Calcutta, Jan. 3: With an eye on the panchayat elections scheduled for May, the government today announced mid-day meals for students in a section of the state-aided primary schools.
Despite demands from various quarters to provide the facility to all the 52,000 state-funded primary institutions, school education minister Kanti Biswas today announced that cooked food would be provided to 1,100 institutions to begin with.
“We will introduce the mid- day meals in 1,100 schools from this month,” said the minister. The meals will include rice, lentils and cooked vegetables. The food will be cooked inside the school premises and steps are being taken to set up kitchens.
The schools selected for the scheme are from West Midnapore, Murshidabad, Bankura, Birbhum and Jalpaiguri. Out of about one crore students in primary schools across the state, 2.5 lakh will be covered in the first phase.
Citing the most obvious explanation for its decision to provide meals to a limited number of schools, Biswas said: “We are unable to provide the facility to all the schools as this would require a huge amount of funds, which is not available with the government.”
Despite the acute funds crunch, the government has allotted Rs 1.62 crore for the project.
“To provide cooked meals to each every student across the length and breadth of the state, we will require more than Rs 12 crore every year,” said Biswas. “We hope to provide the facility to a larger number of schools in the years to come,” he added.
The Centre has not sanctioned any funds for the mid-day meals, said Biswas.
Teachers in ‘lock-up’
Students who failed to qualify in the selection test for higher secondary examinations locked up teachers in a room at Nayabagan Janakalyan Vidyapith in the Gopiballavpur police station area of West Midnapore.
The students who came to attend classes today were driven away. Sources said 73 students had taken the test and 21 could not secure qualifying marks.
Thirty-three teachers remained locked up in the school common room before headmaster Himanshusekhar Mahapatra called the police to rescue them.
“The school will not bow to pressure,” said Mahapatra.