling them to obtain rice and wheat at highly subsidised rates under the public distribution system. The court was informed that many belonging to primitive travel groups, who were in large numbers in the states of Maharashtra, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh, have not been identified under the AAY so far.
The court directed all state governments to complete the process of identification of persons falling under this scheme and issue them the red card by the end of 2004 so as to start supply of food grains to them immediately thereafter. Noting that the dealers were not implementing the scheme properly as they were not being paid any commission for giving rice or wheat to red card holders, the Bench directed the Centre to file an affidavit on the guidelines in this regard.
"The object is that the red card holders should not be made to pay, directly or indirectly, any amount other than what they are liable to pay for the supply taken," the Bench said.
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