Ludhiana teachers pool money to feed govt school kids under midday meal scheme
Due to a paucity of funds and food grains, heads of the government schools in Ludhiana are having a tough time following the prescribed menu under the midday meal (MDM) scheme.
The accounts designated for MDMs have gone short by Rs 15,000 and up to Rs 40,000. To prepare daily MDM, heads of the schools either take necessary equipment such as wood and cylinders on credit basis or get the money pooled in from the teachers to buy vegetables, oil and milk.
The midday meal branch at the district education office, Ludhiana, has been receiving frequent calls from the school heads to inquire regarding funds. The staff deputed at the branch has been ensuring the principals to wait till Monday for the release of funds. An official requesting anonymity said, “The district needs a total of Rs 2.5 crore to just clear old dues.”
The scheme was launched in government schools to increase enrolment, retention and hone the learning abilities of beneficiaries, especially among children from poor background. But the purpose of the scheme is being defeated due to lack of funds.
MORE STUDENTS, MORE SEVERE THE ISSUE
The problem is severe in the schools where strength of students is more than 300. At Government Primary School, Jawaddi, there are 426 students and its MDM account is running short by Rs 40,000.
A school teacher requesting anonymity said, “The prices of vegetables and other commodities are increasing and it is becoming difficult to provide meals by following the menu. The authorities must release the funds.”
Meanwhile, at Government Primary School, Chanan Devi, the school authorities are facing problems in following the prescribed menu as the stock of food grains such as rice is finished, and now the authorities are left with only wheat.
The school authorities are running short of funds by more than Rs 35,000 and have to pay the department store otherwise they will stop providing commodities to the school to prepare the meals daily. Jaswinder Kaur, school head teacher, said, “We have a strength of 600 students and we have been running the scheme by contributing money from our own pockets.”
The situation at other government school is no different. At Government Primary School at Ratipur, Macchiwara, the school has not received funds for cooking meals for the last two and half months. The school head, Suman, said, “We are facing problems in running this scheme as we have not received funds since August. With teachers polling in funds for midday meals, we are able to retain the scheme and serve meals daily.”
General manager of the state MDM cell, SAS Nagar, Prabcharan Singh, said, “We will be transferring funds to the districts by today evening so that they can provide the cooking cost to the schools.” Till the filing of the report, however, the Ludhiana district education office had not received the cooking cost for MDM.
3,622 COOKS AWAIT SALARIES
The MDM cooks are facing a tough time as the authorities have not received their salaries for the last one month. There are around 3,622 cooks in the district preparing meals in 1,536 government schools. A cook, Rama Jha, said, “I prepare meals for 450 students daily and there are four cooks in the school. We get Rs 1,700 every month as salary, which is not sufficient. On top of that, the authorities have not paid the salary from the last one month. With two weeks left for Diwali, I want to purchase new utensils for my home, but how can I do that when we have not received salaries since September?”