October 29, 2021 1:14:33 am
The Centre has flagged the low utilisation of fortified rice in mid-day meals for children despite adequate stocks and asked states to expedite its use.
The Union Ministry of Education wrote to states on the issue on October 20. The missive was prompted by repeated reminders from the Department of Food and Public Distribution that the lifting of fortified rice from Food Corporation of India (FCI) godowns — especially under the mid-day meal scheme — “is not encouraging”.
In the letter, Department of School Education and Literacy Joint Secretary RC Meena asked the state education secretaries to expedite the lifting of the fortified rice stock “keeping in view the target set by Hon’ble Prime Minister”.
The mid-day meal scheme was renamed PM Poshan in September. In his Independence Day speech this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that by 2024, only fortified rice will be distributed in ration shops, and under mid-day meal and the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) that covers children and lactating mothers in anganwadis.
“Malnutrition and lack of essential nutrients in poor women and children poses major obstacles in their development…” the PM had said.
According to government records, 1.05 and 6.36 LMT (lakh metric tonnes) of fortified rice have been allocated under PM Poshan and ICDS schemes, respectively. But only 0.57 LMT and 2.09 LMT, respectively, have been lifted by the states so far. The total allocation of rice under PM Poshan is 13.9 LMT for the October-March period.
The FCI has told the Centre that “though sufficient quantity of fortified rice is available”, states are not lifting their share, citing lack of directions from the Education Ministry.
While PM Modi has set 2024 as the deadline for complete coverage with fortified rice, the ministry is trying to meet the target as soon as possible, a senior official said.
“The states have been directed to offtake fortified rice being allotted to them by the FCI. The target (to distribute only fortified rice) is 100 per cent even for the ongoing year,” a senior Union government official said, requesting anonymity.
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