Punjab failed to “provide any supplementary nutrition items” to children of classes 1-8 in government schools under the PM-POSHAN scheme (mid-day meal) in 2021-22 despite approval from the Centre, the Union Ministry of Education has pointed out.
Last year, the state had proposed to provide bananas to children in two districts, Moga and Ferozepur, but it failed to take off.
A fresh proposal made for 2022-23 states that children will be provided multi-grain millet chikki (peanut bars) as supplementary nutrition in the two districts.
As per the minutes of the meeting of the Programme Approval Board (PAB) headed by the Ministry of Education (copy with The Indian Express), the Centre flagged that the “state has not provided any supplementary nutrition items.” The meeting was held in March this year to consider the annual work plan and budget for Punjab under PM Poshan Shakti Nirman.
Subscriber Only Stories
Newsletter | Click to get the day’s best explainers in your inbox
In its comments, PAB said: “It is observed that the state did not provide the supplementary nutrition under flexi fund component even though it was approved by PAB in 2021- 22. PAB advised the state to see the feasibility of providing supplementary nutrition to children, especially in aspirational districts and districts having a high prevalence of malnutrition.”
Moga and Ferozepur are two districts in Punjab which were included in the list of 124 Aspirational Districts by NITI Aayog for “quick and effective transformation of the most under-developed districts.” Last year, government schools in these two districts started getting fortified rice for mid-day meals from the Centre. This rice is more nutritious than ordinary rice and helps fight malnutrition, anaemia etc. in children.
In its fresh reply, Punjab told PAB: “The state government has proposed to provide multigrain millet chikki @ Rs 7 each for 145 days over 6 months to 1,51,142 enrolled children in two aspirational districts at an estimated expenditure of Rs 1,534.09 lakh, comprising Rs 920.45 lakh as central share and Rs 613.64 lakh as state share.”
Even though the PAB has approved the fresh proposal for giving multigrain millet chikki to children, it has clarified that the state has to meet this expenditure from the funds available.
“After detailed discussions, PAB approved the proposal of the state to provide supplementary nutrition items i.e. multi-grain millet chikki for 145 days over 6 months to 1,51,142 enrolled children in two aspirational districts…This expenditure will be met from the funds available with the state (recurring central assistance + state share)…,” said PAB.
Punjab further informed the Centre that due to Covid, quality testing of meals and training of cook-cum-helpers could not be held in 2021-22.
Harinder Kaur, DPI (elementary) Punjab and incharge mid-day meal, said, “The fortified rice which was earlier provided in two aspirational districts of Punjab, have been extended to all districts by the Centre. However, instead of bananas, Punjab has now proposed to provide multi-grain chikki for which funds are awaited. The Centre has said that we have to use 5% of the total budget (60:40 share by Centre and state) for supplementary nutrition. We are waiting for adequate funds to implement the proposal.”
Nutrition gardens, community participation earn praise
The Centre has appreciated Punjab for developing school nutrition gardens in 18,308 (93 per cent) schools and has advised the state to develop such gardens in the remaining schools with the help of agriculture and horticulture departments.
The Centre has also appreciated community participation in Punjab. The state government told PAB: “Punjab is implementing ‘Tithi Bhojan’ under the name ‘Priti Bhojan’ under which the community distributes meals and nutrition items such as sweets, namkeen etc. on important days to children in schools.”
PAB said that “Tithi Bhojan is a wonderful way to transform the community involvement and community ownership of schemes into Jan Andolan.”