Wants BBMP to fork out Rs. 8 for each midday meal provided to schoolchildren

The Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) administration proposes, the elected body disposes. Or so it would seem. The ISKCON-backed Akshaya Patra Foundation, which provides midday meals to over 18,000 students in BBMP’s educational institutions, proposes to increase the cost per meal to Rs. 8 from Rs. 6.50. While the administration seems to have cleared it, the BBMP Standing Committee for Education and Sports is all set to shoot it down.

Committee chairperson B. Govindaraju told The Hindu that the cash-strapped BBMP would not be able to pay the extra the foundation was seeking.

“The State government pays much less to the foundation, even though rice is given by it (government). The government pays around Rs. 4.50 per meal. Also, it has been only a year since the rate was hiked to Rs. 6.50 from Rs. 4.50,” he said.

Inflation cited

He said that the foundation sought the increase citing inflation and increase in the cost of essential commodities, including pulses, oil and vegetables. “The BBMP cannot pay nearly double of what the government is paying for the midday meal. This is why the committee is unsure about approving the proposal,” Mr. Govindaraju said.

The standing committee is now contemplating making a provision for appreciation in the new contract with the foundation. “We want to follow the model adopted by the government. Its contract has a provision for increase in the cost per meal,” he said.

The explanation

Meanwhile, the BBMP administration feels that the proposed hike is justified. Joint Commissioner (Welfare and Education) Salma Fahim said the foundation prepares all the meals in a clean and hygienic environment. “Over the past year, the prices of essential commodities and fuel (diesel for the vehicles bringing the meals to schools) have increased. The foundation gets rice from the government and that is why it charges less for the meals provided to government schools.”

She said to provide meals for the BBMP schools, the foundation procures rice from the open market. “The maximum cost incurred is on rice. We were told that the foundation spends around Rs. 33 per kg of rice. Given the economics, we feel that the proposed hike is justified,” she added.

Two lakh others

Vinay Kumar, foundation’s general manager (operations), said the cost of provisions had gone up nearly 75 per cent over the last one year. “We procure the rice and transport the meals [for 18,000 students] to BBMP’s various educational institutions in the city. The cost of production cannot be calculated as we prepare the meals for two lakh students of government schools in the same kitchens,” he said.

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