HRD Ministry raises questions over Mid-day meal disaster in J&K

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Believe it or not but school education ministry has miserably failed to implement centrally sponsored Mid-day meal scheme in schools across Jammu and Kashmir.

There are serious flaws in the implementation of the scheme and it has failed to bring desired results for the state government. These serious issues were raised by Union Human Resource Development ministry during the meeting of programme approval board for mid-day meal Scheme held in New Delhi. During the meeting, Bhattacharya sought to know about reasons for huge mismatch in utilization of food grains and cooking cost in districts like Reasi (-21%), Rajouri (-16%), Srinagar (23%), Pulwama (30%) and Kargil (19%). Besides, he asked about its inability to pay bills generated by Food Corporation of India (FCI) for supplying mid-day meal ration to various schools.

According to HRD ministry, J&K has just paid 44 percent of the bills to FCI. J&K could not construct even a single kitchen-cum-store during the year 2015-16 while the overall construction of kitchen-cum-stores remains at 60 percent since the mid-day meal scheme was launched in Jammu and Kashmir. HRD ministry was appalled at less coverage of working days (166 out of 180 in Primary and Upper Primary and 174 out of 234 in National Child Labour Project (NCLP).

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 at the end of 3rd quarter. It also expressed regret over poor coverage under School Health Programme (i.e. only 11 percent of enrolled children screened). Secretary further asked state government about reasons for slow progress in data entry into Managed Internet Service (MIS) portal (58 percent).

He had asked then Secretary School Education (SSE) to give detailed account about reasons for 29 percent MME utilization and mere 39 percent of the institutions inspected by the officials during the year. About the delay in inspections, J&K informed that it becomes very difficult to inspect cent percent institutions serving MDM due to poor topographical conditions of the schools and shortage of manpower.

HRD ministry advised the state government to utilize MME funds to engage the manpower for better monitoring of the scheme. He further informed that the state needs to inspect at least 25 percent of the total institutions during each quarter. Union Secretary wanted to know why Jammu and Kashmir had not prepared any medical emergency or contingency plan in case of any untoward incident. On being asked about the delay in release of funds from state to school levels, the then Secretary School Education (SSE) informed most of the issues identified during appraisal are linked to current fund flow management process followed in the state.

He further informed that after receiving the funds from MHRD, the credit confirmation is sought from the state finance department and then funds are released to Director School Education (DSE) Kashmir/Jammu who, in turn release these funds further to CEO’s, thereafter to ZEO’s and then to schools for implementation of the scheme.

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