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Mid-day meal in madrasas among BJP’s wishlist to Nirmala Sitharaman

NEW DELHI: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman received an unusual suggestion from the BJP – to consider making budgetary provisions to start mid-day meals in madrasas across India following modernising them. Many interesting details like these seem to be trickling out, a day after Sitharaman held a three-hour long closed-door, pre-budget meeting at the BJP headquarters.

Does the BJP want mid-day meal in madrasas?

Sources say the suggestion to “think about” a mid-day meal scheme in madrasas came from the minority morcha, which too attended the meeting with the Minister, like other morchas, such as S.C. Morcha, Mahila Morcha or Kisan Morcha.

Mid-day meal is a scheme started by the government “to enhance enrolment, retention and attendance and simultaneously improving nutritional levels among children” in government schools. It feeds approximately 10.2 crore children in roughly 11.5 lakh schools every day.

Though the scheme extends to madrasas and maqtabs, but “there’s no uniform scientific approach to it,” insists a top official in the Union ministry of minority affairs. He told IANS, “It varies from state to state and whether the madrasas receive aid from the government.”

A considerable number of madrasas are either not recognised by the government or are run by private individuals. JDU Spokesperson Neeraj Kumar confirmed that in Bihar too, the scheme is extended only to the government aided madrasas. The students studying in non-recognised madrasas are ineligible for the scheme.

The BJP’s minority morcha has suggested that all unrecognised madrasas should not only be “mainstreamed” but the mid-day meal scheme be made available there. Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year in a speech had pitched for madrasa modernisation.

Interestingly, this unusual suggestion from within the BJP comes a day after the resignation of the BJP’s minority cell secretary in Madhya Pradesh Akram Khan came to light. Khan’s resignation citing “some colleagues have been making indecent comments against a particular community” left the BJP embarrassed.

Will Nirmala Sitharaman pay heed to this suggestion? A BJP source who was present at the pre-budget meeting said: “The FM didn’t object to any idea, how much radical or big in scale it may be. The BJP has given suggestion. But the government will do what is fiscally prudent for it.”