A photo of a young boy standing in front of the Upper Primary Middle School in Jalaun, Malakpur with a plateful of food has been circulating widely on social media. On his plate, he has food items like puri, paneer curry, apples, ice cream, milkshake and salad. It is being claimed that this is the mid-day meal provided by the government to the children in the schools of Uttar Pradesh.
BJP worker Arun Yadav tweeted the image, describing it as the mid-day meal at a government school in Uttar Pradesh. He added that if such a meal was provided at any school in Delhi, it would make headlines in international newspapers. (Archived link) He was obliquely referring to a New York Times report on August 16, which praised the AAP government for overhauling the government schools in Delhi.
BJP affiliated lawyer Advocate Ashutosh Dubey also tweeted two photos, writing, “In Maharaj ji’s Uttar Pradesh there is only one drawback. Yogi Adityanath does not know how to advertise! (Archived link)
Sagar Kumar of Sudarshan News also amplified the image on Twitter with the same claim. (Archived link)
Alt News first examined the website of the Mid-Day Meal Authority, Uttar Pradesh. Here, we were able to find the weekly menu of mid-day meals. It is worth noting that the menu contains no mention of paneer curry, ice cream, milkshake, etc. However, in the viral picture, all these items are seen on the child’s plate.
We performed a keyword search using terms related to the viral claim. This led us to a story by UP Tak on the Upper Primary Middle School in Malakpur, Jalaun. Speaking to ‘UP Tak’, Amit, the sarpanch of Malakpur, had said that this type of special menu was provided to the students two to three times in a month. Additional resources are arranged by the village head and money is raised via crowdfunding most of the time.
We spoke to Amit, the village head of Malakpur for more information. He explained that when the concept of the mid-day meal was introduced, there were two objectives behind it. The first was to eradicate malnutrition among rural children and the other objective was to incentivize coming to school regularly. This is why, Amit said, he updated the mid-day meal menu. During December and January, the children’s winter vacation lasted long due to the Omicron virus. At the time, Amit used to take classes once a week. That’s when the children requested that he incorporate paneer and peas curry in the meal. He told the children that they would be provided the dish when regular classes resumed.
After the school reopened, the teachers had an internal discussion and the new service was implemented from February 14. It was named the ‘Add-on Mid Day Meal’. This contained some added items in excess of what was predetermined in the mid-day meal menu. He designed the roster, as per which paneer curry was to be provided at least once a month, salad was to be given daily, sweets once or twice a month, apples twice a month and the prescribed quantity of milk or a milkshake to improve its nutritional value, etc. were added. Apart from this, he decided that the ‘Add on Menu’ would be provided on randomly selected days. Amit also shared with us the picture of the ‘Add on Menu’ notice.
The ‘Tithi Bhojan’ concept was implemented from July 1, 2022. As part of this, any individual, organization or collective can provide special food to children on special occasions or festivals. This is mentioned in the sixth point of the About section of the Prime Minister’s Poshan Shakti Nirman (PM POSHAN), a government website.
Amit informed Alt News that the viral picture was taken on August 31. A person named Saurabh, the branch manager at Canara Bank, Kanpur, had arranged the special meal for school children under Tithi Bhojan on his birthday in that particular school. Amit posted these pictures on his Facebook page. The images featured school children holding boards in their hands with the name of the school, the date of the meal, and the name of the panchayat. Along with this, the children can also be seen wishing Saurabh on his birthday with messages written on the board.
To sum it up, an image of a meal provided to school children under the Tithi Bhojan programme was falsely circulated on social media as the items in the mid-day meal in Uttar Pradesh. The initiative was the brainchild of village head Amit and carried out with public support. Many BJP leaders and social media users shared it while praising the Uttar Pradesh government.
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