Department of Public Instruction seeks higher allocations from Centre

The soaring prices of food commodities, particularly rice and vegetables, have escalated the cost of cooking food for schoolchildren under the midday meal scheme, Akshara Dasoha, in the State.

As rice is the staple diet under the popular scheme which has addressed the issue of school dropout, the sharp rise in the prices of rice and vegetables have only increased the cost of preparing food for children studying in government and aided schools.

Therefore, the Department of Public Instruction has sought higher allocations for Akshara Dasoha from the Union government. The State’s request for revision of allocation per meal per child is before a committee in the Union Ministry of Human Resources Development which looks after allocations under the scheme. The cost of revision also applies to aided schools.

Akshara Dasoha has helped improve attendance in schools since its inception.

Joint Director (Midday Meal) in the Department of Public Instruction Jayaprakash confirmed to The Hindu that the State has urged the Union government to hike allocations under the scheme and the proposal is before the Ministry pending approval. “We are confident of getting allocations revised. We are expecting a decision soon,” he said.

Sources in the department told The Hindu that the mid-day meal allocations are hiked annually but this year the percentage of hike sought is slightly higher in view of the sharp rise in the prices of food commodities. “Compared to the previous years, the allocation sought is more,” they disclosed.

The Union government funds 75 per cent of the expenditure under the scheme for Classes 1 to 8, while the State government contributes the balance. The State government provides funds 100 per cent of the expenditure under the scheme for Classes 9 and 10.

An official in the department, on the condition of anonymity, said that the Union government had been requested to increase allocations to the State by at least 7.5 per cent.

Barring the cost of rice, the government spends Rs. 3.11 per meal per child studying in Classes 1 to 5. The hike has been sought on the per meal cost.

Likewise, the cost incurred on preparing meal per child in Classes 6 to 8 (barring rice) is Rs. 4.65. The Union government has been requested to increase the allocations by 7.5 per cent on the per meal cost.

However, for children studying in Classes 9 to 10, the cost of meal per child (including rice) is Rs. 6.16. The Food Corporation of India (FCI) supplies rice to the State for the scheme.

The sources claimed that the prescribed quantity of nutritious food to each child is being maintained despite the rising cost. The allocation to the State is hiked annually to ensure that the rising cost of food commodities does not affect the quantity of food supplied to schoolchildren.

The daily diet supplied to schoolchildren in Classes 1 to 5 is as follows: 100 grams of rice, 20 grams of tur dal, 2 grams of salt, 5 grams of edible oil, vegetables at 71 paise and ingredients to prepare sambar at 26 paise.

For children studying in Classes 6 to 10, the diet supplied is 150 grams of rice, 30 grams of tur dal, 4 grams of salt, 7.5 grams of edible oil, vegetables at 86 paise and ingredients to prepare sambar at 22 paise.

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