The financial crisis in the Union territory yet again looms large posing to hit the education of school students, after the schools reopened for a new academic session on June 10. Students of government schools who are still without text books (except those belonging to X standard), uniforms and footwear are now also missing out on the milk and biscuits provided by the government to students under the Rajiv Gandhi Breakfast Scheme, the first of its kind in the whole of India.
Under the scheme, 100 ml of hot milk with 35 grams of sweet biscuits (Britannia Glucose Biscuits) is provided to the students in I to XII std in government and government-aided schools as well as to children of Balwadies.
The scheme, which was launched with much fanfare by Sonia Gandhi in 2002, seems to be hitting a roadblock. The supply of biscuits has already been stopped from January in Yanam and Mahe regions. Now it is to be discontinued in Puducherry and Karaikal regions, sources said. Moreover, the supply of milk in the evening has also been stopped.
The scheme, which is fully funded by the Puducherry government, was introduced to arrest school drop-outs and ensure that students did not have to attend classes on an empty stomach. Now the morning supply of milk has been hit.
The reason for non-provision of the benefits under the scheme is pending payment to the suppliers Ponlait’ (Pondicherry Cooperative Milk Society) and Britania. Dues of around `3 crore are pending for payment to the supplier (Ponlait) which needs to be paid by the School Education Department.
Some arrangements are underway and the students would be provided milk from Wednesday (June 19), sources in the department said. The books are also expected to be distributed from Wednesday onwards.
It was found through assessment that the scheme was a great success since its inception a decade ago.
“The height and weight of the students have shown marked improvement after the introduction of the Breakfast Scheme. The percentage of malnutrition has come down drastically after the introduction of the Breakfast Scheme in this Union Territory of Puducherry”, according to the posting on School Education website.
Now with the ongoing financial crunch, even the number of beneficiaries under the scheme has been cut down by the government following a survey on how many students are actually consuming the milk provided under the scheme.
Surveys revealed that many students primarily from urban areas avoid consuming milk. By leaving out those students, the number of students to be covered under the scheme is 94,000 in all the four regions of the Union Territory with 64,000 in Puducherry, 18,000 in Karaikal, 5,000 in Mahe and 7,000 in Yanam region.