Mid-Day Meal repackaged, to cover pre-primary

Express News Service

NEW DELHI:  The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by PM Narendra Modi on Wednesday approved the repackaging of Mid Day Meal (MDM) as the National Scheme for PM Poshan in Schools under which the government will allow states to provide additional nutritious food from the central funds. 

From 2022-23, nearly 24 lakh children of age 5-6 years will be added for the first time to the existing pool of 11.8 crore beneficiaries of the scheme. The Centre spends nearly Rs 19,000 crore on MDM every year.The renamed scheme has now been approved till 2025-26 with a financial outlay of Rs 54,061 crore for the five-year period while the states will add Rs 31,733 crore from their share. In addition, the Centre will also bear additional cost of about Rs 45,000 crore on foodgrains. 

Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan said that an additional fund of about Rs 260 crore will be earmarked for providing meal to 24 lakh children who will be part of Balvatikas, a type of playschools in government schools as proposed in the National Education Policy, from the next academic session.

To prevent leakages and promote transparency in the scheme, the Centre is making it mandatory to carry out social audit of the scheme in all the districts while the government has said that about Rs 500 crore from its share can be spent on providing additional food items such as fruit or milk. 

The Union government, from now on, will also pay to cook-cum-helpers directly in their bank accounts. Currently, the payments to them are made through district authorities  after the Centre releases the funds to the states. Pradhan added that field visits for progress monitoring and inspections will be facilitated for students of eminent universities and institutions and also by trainee teachers of regional institutions of education and district institutes of education and training.  The concept of Tithi Bhojan — a community participation programme in which people bring delicacies for children on special occasions and festivals — will be encouraged extensively, the government has said.