‘Schools cannot afford the scheme if cost is transferred to them’

Since the announcement limiting the number of LPG cylinders to six a year, calls, and anxious queries from school authorities has poured into the office of Akshara Dasoha or Mid-Day Meal Scheme, in the city.

With many schools consuming 12 cylinders a month, a few schools had approached the district office here saying that if the financial burden was on them, they would stop the scheme in the school.

A total of 2,22,818 children across 1,426 government and government-aided schools in the district are beneficiaries of the scheme. Out of these schools, 144 schools – a majority in Mangalore and a few others in Bantwal taluk – are served by ISKON’s Akshaya Patra out of their centralised unit in Balmatta. A total of 5,213 cylinders were consumed in September.

“There is no clear information on what we can do. Our budgets remain the same but the costs will double,” said James Kutina, Mangalore Taluk Officer for Akshara Dasoha.

While some schools have received a communication from their local gas agency informing them of the cap in subsidised cylinder supply, many schools were still in the dark over the decision.

Raviraj Shetty of the Dakshina Kannada District Aided Schools Association said: “We don’t know what the Department will decide. If they ask us to bear the cost, schools cannot afford to continue the scheme.”

Slab system

The subsidy cap compounds problems that already exist in the scheme. Schools were up in arms after the department used slabs to decide the number of cylinders to distribute to schools a couple of years ago; and matters were made worse after a Government Order in June centralised distribution to district-level from taluk-level previously.

In the slab system of allocation, schools with less than 25 primary school students get one cylinder (three cylinders for high school students), between 26 and 100 schools are given two and three cylinders respectively.

Schools with over 801 students are given 12 cylinders, which is the maximum allowed allotment.

However, officials said the slab system generalised consumption of gas, that was, while some schools with 800 children could manage with 12 cylinders, other schools with 1,500 children demanded 22 cylinders against the allotted number.

These problems were minimised by taluk officials by reducing cylinders to schools with low strength and increasing supply to schools with higher strength.

This, however, changed after an order in June this year. The responsibility of distribution of cylinders was put on district officers while taluk officers monitored supply.

“Many schools have come to the district office seeking more cylinders, but we tell them we have to follow the order and distribute according to slabs. Unlike taluk officials, we have to deal with so many schools and it becomes impossible to juggle and keep everyone happy,” said an official.