A committee has been formed to examine the daily cooking costs of mid-day meals served under the PM-Poshan scheme. Among the components of the mid-day meal programme, the cooking cost receives the most funding. The Union Ministry of Education will soon notify the committee.
The cost of cooking includes the prices of ingredients such as pulses, salt, vegetables, condiments, and the fuel required to prepare cooked meals. The daily cooking cost per child in primary (classes 1-5) and upper primary (classes 6-8) is currently Rs 4.97 and Rs 7.45, respectively.
The decision was taken after the Finance Ministry altered the system of annual revision based on consumer price index, said sources. “Apart from chalking out a new cooking cost, and revising the methodology, the committee will look into the actual consumption of pulses and vegetables. The numbers related to cereal consumption are available since the Centre makes the entire allocation,” a source said.
The decision is also significant in light of calls from food rights activists and development economists to increase the “inadequate” allocation per child. The Ministry of Education has set aside Rs 7,412 crore for cooking costs alone in 2021-22, out of a total allocation of Rs 10,233 crore for PM-Poshan.
“Department of School Education and Literacy will form a committee of experts to review the components of cooking cost, formula and methodology of its revision, actual consumption, coverage etc,” the Centre communicated to the states and Union Territories on October 6 on the implementation of PM-Poshan (Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman).
The Centre divides the daily allocation per child among the states and union territories while contributing 100 percent in UTs without a legislature. States and UTs that supplement meals with extras like milk and eggs contribute more.
“The current allocation is woefully inadequate.” Any reasonable committee will recommend raising it and indexing it to inflation. And any rational government will accept and carry out the recommendations. The total allocation for mid-day meals in 2021-22 is nominally lower than in 2014-15 under the UPA. When inflation is factored in, the outlay should have increased. “There may have been a drop in the population of younger age groups due to a drop in the fertility rate or children moving to private schools, but the budget cut still does not make sense,” said ReetikaKhera, Associate Professor (Economics) at IIT-Delhi.
According to the Centre’s note to the states and UTs, no additional budgetary allocation will be made under the scheme, which covers 11.80 crore children in grades 1 to 8. It has been stated that they will be able to create “any new intervention and increase/decrease any norm in the scheme within the approved outlay.” “The Programme Approval Board is given the flexibility of changing the component-wise allocation within the approved outlay, which can decide on the allocation on an annual basis,” according to the Centre’s note.
The Indian Express