Understanding Midday Meals In India

Understanding Midday Meals In India

Akshaya Patra recently raised funds for Midday Meals amidst Covid-19 pandemic, adding to the history of the provision of such in the country. Let us understand how midday meals work in India.

Crux of the Matter

Recent Fund Raising
Akshaya Patra, the world’s largest midday meal provider working as a not-for-profit organization, recently raised $950,000 through a virtual event of Texas to provide meals amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. The event was named ‘Virtual Gala’ and was attended by philanthropists from all over the world. The aim of the meeting was to help Akshaya Patra in eradicating “childhood hunger” in India.

In the latest New Education Policy (NEP) 2020, the Indian government also proposed ‘breakfast’ as a supplement to the midday meal.

History Of Midday Meals In India

  • 1925: Midday Meal started in Madras for disadvantaged and underprivileged children.
  • 1980s: Gujarat, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and the Union Territory of Pondicherry were providing Midday Meals on a state basis.
  • 1995: The National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education (NP-NSPE) was launched, aiming to enhance children’s health and also increase enrollment in schools.
  • 2001: The Midday Meal Scheme (MDMS) was launched on a national level. The scheme was mandated to provide children in every Government and Government-aided primary school a “prepared Mid Day Meal with a minimum content of 300 calories of energy and 8-12 gram protein per day for a minimum of 200 days”.

Current Status

  • The Midday Meal Scheme (MDMS) is currently run in “Government, Govt. Aided, Local Body, EGS and AIE Centres, Madarsa and Maqtabs supported under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and National Child Labour Project (NCLP) Schools run by Ministry of Labour”.
  • The Government also mandates a minimum nutritional requirement of the meal. Primary class students are provided 100 gm of rice/grains while the Upper primary class students are provided 150 gm of such. The minimum calorific intake mandated for students is 450 calories for the Primary students and 700 calories for Upper primary students.
  • The aim of Middy Meals is not only to enhance health but also to eradicate “classroom hunger” which affects students’ learning. The scheme also aims to “socialize” children of different caste and religious groups together, and provide employment to disadvantaged groups.
  • More than 25 lakh cooks are employed for Midday Meal provision (2016-17), and more than 11.6 crore children in the country are aided by the Mid Day Meals.


Impact

  • A 2011 study has found that the Mid Day Meal increased overall enrollment in schools by 13% over a period of 10 years.
  • Studies have also found that the average reading score “for children who ate school lunches for three to four years” was 18% higher than those having for less than a year.

Non-Govt Schemes
Several NGOs are offered contracts to provide the Midday Meals across the country. These operate as either ‘centralized’ by setting up large “factory-like” kitchens or as ‘decentralized’, where the region and the roads are inadequate to set up large production settings.

Akshaya Patra
Akshaya Patra is the largest Midday Meal provider in India, run by the International Society For Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). It provides free Midday Meals to over 1.8 million children in 19,039 Government schools and Government-aided schools, having set up 52 kitchens in 12 states and 2 Union Territories. The organization has also aided in the time of Covid-19 by providing 70 million servings of ‘dry rations’ and cooked meals.

Other Organisations
Some other NGOs facilitating the provision of Midday Meals are Jay Gee Humanitarian Society & People’s Forum, Naandi Foundation Ekta Shakti Foundation, Isha Education, Rajasthan Bal Kalyan Samiti (RBKS), Milaan Be The Change, etc.

Several community programs are also run like the Tithi Bhojan (Gujarat), where people are encouraged to celebrate family events by providing Midday Meals in the locality. The Tithi Bhojan has been adopted across the country by the names “Sampriti Bhojan” in Assam, “Sneh Bhojan” in Maharashtra, “Shalegagi Naavu Neevu” in Karnataka, “Utsav Bhoj” in Rajasthan, etc.

Curiopedia
  • Madhu Pandit Dasa is the chairman and founder of the Akshaya Patra Foundation. He is also awarded Padma Shri Award by GOI for his services towards the youth of India through Akshaya Patra.
  • CLT India (Children’s LoveCastles Trust) is an Indian non-profit, non-government organization based in Jakkur, Bengaluru. It was founded in 1997. It aims to provide education using technology to the under-served communities and its solutions serve the base of the pyramid. CLT started with providing midday meals.
  • In 1982, ‘Food for Learning’ was launched with assistance from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Initially, the program was aimed at scheduled caste and scheduled tribe girls.

Nuclear Plant In Arab World & Contentions

The first nuclear power plant in the Arab region was initiated recently in the UAE, with mixed reactions coming amidst the recent tension in the Middle East.

Crux of the Matter

Recent Nuclear Initiation
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) recently announced the operation of the first nuclear power plant in the Arabian nations by initiating the first 4 reactors of the Barakah nuclear power station. Located in the Al Dhafrah region of Abu Dhabi, the plant was first announced in 2009 and was expected to open in 2017. The delay occurred by several natural as well as ‘human’ reasons.

UAE Going Green
The Barakah plant is expected to provide “up to 25% of the UAE’s electricity needs once it is fully operational”. The UAE has also increased dependency on solar and wind energy in recent years, with the recent nuclear development aiming to further reduce the country’s dependency on oil for energy.

The recent nuclear development came 2 weeks after the UAE launched its first Mars mission named “Hope Probe”.

Conflict In The Region
Israel and Iran in the Middle East region are already in the possession of nuclear power. Israel, which operates a nuclear reactor, has an undisclosed nuclear arsenal, while Iran claims that it has only a “uranium enrichment program” for civil development. Several attempts have been made to thwart the nuclear progress of the UAE, with the most recent coming in 2017 when the Houthi rebel group of Yemen fired missiles at the Barakah plant.

Israel-UAE Relations
The UAE does not recognize Israel as a state and has banned the entry of Israeli citizens in the country. The relations between the two have been improving since the 2019 AFC Asian Cup hosted in Dubai, which was telecasted officially in Israel for the first time. Israel was also invited to the Dubai Expo 2020 fair.

Iran-UAE Relations
The UAE does not recognize Israel as a state and supports Palestine in the Israel-Palestine conflict. However, both sides are reportedly on the same side against Iran, with the UAE claiming that Iran supports Shi’ites rebels in the region.

  • Iran’s control over the Lesser Tunb and the Greater Tunb islands in the Persian Gulf has been disputed by the UAE, with the conflict arising due to British control in the region and the transfer of power after independence.
  • The 2 sides have also been engaged in conflict over Abu Musa island in the Persian Gulf, with the island being under the control of Iran till 1908 before annexation by Britain. In the 1960s, Britain transferred the control of Abu Musa to the Sharjah sheikhdom, one of the 7 sheikhdoms to coalesce into the UAE. In 1971, Iran and the UAE signed an MoU for the joint administration of the island. However, the pact has been reportedly violated by Iran in its attempts to take over the islands since the 1990s, with the Oil-richness of the islands being a major source of conflict.
  • The UAE allowed France to open its first permanent base in the Persian Gulf region in 2009, which drew strong criticism from Iran.
  • Saudi Arabia and Iran have been engaged in conflict over Sunni and Shi’ite branches of Islam.
  • After the execution of Shi’ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia in 2016, the Saudi embassy in Iran was attacked by civilians. Consequently, both the countries withdrew embassies and have no formal relations since. The UAE reportedly backs Saudi Arabia in its conflict with Iran, marking a decisive step in its relation with Iran.
Curiopedia
  • Emirates is the state-owned airline and flag carrier of the UAE. It was conceived in March 1985 with backing from Dubai’s royal family.
  • Expo 2020 is a World Expo to be hosted by Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The whole event is postponed by a year and will be held in October of 2021 now. This is the first time that the World Exposition has been postponed.
  • The 2016 attack on the Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran was a mob action on 2 January 2016 by protesters against the execution of a prominent Saudi Arabian Shi’a cleric. Mobs stormed the embassy in Tehran and the Saudi consulate in Mashhad and ransacked them. The embassy building was set on fire with Molotov cocktails and petrol bombs. The attacks were later condemned by the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei.

Viral Acharya Raises Critical Points For RBI & Govt

Viral Acharya Raises Critical Points For RBI & Govt

Former RBI Deputy Governor Viral Acharya in his latest book “Quest For Restoring Financial Stability In India”, says that fiscal dominance in India has become a mainstream practice that hinders the growth of banks and eventually results in the slow growth of the nation. His critical views on RBI’s functioning and the central bank’s relationship with the government have become the talk of the town. Let us simplify them and understand.

Crux of the Matter

Acharya on Fiscal Dominance
Viral Acharya is a former RBI Deputy Governor and currently a professor at NYU Stern. He has mentioned that Fiscal dominance is hampering the growth of India. Fiscal dominance is a situation in which the government has high debt and deficit. Because of limited funds, the government is unable to recapitalize public banks when they have to recognize bad loans in the books. Instead, the government pressurizes RBI to ease credit norms so that banks can avoid NPA recognition. This is like keeping the house clean by shoving al the dust under the carpet. Acharya said that it is not too late to infuse capital into banks and NBFCs.

On Non-Performing Assets
In an interview with India Today, Acharya said that growing NPAs during Covid-19 would be a concern. NPAs are expected to rise to ~12.5%, i.e. of the ₹100 loans given by a bank, ₹12-13 would be unrecoverable and banks will have to set aside a provision for the bad loan.


NPAs are loans that cannot be recovered. Viral Acharya also criticized the practice of evergreening of loans in India. Let us understand it through an example what it means and what are its implications:

Mr. A took a loan of ₹10 lakh but is now unable to pay back the principal amount and/or interest. Now, Mr. A may take an additional loan to pay off the interest, or principal and interest both. Banks allowed this practice because that particular loan would not have to be categorized as an NPA and hence, no provision amount needed to be set aside.


On RBI’s Autonomy
Acharya writes in the book that RBI’s autonomy was being compromised and hinted that he left for the same reason. Acharya left the post before the completion of his tenure. He also pointed out that Former RBI Governor Urjit Patel would have also left for a similar reason.

The government was trespassing on the autonomy of the regulator, rowing back on prudent measures and making unreasonable demands.

Viral Acharya, Former RBI Deputy Governor


Urjit Patel’s Resignation
Urjit Patel possibly resigned amidst the government trying to dilute the clause of Prompt Corrective Action. PCA is a framework under which banks with weak financial metrics are put under watch by the RBI. Besides that, the government wanted RBI to formulate policies to help it borrow more and ease up on defaulters. It also wanted the RBI to transfer surplus funds in the form of an interim dividend a few months before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. All these factors might have caused Patel’s exit.

Also Read: Changes In RBI Accounting Year To Put Curbs On Contentious Interim Dividends

Curiopedia
  • “Yaadon Ke Silsile” is a music album by Viral Acharya. The funds raised through the album were funneled into charity – Pratham – which works to educate children.
  • “The Third Pillar: How Markets and the State Leave the Community Behind” is a book by Raghuram Rajan. The book was shortlisted for the financial times and McKinsey business book of the year award 2019.
  • As of January 2017, Viral was appointed to serve a three-year term as a Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. He resigned from the post in July 2019 with 6 months left for his completion of a term.

Scientists Revived An Ancient Life Form Recently

Scientists Revived An Ancient Life Form Recently

Not dinosaurs unfortunately, however, Japanese scientists have got a headstart with resurrecting dormant microbes, lying at the south pacific seabed for more than a 100 million years. So how did they find these ancient life forms? Can this be a breakthrough towards resurrecting mammoths or even dinosaurs?

Crux of the Matter

Rise Of The Sleeping Microbes?
Scientists from Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology have revived microbes that were in a dormant state for 100 million+ years, giving us a glimpse at what life was like in the past.

The team led by geomicrobiologist Yuki Morono found that the microbes survived in the South Pacific seabed, a sediment poor in nutrients, but having enough oxygen to allow them to breathe. It was published by Nature Communications.

What Is A Microbe?
A micro-organism that is amongst the earth’s simplest organisms, that has the ability to live in extreme environments where other developed life forms cannot survive.

It exists as a unicellular or multicellular living organism or even as a cell cluster and are of six major types: bacteria, archaea, fungi, protozoa, algae, and viruses.

How Did They Stumble Upon It?
As per study co-author Steven D’Hondt, “In the oldest sediment we’ve drilled, with the least amount of food, there were still these ancient life forms”, After incubation of these microbes by scientists, the microbes began to eat and multiply.

What Does This Imply?
The new finding depicts how some of Earth’s simplest living structures don’t have the concept of a lifespan. Using DNA and RNA gene profiling, bigger creatures may be resurrected in the future.

Can The Woolly Mammoth Be Revived?
The possibility is a tall order right now. Though futuristic technology can help explain why the elephant ancestor went extinct in the first place.

Last year scientists revived genes from a population of Siberian Island mammoths that survived until around 4,000 years ago.

Curiopedia
  • Micrographia is a historically significant book by Robert Hooke about his observations through various lenses. It is particularly notable for being the first book to illustrate insects, plants etc. as seen through microscopes.
  • The word mammoth was first used in Europe during the early 17th century, when referring to maimanto tusks discovered in Siberia. They were called “mammon’s horn” and were often found in washed-out river banks. Some local people claimed to have seen a living mammoth.
  • The role of RNA in protein synthesis was suspected in 1939. Severo Ochoa won the 1959 Nobel Prize in Medicine after he discovered an enzyme that can synthesize RNA in the laboratory.

Understanding REITs and Mindspace IPO

Understanding REITs and Mindspace IPO

Mindspace Business Parks Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) announced to go public to raise a sum of ₹4,500 crores – the IPO closed on 29th July. Till now Embassy Office Parks was India’s only listed REIT. The concept of REIT was introduced in 2007 by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). Before investing it is important to know what REITs mean and how do they function? Let’s understand it.

Crux of the Matter

What Are REITs?
There are plenty of investment options like gold, government bond, equity, debt, real estate, commodities, etc. Generally, real estate investment requires large sums of money to be invested for a long period of time – 5-10 years or more. The bottleneck with such investment is that if in times of need someone wants to sell this investment, it is not likely that it would be sold quickly and without incurring price reduction. So investors’ money remains blocked for a long time. However, REITs make real estate investment more liquid and affordable.

REITs were first introduced in the US in 1960. A REIT is a company that owns, operates, or finances income-generating real estate. REITs pool units of a portfolio of real estate assets and allow investors to invest in parts of it through stock or share in the portfolio. REITs’ stock derives value from its underlying asset, real estate.


What is Equity REIT?

  • Let’s say ABC owns 5 commercial office spaces in Bengaluru.
  • XYZ is a REIT that buys these properties from ABC.
  • For investors investing in XYZ’s REIT, their stock derives value from the value of the underlying asset, here ABC’s 5 commercial spaces in Bengaluru.
  • XYZ earns through the rent received and thus pays REITs dividends from it.
  • XYZ would be categorized as an equity REIT.

What is Mortgage REIT?

  • ABC owns 5 commercial office spaces in Bengaluru.
  • XYZ is a REIT that gave a loan to ABC to develop these spaces.
  • For investors investing in XYZ’s REIT, their stock derives value from the value of an underlying asset, here the performance of the loan given to ABC
  • XYZ earns through the interest received on loan and thus pays REITs dividend from it
  • XYZ would be categorized as a mortgage REIT

REITs in India
Investors get benefits from REIT as it is obliged to return a certain portion of the money back on a yearly basis to investors. More importantly, REITs’ dividends are not taxed in India. An investor gets a share in the profit earned through real estate investment. The minimum subscription limit to invest in REITs has been reduced from ₹2 lakh to ₹50,000.

Ending Note On Mindspace
Mindspace is raising money for the underlying asset of Business Parks in India. Experts say that at a time when Work From Home is becoming the new normal life due to Covid-19, Mindspace IPO is a wrong offer at the wrong time. However, the IPO was oversubscribed 13 times. Experts say it could be because investors demand such products for diversifying their portfolio.

Curiopedia
  • The Irvine Company, LLC. is an American private company focused on real estate development. Its owner, Donald Bren, is the wealthiest real estate developer in the United States, with a net worth of more than $15 billion.
  • REITs were created in the United States after President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed Public Law 86-779, sometimes called the Cigar Excise Tax Extension of 1960. The first REIT was American Realty Trust founded by Thomas J. Broyhill, cousin of Virginia U.S. Congressmen Joel Broyhill in 1961.
  • A real estate bubble or property bubble is a type of economic bubble that occurs periodically in local or global real estate markets and typically follows a land boom. A land boom is a rapid increase in the market price of real property such as housing until they reach unsustainable levels and then decline.