Crores embezzled in Mid-day meal, serious mismatch in utilization

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Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) has picked up scam worth crores of rupees in the implementation of mid-day meal scheme in schools across Jammu and Kashmir.

The ministry has rung up the state education department and told it to initiate a time-bound probe into this mess. It has said that education department of Jammu and Kashmir implemented the mid-day meal scheme in a non-serious manner, allowing leakages and other irregularities. Ministry has asked state government to take tough action against all the officers involved in this mid-day meal mess.

According to reports available with Newspoint Bureau, huge mismatch has been found in the utilization of food grains and cooking cost in districts like Reasi (-21%), Rajouri (-16%), Srinagar (23%), Pulwama (30%) and Kargil (19%). This mismatch clearly indicates that either the food grains have been sold in the market or that those made in- charge have goofed up with the data.

They have just filled the logbooks is what the ministry has said in its report. Mid-day meal department of the HRD ministry has asked the state government to explain reasons for this serious shortfall while adding that concrete steps should be taken to redress the situation. Apart from embezzling mid-day meal ration, HRD ministry has pointedly said that J&K gobvernment6 has not been clearing the generated by Food Corporation of India (FCI) for supplying mid-day meal ration to various schools.

Despite clear-cut allocation, department of school education has cleared just 44 percent of the bills generated by FCI. In addition to this mess, school education department has failed to construct new kitchen-cum-stores. Ministry wanted the state government to improve coverage of working days while stressing that there was need to address issue of negative closing balance of cooking cost and funds for honorarium to cook-cum-helpers.

It has expressed regret over poor coverage under School Health Programme while adding that state government has been asked about reasons for slow progress in data entry into Managed Internet Service (MIS) portal. Government has been asked to give detailed account about reasons for 29 percent mid-day meal utilization and mere 39 percent of the institutions inspected by the officials during the year.

When the state government was asked about mess in mid-day meal scheme, it referred to poor topographical conditions of schools and shortage of manpower. State government was advised to utilize mi-day meal funds to engage manpower for better monitoring of the scheme. It was further held out that the state needs to inspect at least 25 percent of the total institutions during each quarter.

State government was further asked to explain about inability of Jammu and Kashmir government to prepare medical emergency or contingency plans in case of any untoward incident. On being asked about the delay in release of funds from state to school levels, state said that most of the issues identified during appraisal are linked to fund flow management process followed in the state.

State government further said that after receiving funds, the credit confirmation is sought from the state finance department and then funds are released to Director School Education (DSE) who, in turn release these funds further to CEO’s, thereafter to ZEO’s and then to schools for implementation of the scheme. State share funds are released by the planning and development department directly to district development commissioners under district plan.

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