Mid Day Meal Scheme is being executed properly despite COVID-19, claims Education Minister
Chandigarh (Gurpreet) :"There is no iota of truth in the media reports regarding the foodgrains and amount of cooking cost not being provided to the beneficiary school children", says Punjab Education Minister, Vijay Inder Singla while terming these reports totally false and fabricated. The state government has distributed foodgrains upto June 30 and the cooking cost upto May 31 among the 15.79 lakh beneficiary students as per the guidelines issued by the MHRD, Government of India after sudden imposition of lock down in wake of the unprecedented crisis due to pandemic COVID-19.
" Even, the inquiry conducted to find about the truth about the non availability of foodgrains and the amount of cooking costs to the school children belonging to districts Fazilka, Jalandhar and Moga cited in the news, has categorically revealed that all these children too have been provided the foodgrains and the amount of cooking cost upto June 30 and May 31 respectively. Moreover, due to unprecedented situation, the foodgrains and cooking cost is being distributed to the beneficiary students instead of fresh cooked food, hence it is quite natural that we have to bear with the situation as far as the nutritional value of Mid Day Meal is concerned" , said Singla while suggesting the media to refrain from publishing such stories on the basis of un-confirmed as well as misleading information by some vested interests.
Divulging further details about the factual status report, the Education MInister said that the amount of cooking cost to the tune of Rs.37.26 crore had already been released. Out of which, Rs.23 crore had been transferred to the bank accounts of the beneficiary students. The remaining sum of Rs.14 crore is still lying pending with the respective schools for want of opening of students's Bank accounts. Taking note of the problems and suggestions raised by District Education Officers( Elementary Education), the state government had repeatedly taken up the issue with the Centre government on June 10, July 02 , July 23, seeking approval for either cash payment of cooking cost while delivering supply of foodgrains to the students or transfering the same into the bank accounts of the parents of the beneficiary students.
The MHRD has repeatedly been urged to take an immediate decision on the issue, but the MHRD officials say that being a policy decision , it would be taken for the entire country. The MHRD has received such references from other states also. It seems that taking into account the apprehensions of financial embezzlement in the distribution of cash or transfer of money to the bank accounts of the parents, the MHRD is yet to take a final decision. The Punjab govt. is waiting for the guidelines of the MHRD and would promptly execute in the best interest of the beneficiary students whenever the guidelines are received, he said.
There was sufficient stock of foodgrains upto June 30 and the Govt. of India has further allocated 11974 MT for the second quarter i.e.July 01 to September 30, which is under the process of lifting. The bills amounting to Rs.70.78 crore has been presented in the district treasury, Mohali . The amount is sufficient for the cooking cost upto the period of August 15, 2020, further added the Education Minister while reiterating that the Punjab govt. was committed to execute Mid Day Meal scheme in letter and spirit.