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States dish out messy fare

The government’s flagship programme to provide one nutritious warm cooked meal a day to schoolchildren is up against pilferage, mismanagement and carelessness on part of the states, a recent review by the Centre has found. Swaha Sahoo reports.

india Updated: Jul 16, 2009 00:30 IST
Swaha Sahoo

The mid-day meal scheme is battling cooked up figures.

The government’s flagship programme to provide one nutritious warm cooked meal a day to schoolchildren is up against pilferage, mismanagement and carelessness on part of the states, a recent review by the Centre has found.

Children upto class VIII are covered under the scheme launched in 1995 to increase student enrollment, address malnutrition and check dropout rate. The plan has led to an improvement in enrollment and a fall in dropout rate.

The success led to the programme being extended to upper primary classes (up to Class VIII).

The budget, too, was increased to Rs 8,000 in 2008-09 to cover 13.9 crore children.

But over the time, implementation has taken a beating. Reports of schoolchildren falling ill after consuming mid-day meals keep coming in.

On Monday, Minister of State for Human Resource Development D. Purandeswari told the Lok Sabha that 3,273 children had fallen ill in three years (2006-09).

A select analysis of recent review meetings of the quarterly performance (April-December 2008) of the states points out glaring inconsistencies.

In some cases figures don’t add up, in other, not even half the target has been met.

“….states have been asked to involve the community for more transparency,” said a senior government official, who did not want to be identified as he is not authorised to speak to the media.