BANGALORE, January 7, 2014: In the light of the death of 23 children in the midday meal tragedy in Bihar last year, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has decided to focus on strengthening, monitoring and managing the midday meal scheme from the coming financial year.
The Ministry of Human Resource Development has decided to increase the funds earmarked for management, monitoring and evaluation (MME) of the midday meal. From the next financial year, Ministry of Human Resource Development would allocate around Rs. 550 crore to strengthen monitoring mechanisms, up from this year’s Rs. 236 crore
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the national workshop on MDM on Monday, Gaya Prasad, Director of MDM, MHRD, said the allocation of Rs. 236 crore for 2013–14 accounts for 2 per cent of the recurring component for midday meals. From the coming financial year, the allocation for MME would account for 4 per cent of the recurring component after the Cabinet approval.
Mr. Prasad also said that individual States had been asked to set up an emergency medical plan and ensure that each school has a medical kit and the teachers of the school have the contact numbers of the medical personnel. Besides, he said that states have also been asked to check the quality of food grains. From the next financial year, Mr. Prasad said that the MHRD would increase the engagement of existing labs to test food on a monthly and random basis.
The MHRD also plans to take up social audits in nine States, including Karnataka, in the coming year.
A social audit was conducted in Andhra Pradesh last year where an external agency takes in account the quality aspects of the midday meals. The social audit will be conducted on a pilot basis in two districts and will take responses from 40 schools in each district.
The MHRD has also decided to increase the honorarium of midday meal workers from Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 2,000. However, the Union Cabinet is yet to approve it.
Meanwhile, the State government is providing Rs. 600 more to the midday meal workers in addition to the existing Rs. 1,000.
Mr. Prasad also said that the Ministry of Human Resource Development had sent a proposal to the government to increase the cost of procurement of kitchen devices.
“Currently, we provide Rs. 5,000 to each school for procurement of vessels and other items used for cooking for a five-year period. We have sent a proposal to revise this to Rs. 15,000. The figure is related to enrolment of students and can be stretched to a maximum of Rs. 25,000, ” he said.