Noon Meal Crisis in Kerala: Teachers Set to Protest Against State Govt, but What Went Wrong?
Noon Meal Crisis in Kerala: Teachers Set to Protest Against State Govt, but What Went Wrong?

Thiruvananthapuram: The once-celebrated noon meal scheme in Kerala, known for its nutritious offerings, is currently mired in a significant crisis. Since the commencement of the new academic year in June, the Kerala Government has failed to release any funds for the program, forcing school principals into the difficult position of borrowing money to ensure students receive their meals.

According to reports, an estimated Rs 130 crore is urgently required to be disbursed among school principals across Kerala. Despite this pressing need, the Central government has not yet released Rs 80 crore, while the state government still owes Rs 50 crore.

School principals bear the responsibility for managing the noon meal scheme, and many of them find themselves caught in a cycle of debt as they strive to keep the program running. The scheme operates on a 60:40 funding partnership between the Central and state governments, with Rs 8 allocated for each student. Approximately 30 lakh students attending 12,600 schools are entitled to free noon meals. However, due to the ongoing crisis, numerous schools have been forced to discontinue the provision of milk and eggs.

In a bid to address this critical situation, the Kerala Pradesh School Teachers Association is preparing to stage a three-day protest in front of the Secretariat starting from September 13, culminating in a march to the residence of the state's Education Minister on September 16.

Headmaster's Letter Sparks Discussion

A letter penned by a school principal to the state's Education department has garnered significant attention. JP Anish, the headmaster of Vidyadhiraja LP School in Karakulam, Thiruvananthapuram, expressed in his letter that he could no longer sustain the noon meal program at his school, even after taking out a loan of Rs 2.5 lakh. He cited three months' worth of unpaid dues for the noon meal scheme as the primary reason for this decision. Anish described the constant fear of creditors he experienced due to his role in overseeing the midday meal program.

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