Punjab students get no food

Govt uses mid-day meal funds for poll campaign, allege teachers

Some government schools in Punjab have not received any money to implement mid-day meal scheme for the last several months.

This has forced schools to stop serving food to children.

The education department alleged that the finance department has not released any funds.

The government has been misusing funds meant for the mid-day meal programme, alleged Jagjit Singh Nouhra, a government school teacher in Patiala and convener of Sikhiya Vikas Manch.

Nouhra said that Rs 50 crore meant for the scheme has been used by the SAD-BJP government for its media campaign ahead of the Assembly polls.

“The Badal government has been snatching food from children’s mouth and spending money on the party’s image-building exercise," Nouhra added. In some schools, teachers have been spending from their own pockets and buying rations on credit to feed children. Teachers say they are somehow feeding students who belong to poor families because at least they make efforts to attend school.

In Patiala alone, the bills have reached Rs 2.5 crore. “The government had promised quick reimbursement to schools. But unable to feed children with their own resources, schools have stopped giving meals,” said a government school teacher. Schools at Bhadson block in Nabha under Patiala district have not been paid for three months.

Even panchayats have passed a resolution to stop the mid-day meal scheme. A school in Rotipura village in the same block has been taking rations on credit, and some schools in Samana, Patiala and Sanaur blocks are also doing the same.
The general manager of Sarva Shikshya Abhiyan Prabh, Sharan Singh, refused to comment on the issue.

The mid-day meal scheme is the world’s largest school feeding programme, reaching out to 12 crore children in over 12.65 lakh schools across the country. But experts say the quality of the scheme is going down due to corruption in high places.

With a view to enhancing enrolment, retention and attendance and simultaneously improving nutritional levels among children, the National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education (NP-NSPE) was launched as a government sponsored scheme on August 15, 1995, initially in 2408 blocks in the country.

Although the scheme has managed to improve the health of students, it has failed to meet its target due to untimely release of funds, say government school teachers.
In September 2004, the scheme was revised to provide meals with at least 300 calories and 12 grams of protein to children of Class 1 to 5 in government and aided schools.

The transport subsidy was also raised from the earlier maximum of Rs 50 per quintal to Rs 100 per quintal for special category states. A common unit cost of construction of a kitchen shed at Rs 60,000 was found impractical. Now, the cost will be determined on the basis of other factors.

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