TODAY -

Mid-day meal scheme runs into fund impasse
Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, September 06 2012: Failure of the State Finance Department to comply with the prescribed guidelines is said to be posing a huge stumbling block in implementing the mid-day meal scheme in Manipur.

According to sources, mid-day meal scheme is one of the few Central Government sponsored projects that entails sanction from the Finance Department.

While other sponsored projects such as National Rural Health Mission, Sarva Shiksa Abhiyan and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksa Abhiyan are implemented through the 'society mode' and do not have financial involvement of the Government of Manipur, the case is said to be different for the mid-day meal scheme which, the sources informed, is being implemented in the 'treasury mode', meaning necessity for prior approval of the Finance Department.

With the Finance Department unable to comply with the project guideline that there should be advance fund provision, school management committees are finding it difficult to judiciously implement the project, said a source.

Contrary to prescribed guideline for advance payment to the school management committees, delay in releasing the fund allocation has become the norm rather than an exception in the State, the source disclosed and opined that the scheme has been transformed to a contract assignment as many of the committees could not bear expenditures for purchasing food-grains or other materials.

While other central sponsored projects are comparatively being implemented in a judicious manner, financial transaction involving the Finance Department is a cause for concern in the present context, noted another source.

After release of funds, school management committees are supposed to implement the project, explained one of the sources who reiterated that procedural necessity for the Finance Department's nod had been creating problems to the management committees.

In addition to the Finance Department often failing to release the fund in time citing State's financial problem, the fund release is sometimes deliberately delayed and without justification as there is no report of lapses on the part of the Central Government in sanctioning the release order, alleged a source.

As the scheme entails daily mid-day meal provision for students from class I to VIII, with exception of Sundays and holidays, management committees with some contribution from the teachers concerned are compelled to bear the cost of purchasing materials from their own resources on account of the delays by the Finance Department, it explained.

Rather than advance release of fund, the present practice is said to reimbursement to the managing committees when the funds are actually released.

With the project being literally run by the managing committees from their own resources there is apprehension that crunch financial position of the committees might result in the students going hungry, cautioned the sources.

It is said that, including the State's share of the project, the Finance Department is yet to release funds from April to August months of the current year amounting to Rs 8 crores.

The fund allocation is supposed to enable the managing committees purchase materials needed for preparing meals, foot food-grain bills to the FCI, bear transportation cost, honorarium to cooks, as well as inspection and awareness programmes.


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