Fact-Check: Are Children in UP Provided This Food Under the Mid-Day Meal Scheme?
The picture is from 'Tithi Bhojan,' which could be sponsored by an individual or community on special occasions.
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A few photographs from a government school in Uttar Pradesh are viral on social media with a claim that the students are being served healthy, good quality, nutritious food under the government's mid-day meal scheme, which is a national programme – launched in 1995 – aimed at improving the nutritional status of children.
Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) member Sadhvi Prachi, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) worker Arun Yadav, and Fatehpur Sikri Lok Sabha member of the Parliament Rajkumar Chahar were among the ones who amplified this claim, taking a veiled dig at the Delhi government's education model.
However, we found that while the pictures are from Malakpura village in Uttar Pradesh's Jalaun district, the food shown in them is not a part of the regular mid-day meal scheme.
We spoke to the Gram Pradhan (village head), Amit Bharteeya, who clarified that the food was given to the children under an 'add-on mid-day meal scheme,' which he started early this year to provide good food to the children.
Sharing one of the pictures, Yadav wrote, "उत्तर प्रदेश के सरकारी स्कूल का मिड डे मील अगर दिल्ली के किसी विद्यालय में ऐसा होता तो अंतराष्ट्रीय अखबारों में सुर्खियां बनाई जाती.."
[Translation: This is the mid-day meal provided to the students of Uttar Pradesh. If this was happening in Delhi, it would have made it to an international publication.]
The same claim was copy-pasted by several on Twitter including VHP's Sadhvi Prachi. Right Wing channel Sudharshan news' reporter Sagar Kumar (archive here) was also amongst the people who shared the same claim.
Archives of several other users can be seen here, here, and here.
WHAT WE FOUND
To find out the details of the picture, we conducted a simple keyword search on Google. This led us to a tweet by Amit, who is the gram pradhan of Malakpura village in Uttar Pradesh's Jalaun district.
On 31 August, he shared the pictures and mentioned 'tithi bhojan' and 'add-on mid-day meal' in the caption.
We contacted Amit to understand whether this was the food provided to the children regularly under the mid-day meal scheme, as claimed or was it a special occasion.
Speaking to The Quint, Amit, said, “This meal was provided to the students under the ‘add-on mid-day meal’ concept, which has been implemented by the panchayat of Malakpura village in Uttar Pradesh.”
Explaining it in detail, he said, “Back in December-January, the students expressed their wish to eat good food. We asked them what did they mean and said they will like to have paneer etc. So we decided to get some special food for them once the school reopened in February. The students enjoyed it so much that we made it a regular feature and started giving them food under this concept. We called it ‘add-on mid day meal’ because there are a few limitations to the mid-day meal scheme. One can’t make any changes or replace the menu, but this 'add-on' concept gave us the liberty to make changes.”
He added that till May they continued providing special food to the children two to four times in a month under this concept.
We found older posts on Amit's Facebook page, where children were photographed in a similar manner. One common feature was a picture with a board which read 'Tithi Bhojan.'
On being questioned about that, Amit mentioned that during his research he read about the concept of ‘Tithi Bhojan,’ which was first started by the Gujarat state government and later recognised by the central government. Under this, on any special occasion, anyone can feed the children of government schools.
“After May, we implemented this concept in our panchayat to give it a more legal structure,” he said and added that while the basic infrastructure – kitchen and appliances – is provided by the government, the food items for the meal provided to the students under ‘Tithi Bhojan’ or ‘add-on mid-day meal’ is provided by the community or an individual.
The picture that is now viral is also from a 'Tithi Bhojan.' In one of the pictures posted by Amit, the students can be seen holding a board that reads, 'Happy birthday, Saurav bhaiya.'
We also looked up the details of the mid-day meal scheme and what food is provided to children in UP, but didn't find the mention of 'paneer', 'puri', or even ice-cream in the menu.
Clearly, the food was provided to the children on a special occasion and it isn't what they are served on a regular basis. While 'Tithi Bhojan' is recognised by the central government and various state governments, the scheme is voluntary to encourage community participation to enable better nutritional status for children.
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Topics: Uttar Pradesh Mid-day meal Webqoof
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