When reports suggest that Gujarat is struggling to address malnutrition, anaemia, deficiency of iron and essential minerals among children, serious issues in implementation of fortified rice in Mid Day Meal scheme have come to fore.
With a view to address the issue of malnutrition amongst children, Fortified Rice Kernel (FRK) is planned to be distributed under the Mid Day Meal Scheme (MDM). The cooked food was suspended due to the Covid-19 lockdown
It is learnt that primary schools in Gujarat have recorded a deficit of at least 4,000 metric tonnes of fortified rice. Procurement for the children in Children in the districts of Ahmedabad, Aravalli, Bharuch, Jamnagar, Navsari, Porbandar, Sabarkantha, Surendranagar along with Ahmedabad city has been zilch in the first batch of 23 days.
Against a requirement of nearly 20,000 metric tonne fortified rice for the first quarter to cater to over 51 lakh children registered in primary schools, the state managed to procure only nearly 16,000 metric ton fortified rice. Ahmedabad (both city and district), Jamnagar and Rajkot received the lowest supply of fortified rice to students in the first two batches so far.
The officials of Mid Day meal scheme have blamed the Food Corporation of India (FCI) for the deficit. FCI in turn blames shortage of production in rice producing states of Punjab and Haryana. FCI has informed that there is no rice mill in Gujarat making fortified rice and the process of fortification takes time. FCI procures and supplies fortified rice to the education department.
Central Government decided to supply fortified rice in government schools and anganwadi centres through Mid Day Meal and Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) schemes from April 2021, however the Gujarat government commenced its distribution to school students only around September-October.
Under the NFSA Act 2013 and Mid Day meal Rules 2015, wheat or rice and cooking cost is provided to nearly 51 lakh students of Class 1 to 8. As per state government’s decision, 100 grams of wheat or rice for students of Class 1 to 5 along with cooking cost of Rs 4.97 per day is provided.
Iit was not possible to provide cooked meal under Mid Day Meal scheme to students due to closed schools since March 23, 2020, a Food Security Allowance (FSA) was being provided to all beneficiaries from Class 1 to 8 by the Education Department. For upper primary students (Class 6 to 8), 150 gm foodgrain and Rs 7.45 cooking cost per child per day is provided. While the foodgrain is distributed through fair price shops, the cooking cost is deposited directly into parents’ accounts through direct benefit transfer.