“If it is withdrawn, Centre will need to compensate States for increased cooking fuel cost”

Unable to get an exemption for the cooking gas cylinders used for the Mid-Day Meal Scheme in the wake of a steep hike in the prices of domestic gas, Union Human Resource Minister Kapil Sibal has suggested that the Petroleum Ministry consider providing subsidised LPG cylinders for the current fiscal year.

“It might be preferable at this point to provide for subsidy as earlier for the LPG cylinders, instead of seeking approval for an increase in cooking cost which would necessitate revisiting allocation for the Mid-Day Meals Scheme and seeking Parliamentary approvals for the increased allocation,” Mr. Sibal said in his letter to Petroleum Minister Jaipal Reddy. The additional expense for LPG cylinders this year is about Rs. 653 crore.

Mr. Sibal has suggested that the decision on whether to make an exception for the scheme could be revisited at the time of finalising the Budget for 2013-14.

If the subsidy available to the scheme was being withdrawn, the Centre would need to compensate the States for the increased cooking fuel cost. “The government would therefore have to bear the expenses on fuel cost in the form of subsidy for LPG cylinders or in the form of compensation for the increased cooking cost,” Mr. Sibal said.

The Department of School Education had sought an exemption for the scheme. The Ministry had said that the decision to limit subsidised LPG cylinders to six a year would mean “a huge financial burden” on account of having to buy extra LPG cylinders at market rates.

Admitting that it was aware of the difficulties that the six-cylinder cap would create for schools, defence canteens and other such establishments, the Petroleum Ministry had indicated that the issue would be addressed by the government appropriately. The Mid-Day Meal Scheme is the world’s largest school feeding programme implemented in government-funded schools aimed at improving nutrition intake. The programme caters to 12 crore children in over 12.65 lakh schools and education centres across the country.

More In: National | News