The Centre has reportedly decided to set up a joint team consisting of officials from the Ministry of Education and the Kerala Government to investigate the "improbable" assertion made by the state education department that nearly 99 per cent of students attending primary and upper primary classes in Kerala received midday meals on a daily basis in 2022-23.
The matter was brought up during a meeting of the Programme Approval Board (PAB) of PM Poshan, formerly the midday meal scheme, on 15 May.
Senior officials of the Ministry of Education and the Kerala government, including Union School Education Secretary Sanjay Kumar and Kerala General Education Department Principal Secretary Rani George, were present in the meeting.
According to an Indian Express report, the minutes of the meeting suggest that central officials were skeptical about the state's claim that nearly all children enrolled in primary (Class 1-5) and upper primary (Class 6-8) in 14 districts of the state were covered the scheme in FY23.
The officials, as an immediate measure, have asked the state government to "check the authenticity" of the figures and submit an action taken report by July.
The officials also decided to set up a joint team comprised of central and state officials to perform a ground-level check.
Additionally, the state was also directed to implement a fool-proof mechanism to ensure that the data entry process on coverage under the scheme is reliable.
“PAB observed that in the districts as mentioned in the above tables, almost 100% of the enrolled children in primary school have been shown as availed school meals on all working days. This seems highly improbable," according to the minutes quoted by The Indian Express.
To verify the accuracy of the reported coverage, the PAB proposed that a team comprising officials from both central and state governments should be sent to a few districts to assess the situation.
The team would examine data from different levels, including schools, blocks, and districts.
According to the minutes, the Kerala government claimed that of the 16,91,216 children enrolled in primary schools (government and government-aided), 16,69,135 (99 per cent) had midday meals on all working days, while the corresponding numbers are 11,45,178 and 10,85,129 (95 per cent) in the upper primary grades.
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