To sustain the scheme, the cash-strapped state governments which contributed just 10% of the funding for the midday meal scheme till last year, will now have to pump in more funds. Child rights activists fear that the per child cost or the amount of money to be spent per child per day towards meals, will go down from last year’s Rs 3.59 for primary classes and Rs 5.38 for upper primary classes. The scheme covers students of classes I to X in 77,631 schools in the two states.
If the budget allocation is not revised, the state governments will have to shelve several plans chalked out to improve midday meal scheme. For instance, Telangana government which had started supplying fine quality rice, including Basmati, for the scheme since January this year, might be compelled to rethink about this from the next academic year if it finds the extra cost burdensome. Till last year, much of the financial burden of the scheme was borne by the Union government leaving the states to spend on providing additional nutrition to students like eggs and milk. Midday meal menu usually has vegetables, food grains and pulses apart form oil and fat components. In Hyderabad, Secunderabad and Visakhapatnam alone, two lakh students are beneficiaries of the scheme.
Andhra and Telangana, unlike other states in the country, have been providing midday meals to students of classes IX and X. This would mean that there could be additional burden on the states if they do not increase the funds under the scheme. “The state governments should treat the scheme as a priority and allocate sufficient funds. The Centre has given a chunk of funds to the states this time and asked governments to allocate funds to different centrally sponsored schemes. The states should be generous in allocating funds to the scheme,” a child rights activist, Venkat Reddy said.