Midday meals to serve bigger platter from coming session

Once bitten twice shy,the Delhi government is waiting for a final report before announcing the expansion of the midday meal scheme for schoolchildren up to Class VIII.

Written by Aneesha Mathur | New Delhi | Published: February 7, 2009 12:18:47 am

7 lakh students up to Class VIII to be part of scheme now,says government

Once bitten twice shy,the Delhi government is waiting for a final report before announcing the expansion of the midday meal scheme for schoolchildren up to Class VIII.

While the government had said in 2007 that the scheme to provide cooked meal to government school students from Class I to VIII in 2008-09 session,it was held up last year after the Finance department’s clearance failed to come through on time. Plans are now afoot to introduce the scheme in the 2009-10 session.

A Directorate of Education (DoE) official reasoned that it is “better to have a delayed scheme than a flawed one”.

Meant to encourage enrollment,midday meals are till date served to students up to Class V.

In July 2008,the Delhi government invited expressions of interest from various NGOs and organisations to extend the scheme up to Class VIII. But a decision on the expansion process is still pending,with committees in charge of inspecting applicants failing to meet deadline several times.

The scheme presently caters to approximately 1.4 lakh children from Classes I to V in schools run by the Delhi government — MCD takes up the tab for meals in municipal schools. Post-expansion,the scheme is expected to cater to almost 7 lakh students,as students from MCD-run schools also join government schools after Class V.

This spurt in the number of mouths to feed has also made the government look at bigger organizations to serve the food,for the kitchens currently supplying food to government schools will not be able to cope up with the increased demand,the DoE official said. “We are looking at large semi-automatic kitchens that can cater to 50,000 to 75,000 children per kitchen,” the official said. “They need to have machines like steam kettles for rice,dough-kneading machines,vegetable peelers and automatic grain-cleaning machines.”

In July,71 interested parties had submitted applications to DoE. Sources say applicants had complained of irregularities in the earlier report made by DoE. The report rejected last September,independent committees were created to look into the issue.

“Retired IAS officials,university professors and nutritionists now constitute the committees,” Education Secretary Rina Ray said. These committees are supposed to check financial records,space availability and equipment available with the applicants. Two of the three constituted committees have submitted their reports,while the final report is expected to be in by the end of this week.

“After the committees’ final reports come in by Saturday,we will shortlist applicants and conduct a final inspection to award the contracts,” Ray said.

What is a semi-automatic kitchen?
Uses fewer employees and churns out larger quantities of food. A basic semi-automatic kitchen has a boiler-based steam kettle system for cooking rice,a vibrator machine that cleans grain,electricity- based or mechanical dough kneader,vegetable-peeling machines and automated rollers to press dough into rotis.

Meal: On the plate
1,43,137 students currently covered by scheme
24 organisations supply food to schools
78 minimum number of students served by an organization
11,383 maximum number of students served by an organisation
60,000 average number of students to be served per kitchen after expansion

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