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HindustanTimes Sun,20 Apr 2014

25 per cent fund for midday meal returned by Bihar: Cong

PTI  Patna, July 20, 2013
First Published: 21:33 IST(20/7/2013) | Last Updated: 21:35 IST(20/7/2013)

Bihar unit of Congress on Saturday hit out at Nitish Kumar government for its "sloppy performance" in the implementation of the midday meal scheme for children and said 25 per cent of the fund given to it by the Centre for the purpose in the last financial year was returned.

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"Out of a total allocation of Rs. 162.3 crore only Rs. 127.9 crore has been spent by the Bihar government, which returned Rs. 34.4 crore to the Union government," Bihar PCC chief Ashok Chaudhury told reporters here.

Bihar could lift only 61 per cent of foodgrains allocated to it for the scheme and midday meals are not served in more than 1,400 schools in the state, he said.

"Around 52 to 53 per cent children only are taking advantage of the scheme in Bihar whereas the Centre provides fund for giving the facilities in 100 per cent schools to 100 per cent students."

Despite 100 per cent allocation of fund, kitchen sheds were not constructed in 29 per cent schools and surveys pointed out that the quality of food served was very low in terms of quantity and quality.

Besides, there was shortage of 1,66,749 cooks under the scheme in Bihar, he said.

The midday meal tragedy had taken place despite the state officials being alerted about irregularities in the implementation of the scheme at a meeting way back in April, the PCC president said reacting to Bihar government's claim that no alerts were given to it.

Bihar midday meal director R Lakshamanan was alerted by the Centre about lacunae in the implementation of the midday meal scheme in "open and clear words" at an administrative meeting on April 23, the Congress leader said.

Besides, information about irregularities in midday meal scheme implementation in the state between 2009-2011 was shared with Principal Secretary HRD Amarjeet Sinha.

"If these two officials did not act in the light of April 23 meeting aren't they guilty of Chhapra incident? And if they indeed took some corrective steps they should make the ATR (Action Taken Report) public," Chaudhury said.

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