In human rights literature, human dignity is the foundation of human rights. Thus,
scholarly literature has focused on rights to further enchance dignity. In this article, we
argue that rights alone provide only a minimum of dignity. We examine India’s right to food
legislation and its implementation in school meal programs. Based on our observations, we
argue that discretion and negotiation are complementary institutional spaces that can be
developed for the meaningful enjoyment of rights and thus dignity. The negotiations that
take place between school management committees and schoolteachers determine the
dignity of the midday meal by improving meal quality and nutritional content,
infrastructural facilities, and working arrangements for the cooking and delivery of meals.
The findings are based on a study of four schools in the states of Kerala and West Bengal
and on a review of studies on the midday meal programs in other Indian states.