Uttarakhand seeks Central funds for mid-day meals during summer vacations
The Uttarakhand government has sought additional funds of Rs 1,298 lakh from the Centre to supply mid-day meals during the summer vacations after exhausting funds given by the Union government in giving food security allowance to students during the lockdown.
R Meenakshi Sundaram, secretary for school education in the state on May 5, had written to the joint secretary of department of elementary education and literacy, in the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD); requesting “central assistance to supply mid-day meal during summer vacations of year 2020.”
The letter states that as per the orders of MHRD of April 29, 2020 regarding necessary actions to provide hot cooked meals or food security allowance to the eligible children during summer vacations 2020-21, “it is therefore, requested that food grains, cooking cost and transport assistance may please be released to the state…”
The state government demanded 2494.953 metric tonnes of food grains, Rs 1239.56 lakh as cooking cost and Rs 58.6 lakh as transport assistance. Uttarakhand gives mid-day meal to total 6,89,437 students of which 4,05,009 students are in primary section and 2,84,428 students are in upper primary section. The state government has made the demands for 30 working days that fall under the summer vacation time period of May 27-June 30.
So far, every student was being given the per student cooking cost and food grains as schools have been closed in the state since March 13, owing to lockdown due to stop the spread of Covid-19. The cooking cost per student amounts to around Rs 4 for primary section and Rs 7 for upper primary section. Along with this, students from primary section are given 100 grams of rice and 150 grams of rice for middle school.
In the month of March, all students were given food security allowance by the state government. However, in April and May, 5,51,550 or approximately 80% students (of who are eligible for mid-day meal) were given the food security allowance.
When quizzed about the rest of the 20% students, Mukul Kumar Sati, additional state project director for Samagra Siksha Abhiyan said that the state usually receives funds for only 80% students for mid-day meal.
“We usually get 80% of the total funds under the mid-day meal scheme as it is assumed that 20% students will not turn up at the schools. The funds for mid-day meal are shared in a ratio of 9:1 by Centre and state government. Now, whatever money was given to us by the Central government has already been distributed to among the students,” said Sati.
He added that the state government is awaiting response from the Centre on the excess funds that it has demanded.
He further said that the number of students who have received food security allowance in the month of April and May are lesser than March as enrolment has not increased in the new session.
“New students are enrolled in the month of April every year, which did not happen this year given the nationwide lockdown. Due to this there are no students enrolled with the education department for class 1 and class 6 (the standards which witness new admissions),” added Sati.