A Parliamentary committee termed as “unacceptable” the trend of “gross under-utilization” of funds to run PM-Poshan and Samagra Shiksha schemes, which, it observed, “form the backbone of education” in the country.

The Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education, Women, Children, Youth and Sports, chaired by BJP Rajya Sabha MP Vinay P Sahasrabuddhe, has directed the Center to identify the factors behind the underutilization.

The report flagged that as on January 31, 2022, out of the total allocation of Rs 40,576 crore under the Centrally Sponsored Schemes that come under the Department of School Education and Literacy, only Rs 23,572 crore was spent.

Samagra Shiksha and PM-Poshan, which was earlier known as mid-day meal, account for 99.15 per cent of the total allocation under the schemes in this regard.

PM Poshan: As on January 31, 2022, 57.91 per cent of Rs 11,500 crore set aside by the Center as its share for the mid-day meals program in the 2021-22 budget were spent, according to the report of the committee. It also pointed out that not much ground would be covered in the remaining two months of February and March.

The PM-Poshan scheme, under which cooked meals are provided to students in schools, officially covers 11.8 crore children in classes up to class VIII.

As schools remained closed due to the pandemic, instead of meals, students were provided food security allowance in the form of food grains and direct benefit transfer under the scheme. In 2020-21, the utilization of the Center’s share under the scheme stood at 99.87 per cent even though advertisement and publicity activities could not be carried out due to the pandemic.

“The Committee recommends that there is an urgent need to put in place effective strategies for utilizing the funds,” it said.

Under PM Poshan, the Center bears the cost of food grains and their transportation while the funds for payments to cooks and workers are split by the Center in a 60:40 ratio with states, and UTs with legislatures.

Samagra Shiksha: Fifty-four per cent of Rs 31,050 crore allocated under the scheme by the Center were spent as on January 31, 2022, despite it being “one of the most prominent and a flagship schemes of the Department”, the committee noted. The scheme, which encompasses all major policies and programs in school education, is funded by the Center and states under a 60:40 ratio.

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