GUWAHATI, Nov 2 - As NGOs took over the system of supply of midday meals in elementary schools from Friday, the government today said the services of 1.17 lakh voluntary cook-cum-helpers will continue.
�The cook-cum-helpers engaged by the school committees were getting an honorarium of Rs 1,000 per month. Their services would continue and they would help serve the food to the children. In fact, we have already released their October payment,� Asom Sarba Shiksha Mission MD Shamsher Singh told The Assam Tribune.
As of now, the new system of supply of cooked food through NGOs has covered only 25 per cent of the total 56,000 elementary schools in the State.
�It has covered areas with proper connectivity. The schools covered are located within 25 km radius of the centralized kitchen. The idea is to make the system more efficient and provide healthy food,� Singh said.
When pointed out complaints regarding the quality of food supplied and the delays on the first day itself, official sources said initial hiccups are there in any transition but the government is verifying the allegations.
�We have asked the nodal officers to look into the allegations. Food safety officers are also on the job. The NGOs are bound to follow the prescribed menu and there cannot be any compromise,� the official said.
In Kamrup district, NGO Akshaya Patra Foundation has been engaged in providing midday meals to government schools since 2010.
In 2017, the State government called for EOIs from NGOs to launch similar services in other districts through centralized kitchens.
�After examining their capacities, screening them and conducting trials, we have engaged one NGO in each district. This is on experimental basis. We will see which one works better and then take a call whether to shift all the schools to the new system or continue with the old one,� Singh said.
The government says the NGOs will work on a non-profit basis.
Raw rice is provided by the Government of India free of cost as subsidy to the midday meal supplying agencies for primary and upper primary class. The government also reimburses the transportation cost of the food grains from FCI depot to the NGOs as per norms of the MHRD. Moreover, the government provides the cooking cost � for primary classes Rs 4.13 per child per meal per day and for Upper Primary classes Rs 6.18.