Mid-day meal: HRD Ministry for exemption of LPG cap on schools

Worried that the mid-day meal programme could be hit by the cap on subsidised LPG cylinders, the HRD Ministry has asked the Petroleum Ministry to exempt schools from this formulation as the meal is not a “commercial activity”.

In a letter to Petroleum Secretary G C Chaturvedi, Additional Secretary in the HRD Ministry Amarjit Singh said, “I would request that necessary instructions be issued to public sector oil marketing companies for supply of LPG cylinders to the schools for mid day meal scheme at subsidised rates.”

He said the meal prepared for children under the scheme is “not a commercial activity as it aims to dispel the classroom hunger of school children particularly from the poor and disadvantaged segments”.

The ministry has projected that with the cap on subsidised LPG cylinders, the expenditure on LPG would jump from Rs 653 crore to Rs 1306 crore annually, which would be 11.6 per cent of the total allocation for the mid-day meal programme.

For the current year, the total allocation for the programme is Rs 11,937 crore.

“If all the schools were on LPG for the programme, which is the goal of the ministry, the total additional burden would have been Rs 1630 crore,” Singh said in his letter.

He maintained that scarce funds which are being used for providing nutrition food to the school children would be diverted to meet the enhanced fuel expenditure.

“The availability of pulses and vegetables would go down as a result. Children who are already suffering from malnutrition would be further starved of funds earmarked for the much needed nutrition component,” he said.

Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Nagaland, Haryana, Tripura, Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli are some of the states and Union territories where more then 60 per cent of the schools are using cylinders.

The current usage for the country as a whole stands at about 40 per cent. The cooking cost comprises 60 per cent of the total recurring cost of the scheme.

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