TODAY -
Mid-day meal scheme leading to deforestation
Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, November 13 2009: Contrary to various measures being taken up to replenish the green cover of forests to maintain the ecological balance, method of implementation of a Central sponsored scheme here in the State is leading to deforestation.

The mid-day meal scheme, a flag-ship programme of the Congress-led UPA Government which is aimed at well-being of the school children health-wise rather poses threat to humanity as purchase of firewoods is being encouraged by the implementing agencies.

With the ideals of proper implementation of the noble scheme necessitating provision of cooked food to the children, the State Government had been releasing requisite funds in terms of crores of rupees to purchase firewood for fuel.

Having realised the threat posed to humanity as a consequence of global warming, efforts are being made on a war footing to not only control felling of trees but also to replenish the green cover.

As in other parts of the world, Manipur too is concerned with the global warming phenomenon and the Government had been earmarking crores of rupees in implementing afforestation measures which can be summed up from the fact that trees are being planted even at the capital city with no other than the Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh himself taking the lead.

While it is beyond doubt that timber trade continues to thrive and even tree-roots are not being spared to produce charcoals, launching or rather implementation of the mid-day meal programme is another perturbing factor that deforestation efforts are being rendered useless by rampant felling of trees, for supply as firewoods.

In Manipur the mid-day meal was launched on November 14, 2004 and since then requisite amount is being extended by the State Government to Govt-run educational institutions.

Talking to The Sangai Express on condition of anonymity, a top State Government official said an amount of Rs 2 crores was spent on purchasing firewoods in the last fiscal while spending for the same purpose this year is Rs 2.5 crores.

Pointing out that increasing trend on expenditure related to purchase of firewood will only escalate further in subsequent years, the official expressed doubt of cent percent success rate of mid-day meal scheme implementation in Manipur when compared to other States.

Substantiating on his observation, the official disclosed that ZEOs concerned, under whom the scheme is being implemented at the grassroots level, submit reports that declare effective implementation of the scheme commensurate with the prescribed number of days students have to attend class in year.

Highlighting that owing to various disruptions caused to normal academic activities most educational institutions do not conform to prescribed norms for 160 days attendance from the primary to high school level in a year, the official conceded that inspite of clear evidence that attendance percentage is far below average, funds are being released without any deduction.

Regarding days earmarked for mid-day meal provision, he said the prescribed number last year was 205 days whereas for the current academic session it is 210 days.

The official also confided that an amount of Rs 10.03 crore was released last year for purchase of food items, fuel and wages of cooks while this year the expenditure is likely to cross the Rs 17 crore mark.

Opining that excessive use of firewood is certain to disturb the environment and increase ecological problems, the official said a proposal had been forwarded to the Central Government for use of LPGs in preparation of the mid-day meal.

Expecting positive response from the Centre to the proposal, the official said in the initial stage LPG provision would cover schools within Imphal East and west districts.


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