Education Department to seek relaxation for schools
The flagship Akshara Dasoha scheme of providing hot meals to children from Class 1 to 10 in government and government-aided schools could be in serious jeopardy if the LPG cap of six cylinders per year is not relaxed for schools.
A worried Education Department is collating data on the average need for LPG cylinders in schools, depending on student strength, to write to the Ministry of Human Resource Development at the Centre seeking relaxation for schools.
“We hope that they will, in turn, take it up with oil companies,” said Education Secretary Kumar G. Nayak.
As many as 64.2 lakh children across Karnataka avail the Akshara Dasoha scheme in 56,083 schools. Karnataka was one of the first States to adapt the environment-friendly LPG as the cooking fuel for the noon-meal scheme.
Complaints have been pouring in to the Education Department from districts that the subsidy cap of six cylinders — irrespective of the student strength of the school — could make it impossible for them to continue the scheme.
B.G. Nayak, Joint Director of Mid-Day Meals, said the department had received complaints from five to six districts and that it would be impossible to manage an entire year on six cylinders.
He said the government, as of now, works by an approximate measure that one cylinder will cook 1,000 meals for Class 6 to 10, while it can cook 850 meals for Class 1 to 5. The difference is because the quantity per meal is different for different age groups.
According to officials, in Dakshina Kannada, mid-day meals in around 1,282 Dakshina Kannada schools required 5,213 cylinders in September alone. This excludes 144 schools in the district that are fed through the ISKCON kitchen.
“For the time being, we have asked all officers at district-level to ensure that Akshara Dasoha scheme does not stop for a single day,” Mr. Nayak told The Hindu.
James Kutina, Mangalore Taluk Officer for Akshara Dasoha, said the department had a breather for a few days as the cylinder allocations for September had been made before the announced cap in subsidy. “But in four day’s time, schools will ask for cylinders. Then we will be have problems,” he said.
“We get LPG from a private agency, and a few of the agencies have already told schools that their subsidy cap is nearing and they will not provide once the cap is reached. School authorities expressed their concern to us, but we really can’t do anything till a directive is issued from the State government,” said Manjula K.L., Dakshina Kannada Block Education Officer in-charge of the scheme here.
She said that the only way out of the crisis was for the government to double the budgetary allocation or resume cylinder subsidies. She said the district office was collecting data on students and cylinders, to be submitted to the Education Department.