Mumbai: Aiming to give relief to dairy farmers, the state government has decided to provide skim milk powder to primary school students, through its School Nutrition Scheme on a pilot basis, for three months. However, a mere 200 gms of this powder will be provided every month, which has caused eyebrows to be raised in political circles.
In a Government Resolution (GR) issued by the School Education and Sports department on Thursday, the government decided to implement the scheme wherein students and parents would be given three packets of skim milk powder totalling 600 gm every month, for three months. The parents are expected to reconstitute milk from the powder and feed it to their school- going children. But 200 grams of milk powder for a whole month means a mere two to three teaspoons of powder for milk each day. The pilot project also excludes those schools in Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation limits where the central government-promoted school nutrition programme is already in place.
Dhananjay Munde, Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the legislative council, criticised the decision and said, “If the child needs to have a glass of milk twice a day or even once a day, the 200 gram packet may not suffice for a month.” As per the Economic Survey of Maharashtra for 2017-18, there are 1,06,527 primary schools (Std I to Std VIII) in the state, with a total student enrolment of 15,909, of which 7,450 are girls.
As per the GR, eligible students from Std I to Std VIII will get three packets of skim milk powder, each 200gm packet expected to last for a month. Schools will distribute the skim milk powder packets to the students on a designated day, ‘skim milk powder distribution day’ and distribute them in the presence of the school management committee. On that day, the school is also expected to teach parents how to reconstitute milk from the powder. Schools may only distribute milk powder produced in the state.
The decision to implement the scheme on a pilot basis for three months was taken following the surplus production of milk in the state. In the legislature’s monsoon session at Nagpur, the government had announced, on July 10, including milk or milk powder as a supplement to the School Nutrition Scheme. The government then studied the “Shir Bhagya Yojana” implemented by the Karnataka government. A committee headed by the additional chief secretary of the school education department will monitor the implementation of the pilot project, while the education director, primary education, will be the coordinating officer.