The per unit cost of midday meal fixed at Rs 3.11-Rs 4.65 is unrealistic as even a bottle of drinking water costs Rs. 10, a parliamentary panel has said warning of more Bihar-like tragedies if not set right.

The Committee on Empowerment of Women had recommended in the Lok Sabha that per unit cost of midday meal being served in schools should be fixed on a more realistic basis.

It also urged the government to regularly review the implementation of the scheme in terms of per unit cost, calorie contents and mode of preparation of midday meals.

The panel said it was surprised that the Bihar tragedy took place despite various arrangements made by the Department of School Education and Literacy, HRD Ministry and block and local bodies for the implementation of the scheme.

Twenty-three children, most under 10 years of age, had died after eating midday meal at a school on July 16 in Saran district of Bihar. The cooking oil used was suspected to be laced with insecticide.

According to the panel, it indicates that the various committees constituted for the purpose of executing the scheme were not taking their task seriously.

The panel thus recommended continuous monitoring of these committees to ensure fool-proof implementation of the scheme.

It also emphasized on the need for some accountability to be fixed on monitoring agencies to ensure that they work seriously.

According to the Human Resource Development Ministry, the midday scheme benefits around 10.44 crore children in about 12.12 lakh schools in the country.

The aim of the scheme is to encourage poor children, belonging to disadvantaged sections, to attend school regularly and also to improve the nutritional status of children in government and local body-aided schools.

The Ministry had further informed that the scheme has witnessed several improvements in the last few years which includes revision of the cooking cost, introducing provision for payment of honorarium to cook-cum-helpers etc.