The Sanskrit word Akshaya Patra means the ‘Inexhaustible Vessel’. Indian Mythology states that this was a vessel given to Yudhishthira by Lord Surya, which held a never-failing supply of food to the Pandavas.
The Idea of Akshaya Patra was developed for the below reasons:
Right to Education:
The right to education was universally recognized at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 (though referred to by the ILO as early as the 1920s) and since then has been included in various international conventions, national constitutions and development plans. According to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the right to education includes the right to free, compulsory primary education for all with an obligation to develop free secondary education accessible to all. The right to education also includes a responsibility to provide basic education for individuals who have not completed primary education.
Need for the Mid-day Meals in Schools:
For a small child with an empty stomach, education is not essentially the foremost concern. Most families then try to get more hands at work leading to employment of children, eventually making them drop out from schools at the earliest. Hence, the need of providing food to the children grappling under the shadows of malnourishment and illiteracy become extremely essential.
Supreme Court Order Making Mid day Meal Compulsory:
Pressurized under these circumstances, the Supreme Court of India passed an order on November 28, 2001 which stated that, “Cooked Mid Day meal is to be provided in all the government-aided primary schools in all the states.” This has resulted in the Mid-day meal program in India being one of the world’s largest school feeding program reaching out to about 12 crore children in over 12.65 lakh schools across the country. The scheme promises one meal, free of cost, to school going children on all the working days.
The main purposes behind implementing the program is to provide protection to the children from classroom hunger, decrease the dropout rate, increase admission and attendance in the school, and improve socialization amongst the children who belong to different castes. School meal programs exert a positive influence on enrolment and attendance in schools. A hungry child is less likely to attend school regularly. Hunger drains them of their will and ability to learn. Chronic hunger can lead to malnutrition. Chronic hunger also delays or stops the physical and mental growth of children. There is also evidence to suggest that apart from enhancing school attendance and child nutrition; mid day meals have an important social role to foster equality. As children learn to sit together and share a common meal, one can expect some erosion of caste prejudices and class inequality.
Akshaya Patra Foundation spread in different states.
Akshaya Patra functioning in Guwahati.