Express News Service

THOOTHUKUDI: The 15th State conference of the Tamil Nadu Nutritious Meals Employees Association (TNNMEA) held at Thoothukudi on Monday urged the State government to hike the fund allocation for the noon-meal scheme. It is imperative that the government double the funds provided for procuring vegetables so that the children receive enough good quality food, the association office-bearers said.

The noon-meal scheme is one of the most successful initiatives in the State, and each meal center is assigned an organiser, a cook and a helper. The Social Welfare and Women Empowerment Department provides subsidies for the scheme afoot at elementary schools and high schools through the Rural Development Agency. While the government directly supplies rice, dhal, palm oil, salt, bengal gram, green gram and eggs to the noon-meal centers, the organisers have to procure vegetables, groceries and gas cylinders or firewood.

A subsidy of Rs1.75 per elementary school student and Rs 1.89 per high school student is provided for dhal based food, while Rs 2.28 and Rs 2.42 are allotted for each elementary and high school student respectively for non-dhal food such as vegetable biryani, meal maker food, and variety rice. “This amount is not at all sufficient for ensuring quality food for the children. The government should take into account market inflation and allot at least` 5 per student, “the scheme employees demanded and passed a resolution in this regard.

TNNMEA State general secretary Malarvizhi told TNIE the skyrocketing fuel prices had contributed to the increasing vegetable prices. “The quantum of the rice allotted for the children – 100 grammes per elementary school student, and 150 grammes per high school student – need to be urgently revised,” she insisted. Malarvizhi also sought the State government to work out a plan to directly deliver gas cylinders to the noon-meal centers.

Pointing out that the government allotted only Rs 428 to Rs 498 for buying gas cylinders, Thoothukudi district TNNMEA president Thamizharasan told TNIE that all center organizers were now shelling out over R2,000 per month from their own pockets to buy the gas cylinders. Other major demands of the TNNMEA employees included `5 lakh worth retirement benefits for organisers and Rs 3 lakh worth benefits for others, regularization of jobs and filling up of vacancies, which has reportedly touched 50 per cent now.

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