The state government has trained education officials and school principals in accessing and uploading data on a newly launched web portal to ensure effective monitoring of the midday meal scheme in Jharkhand.
The department of school education and literacy under the Union ministry of human resource development launched the national portal (mdm.nic.in) in April to supervise the midday meal scheme at all the state-run primary and middle schools.
The ministry had directed all the states to train the officials concerned by June on utilising the portal and bringing in greater transparency in their functioning.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Ranchi district superintendent of education (DSE) Jayant Mishra said, It will be one of the most effective ways to monitor the midday meal scheme, as it will enable the school authorities to upload feedback regularly.
Mishra said the government had organised a meeting for all DSEs and school principals on June 29 and 30.
We were taught how to enter data related to the scheme at the school, block and district levels on a monthly basis and also report any problem, he said, adding the officials would also post updates on hygiene, procurement of quality ingredients and food catered to schoolchildren.
During the meet, officials raised problem areas such as procurement of foodgrains, lack of funds and the meagre honorarium for members of mata samitis, each of which comprise five to six mothers.
All problems will be addressed through the customised portal, Mishra said.
A ministry official, Suparna Pachauri, and senior consultant of the scheme Rishi Sirohi trained DSEs of all the 24 districts at the state directorate.
The web portal will also enable school authorities, with the help of DSEs and block development officers, to track the academic performances of their students.
Principal of the state-run middle school at Karamtoli Chowk S. Prasad said the Ranchi DSE had apprised the authorities of the web portal and its features.
It will be one of the best ways to solve our problems concerning the midday meal scheme, which should be addressed without any delay from now on. We often face problems over procuring foodgrains and vegetables and inadequate funds, Prasad told The Telegraph.
Under the Right to Information Act, schools where the midday meal scheme is implemented should provide all information concerning it in the public domain to maintain transparency.
According to provisions of the scheme, government officials should regularly inspect the quality of foodgrains used, track the dates of receipt and the quantities of ingredients sourced, besides the number of children benefiting from it and the involvement of community members.
Jharkhand, however, has had its share of controversies relating to the scheme in recent years, with problems such as shortage of foodgrains and unhygienic food cropping up time and again.
Members of mata samitis, who are in charge of preparing everyday meals but are at the receiving end of delayed payments they earn 1,000 per month and gram panchayats have scarcely managed to keep the scheme alive.