No headway on plans to adopt best practices in implementation of Mid Day Meal Scheme

Leakages persist in system, outsourcing only on papers

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, June 6: Despite being aware of the leakages in the present system, the PDP-BJP Coalition Government has failed to make any headway on the plans to adopt best practices in the implementation of Mid-Day Meal Scheme, a programme of the Union Government aimed at improving the nutritional status of children of under-privileged sections of the society.
During the Budget Session of State Legislature held in the month of January this year, the Government had stated in unambiguous term that the existing institutional arrangement has failed to fully stop leakages in the implementation of Mid-Day Meal Scheme in the State despite pooling of resources by the School Education and Social Welfare Departments.
“As the scheme is managed by the teachers at the school level, it wastes a lot of their teaching hours as such there is a need to adopt the best practices or a successful Mid-Day Meal model followed by other States in the country”, the Government had further stated while informing the Legislators in both the Houses that in some States the Mid-Day Meal Scheme is being effectively managed by Non-Governmental Organizations like Akshay Patra Foundation.
For better management of the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, the Government had proposed that it may be managed by some well-known NGOs like Akshay Patra Foundation in Jammu and Samba districts on pilot basis. “In the alternative, Social Welfare and School Education Departments can also consider including village committees in the management of the scheme”, the Government had further stated.
However, no headway has been made on the plans to adopt best practices in the implementation of Mid-Day Meal Scheme despite lapse of nearly six months, official sources told EXCELSIOR.
Neither Social Welfare and School Education Depart-ments have roped in village committees in the management of the scheme nor final decision has been taken on giving go ahead to Akshay Patra Foundation, which is serving mid day meals to around 17 lakh students in a number of States, to start pilot project in Jammu and Samba districts, sources informed.
After holding detailed deliberations with the representatives of Non-Governmental Organiz-ation, the School Education Department had even identified land in Jammu and Samba districts for facilitating establishment of centralized kitchen. Thereafter, the Revenue Department was approached for fixing the rent of the land to be charged from the NGO for running centralized kitchen.
During the past nearly two months, the Revenue Department has failed to take any decision on the request of the School Education Department as a result of which no headway could be made on outsourcing of scheme on pilot basis, sources informed, adding due to the prevailing situation teachers remain burdened with the additional work of handling mid-day meals and finding it difficult to pay full attention on teaching learning process and holistic development of the students.
Pointing towards the numerous statements of former Education Ministers that after the success of pilot projects the module will be replicated in the remaining districts of the State, sources said, “keeping in view the dilly-dallying approach no time-frame can be specified for start of outsourcing in pilot districts what to talk of other districts in the State”.
When contacted, a senior officer of the Education Department confirmed that outsourcing of mid-day meal activities in Jammu and Samba districts on pilot basis is getting delayed due to inability of the Revenue Department to fix the rent for the land to be provided for establishment of centralized kitchen.
“It is a matter of concern that despite admitting leakages in the present system Government is showing no urgency to adopt best practices in management of Mid-Day Meal Scheme”, sources regretted, adding “delay in outsourcing is also the testimony of lack of coordination between the Government departments”.