Centre to transfer Mid-day meal cooking cost directly to students' accounts

The Centre has decided to transfer its share of the cooking cost component in the Mid-Day Meal (MDM) scheme for students of classes 1 to 8 directly into their bank accounts as a one-time Covid relief.

This has been done as several governments run and government aided schools across the country are closed due to the pandemic for the last several months which has denied the children their daily hot-cooked meals as provided under the MDM scheme.

“This decision will help safeguard the nutritional levels of children and aid in protecting their immunity during the challenging pandemic times,” an official statement said.

Around 118 million children will be eligible to get the one-time relief, which will cost the Centre around Rs 1,200 crore, according to an official statement.

However, civil society activists and others said that the amount is too meagre and at current rate translates into a one-time direct transfer of just Rs 100 per child.

Cooking cost is the cost incurred for cooking hot meals for students other than wheat and rice, which is provided at a highly subsidized rate under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).

Under the MDM scheme, both the Centre and State government share the cooking cost for daily meals in the ratio of 60:40 for non-North eastern states and UTs with legislatures except Jammu and Kashmir and in the ratio of 90:10 for all others.

As per the latest notification issued in April, the cooking cost per child per day is Rs 4.97 for primary section and Rs 7.45 for upper primary.

Therefore, for non-NER and UTs with legislatures except Jammu and Kashmir, at the current ratio of 60:40, the Central share of cooking cost comes to around Rs 2.98 per child per day for primary classes, while it is Rs 4.47 per child per day for upper primary classes.

Experts said last year too during the first wave of COVID 19, the Centre had transferred its share of cooking cost to the states and directed them to either transfer it into the bank account of students or provide dry ration in lieu of meals as schools were closed due the lockdown.

However, this year, the Centre has decided to directly transfer its share of cooking cost into the bank account of students or their parents for the period when schools are closed.

“This is a good move but the amount is too meagre for one-time relief,” Dipa Sinha, academician and a prominent member of the Right to Food Campaign told Business Standard.


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