As per an announcement made by the Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry in the last week of February, Aadhaar card will become mandatory for students all over the country to avail the midday meal scheme. The cooks as well as the helpers involved in the midday meal scheme will also have to get an Aadhaar card or unique identification number to continue working under this scheme. This mandate has earlier been introduced by the Central Government for Employee Pension Scheme (EPS) and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) as well.
This rule has been made compulsory for all states apart from Assam, Meghalaya and Jammu and Kashmir, as per the Hindustan Times report. This announcement by the Ministry seems to be in-sync with the Central Government's ideology of integrating Aadhaar number or unique identification with all the subsidy schemes and services.
The recent mandate that has been announced by the HRD Ministry also specifies that the students and helpers will be given time till June 30,2017, to enroll themselves for the Aadhaar card. The move by this Ministry is aimed to understand and work on any loss occurred by the midday meal scheme. During the year 2015-2016, there was a total of 13.16 crore students enrolled across all states in India. Out of this, 10.03 crore students across 11.50 lakh schools have availed the midday meal scheme. The Ministry's goal is to achieve more transparency and to improve the efficiency in an overall manner.
According to the notice released by the HRD Ministry,
The use of Aadhaar as identity document for delivery of services, benefits or subsidies simplifies the government delivery process and enables beneficiaries to get their entitlements directly and in a seamless manner.
Earlier this year, the Department of School Education and Literacy (DSEL) under the HRD Ministry opposed the decision saying that this move needs more deliberation before implementation is carried out. Concerns were raised by DSEL over school-related scheme benefits compulsorily asking for Aadhaar card as a document needed for identification.
The midday meal scheme is a school meal programme introduced to improve the overall nutrition of students all across the country while at the same time improving the attendance of students in schools.