A joint central state review of the implementation of the PM Poshan scheme has flagged concerns that midday meals worth more than Rs 100 crore were allegedly overreported by the West Bengal government between April last year and September, The Indian Express reported.
Mismanagement in midday meal scheme
On January 13, the Center announced the formation of a Joint Review Mission that would visit West Bengal to review the implementation of the centrally sponsored scheme, the Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman, or PM Poshan scheme, under which students receive a meal cooked in government and government subsidized schools.
“According to the first and second quarterly progress reports (QPR) submitted to the Government of India by the state government, around Rs 140.25 crore was disbursed under the PM Poshan scheme between April and September 2022.
However, according to In the QPRs submitted by the districts to the state, the number of meals served was approximately Rs 124.22 crore.” Therefore, there is over information of more than 16 crores of meals, which is a serious problem. The corresponding material cost turns out to be ₹100 crores,” the report says.
The panel also questioned the diversion of funds earmarked for the scheme to pay compensation to fire victims, the misallocation of food grains, the cooking of rice, dal and vegetables up to 70 per cent less than “prescribed amounts”, and the use of expired seasoning packets.
The joint review mission, comprised of nutrition experts and Center and state government officials, reviewed the implementation of the plan, formerly known as the midday meal plan, at the state, district, and school levels over a specified period of time in defined parameters.
“The state used to claim that more than 95 per cent of children enjoyed midday meals on average. However, across all schools visited, the number of children enjoying midday meals was between 60 and 85 per cent during the period,” it said.
West Bengal govt’s response
Responding to the allegations, the West Bengal government said on March 30 that it had ordered the scheme’s local project managers to examine the findings made by the review mission, according to the newspaper.
However, state Education Minister Bratya Basu said on April 3 that the Joint Review Mission had submitted its report without even informing the project manager or getting her signature.
“PD, CMDM [project manager, cooked midday meal] has written to the JRM [Joint Review Mission] president regarding this omission,” he added. “However, this is another example of a flagrant violation of centre-state relations that the central government regularly commits.”
Funds withheld from West Bengal
Since December 2021, the Center has not allocated funds under the scheme to West Bengal, citing violations in the implementation of the scheme by the state government.
The last instalment of wages to state workers was disbursed on 26 December 2021. Since then, more than Rs 7500 crore of MGNREGS funds have been withheld for West Bengal of this, and the outstanding wages of the workers amount to Rs 2,744 crore.
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