New Delhi: Mid-day meals will be provided to students even during the summer vacation in schools in view of the lockdown imposed to fight COVID-19 and an increased allocation of ₹2,600 crore has been made for the purpose, Union HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank' said on Tuesday.
The minister also directed the states to facilitate the CBSE by starting evaluation of the answer sheets of board exams of classes 10 and 12.
The HRD minister made the comments at a meeting held through video conferencing with state education ministers.
"During the lockdown, ration is being provided under the mid-day meal scheme for children to get adequate and nutritious food. Approval is being given for providing mid-day meal during summer holidays of schools, on which an additional expenditure of about ₹1,700 crore will be made. In addition, under the mid-day meal scheme, an ad-hoc grant of over ₹2,600 crore is being issued for the first quarter," Nishank said.
"In wake of COVID-19, the annual central allocation of cooking cost (or procurement of pulses, vegetables, oil, spices and fuel) under the mid-day meal scheme is enhanced to ₹8,100 crore from ₹7,300 crore, an increment of 10.99 per cent," he added.
The move will benefit over 11.5 crore children studying in classes 1 to 8 in 11.34 lakh schools across the country.
Asking the states to begin the evaluation process of board exam papers, the minister said, "The evaluation process must begin and states must facilitate CBSE to evaluate answer sheets of the students in their respective states. States where Kendriya Vidyalaya and Navodaya Vidyalaya are approved but could not be started due to lack of land or running on less capacity are requested to transfer the land quickly so that the children of the state can get benefit from it."
Universities and schools across the country have been closed since March 16 when the Centre announced a countrywide classroom shutdown as one of the measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.
Later, a nationwide lockdown was announced on March 24, which has now been extended till May 3.
In March last week, the HRD Ministry had asked states and union territories to ensure continued supply of mid-day meals to students despite the closure of schools around the country to check the spread of coronavirus.
The suggestions offered included delivering packaged meals or the equivalent amount of food grains to students at home, or depositing money in the bank accounts of their parents.
Pokhriyal also informed that under the Samagra Shiksha scheme, the government has relaxed the norms and states are allowed to spend the balance of the previous year which is around ₹6,200 crore and an ad-hoc grant of ₹4,450 crore is also being issued for the first quarter.
"The states should immediately transfer the amount released under the Samagra Shiksha to the State Implementation Committee so that it can be utilized properly to ensure that the next instalment can be released," he said.
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.