Punjab Minister of Education Vijay Inder Singla rubbished claims on Sunday concerning food supplies and the amount of cooking cost not being supplied to the beneficiary children in schools under the mid-day meal scheme, claiming that there was “no iota of truth in this.”
Characterizing the public news stories “totally false and fabricated,” Singla then said that the local authority had provided food grains until June 30 and cooking cost until May 31 among the 1,579 lakh beneficiary children according to the instructions released by the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development following the recent implementation of a quarantine amid an unforeseen COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.
“Even, the inquiry conducted to find about the truth about the non-availability of foodgrains and the amount of cooking cost to the school children belonging to districts Fazilka, Jalandhar, and Moga cited in the news has categorically revealed that all these children also have been provided with the foodgrains and amount of cooking cost up to June 30 and May 31 respectively,” said Singla.
He said: “Moreover, due to unprecedented situation, the foodgrains and cooking cost is being distributed to the beneficiary students instead of freshly cooked food, hence it is quite natural that we have to bear with the situation as far as the nutritional value of Mid-Day Meal is concerned.”
The Minister hinted the media “to refrain from publishing such stories based on un-confirmed as well as misleading information by some vested interests”.
Disclosing additional aspects concerning the actual statement, the Minister also told that the amount of cooking cost to the tune of Rs 37.26 crore had already been issued, of which, Rs 23 crore had been given to the bank accounts of the beneficiary students, and the outstanding amount of Rs 14 crore is still lying pending with the respective schools for lack of opening of bank accounts of students.
Taking into account the issues and recommendations posed by the District Education Officers (Elementary Education), the State Government consistently posed the issue with the Central Government from June 10th, July 2nd to July 23rd seeking permission for either cash compensation of the cost of cooking while supplying food to the students or transferring it to their parents’ bank accounts.
What does the MHRD have to say about the Mid-Day Meal?
The Mid-day Meal Scheme is a school meal programme of the Government of India designed to better the nutritional standing of school-age children nationwide. It was launched in 1995.
“The MHRD has repeatedly been urged to take an immediate decision on the issue, but the MHRD officials say that is a policy decision, it would be taken for the entire country. The MHRD has received such references from other states also. It seems that taking into account the apprehensions of financial embezzlement in the distribution of cash or transfer of money to the bank accounts of the parents, the MHRD is yet to take a final decision,” said the Minister continuing that the Punjab Government is anticipating for the MHRD guidelines and would immediately execute in the best interest of the beneficiary students as soon as the guidelines are introduced.
Singla clarified that there was adequate stock of food grains until June 30 and that 11974 MT was further allotted by the Central Government for the second quarter, that is, July 1 to September 30, which is under the lift.
“The bills, amounting to Rs 70.78 crore, have been presented in the district treasury, Mohali. The amount is sufficient for the cooking cost up to August 15, 2020,” said the Minister reiterated that the Punjab Government was obliged to execute Mid-Day Meal scheme in letter and spirit.
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