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The Union cabinet Wednesday renamed the flagship school meal programme Mid-Day Meal as PM Poshan and pegged a total outlay of 1.31 trillion, including states’ share over five years. The cabinet also cleared the initial share sale of state-run ECGC Ltd, which provides credit guarantees to exporters in FY23.

PM Poshan has also expanded the scope of the school mid-day meal programme to include preschool students in government and government-aided schools. In addition, the cabinet decided to pay a monthly honorarium to almost 2.5 million support staff via direct benefit of transfer (DBT).

“The government has brought in some structural changes in scheme. While the scope has been extended by bringing preschools under its ambit, we are pushing for direct benefit of transfer to plug leakage," education minister Dharmendra Pradhan said.

“Overall, the scheme has an expenditure of 1.31 trillion (including both central and state share) over five years. To improve nutritional status, encourage education and learning, increase enrolments in schools and promote the overall growth of children, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved the PM Poshan scheme," Pradhan said.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) said between FY22, and FY26 54,061.73 crore will be the central government’s share of the scheme expenditure, and 31,733.17 crore will come from states and Union territories. The central government will also bear an additional cost of about 45,000 crore on foodgrain.

However, neither the cabinet nor the ministry explained the reason behind the name change, especially as the target audience and the Centre-state fund allocation has not changed. “Administration-wise, a name change does not add any functional benefit. The DBT of honorarium and even asking states to pay schools via DBT in cases where it is not happening now could have easily been made part of the mid-day meal scheme," said a government official who declined to be named.

Clearing the initial share sale of ECGC Ltd, the cabinet said the government will infuse capital worth 4,400 crore in it over five years. “The approved infusion along with efforts made to suitably synchronize with the listing process of ECGC through the initial public offering will increase the underwriting capacity of ECGC to support more exports," the Cabinet said.

Utpal Bhaskar contributed to the story.

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