Read Editorial with D2G – Ep (301)

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Read Editorial – Don’t Link School Meals To Aadhaar

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MEANINGS are given in BOLD

Requiring schoolchildren turning up for their midday meal to flash their Aadhaar cards is absurd (wildly unreasonable, illogical, or inappropriate). Aadhaar makes sense in many subsidy (a sum of money granted by the state or a public body to help an industry or business keep the price of a commodity or service low) schemes, because by transferring cash to the intended beneficiary’s bank account, much fraud and waste can be eliminated. But this would not work with the midday meal scheme implemented nationwide in 2008.

If the aim is simply to make sure that more and more people enrol in Aadhaar, this would be the wrong way to go about it. Without coercion (the action or practice of persuading someone to do something by using force or threats), more than a billion Indians have already obtained their Aadhaar numbers. Forcing young children to enrol themselves for Aadhaar to get their free meal at school would make any kind of sense only if the idea was to transfer money to the beneficiaries (a person who derives advantage from something, especially a trust, will, or life insurance policy, instead of serving them a wholesome meal. But cash will not do in this case.

The midday meal scheme has multiple goals. It incentivises (motivate or encourage (someone) to do something; provide with an incentive) attendance, whatever the standard of teaching. Some teachers do teach and the improvement in attendance after the midday meal scheme came into place, has done more good than bad. Transferring cash, in the hope that the money would be spent on a nutritional meal for the child, does not guarantee either the meal or school attendance.

If Aadhaar and cash transfers, in place of midday meals, are inflicted (cause (something unpleasant or painful) to be suffered by someone or something) on poor and very young Indians, it would mean backtracking from two other goals. Midday meals make children mix with others from different backgrounds. It is also a way to break down barriers (a fence or other obstacle that prevents movement or access) of caste and religion differences that infest (be present (in a place or site) in large numbers, typically so as to cause damage or disease) society today.

A meal shared among kids, irrespective of what neighbourhood or mohalla (an area of a town or village; a community) they have come from, and irrespective of the caste or community of the cook, can break down artificial walls set up by the Manusmriti or new, divisive (tending to cause disagreement or hostility between people) politics. Aadhaar-linked transfers are not everything.

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