Less than a month after the State government launched the ambitious Anna Bhagya scheme, it rolled out another welfare scheme — the Ksheera Bhagya — on Thursday. This scheme entitles students of government and government-aided schools and children in anganwadis 150 ml of milk three times a week.
The milk will be provided every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Speaking at the launch of the scheme at Hoskote near here, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said the scheme would ensure that over one crore students across the State get their share of milk. This includes 65 lakh students studying in 51,000 government and government-aided schools and 39 lakh children in 64,000 anganwadis.
Mr. Siddaramiah said the scheme will not only benefit dairy farmers but also help tackle malnutrition in the State.
He said, “A large number of children are suffering from malnutrition especially in rural areas as it is difficult for their parents to afford nutritious food and vegetables. As milk has a lot of nutrients, providing it three times a week will help tackle malnutrition to a large extent.”
Stating that Karnataka has the highest per cent of people living Below the Poverty Line among the southern States, he said there was a need for the government to take up welfare schemes to benefit them. The Chief Minister also said it has been decided to give an incentive of Rs. 4 per litre to milk producers and an allocation of Rs. 818 crore has been made for this purpose in the 2013–2014 budget.
Meanwhile, Minister for Animal Husbandry, Law and Parliamentary Affairs T.B. Jayachandra said though the government had initially planned to give fresh milk to students, officials decided against this as adequate precautionary measures are yet to be planned.
“We plan to give fresh milk in flexi packs as soon as we work out the logistics,” he said.
“Until then, schools and anganwadi centres will be supplied with milk powder, which has to be converted into milk after mixing it with hot water,” he added.
While the scheme was launched in most schools in the State on Thursday, areas where non-governmental organisations are providing midday meals will receive the milk from August 10, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said.
The State government’s promise a year ago to provide milk to students five days a week under the Ksheera Bhagya scheme remain unfulfilled. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, in principle, had also given the nod to extend distribution of milk from three to five days for children in anganwadis, government and aided schools.
Sources in the State government said that currently Rs. 510 crore was being spent annually to provide milk thrice a week to 39 lakh anganwadi children and 62 lakh students in government and aided schools.
“If the milk has to be provided five times a week, we will require an additional Rs. 300 crore. As it is a huge financial commitment, the government is delaying its implementation,” a source pointed out.
Under the Ksheera Bhagya scheme, launched in August 2013, hot water is added to 18 gram of full-cream milk powder to make 150 ml of milk, which is a child’s daily quota.
Children in anganwadis who were given skimmed milk initially, have been getting full cream milk since July 1 this year.
“The scheme has benefited students as a majority of them come from lower economic backgrounds and do not consume milk at home. Extending the scheme to all working days will have benefit students health-wise,”said the headmaster of a government school in east Bengaluru.
No milk in flexi packs?
Although the Karnataka Milk Federation distributed milk in flexi packets on a trial basis for two weeks to 1,100 government and aided schools in Bengaluru last month, KMF authorities and the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) are not considering switching to these packs owing to logistical issues.
“Although students were thrilled to consume milk from flexi packets as its consistency was good, serving it on a long-term basis is expensive. Moreover, disposing the milk packets will be a tough task,” a DPI official pointed out.
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