17th June, 2019

Extend mid-day meal to private schools, Odisha urges Centre

The Odisha government has proposed the Centre to provide the meals to students in privately-run schools too. It is pursuing the Centre to increase the mid-day meal (MDM) fund to feed the children in Saraswati Shishu Mandir and Vivekananda Shiksha Kendra.

The Odisha government is mooting the idea as poor children study in private and non-government aided schools too.

Odisha school and mass education minister Badri Narayan Patra has outlined that nearly 6,346 schools are neither government nor are government-aided. Hence, they are not covered by the mid-day meal programme. These schools include Saraswati Shishu Mandirs, Vivekananda Siksha Kendra, schools run by NGOs and other privately managed schools. A large section of these students come from poor families. These children should also be covered under the MDM.

Scheme for higher classes

Patra has also demanded for the extension of the scheme for class IX and X students, as they are “going hungry even though MDM is cooked in their schools”, he added.

The minister expressed his ideas at a national workshop on MDM in Bhubaneswar on Monday. Delegates from 18 states participated in the workshop and they requested the Centre to increase per unit cost of the meal under the scheme.

Increase the cook honorarium

Patra has also urged to enhance the honorarium of cook-cum-helpers who are employed at Rs 1000 per month. It is to be noted that the honorarium is less than the wage of a daily labourer.

Other suggestions

  • Accredited laboratory for food testing in each state. MDM food samples are sent to laboratory in Kolkata for testing now and it takes around three to four months to get the report.
  • To start kitchen gardens in each school with boundary walls to provide green vegetables to kids under the scheme.

States ask for re-jig of scheme

The ratio of MDM budget, as shared by the Centre and state, was 75:25. But it is now reduced to 60: 40 causing additional burden on the states.

The management, monitoring and evaluation (MME) allocation budget has also been reduced by Rs 1.85 crore per annum.

The unit cost of Rs 4.58 for primary and Rs 6.83 for upper primary is inadequate and insufficient to provide quality meals. The states are demanding that Centre shall re-look into the different dimensions of the scheme and make it more practical and pragmatic, said Patra.