SRINAGAR: The state government seems to be losing coverage of schools under midday meals scheme, despite claims to the contrary.
A comparison of the annual work plans and budget for National Programme of Nutritional Support to Education, commonly known as Mid-Day Meal (MDM) scheme, reveals that from a coverage of 23166 schools with an estimated roll of 1068831 in the year, 2014-15 the numbers have dipped to 17621 schools with a coverage of 423175 (average) children in 2016.
Besides, a number of challenges and plans flagged in the old reports are carried forward to new reports, without any progress.
The plans provide details of the work done in the past year and the plans ahead.
This news paper compared the contents and data of the Annual Work Plan and Budget for the 2015-2016 and 2017-2018, both of which are available online.
According to the documents, during the year 2014-15, a total number of 23166 Schools were covered under the scheme with the children coverage of 1068831 up to ending of December 2014. The same coverage was proposed in the next financial year 2015-16.
But the report of year 2017-18 says that against the Project Approval Board’s (PAB) approval of 23166 schools with enrolment of 717627 children, the state has covered only 17621 schools with a coverage of 423175 (average) children up to ending December 2016.
The 2015-2016 report claims that large numbers of schools of the districts are receiving food grains at the nearest CA&PD outlets especially in Kashmir division except those schools functioning in far flung areas, however, strict directions will be issued to the directors in this behalf after consulting the CA&PD department of the state.
The report for 2017-2018 under the heading, transportation and distribution reads the same as “strict directions have already been issued to the Directors/CA&PD Department of the State to deliver food grains at the doorsteps of the schools.”
Interestingly the plans and challenges to overcome also remain unchanged, which is “to enhance the rates for lifting of food grains from Rs. 1350/ per MTs as it is not sufficient because of the varied of topography of the State as the CA&PD Department charges more rates in hilly areas.”
“Due to the recent floods in the state in September 2014, the meeting could not be held, however the same will be conducted with FCI quarterly,” the report reads.
However, during the next year no monthly meeting was conducted by the State Nodal Officer with the FCI authorities. Although the report says that “at the time of lifting of food grains from the FCI, the concerned District Officers discuss the issues with the FCI.”
In the old report the government said that the head gears and gloves will be provided to the Cook-Cum-Helper and directions in this behalf have been issued to the directors.
But, according to the new report, the cook cum helpers engaged “are not wearing headgears and gloves at the time of cooking of meals and that directions have already been issued to cook food in a very hygienic manner by the cook cum helpers after washing their hands and utensils properly in the schools.’
“Out of 11815 sanctioned kitchens cum store, the state has completed 6386 and the balance of 5429 kitchen cum store will be completed within next three months. The targets have not been achieved due to recent floods disturbance during 2014-15 and the same shall be achieved within next three months,” the report claims.
But surprisingly only 732 kitchens were constructed and the balance of 4697 kitchen cum store, according to the report, could not be completed within the existing rates prescribed by MHRD. “The state has an unspent balance of Rs. 38.15 crore under the component of Kitchen cum store and shall be constructed in the current financial year through convergence as the unspent balance available with the State is insufficient,” the report reads.
The government in the 2015-16 report claimed to have constructed 6657 kitchen-cum-stores through convergence under State Plan. But, surprisingly, the figure which was expected to increase or at worst remain static, dips with six kitchens vanishing from the new plan. According to the new report, 6651 kitchen-cum-stores have been constructed through convergence under State Plan.
“During 2014-15, no kitchen-cum-stores were constructed. The back log of 5429 kitchen cum stores shall be covered within three months of 2015-16,” reads the old report.
“During the year 2016-17, no kitchen-cum-stores have been constructed. The back log of 4697 kitchen cum stores shall be covered in the current financial year,” reads the new report.
Before serving the meals to children, the report claims that the food is tasted by in charge teachers of the schools and details are entered into the register but no labs are present to test the food sample for the presence of nutrients and microbes. However, the report says that the food samples are tested by the Health Officers of Health Department.
According to both the reports, there is very “less manpower available” for web based MIS at District/Zonal/Block Level.
It seems that not a single complaint has been registered in any regard and the contents of the old report, under the heading of ‘complaints’, seem to be copy pasted into the new report.
“No such complaints have been received so far. In some cases, the grievances have been redressed by the Zonal/school level authorities No such complaints have been received so far. In some cases, the grievances have been redressed by the Zonal/school level authorities,” read both old and the new report.
In the old report, the state claimed to have prepared a separate MME Plan for the implementing of the scheme smoothly and to initiate some important issues like Media Campaign, testing of samples through reputed labs and monitoring of the scheme regularly.
However, “No Awareness Generation & IED activities and media campaign has been carried out,” reads the new report.