PM POSHAN Scheme Gets Centre’s Approval

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    • The existing Mid-Day Meal scheme will be renamed as National Scheme for PM Poshan Shakti Nirman (PM POSHAN).
      • The Mid Day Meal scheme provides hot meals to school students.

    About PM Poshan Shakti Nirman (PM POSHAN)

    • Budgetary Allocation:
      • A total budget of over Rs 1.3 lakh crore has been allocated for the continuation of the scheme for 5 years from 2021-22 to 2025-26.
        • Of this, the central government will contribute Rs 54061.73 crore.
        • While the state governments and union territory administrations will provide Rs 31,733.17 crore. 
        • The Centre will also bear an additional cost of about Rs 45,000 crore on food grains.
    • Target Group:
      • The scheme aims to cover 11.80 crore children in 11.20 lakh schools.
      • All school-going students of classes I to VIII, studying in government and government-aided schools, are eligible to avail the benefits.
    • Cooking Competitions:
      • Cooking competitions will be encouraged at all levels to promote ethnic cuisines and culture in line with Vocal for Local.
    • Nutrition Gardens:
      • Kitchen gardens and school gardens will also be promoted under this scheme.
        • They have been named as Nutrition Gardens.
      • They can help to strengthen food security and improve income generation and livelihoods.
    • Balvatikas:
      • An additional Rs. 266 crore is expected to be added as the Central government’s share to cater to balvatika students from 2022-23.
      • Extension of mid-day meals to pre-primary students was a key recommendation of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.
        • Pre-primary students are to be incorporated into the formal education system under the same NEP 2020.
    • Holistic nutrition goals:
      • The Policy provisions have also added a 5 percent flexi component into the existing budget to allow States to incorporate 
        • additional nutrition-rich elements — such as fortified foods, fruits and milk — into the menu. 
        • Use of locally grown traditional foods will be encouraged, along with school nutrition gardens.
    • Social audits:
      • It has been made mandatory in all districts.
      • College students and trainee teachers will be roped in to do field inspections to ensure the quality of meals.
    • Direct Benefit Transfer:
      • States will be asked to do direct benefit cash transfers of 
        • cooking costs to individual school accounts, and 
        • honorarium amounts to the bank accounts of cooks and helpers.

    Source: IE

    Expected Benefits of the Launched Scheme

    • Tackle Malnutrition among school going children:
      • The ‘Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman’ scheme will address malnutrition among school-going children in the country.
    • Achieve Right to Food and SDGs:
      • Right to Food was a statutory right as well as an important part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the SDGs.
    • Encourage FPOs and Women SHGs:
      • As per Education Minister, the scheme will encourage the participation of
        • Farmers Producers Organizations (FPOs) and 
        • Women Self-Help Groups in the implementation of the scheme.
    • Help the Aspirational and Tribal Districts:
      • The scheme will provide “supplementary nutrition in aspirational and tribal districts and districts with high prevalence of anemia.
    • Promotion of ethnic cuisines and culture:
      • Various cooking competitions will help in highlighting the local cuisines.
    • Livelihood Generation and Awareness among students:
      • Nutritional Gardens will help in generating awareness among students and youth regarding agriculture.
      • They will also help in livelihood generation for poors who can sell a small part of their products.
    • Promote transparency and reduce leakages:
      • Steps like DBT and Social audit will promote transparency and plug leakages.

    Possible Challenges/ Criticism

    • Need of including Breakfast in Mid Day meal has been ignored:
      • The NEP 2020 also recommended including breakfast in the mid day meal scheme.
      • Till now there is no additional budget allocated for the same.
    • Heavy funding Crunch:
      • School Education Department’s budget for this year has been cut by almost ?5,000 crore
    • No increase in monthly honorarium to Cooks:
      • The rebranded scheme does not include any progress on the long-pending demand of cooks to increase the Rs. 600 allocated by the Centre as their monthly honorarium.
      • The centre has shifted this onus on State Government’s wish.
    • Poor Quality of Food:
      • Many cooks are not very well trained for cooking food.
    • Distraction from studies:
      • As the teaching staff is diverted for monitoring food distribution, it hampers the learning output of students.

    Conclusion and Way Forward

    • The scheme is a milestone towards the Fit India Movement and can be rationalised using following steps:
      • Include Breakfast in the Mid-day meal as recommended by NEP 2020.
      • Outsourcing the food contract for children and keeping a strict quality check to free teachers for better learning output..
      • Proper training and increased salary of Cooks and other helping staff.

    Source: IE, TH