For over three months now, 19,811 schools in Punjab have not received any grant under the midday meal scheme to purchase ‘cooking items’. Payments of cooking staff post July have also not come through. Short of funds, the schools in the state were forced to ask teachers to manage the show on credit or spend from their own pockets to keep the scheme running, with an assurance that the money will be reimbursed.
Teachers now claim that the scheme might be discontinued if the grant is not released soon as the ‘shopkeepers, who are providing items on credit, have given them an ultimatum’.
Around 2 million school children of primary and upper primary classes are enrolled under the scheme in state.
Government had released the last midday meal scheme instalment for cooking items in the month of May, and no grant was received for June, July and August, and also September so far. The payment to cooking staff is also due for over one-and-half month.
“Although grains are provided directly to schools, vegetables, salt, pulses, oil, fuel etc are purchased by the schools with a midday meal grant and the payments of the cooking staff are also made from the grant only,” said a Jalandhar-based government school teacher, adding that for the past three months government has been asking us to manage the scheme. There are nearly 955 schools in Jalandhar district where scheme is running.
“We are thankful to our kirana shop (grocery shop) owners who are still providing us required things to cook, otherwise the scheme would have been closed three months back,” said one District Education Officer (Elementary).
Under the scheme, 60 per cent funds are provided by the Centre and 40 per cent grant is given by the state government. Sources said that state government always delays its share due to which delay takes place in releasing funds.
In Punjab there are 19811 schools, including nearly 13,000 primary and remaining upper primary, where the scheme runs.