Centre Urges Bihar and Madhya Pradesh to Address Low Coverage
The Centre has directed the governments of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh to take corrective measures regarding the low coverage of midday meals in the two states. Officials familiar with the matter stated that the issue was raised during meetings between the project approval board (PAB) of the PM Poshan scheme and the respective state governments. The PAB expressed concerns over the midday meal coverage data submitted by Madhya Pradesh, deeming it “artificial.” Additionally, it observed that the coverage in Bihar remained significantly low.
Madhya Pradesh’s Midday Meal Coverage and Concerns
According to the minutes of the meeting, Madhya Pradesh reported a midday meal coverage of 68.78% for primary level students and 68.86% for upper primary level students in 2022-23. The PAB noted that multiple districts showed the same coverage percentage, raising suspicions about its authenticity. Secretary of the Department of School Education and Literacy, Sanjay Kumar, voiced concerns about the consistency in reported coverage and deemed it unlikely. The PAB advised the state to take special measures to increase coverage and requested an action taken report by September.
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Bihar’s Low Midday Meal Coverage and Identified Districts
The PAB observed that the coverage of students in Bihar at both primary and upper primary levels was very low, standing at 57% and 58%, respectively, compared to the enrollment figures in 2022-23. The secretary of the Department of School Education and Literacy highlighted that seven districts in Bihar reported coverage below the state average, including Patna, Nalanda, Vaishali, Siwan, Darbhanga, and Kishanganj. The secretary urged the state to submit an action taken report by September and implement measures to cover a higher number of students based on enrollment data.
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State Responses and Ensuring Accountability
A senior officer from the Bihar education department emphasized that government school attendance has historically ranged between 55% and 60%, and there has not been abnormally low attendance. The officer assured that allotments are made according to the average attendance reported to the Centre. The secretary of the MP Panchayat and Rural Development Department stated that the midday meal distribution followed the data provided by the school education department, but they are investigating the matter to ensure accountability.
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