– Reshma Ravishanker
Since the national lockdown was announced in March last year to spread the check of the Covid-19 pandemic, 64 lakh school students in Karnataka have not received milk powder provided under the state government’s Ksheera Bhagya Scheme. Introduced in 2013, under the scheme class I-X students in government schools from across the state are provided milk “prepared from whole milk powder” five days a week. With schools closed for over a year because of the pandemic even as the state government has ensured supply of raw materials such as wheat, rice and pulses in lieu of in-school mid-day meals to these children, it has not resumed milk powder supply.
According to Sathya (name changed), an official of the department of education, “the supply of milk powder has been stopped from March 2020. Even though other food items are provided to children for about 50 days, milk powder is not included in this ration.”
Nagasimha G of the Child Rights Trust, Bengaluru, says that many parents and students across the state have been complaining about the prolonged disruption of milk powder supply. “Children are suffering huge nutritional loss. Moreover consuming a glass of milk in the morning has a huge positive psychological impact on children,” he says.
A S Seetharamu, a former professor at the Institute of Social and Economic Change, also believes that disruption of the state’s Ksheera Bhagya Scheme is a huge setback to the state’s mission to improve nutrition levels among under-privileged children. “This will have long term impact on children’s health. It could lead to increased incidence of anemia, stunted growth and increased malnourishment within children,” he says.
Officials in the Karnataka Milk Federation (KMF), which supplies the milk powder, say that since schools are shut, the disruption is the result of school authorities failing to place indents for supply of milk powder. The Mid Day Meals section of the Department of Public Instruction also confirmed to your correspondent that the state government had instructed the supply of milk powder to be stopped until schools reopen.
“In schools, there are cooks who know how much quantity of powder is to be mixed with milk for a child. If we send it home, they might consume it in the powder form. Hence we have been avoiding it,” says the official adding “no nutrition supplement is being given to make up for not providing milk.”
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