Although rising prices have affected all sections, some groups of people dependent entirely on Government-sponsored programmes are the worst-hit as the funding has not increased in proportion to the rising food prices.
Even when prices were at their worst, the amount allocated to each child under the midday meal scheme and at the Government-run student hostels remained the same, with no provision to increase the amount in accordance with prices.
During the last year, the monthly expenditure for one student in a pre-matriculation hostel was fixed at is Rs. 600, and Rs. 650 in post-matriculation hostels. Within this allocation, hostel authorities were to provide four meals a day.
The warden of a post-matriculation students' hostel run by the Department of Social Welfare told The Hindu, “The amount is fixed by the Government and we cannot ask for an increase.”
“If there is money left over after procuring vegetables and grains, we purchase meat. There is no rule that a certain quota of meat has to be provided. Also, in hostels where there are very few students, buying vegetables at economical prices becomes difficult,” she added. Rice yields 350 kilo-calories for every 100 gm consumed and tur dal yields 335 kilo-calories, according to National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad. With the quantum of dal and vegetables reduced, the children might be getting fewer kilo-calories of food energy.
Superintendent of Social Welfare Department Mohan Kumar said, “Once the supply of food is fixed through a tender, the supplier has to provide grains, or vegetables, or fish (seafood) at the agreed price.
But, at the time of floating a tender (floated once in three months), if the price of the fish has risen, we buy fish that is cheaper.”
Following a recent Government Order, the amount has been increased to Rs. 650 each for pre-matriculation students and Rs. 750 for post-matriculation students from this year.