Due to delay in taking decisions and slow release of funds by the state government,Rs 251.98 crores of Central funds meant for kitchen sheds for primary schools remain unutilised and hence blocked for other purposes with the state government.
This has been revealed by the State Directorate of Primary Education in its response to an RTI petition filed by The Indian Express. From 2006-11,a total of 65,783 kitchen sheds were sanctioned,out of which only 27,122 have been completed in the state,said officials in the Mid Day Meal (MDM) scheme.
MDM scheme was launched as a Centrally sponsored scheme on August 1995.
Its objective was to boost universalisation of primary education in order to increase enrollment,retention and attendance and simultaneously impacting on nutrition of students in primary classes.
The Supreme Court had passed a judgment on November 28,2001, which declared that the state governments need to provide cooked mid day meal to children studying in primary classes in all government schools.
The reply states that for cooking food,the Centre had released grant of Rs 11,050.20 lakh during 2006-07 for the construction of 18,417 kitchen sheds at the rate of Rs 60,000 per kitchen shed for better infrastructure for the schools. Out of 18,417 sanctioned,only 17,800 kitchen sheds were made.
During 2007-08,grant of Rs 52.50 lakh was paid to the Maharashtra Prathamic Shikshan Parishad (MPSP) for construction of 87 kitchen sheds. But the order for the construction of kitchen sheds were issued only on February 2009. In 2008-09,38,048 kitchen sheds were sanctioned and Rs 228.28 crores was released for the construction,of which only 7,722 kitchen sheds have been completed so far.
MPSP did not get adequate response on invitation of tenders and as per GR dated January 20,2010,it was instructed to start the process of re-invitation of tenders at the level of Directorate of Primary Education (DPE). But it took two years for the office of the DPE to complete the tender process.
Tenders were floated in March 2011,but the work order was issued only on March 15,2012 ie after one year,and in the meantime,the cost of their construction had gone up by Rs 14,900 each from 60,000 to Rs 74,900.
Due to the delay in finalizing the tender and issuing work order,Rs 56.67 crore extra had to be coughed up. Similarly in 2009-10 and 2010-11,grants of Rs 18.95 crores and Rs 110.14 crores were released for construction of 1,355 and 7,876 sheds respectively. The government had released an amount of Rs 11,460.06 lakhs from 2006 to 2012,stated the RTI report.
The DPE,in response to question on delay in taking decisions stated that as the kitchen sheds could not be completed by the village education committee in 2008-09,the funds were transferred to MPSP and it was decided to construct pre-fabricated kitchen sheds by opening tenders.
Though the MPSP had invited tenders,due to poor response,the government decided to publish tender notice once again; but failed to attract adequate response from interested parties.
Thus the Maharashtra government decided to transfer implementation of the scheme to the DPE. The tender procedure was started and the directorate decided to implement the e-tendering procedure with a view to bringing complete transparency and encourage clear and healthy competition.
The tender procedure was completed and the lowest rated tender quoted was Rs 74,900 higher than the rates prescribed by the state government (Rs 60,000). The matter was finally decided at a meeting on a MDM programme approval board of the Central government held on February 24,2012. Due to transfer of the construction work from DPM to MPSP and further MPSP to DPM,and delay in taking decision,and delay in release of funds by state govt resulted in blocking of funds of Rs 251.98 crore.