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Navrajdeep Singh, Hindustan Times
Patiala , August 01, 2013
Even as the state government has directed teachers to improve the quality of food provided under the mid-day meal scheme in government schools, it has failed to provide adequate funds to school managements to run the scheme smoothly. Reeling under acute shortage of funds, the mid-day meal scheme seems to have become the responsibility and obligation for teachers than that of the state government as the latter failed to clear dues of around Rs. 1.5 crore of teachers, who had spent the money from their pockets to run the scheme.

The mid-day meal scheme was started in 2009 with an objective to provide nutritious meal in government schools to the students till Class 8.However, the state government's directions to not stop the scheme have added to the worries of the teachers.

The scheme has been running in 1,016 primary schools and 375 secondary schools of Patiala district and has almost 1.2 lakh beneficiaries.

Sources in the education department revealed that the government has failed to release adequate grants to run the scheme for the past three months.

"The problem of shortage of funds in not limited to Patiala district only as teachers from all over the state have been facing the same problem," said sources.

"Not only the state authorities held up grants, many a time the central government delayed release of the cooking cost under the scheme," sources added.

According to information, though there is a budget of Rs. 1 crore per month, the district authorities were provided with Rs. 50 lakh in July and Rs. 70 lakh in June.

Ranbir Singh, district coordinator, midday meal, said they had not received the grants according to their needs for the past many months due to which it has become difficult to clear the outstanding payments of teachers.

"I have received many complaints from teachers regarding the issue and conveyed the same to the senior authorities. We have already written to the state authorities to release funds to first clear the payments of teachers, besides providing adequate funds to run the scheme in the coming months," he added.

Primary schoolteacher Jagjit Singh Nohra, who is also state president of the Sikhya Vikas Manch, said this was not the first time that teachers were paying from their pocket as many a time, the authorities concerned failed to provide appropriate funds on time.

"Now, even grocery shop owners refuse to give us credit as their payments have not been cleared for the past few months," he said, adding, "The government should discontinue such schemes if they don't have ample funds."