Midday meal crisis due to delay in Central share: Sivankutty


September 07, 2023 09:42 pm | Updated September 08, 2023 08:13 am IST – Thiruvananthapuram

 Kerala Education Minister V. Sivankutty. File photo

Kerala Education Minister V. Sivankutty. File photo
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The crisis in funds distribution for the midday meal scheme is the result of a Union government lapse, Minister for General Education V. Sivankutty has said.

The scheme was implemented as a Centrally-sponsored scheme. As per rules, rice and 60% of the expenses for the scheme should be provided by the Union government to the State. However, from the time the public financial management system (PFMS) was made compulsory in 2021-22, there has been a huge delay in handing over the Central share to the States. Even when proposals for obtaining the Central share and documents pertaining to funds utilisation last year were submitted on time, unnecessary hurdles were raised to delay the funds or deny them altogether. This had pushed the scheme implementation into a crisis, a statement quoting the Minister said here on Thursday.

The delay in receiving the Central share, distribution of funds to schools for implementing the scheme, and payment of monthly honorarium to cooks had been disrupted. Till now, only Madhya Pradesh had been sanctioned funds by the Union government, the statement said.

Kerala had to receive ₹284.31 crore as the Union government share this year for the scheme. Including the State government share of ₹163.15 crore, the total project estimate was ₹447.46 crore. From 2022-23, the Central share was made available in two instalments. The first instalment comprised 60% of the Union government share and the remaining was made available as the second instalment. Accordingly, the State should receive ₹170.59 crore as the first instalment this year. If this was made available, the State’s share of ₹97.89 crore would also be sanctioned, and schools would get funds to meet expenses till November, the statement said.

In 2021-22, the second instalment of the Central share amounting to ₹132.9 crore was not provided to the State. However, a number of hurdles were raised by the concerned wing in the Union Education Ministry. This money had to be spent by the State from the exchequer. Only after Mr. Sivankutty directly met Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan was the money sanctioned a day before the 2022-23 financial year ended, it said.

Now, the first instalment of ₹170.59 crore had not been sanctioned by the Union government, the statement added.

‘Cruelty to students’

Meanwhile, the All Kerala School Teachers’ Union (AKSTU) alleged that blocking funds for the project citing technical reasons was a cruelty to students in the State and a challenge to society. Against such a backdrop, the State government should arrange an alternative to take the scheme forward, said AKSTU president P.K. Mathew and general secretary O.K. Jayakrishnan in a statement.


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