Mid-Day Meal: Centre not to reimburse states for LPG cylinders

Mid-Day Meal: Centre not to reimburse states for LPG cylinders

The Centre has decided it would not reimburse the states for unsubsidised LPG cylinders used for Mid-Day Meal scheme and that the cooking gas would now be available only at market price, triggering protests and fears that it will "adversely" impact the flagship programme.

Concerned over the additional financial burden the move would have on their coffers, some states are planning to send representation to the HRD Ministry.

According to a recent communication from the HRD Ministry, "Additional expenditure to be incurred by the states for procurement of unsubsidised LPG cylinders will not be reimbursed to the states with effect from April 1, 2015."

The decision followed a Finance Ministry directive in May that LPG cylinders procured for Mid-Day Meal purpose would now be available at market price only. Earlier, the central government reduced allocation for the flagship programme by 30 per cent in this year's budget.

Reacting to the decision, an official in the HRD Ministry pointed to the cuts in the central allocation for many social sector schemes because of devolution of funds to the states.
The HRD Ministry had reimbursed additional expenditure incurred by the states during 2012-13 and 2013-14 for procurement of unsubsidised LPG cylinders under the scheme with the concurrence of the Finance Ministry.

"It will adversely impact the scheme," said P K Shahi, the HRD Minister of Bihar, where 1.38 crore students are covered under the programme.

"You are creating a situation under which without indulging in corruption, it would be impossible to serve the programme," he said, lamenting that the development has come at a time when inflations are high and the states are not being adequately supported to match the requirements.

Under the scheme, hot cooked meals are served every day to 10 crore children studying in Classes I to VIII in 11.67 lakh government and government-aided schools across the country. The Centre bears 90 per cent of the cost in the North-East region and 75 per cent in the rest of the country. While the budget allocation for the scheme was Rs 13,000 crore in 2014-15, the allocation had come down to only Rs 9,000 crore in 2015-16.
Sources said some states, especially a few from the North-East region, are planning to send representation to the Ministry opposing the decision.

The development will come as a big setback for states like Meghalaya which is planning to shift from firewood to cooking gas in preparing mid-day meal, the sources said.

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