A photo of a student holding a plate of food as part of a privately sponsored lunch at government school in Uttar Pradesh's Jalaun district, is being shared online as a photo of mid-day meals served to government students in UP.
BOOM found that the plate of food in the viral image is part of a special programme started by the sarpanch of Malakpura village in Jalaun district, which allows anybody to sponsor a one-time meal for the government school students.
The viral posts shows a photo of a young student in uniform holding a plate of food which has a glass of milkshake, an apple, a curry, puris, salad and an ice cream. The student is standing outside a school with the board stating it is the Upper Primary School, Malakpura, District Jalaun.
The photo is being shared with a claim in Hindi that translates to, "Had this happened in any school in Delhi, headlines would have been made in international newspapers."
Former in-charge of Haryana BJP IT Cell Arun Yadav shared the photo with the misleading claim.
BJP leader Kaushal Mishra who is part of the Delhi wing of the party also tweeted with the same text.
Sadhvi Prachi, president of the Bhagwa Kranti Sena shared the same misleading claim on Facebook.
Sagar Kumar with the right wing channel Sudarshan News and Shweta Negi with the NewsNation also made the same claim. BOOM has debunked communally-charged disinformation shared by Sudarshan News and its staff on several occassions.
The same misleading claim is also being shared on several Yogi Adityanath and BJP fan pages on Facebook.
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We ran a keyword search on Facebook in Hindi text for 'Jalaun + Malakpura + school + midday meal' and found a post with the same photo on a Facebook page called 'Amit'. We found that the Facebook page is run by Amit, the sarpanch of Gram Panchayat Malakpura who had uploaded the same viral photo with two other pictures on August 31, 2022.
Amit in his Facebook post detailed the food items on the plate under the title - विद्यालय में आज का #तिथिभोजन (ऐड ऑन MDM) which translates to 'Today TithiBhojan (Add On MDM) in the school'. The post by Amit had three photos - the viral photo of the student posing with the plate, a close up of the food plate and the third a group photo of the students holding a board.
We looked at the third picture and found that the students are holding a board wishing someone named Saurabh on his birthday and thanking him for the special meal. The board also says, 'Tithi Bhojan 31-08-2022'
We scanned through other posts by Amit and found that the Sarpanch regularly shares photos of similar Tithi meals sponsored by people for the students.
One such post from August 1, 2022 shows puri, chana masala, salad and a sweet served to students. Amit's post and the board held by the students thanks a certain Raunak from Bihar, Samastipur for the "special meal".
We called Sarpanch Amit to find out more about the viral photo and the Tithi meal scheme who said the meal seen in the viral photo is part of a special scheme started in his school wherein those in the community can sponsor a meal for the students.
"While interacting with the students, after becoming the sarpanch, they expressed their desire to eat 'good food'. When asked what they would like to eat, some of them said, 'matar paneer'. Taking their wish into consideration, on February 14, we cooked them a special meal. I then decided that this should not be a one off arrangement but a continous one. So we started a scheme called 'Add On Mid Day Meal' wherein a special meal is made for the students at least two to four times in a month. We made a new roster and updated the prescribed menu of the mid-day meal and put up the details for public display in the school. The Add On MDM is not a replacement to the regular meal but an addition," explained Amit to BOOM.
He further added that he conducted his own research and found that Gujarat had a similar scheme called Tithi wherein anyone can sponsor a meal for the student. "On July 1, 2022, we implemented the Tithi scheme as run by the Gujarat government. Under this, those who want to celebrate their special day by sharing their happiness with the children can do so by sponsoring a meal." Amit explained that he is very active on social media and shares updates about the village and the school on his page and via this, several people have approached him to sponsor a "special meal" for the school students.
When asked whether the meal served under the Tithi scheme or the Add On MDM can be called the regular mid-day meal, Amit said it was a mixed form of providing meals to the children. "It cannot be called the regular mid-day meal that is part of the government scheme in Uttar Pradesh. But the concept of Tithi meals exists in other states and is allowed under the mid-day meal scheme and we have just taken the same concept. We are first school in UP to do so," Amit said.
What Is The Mid-Day Meal Scheme?
The mid-day meal scheme is a centrally sponsored scheme, started in 1995 in several states in the country and aims to provide balanced nutritious meal to children for government school students and boost the numbers of primary school students. In 2021, the Narendra Modi led Bharatiya Janata Party renamed the scheme to Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman Scheme.
The mid-day meal scheme was introduced in Uttar Pradesh in 2004 and is governed by the Mid-Day Meal Authority, a government body.
We looked through the website of the Mid-Day Meal Authority to see what constitutes a regular midday meal for government schools in Uttar Pradesh.The Mid -Day Meal Authority states that under the scheme, each student should be provided with food items made from rice for four days in a week and food items made from wheat for two days. It further adds, at least 450 calories of energy and 12 grams of protein should be part of the food served in primary schools and at least 700 calories of energy and 20 grams of protein for students in upper primary schools.
While the mid-day meal scheme is considered one of the largest government sponsored school lunch programmes globally, it has been mired in controversy over quality and quantity of food, lack of funds, poor distribution and implementation.
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