The Madhya Pradesh government has stumbled on its promise to provide hot milk to 74 lakh anganwadi and school children in the state from July 1, apparently because of a failure to release funds meant for the special project in time.
Facing flak over denying eggs to anganwadi kids, the chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had publicly announced on June 12 at Sagar that the anganwadi, as well as school children would get hot milk thrice a week July onwards.
The department of women and child development (DWCD) that runs the anganwadis under its integrated child development scheme (ICDS) had formally announced that the distribution supply of hot, sweet, flavoured milk would start from July 1.
According to information, 100ml milk (thrice a week) is supposed to be given to 29 lakh children in 92,000 anganwadis and 45 lakh children in government primary schools (Class 1 to 5).
However, on Wednesday, none of the anganwadis or schools received milk. The state government said distribution would start from July 15.
“We had told our children they would get milk from today (Wednesday). When they didn’t get milk, their parents questioned us. It was awkward,” said an anganwadi worker at Sudama Nagar in Bhopal.
The Commissioner of ICDS, Pushpalata Singh said that due to issues related to supply of milk powder by the MP Cooperative Dairy Federation, the distribution could not be started as planned.
“The distribution is to be implemented using the sanjha chulha (common kitchen) concept under the mid-day meal (MDM) scheme of the department of panchayat and rural development (P&RD). The department officials have conveyed to us there were issues related to the supply of milk powder but it would be resolved before July 15. The distribution will start then,” she said.
Meanwhile, the additional chief secretary (ACS) of the P&RD department, Aruna Sharma said the actual issue was related to delay in release of funds for the scheme by the finance department.
“We will have to make advance payment to the dairy federation and this is expected to take some time because of the fund release issue. We have been told it will be done in time to start the distribution from July 15,” the ACS said.
Sharma said a budget of Rs 300 crore has been sanctioned for the milk distribution programme. The dairy federation will supply milk powder to the self-help groups running Sanjha Chulha kitchens in rural areas and they will use warm water to prepare the milk before supplying them to anganwadis and schools.
Currently, the children get traditional food like daal-rice, chapatti-vegetable, daal-chapatti and such combinations apart from puree (fried chapatti) and kheer (sweet dish of rice and milk) occasionally, both under the supplementary nutrition programme (SNP) at anganwadis and under MDM at schools.
Right to Food activist Sachin Jain said the delay underlines the lack of inter-departmental coordination on the issue of nutrition. “When such delay can happen in a pet project of the chief minister, we can understand the overall scenario,” he said.