16 March 2021 11:52 AM GMT
The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday directed the state government to respond by March 30 on whether cooked meals are being provided to children in Anganwadis as well as to other categories of persons who are entitled to receive nutrition from the anganwadis. The state is also to respond about whether mid-day meals are provided to children attending schools physically from 6th standard...
The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday directed the state government to respond by March 30 on whether cooked meals are being provided to children in Anganwadis as well as to other categories of persons who are entitled to receive nutrition from the anganwadis.
The state is also to respond about whether mid-day meals are provided to children attending schools physically from 6th standard to 8th standard and what steps are going to be taken in that regard.
A division bench of Justice B V Nagarathna and Justice N S Sanjay Gowda issued the direction after the state government informed that till April 10, provision of providing dry rations is made to children and it is awaiting directions from the Central government for re-starting the mid-day meal schemes.
The bench said:
"The fact is that anganwadis have opened and interalia children between 3 year and 6 years are attending. Therefore it becomes incumbent to serve hot cooked meals in the anganwadis. It is not known as to whether the system of providing cooked meals to children in anganwadi has been reintroduced on the opening of anganwadis or the subsequent lockdown and unlocking period, ordered by the state government.
"Schools have been reopened in a phased manner and children are attending classes from 6th to 10 standard. State has a system of providing mid-day meals in government and aided schools but owing to Covid-19, it is not known as to whether there is provision of mid-day meal to children attending schools".
During the hearing the bench orally observed that "Right to Education is a Fundamental right under Article 21A. The provision of mid-day meal will become a fundamental right, as you cannot ask them to study on an empty stomach. Though it is in the form of a scheme, ultimately we will have to make it a Fundamental Right. Nobody can study on a hungry stomach."
In the morning session, the state government informed the court that due to a rise in covid-19 cases in areas, mid-day meal scheme is not started in schools in certain areas where there has been a spike in cases and in schools near the borders of Kerala-Karnataka.
The bench doubted the claim and said "For one year you were aware of this consequence, still there is no plan in place. If you allow opening schools, it allows congregation. If you can permit that, then why can't you start mid-day meals."
It added "Pandemic cannot trigger off more and more difficulties in the society. Managing this pandemic as a health issue is one big challenge. It cannot lead to further challenges. Now you start giving cooked food. You don't need to take permission from the central government."
Following which it directed the State government to make a statement before the court at 2.30 pm on whether it would re-start the mid-day meal scheme by end of March. In response the state filed a short statement reiterating its stand of surge in covid-19 cases for not starting the scheme.
Senior Advocate Jayna Kothari, appearing for the petitioner, relied on directions issued by the Supreme Court in the case of Dipika Hagatram Sahant v. Union of India & Ors. WP CIVIL No.1039 of 2020 and said "Dry ration was provided when schools were closed. Now they have reopened, from standard 6th to 8th standard and anganwadis have reopened."
She added "On the pretext of the meal children will get education"
The bench also said "You (state government) take a decision to serve food to the students, attendance in schools, enrollment in schools will improve. Children will be back in the education system. Why are you abdicating your responsibilities to provide food?"
The bench urged the government to be proactive in addressing the issue. It said "You need not ask the Central Government, you are a Sovereign Government. Take action." It added "This is the time for the Education Department to rise to the occasion. This is the period of challenge, they must be proactive."
The direction was given during the hearing of a petition filed by one RADHA M seeking to direct the respondent to provide mid-day meals to students of classes from Standard 6th to 8th as regular schools have commenced in the state