The Education Minister of India, Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ addressed the subject of the Mid-Day meal scheme, particularly about the construction of kitchen-cum-stores (KcS). The minister also shed light on the financial assistance and support provided to mid-day meal staff members. According to Pokhriyal, more than 10 lakh kitchen-cum-stores were constructed during the period from 2006-07 to 2019-20. However, the numbers have declined due to cost escalation.
Details about the number of KcS constructed under the Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDMS) during the specified period were provided in the annexure. A state and UT-wise distribution of these facilities was also mentioned in the document. According to the education ministry, the central government began providing complete financial assistance to construct the KcS at a pre-decided rate of Rs.60,000 per unit starting from 2006-07.
States and Union Territories subsequently, expressed that they were unable to fund the construction due to escalation in expenditure. Following this, the norms were improvised from December 2009 and currently, the cost of kitchen-cum-store construction entirely depends on the plinth area rules. Moreover, the cost is also decided by the State Schedule of Rates present in each state and UT in accordance with the already approved pattern.
Programme Approval Board (PAB) headed by the Secretary (SE&L) has the responsibility of monitoring the progress of KcS construction. The board also holds the responsibility of approving the Annual Work Plan as well as decide the budget for states and UTs every year. Along with this monitoring, the progress is also discussed consistently during the regional workshops, the minister clarified.
Difficulties or problems faced by any state or UT have also been addressed in the PAB-MDM discussions. Furthermore, states and UTs have also been advised to fasten the process of construction of the remaining KcS. The education minister also provided the annexure containing information about the KcS present in the country along with their state and UT-wise distribution.
The Annexure implies that a total of 10,11,375 kitchen-cum-stores were sanctioned during the period from 2006-07 to 2019-20. However, the total number of such facilities constructed till now is 8,75,980. Presently, 21,963 KcS are still under construction.
The education minister also shed light on the financial assistance provided to mid-day meal staff. MDMS suggests that Cook-Cum-Helpers (CCH) take-up the responsibility of preparing and providing mid-day meals in school. These individuals are honorary helpers who voluntarily decided to provide social services. To acknowledge and appreciate their services, these helpers are paid Rs.10,000 on a monthly basis for 10 months in a year.
Pokhriyal went onto highlight the importance of mid-day meals in the parliament by stating that such meals are the right of every child, guaranteed to them through the National Food Security Act, 2013. The education ministry has issued an advisory to all states and UTs to give Food Security Allowance to all the eligible children.
The allowance shall comprise of food grains, pulses, oil, etc for preparing fresh and hot-cooked mid-fay meals while abiding by all social-distancing norms till all schools reopen. The primary aim of this measure is to fulfil the nutritional requirements of all children and protect their immunity even when schools are closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The centre is currently releasing the required financial assistance along with honorarium to CCHs to all states and UTs and these are also utilising funds for the prescribed purpose.