Friday, August 19, 2011

Mobiles to track Midday Meal Scheme

By: Vinay Kumar

The central government has finalized plans for monitoring the Midday Meal Scheme that reaches out to 110 million children across the country. According to the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry, this will make the programme more effective and purposeful and will be launched soon.

Midday Meal Scheme is the popular name for the meal programme provided by schools in India. It involves provision of lunch, free of cost to school-children on all working days. The key objectives of the programme is to protect children from classroom hunger, increase school enrollment and attendance, improve socialization among children belonging to all castes, address malnutrition, and social empowerment through provision of employment to women.

In July last year, the state government of Uttar Pradesh (UP) started an innovative system to monitor the scheme. A mobile phone rings between 10 am to noon every day, in 1.5lakhs government schools in UP; on the other end of the line is a computer-generated voice asking if the mid-day meal in the school has been cooked and the number of children served. The teacher in charge of the meal distribution gives the information through an ordinary mobile phone through a message.

The information is gathered through an interactive voice response system (IVRS) by the computer and automatically recorded on the website of the UP Mid-day Meal Authority. If the meal has not been served in a school, officials can call up, find out the reason, and take corrective action. Officials who have access to the system can check the data anytime.

“The system has the capacity to send and receive data from 10,000 schools concurrently, This has helped us to get data from the entire state ready within two hours,” says Pallav Pandey, Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder of Knowlarity.

Impressed by the success of this project in UP, the Central Government will now deploy the mechanism nation-wide. The National Informatics Center (NIC) has already developed an IVRS that will be used across other states in the country.

According to the HRD ministry, a monitoring system was necessary as the present manual supervision systems were not effective in the remote, backward areas of the country. The new tool will ensure that people responsible for running the scheme do not stop the distribution of meals at their whim. In addition, it will also help to track supplies and whether they are reaching a school or not.

The Central Government has allocated Rs.10, 380 crores for the programme.

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