Bengal's mid-day meal scheme left in a lurch after FCI says it can't provide foodgrains
After the Food Corporation of India (FCI) decided to stop providing foodgrains to West Bengal government for running mid-day meals in school, the state has been left in a fix. There is utter confusion about whether students will still get these meals from next year since there will be no rice coming in from the FCI.
FCI has been providing the foodgrains to run the scheme till now, but in a letter sent on 11 December they informed the state government that the FCI was unable to procure enough rice to provide for the mid-day meals and thus they (the state government) should come up with alternate plans to continue the scheme.
After the initial shock, the West Bengal government wrote to the FCI stating that it would procure the rice but the FCI should provide them with funds for it. The FCI is yet to say anything affirmative in this regard.
“We have already approached FCI to provide funds for procuring rice for running the mid-day meals. But they have not given any positive reply in this regard. They have told us to coordinate with the Ministry of Consumer Affairs Food and Public Distribution but we have turned down their proposal, as till now, FCI used to provide rice for the mid-day meals in schools. It is the duty of the FCI to provide an alternative way,” Jyotipriyo Mullick, state food supplies minister said.
Senior officials of the state government said that they are planning to visit Delhi next week and a team of officers will speak with the Minister in charge of Consumer Affairs Food and Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan and will apprise him about the situation.
A senior official of the state government said that for the last three years FCI could not provide the rice as per demand. In 2016 FCI provided 2 lakh ton rice, but the requirement was around 20 lakh ton. The additional amount was procured by the state government.
According to the figures given by the state government, FCI is supposed to provide around Rs 1,100 crore to the state government as they have taken the responsibility of providing additional amounts of rice that was required to run the scheme in schools. The state government is yet to receive the amount from the FCI.
In 2014, West Bengal ranked 3rd among the states in implementing the mid-day meal scheme in schools. Ninety seven per cent of the students enrolled in various schools across West Bengal are beneficiaries of the scheme, as a central government report revealed, which comes to around 1,22,98,419 students in all.
The Union government allocation for food grains (e.g. rice) is fixed at –
–100 gm. per student at Primary School level (From Class I-Class V)
– 150 gm, per student at Upper Primary level (Class VI-VII)
Besides that, the government also allocates Rs.3.33 per student a day at primary level and Rs.4.65 per student at the upper primary level for additional expenditure like cooking oil, fuel cost and vegetables etc.
The state government monitors every school and provides these fund on the basis of 85% attendance.
According to the BJP, the state government has failed to utilise funds provided by the Centre for various projects and as a result the Centre has decided to review the projects before providing additional funds for the ongoing ones.
“It is too early to comment whether mid-day meal in schools will be stopped or not, but I would request Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to provide utilisation certificates of all the centrally-funded projects,” state BJP President Dilip Ghosh said.