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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Millet soups to eggs: What states plan for schoolkids under PM Poshan scheme

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States plan to provide soya chikki, peanut chikki, chaulai ke laddu, bananas, millet soups, millet laddu, eggs, sprouts with jaggery, etc as part of supplementary nutrition to school students in aspirational districts under the PM Poshan (Poshan Shakti Nirman) scheme. Karnataka is among the states that earlier said they will provide supplementary food from December.

The Centre in September expanded the flagship mid-day meal programme into the PM Poshan scheme with an outlay of 1.31 trillion, including states’ share for five years. It also added a provision for supplementary nutrition for children in aspirational districts and those with a high prevalence of anaemia. The NITI Ayog has identified at least one aspirational district from each state using a composite index of key data sets that include deprivation enumerated under the socio-economic caste census, key health and education sector performance, and state of basic infrastructure.

According to the minutes of the Union education ministry’s Programme Approval Board (mid-day meal) meeting with the states and Union Territories this year ahead of the expansion of mid-day meal schemes, several states submitted their proposals for introducing supplementary nutrition items in aspirational districts. The board approved these proposals with some minor cost-related changes, as per the minutes.

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While approving the proposals, the board advised the states and territories to start providing the proposed items at the earliest to mitigate the nutritional challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

On October 28, the ministry wrote to states and territories and asked them to include millets under the scheme to address malnutrition and anemia among children.

Earlier, the central funds provided for the mid-day meal scheme were restricted to be used for wheat, rice, pulses, and vegetables. States including Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Gujarat, and Uttarakhand, were providing supplementary nutrition as a part of the mid-day meal schemes on certain days on their own.

According to the minutes, Andhra Pradesh proposed to provide chikki (made of jaggery and peanuts) to children enrolled in schools of six aspiration districts–Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam, Prakasam, Kadapa and Anantapur. Haryana sought to provide pinni to primary and upper primary students in the aspirational district of Mewat.

Jharkhand and Kerala proposed to provide peanut chikki to students in all aspirational districts while Maharashtra items such as nutritive slices made of bajra, jowar, nachni, soyabean in 14 aspirational districts. Chhattisgarh sought to provide soya chikki in six aspiration districts, Odisha millet laddus in tribal and aspiration districts, and Rajastha gur-peanut chikki in aspirational districts and those with a high prevalence of malnutrition.

Punjab decided to provide bananas to children in two aspirational districts–Moga and Ferozepur– and Telangana millet soup and sprouts with jaggery to children as a supplementary diet to students in all districts.

Karnataka, which proposed to provide eggs to students in seven districts with a higher prevalence of anemia, plans to implement it from December 1. The state will provide bananas to students who do eat eggs.

The mid-day meal scheme, which covered students enrolled in classes first to eighth, has now been expanded to include around 2.4 million students in pre-primary sections under the PM Poshan scheme.

The Centre and states share the costs under a 60:40 ratio under the scheme.

An official in September said generally the states and territories spend 80-85% of the annually allocated budget and they earlier surrendered the unspent money. “But now they can use that budget on supplementary nutrition under the PM Poshan [scheme].”

Amrita Johri of NGO Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan welcomed the provision for supplementary diet in aspiration districts but added funds should also be earmarked to ensure the proper source of protein. “We have to move away from just calorie count to have a balanced diet. Besides, the supplementary diet should be extended to all students and not just aspirational districts since there are pockets of malnutrition, starvation, and food insecurity in every district.”

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