COIMBATORE: How long can you survive on a meal budget of less than Rs 2? Or should the question be, can you? What would you even get for that money? Maybe one idly at Amma Canteen. Is that enough to feed a child for one day?
Believe it or not, the per child feeding expense under the Noon Meal Programme (NMP) and Anganwadi centres as allocated by the Integrated Child Development Services Department is a measly Rs 1.13. In fact, the amount was much lower till as recent as 2014.
Tamil Nadu was once the pioneer in the realm of welfare schemes for the State’s children. This was the State that introduced the revolutionary noon meal programme to encourage children to take up education and compensate the lack of resources caused by abject poverty at the same time.
However, reforms and welfare became a thing of the distant past with the bureaucratic set up failing to build on the solid foundation presented to them. Soon, schemes and services — without adequate attention by means of money and manpower — were left to rot within the confines of government buildings. The once-revolutionary NMP and Anganwadi centres, which fall under the ambit of the Integrated Child Development Services Department, suffer a similar fate.
Both programmes are plagued by several issues — inadequate staff, lack of funds, zero benefits for employees and more. However, over the years, they have failed to accomplish the very purpose they were designed to address. A meal budget of Rs 1.13 (the limit for dal days; non-dal days had a budget of Rs 1.35) is the reflection of that failure. This price raise — yes, you read right — came only in 2014 with the ‘vareity meals’ scheme brought in by the late J Jayalalithaa. Until then (since its introduction by the late CM MGR in 1982), the budget had been limited to 56 paise.
Why the low budget
Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies Corporation is tasked with providing dal, rice and oil for anganwadis. The government allocates only C400 for the purchase of LPG cylinders against the actual price of C800, citing the subsidy provided by the Central government