Primary schools providing mid-day meals to their students will now have to build kitchens in order to cook the food on their premises.
A new government order issued by the state on November 21 under the Right to Education (RTE) Act has said that schools will have to do so before April 1, 2013, the date by which the central government Act is supposed to be implemented by states.
The new rule will largely impact government and aided schools in rural areas; those in urban areas are serviced by one nodal kitchen. The mid-day meal scheme does not apply to private, unaided schools.
“We are already working with central kitchens in Mumbai and Thane,” said J Saharia, principal secretary of the school education department. “The government is taking the initiative to do this. Now it will be taken to other urban areas.”
While 75% of the funding for the separate kitchen shed will come from the Centre, 25% will be borne by the state. However, in the case of private, aided schools, the trusts running them will have to foot the remaining expenses, the order said. The diameter for the kitchen has also been specified depending on the number of children.
Some school principals are worried that they might suddenly be asked to build their own kitchens. “If made compulsory, it will be impossible to implement in such a short time frame,” said the principal of an aided school. “So many arrangements have to be made. Besides, where is the space for this?”