Let’s start with history of Midday meal Scheme
People do not want to know history and some might already know how it all started, but a bit background is always better to understand what event in past triggered Midday Meal scheme in India. History of Midday Meal scheme goes back to 90 years when in 1923 corporation school in Madras (Chennai) started providing cooked meal and was introduced in large scale in 1960 by then Chief Minister K. Kamaraj in Tamil Nadu. Here is an interesting story directly taken from wiki about the scheme inception:
There is an interesting story about how K. Kamaraj got the idea of a noon meal scheme. He saw a few boys busy with their cows and goats. He asked one small boy, “What are you doing with these cows? Why didn’t you go to school?” The boy immediately answered, “If I go to school, will you give me food to eat? I can learn only if I eat.” The boy’s retort sparked the entire process into establishing the midday meal programme.
This scheme was Universalize forall children up to class 10 by in 1982 by then Madras (Chennai) Chief Minister MGR (Marudhur Gopalan Ramachandran) in Chennai. National Programme for Nutrition Support to Primary Education and The Supreme Court Direction helped in strengthening Right to food litigation across the country. Government promised in Common Minimum Programme to cover 130 million children by 2005 covering most of the primary schools in India. Indeed if someone looks at the intention of ministers and government, it seems to be a noble idea to provide food to the children in schools or lure children in schools for food otherwise they will be left out of basic education. Some questions need to be repeatedly asked and answers of those questions should always be kept in mind before formulating policies or schemes are:
- Is good intention is sufficient for introducing something for free ?
Good intention is necessary but definitely not the sufficient condition to make the public policies. Basic economics principle need to be kept in mind that there’s no such thing as a free lunch and somebody has to pay for it and when government start something for free, it takes from taxpayers and just redistributes. The worst part is to make people believe that government is taking away their hard earned money and they are using it for greater good, which is absolutely preposterous. To understand this parallel, imagine a friend of yours wanted to help some needy children in slum area in his locality and he does not want to help them by putting his own money but approaches you to fund him. Be sure that he is not asking money but he will just take away from you and say that he has to do it for slum kids and you as earners do not have to feel bad about it, as he is doing it for greater good. What you will understand from that stealing which your friend did under the cloud of helping, same government does when it comes to helping someone for free but it is at your expense.
- Why root cause of the issue is ignored?
Free food will not solve the issue but solving the problem of hunger and employment to all will perpetually solve the issue of hungry children and better lively hood. But unfortunately in the socialist economy the solution to all problems is Government, which introduces schemes like free food, free home, free education and the list goes on. Government again rather than solving the root cause starts schemes by taking money from tax payers in taxation, which perpetually increases inflation and the same poor person has to pay more from his pocket to get daily bread. Government is too friendly with “FREE” schemes like free laptop, free cylinders even free money in account when elections are present because of their vested interest to remain in power as it creates vote bank and people love free stuff, even if it haunts back after sometime. Keeping people poor is an advantage for the government either by party in power or opposition because if people become educated, they can earn money, if their earning is taken away eventually they will think and when people start thinking, they will understand the loot for centuries done by politicians and they will out of game. So illusion of greater good and helping people masquerade government’s real intentions and which in turn help party to hold on to power as long as lid of corruption and inefficiency is not open in public.
- Why welfare economics never works ?
As it is said that almost all government policies are bad but frightfully well carried out. It is not the case that welfare economics does not works; it works for the people who create it and their sub ordinates (civil service) that are in position for implementation of policies in the public. Party in power starts something for free and vigorously implements it from proven failed system of public distribution. Government machinery which is civil services, mostly is in charge of implementation of policies on ground are the real benefactors of the welfare money, as whichever may be the party in power, Civil servants will always get benefited from bogus schemes of government. When opposition gets the driver’s seat they cannot revoke the policy as it may hurt their vote bank too, so what they do is to pretend to fix the symptoms like corruption in lower level by putting inquiry and setting up committees to look and report the problem which is already known. Till the time inquiry is going the reports of misuse and corruption will not surface but as soon as it takes a back seat and other issues takes driver seat in media, the machinery of corruption starts performing in usual manner until someone in media reports again. Hence welfare economics fails from the inception of policy itself and pseudo intellectuals in India, pretends or try to fix the symptoms and ignore or brain dead to understand the root cause of issue. Almost all schemes has the same fate of disaster but some comes in public purview and some remain in buried under the carpet; but be sure all have same failure history and marred by heavy corruption.
Ruckus over Government Failure in MIDDAY MEAL:: why so serious ????
If anyone has seen the news recently on television, huge panels of INTELLECTUALS and over excited anchors who just wanted to get the voices of everyone, and to label it as a failure ONLY in Bihar Midday Meal scheme, where 22 children died after having the infected food. News paper is filled with the news of Midday Meal mismanagement in school premise and opposition is hauling a failure of government and Nitish Kumar to resign and take responsibility of lapse on his government. Everyone who thinks that it is major lapse in management and children’s dying after having meal is first of its kind in India is either naive or so conniving that wants to ignore all the previous warning of poor quality food given, which will eventually lead to death. The question or rather impression need to given to intellectuals or government or civil society that Why so serious?, this is what eventually happens when things get into the hands of government. But people will say that this is one of its kind, may be death of so many kids at the same time, may be one of its kind, but what about the horrible and uneatable quality of food given under Midday meal. So ruckus will start to fix the symptoms that lets put monitoring system on top of it and let the management of the school has to eat first before letting the kids to have their meal or some fantastic stupid ideas to fix the symptoms and everyone will feel that intellectual and policy makers really wanted to help, but knowingly they wanted to pretend that things will go right but putting monitoring when they know it never will. School principal and staff are the actual beneficiaries of Midday meal scheme, if government agent won’t their share in the incredible loot then School staff will, as it is free. At how many places any agency even government can put monitoring, it is practically not feasible but politicians and media and so called intellectuals will say that it is feasible. When incident like this happens all blame goes to only that school and only that staff or cook or supervising person, no one not even a single person blames the policy, which is bad economically and morally.
Honorable Politician busy in predatory politics
A unique breed of politicians in India are found who are always busy in predatory politics, no matter what the issue is, they have to criticize the government and in that politicians will go to any extent. They make living on dead bodies by shouting, hauling and protesting by forcefully getting the shops closed in some regions; showing their worth as a party member to their high command. None actually wanted to help the victims or alleviate the pain of family members but politicians started mudslinging on each to other to get the political mileage in the coming election of 2014. Chief Minister of Bihar did not even visit the place to get a feel on ground reality and to check what action police has taken. Almost all politicians are busy making statement in the news channel and media that state government did not do its job properly and even after incident the cover up stories are given in the media and newspapers. Some politicians went ahead and started spreading the rumors in other places where midday meal scheme is running that food is horrible and children in other schools too are getting the getting sick. These acts need to be condemned by the society but more importantly the mental degradation of politicians too needs to look upon as side effect of bogus scheme. Politicians playing their cards on the dead bodies of children and it can be easily understood that party which is not in power also, did not do anything to move kids out of the place where medical facilities was not that good, to the place in city where treatment and medical care facilities are present to deal with such scenarios. Some death could have been prevented if the action is taken at the right time to look into the issue either by party in power or opposition. But all waited long enough to till the bodies of dead children was recovered and after that statements and bounty distribution ceremony was started to show, politicians do care about normal citizens of the country.
Hilarious Root Cause Investigation
In India root cause investigators are many and everybody has their own way of investigation, framing the charges and delivering the judgment. Let’s take one by one each of these:
Media: This entity was supposed to be independent and do not have to work in together with the government in finding the root cause but they hardly toe the different lines from the government. Politicians not telling the public truth about the policies can be understood with their vested interest but Media at least can let the people know that it is an issue with the scheme not with the implementation or monitoring. Expert panels and their half-witted anchors do not have any idea about root cause and they shout their lungs out on discussing the symptoms and want more government to fix the issue at hand. Media will take statement of some random minister and display it as breaking news in all channels until fingers gets tired punching on remote to see any other important story in news. They will have a round of discussions on that particular statement and charge against ministers morality is framed and judgment is passed by lame panel expert which sometimes include top shot celebrity to increase TRP, that in democracy politician do not have use such language. But no one actually hit the bull’s eye that it is not the statement or machinery issue, the problem lies with scheme, which will never ever be successful, until it is done by government and against the basic economic rule that there are no free lunches.
Politicians: this entity works in cooperation with their high commands sitting in Delhi or their own state; they just have to give statement to embarrass ruling party and protest by forcefully closing down the shops or blocking the roads or by making statement equally embarrassing for their own party. They never wanted to get to the root cause but wanted to get the political mileage, which can be used as an instrument in the elections. Opposition takes opposition a bit too seriously and opposes anything which ruling power favors, whether they understand the issue or not, understanding issue is non issue in itself. They usually join media debates but not for discussion on policy but to counter attack on other party or to create confusion to issue and debate go nowhere and more confusion is added by totally brain dead anchor who host the debate. The best part is debate ends on hilariously good note without having any solution and politicians seems to have pleased their masters by debunking or diluting the issue.
Social Media: this entity worked fine until the actual media and almost everybody including politician entered into cyberspace and here too politicians do the same confusion to dilute issue into a non issue. Now it is overused and information whether true or not floats like anything in a minute and opinions are formed and mudslinging like roadside fight happens in social network. But because the laws in India over internet is misused by government itself to protect themselves from being targeted, they chase down people to close the websites (narendramodiplans.com and rahulgandhiachievements.com) and take action against them, so sarcastic voices fails to register their space in such a powerful media. Hilarious part was when government wanted to monitor each and every post against government to be monitored and taken down, without understanding the infrastructure and monitoring capacity to monitor it. Here there is no root cause investigation happens this just serves purpose for people to vent their anger on cyber space.
Scheme fine but execution is bad instead of Bad scheme
All government or non-government or civil society has one common appeal to people that scheme is totally fine and implementation of the scheme is having issue and need to be addressed. Together they all thinks fixing the symptoms of problem will solve the root cause, poverty, by putting better monitoring, better accountability and better management by same government agency which has bad record in implementing any policy. Monitoring of hot cooked meal to children of primary and upper primary classes in over 1,265,000 schools across India is colossal task, which needs manpower, infrastructure and training. Which is clearly not possible as scheme is already marred by corruption top to bottom and again kick back of money from bottom to top. But for agencies supporting Midday Meal scheme, this is a trivial task and can be achieved by spending more money, this is exactly what the problem is when people try to fix symptoms rather than stopping the scheme. There is no end to spending as people will find a better way to creep corruption inside even if all impossible monitoring is in place. Hence before forming a scheme to help people whether poor or not, it has to be kept in mind that it should help both parties not just the receiver end but the giver end too, which is not possible when state takes up scheme in their hands as they take from one person involuntarily in form of taxation and distribute to other who has not earned it. In media and news papers will seldom hear a voice opposing the policy but all will be favor of supporting the scheme but heavy on implementation. The solution to the problem is to stop the scheme itself and remove red tapes which prevents entrepreneurs to enter in market to provide employment and purchasing power to people.
Fixing problem with more government intervention
Economists in India or rather government economist and policy makers have simple solution to all problems which is more government intervention in fixing the problem, which is started in the first place by the government itself. Take any scheme whether Right to Education or Midday Meal or Food Security Bill, in case of failure in one part or other which is inevitable, the solution is put more government agency to monitor and manage. In general public opinion where they just wanted to fix the problem of poverty rather quick fix it; and the system they look up to is, State, to do something for poor? Government knows that and in hurry to do something they always come up with worst idea ever possible to fix the issue, and the most worst idea is always selected and implemented as a scheme to help someone. It is like we want to do something and here is something and let’s do that something, no matter whether it will help or create new set of issues. It is same as taxation, which is always said that it will help government in providing public goods and like all schemes public goods also suffer from same corruption.
Feel good notion of helping poor
As human we all have feeling of sympathy towards the other human being and its inherited characteristics that we want to help fellow humans to come out of plight of poverty which they are suffering. Helping nature towards others gives us notion of feeling good about ourselves, but to help someone with money, a person has to have money in his/her own pocket. Social activist too have to gather funds from somewhere somehow to help the targeted people in the society and when money is involved it cannot just come out of nowhere, either it has to be earned or borrowed or given voluntarily. But people see their limit to help widespread poverty in almost all places; then they want State to take this activity in their own hands. The problem starts from here when state gets involved in social measure; rather than allowing market to take its course by removing red tapes which hampers growth. Politicians find this as an opportunity to strengthen their vote bank and things totally go in different direction as explained above. Feel good notion helps in creating sympathy and free schemes creates vote bank and money influx from corruption fills all pockets except for the one its actually been made.
Midday Meal already suffering from corruption
The way in which news is presented in media where 22 children died after having afternoon meal seems like this is for the first time corruption came to surface but that is not the case at all. We can just look up the Wikipedia and find that cases arose since 2006 and media did not present the complete picture and here are the details:
- In January 2006, the Delhi Police unearthed a scam in the Midday Meal Scheme. In December 2005, the police had seized eight truckloads (2,760 sacks) of rice meant for primary schoolchildren being carried from Food Corporation of India (FCI) go downs in Bulandshahr District of UP to North Delhi. When the police detained the trucks, the drivers claimed that the rice was being brought all the way to Delhi to be cleaned at a factory. However, according to the guidelines, the rice has to be taken directly from FCI godown to the school or village concerned. Later it was found that the rice was being siphoned off by a UP-based NGO, in connivance with the government officials.
- In November 2006, the residents of Pembong village under the Mim tea estate (around 30 km from Darjeeling), accused a group of teachers of embezzling midday meals. In a written complaint, the residents claimed that students at the primary school had not got midday meal for the past 18 months.
- In December 2006, The Times of India reported a scam involving government schools that siphon off food grains under the midday meal scheme by faking attendance. The modus operandi of the schools was simple — the attendance register would exaggerate the number of students enrolled in the class. The additional students would not exist—they were “enrolled” to get additional food grains which were pocketed by the school staff. The scam was exposed, when an assistant teacher at a government model primary school acted as a whistleblower. She informed the Lok Ayukta, who conducted a probe and indicted four persons for misappropriation. The whistleblower was harassed by the school staff and transferred, where she again found the same modus operandi being used to siphon off the food grains. She again complained to the Lok Ayukta, who issued notice to the school. The scheme which costs the national exchequer a huge amount of money every year (the budgetary provisions for the year 2013-14 was around Rs 132,150,000,000 for the country) is marred with corrupt practices and mismanagement while risking the lives of children.
Even if now politicians and government wakes from long sleep of mismanagement and corruption and moves in direction of actually thinking of removing schemes like midday meal and food security bill and removes red tapes and let the industries flourish in all sectors of life; which will eventually and slowly will give normal person purchasing power to get whatever he/she wants rather than being at a mercy of State.