MARGAO: The Goa Forward Party strongly condemns the State government’s failure to clear pending bills amounting to over Rs 13 crore owed to self-help groups (SHGs) providing mid-day meals to schools in Goa.
As schools are set to reopen for the new academic year, thousands of students risk missing out on their entitled meals, as SHGs threaten to discontinue supplies if payments are not made promptly.
“Goa has enough funds to spend on events and on renovating the CMO office by spending 10 Cr. But doesn’t have funds for children’s meals,” said Goa Forward Vice President Adv Ashma
She said it is deeply distressing to learn that these SHGs, which are vital in providing nutritious meals to students, have not been paid for over six months, leaving them in dire financial circumstances.
“The failure to honour their hard work and dedication is a severe blow to their sustainability and compromises the welfare of students across the State,” said Adv Ashma.
GFP demands immediate action from the State government to rectify this gross negligence.
“The government must prioritize the well-being and nutritional needs of students by promptly releasing the pending payments to SHGs. Delays and non-payment of bills have become recurring issues, causing undue hardships to these suppliers and disrupting the crucial mid-day meal program,” she stated.
Furthermore, Ashma added, the claim that the Central component of the funds has not yet been received by the State is concerning. However, the state government needs to reveal or address the reason for the delay.
In February 2023, GFP had written to Chief Secretary and pointed out that the central assistance was to complement the Goa government’s contribution of Rs 4.8 crore towards the mid-day meal scheme, which the state government failed to fulfil.
“This is confirmed by the minutes of the Program Approval Board to consider the Annual Work Plan & Budget (AWP&B) 2023-24 of PM POSHAN Scheme for the State of Goa held on 28.02.2023. The board has made several other observations that reveal the government’s lethargy in implementing the scheme,” she said.
This includes low utilization of Management, Monitoring, and Evaluation funds, not providing any supplementary nutrition items, not undertaking testing of meals during the last academic year, low percentage of data reporting on the automated monitoring system, she said.
“The present delay indicated that the state government is yet to fulfil its obligation. GFP demands that the authorities to take urgent steps to expedite the release of these funds and ensure timely disbursement to the SHGs providing mid-day meals,” said Goa Forward Vice President Adv Ashma.
The Department of Education must fulfil its responsibility to support and sustain the mid-day meal program. It is unacceptable that such a vital program aimed at promoting the health and well-being of students is being undermined by delayed payments and insufficient funding.
GFP demands the following actions to be taken immediately:
1. Implement the recommendations of the Program Approval Board at the earliest
2. Clear all pending bills: The State government must prioritize the release of funds to clear the pending bills owed to SHGs providing mid-day meals without any further delay.
3. Enhance coordination: Strengthen coordination between the State and Central governments to expedite the release of funds and address any administrative barriers that hinder the timely disbursement of payments.
4. Upload monthly reports pertaining to the performance of the scheme, fund utilization and payments disbursed
GFP urges the Department of Education and relevant authorities to address this matter as an urgent priority failing which we will have to barge into the education department along with our leaders and supporters, said GFP VP Adv Ashma. The welfare and nutritional needs of students cannot be compromised, and the prompt resolution of this issue is crucial to ensure their well-being.