NGOs cite monetary, logistical issues as hurdles to ensuring supply

Whether students of schools where midday meal is sourced through non-governmental organisations will get their share of milk under the Ksheera Bhagya scheme or not rests on the State government conceding the demand to hike the ‘conversion cost’ paid to NGOs.

While the government has offered to pay 59 paise as ‘conversion cost’ for every 150 ml of milk (prepared using 18 gm of milk powder) provided to each child, NGOs are demanding Re. 1. This has led to nearly 8 lakh students across the State being denied their share of milk under the scheme, according to Primary and Secondary Education Department officials. After launching the scheme on August 1, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had said NGOs would need time till August 10 to set up infrastructure to provide milk to students. However, it now appears that NGOs may fail to meet the deadline, given that the government has so far not conceded their demand to increase the ‘conversion cost’.

NGOs say there are several “logistical hurdles” in supplying milk early in the day. A representative of an NGO supplying midday meals in Bangalore, Bellary, Hubli, Mysore and Mangalore, said they did not have the infrastructure to convert milk powder into milk. “Supplying milk at 8.30 a.m. will be a challenge for us as we have to return to schools by noon to supply midday meals,” he said.

NGOs are also worried that their investment on infrastructure may go in vain as the government is considering providing milk to children in flexi packs eventually. Vedavyas Bhat, trustee of Adamya Chetana which supplies midday meals to over 1.5 lakh children across the State, said they would have to invest between Rs. 20 lakh and Rs. 30 lakh to provide milk to students in Bangalore alone. “We will require separate boilers and containers to prepare milk using milk powder,” Mr. Bhat said.

On the demand for increasing the ‘conversion cost’, he said, “Our actual cost of converting milk powder into milk is Rs. 1.10, but we are ready to bear the 10 paise.”

Currently 93 NGOs are providing midday meals to 10.68 lakh children in 5,790 schools throughout the State under the Akshara Dasoha programme. An official of the Education Department said: “About 35 of the 93 NGOs have agreed to provide milk. We have been holding talks with the remaining NGOs to make sure that the scheme is on track soon.”

Talks under way

Commissioner of Public Instruction Mohammed Mohsin said the government was holding a series of meetings with the NGOs to ensure that students get milk “as early as possible.”

He also said the government was open to providing NGOs the option of providing milk to some schools on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and to the remaining on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

The scheme aims at providing 150 ml of milk three times a week to 65 lakh students in 51,000 government and government-aided schools and 39 lakh children in 64,000 anganwadis.

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