Noon-meal scheme: Govt owes school heads Rs 130 cr

Mid-day meal
The head teachers of schools in Kerala are yet to receive Rs 130 crore that they have spent on running the noon-meal scheme for students for the past three months. Photo: Manorama

Thiruvananthapuram: The noon-meal scheme in schools across Kerala has been quite a success despite fund shortage.

The head teachers of schools in Kerala are yet to receive Rs 130 crore that they have spent on running the noon-meal scheme for students for the past three months. Of this arrears, Rs 80 crore is the Centre’s share, while the State has to pay Rs 50 crore.

The fund crunch is such that the head teachers are forced to take loans on interest in order to keep the noon-meal scheme running since they have not received the money. The other day a head teacher who had to take Rs 2 lakh loan wrote to the authorities about the difficulty in continuing with the project in his school.

J P Anish, the headmaster of the Vidyadhiraja Lower Primary School at Ettamkallu, Karakulam in Thiruvananthapuram district, who wrote to the education sub-district officer stating that the noon-meal scheme in his institution would be stopped owing to fund crunch, was asked by the office of the Education Minister to withdraw the decision.

The payment mode
The expenditure on the noon-meal scheme is shared by the Centre and State on a 60:40 ratio. The Centre will not release its share of the funds without the State submitting the statement of accounts for the money released for the past months. Funds are released each time only after the accounts of the previous installment are submitted. After the head teachers took a decision to stop the noon-meal scheme, the State government began hurried efforts to furnish the accounts to the Centre.

The noon meal is provided free to over 30 lakh students up to Class 8 in the State. The government allots Rs 8 for each child per day for schools with 150 students and Rs 7 is paid for each additional child up to 500 students, while Rs 6 is given for each additional child above 500 students in schools.

In 2021, the Education Department had asked the Finance Department to increase the rate which was fixed in 2016, by Rs 4.

The rice for the scheme is supplied free from Maveli stores. Amounts ranging from Rs 6 to Rs 8 is allotted for each child for meeting the expenditure in transporting the rice to the school and for buying egg, milk, vegetables, groceries, and cooking gas. Although the egg and milk scheme announced by the State is separate from the noon-meall scheme, no additional funds are allocated for the project.

Teachers to stage protest
Kozhikode: Teachers’ associations have decided to stage an agitation demanding that the arrears that have accumulated over the noon-meal scheme should be paid without delay. The Kerala Pradesh School Teachers’ Association (KPSTA) will stage a three-day 'satyagraha' and take out a march to the Education Minister’s residence.

Opposition Leader and Congress legislator V D.Satheesan will inaugurate the satyagraha on September 13, while the protest march will be flagged off by his party colleague Ramesh Chennithala on September 16.

The Kerala Private Primary Headmasters’ Association will conduct a meeting today (Sept 6) to decide its future course of action.

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