Jharkhand Govt Introduces Millet Laddus in School Menu, But There’s a Problem

In a welcome move, close to 3.3 million students in 35,773 government schools in the state are being offered nutritious madua (ragi) laddu every Wednesday. But the money allocation is not enough, complain school managements.

Manoj ChoudharyManoj Choudhary   12 Dec 2023 6:32 AM GMT

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Jharkhand Govt Introduces Millet Laddus in School Menu, But There’s a Problem

Sweet tidings for the children of government schools in Jharkhand as the state government announced offering millet laddus once a week. All Photos by Manoj Choudhary. 

Jamshedpur, Jharkhand

It has been sweet tidings for the children of government schools in Jharkhand ever since the state government announced offering madua (ragi or finger millet) laddu or halwa to students once a week, on Wednesdays. This has been a new addition to the mid-day meal menu of the government schools in the state.

This scheme, announced by the Jharkhand State Mid-Day Meal Authority, kicked-off last month in November under the Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman Yojna. It has brought cheer to both students and teachers, as the millet-based sweet is not just a welcome dessert, but it also packs in a lot of nutrition.

But, there is a hitch, say school managements, that are struggling to comply with this directive. The problem is inadequate money allocated for the madua laddu.

“Each ragi laddu costs anything up to Rs 10 in the market, but the money allotted to the schools is at the rate of Rs 4.15 per child,” complained Ujjwal Kumar, member of Utkramit Madhya Vidyalay management committee in Tangrain of Potka, East Singhbhum district.

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This has put schools in a strange position as they wish to offer ragi laddu to each enrolled child every Wednesday but do not have enough resources to do the same.

“Schools have to provide one laddu of 50 grams to each child. We are struggling to do this. The school kitchens have no other option but to compromise with the size, quantity and quality of the laddu,” Ujjwal Kumar told Gaon Connection.

“It is difficult for the school to continue distributing the laddus as stipulated by the authorities,” he complained.

Children having madua laddus in their mid day meal.

Each student covered under the Mid-Day Meal (MDM) scheme of the government is eligible for one laddu in a week. There are 3,295,230 children from classes one to eight in government schools covered under the MDM scheme across 35,773 schools in Jharkhand.

The Jharkhand State Mid-Day Meal Authority has allotted Rs 9.72 crore for the scheme to be implemented for eight weeks in each school. According to the Authority, the central and state government bear 60 and 40 per cent cost, respectively.

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There is also the matter of the main ingredient of the laddu, the ragi, which is not grown enough in the state and hence not available easily. In the markets, it is priced at over Rs 60 a kg, while the schools get no more than Rs 40 a kg to buy the ingredient, in case they wish to make these laddus at school.

“The management committee has already informed the education office in Potka block of this dilemma. Block officials have assured us that they will inform senior officials and look into the matter. Until then, the school will have to find ways to distribute the laddus,” said Ujjwal Kumar.

A Welcome Project

Overall, the laddu project is much appreciated by those in the education sphere. “Many students who study in these government schools come from communities who are often malnourished. For them, this is a chance to enjoy tasty and nutritious food that could improve their health,” Pashupati Mishra, teacher at the Rajendra Madhya Vidyalaya in Bagbera, East Singhbhum district, told Gaon Connection.

“About 69 students in my school have been enjoying the laddus for the past four weeks,” said Shambhu Sharan Srivastava, Headmaster-in-charge of Prathmik Vidyalaya Horlor in West Singhbhum.

“It is sad that millets like ragi have almost disappeared from our diets. I used to eat them in my school days but the present generation of students does not even know about it,” he lamented.

Public health experts and medical doctors have also welcomed the distribution of nutrition-packed millet laddu in schools.

“Ragi laddus are beneficial for children’s healthy growth. It is full of calcium, iron and vitamin D. It controls blood sugar level and maintains hemoglobin level in the body. The laddu will keep children free from anemia,” Jamshedpur-based PK Das, a physician, told Gaon Connection.

Srivastava, Headmaster-in-charge of Prathmik Vidyalaya Horlor, said that other than students, the scheme will also be beneficial for farmers.

“A large number of farmers in Manoharpur block of West Singhbhum produce ragi. They are facing problems in marketing and low prices due to poor demand. The introduction of the millet laddu in MDM, can benefit the farmers,” he pointed out.

‘Enough money allotted’

According to Nishu Kumari, the district superintendent of education in East Singhbhum, though the market price of ragi and ragi laddus may be high, the fact that it will be made in huge quantities in the schools will bring down costs.

“The government has allotted funds for laddus after estimating the preparation cost for each child. It should not come to more than Rs 4.15 per child,” she assured.

Public health experts and medical doctors have also welcomed the distribution of nutrition-packed millet laddu in schools.

P.C. - X handle of Panchyati Raj Department, Jharkhand.

“There are 113,990 students from nearly 2,000 schools in East Singhbhum alone who will benefit from the scheme. Funds amounting to Rs 37,84,468, have been transferred through the public finance management system portal to the bank accounts of Saraswati Vahini Mata Samiti in each school for purchasing ingredients and preparing the laddu,” Nishu Kumari told Gaon Connection.

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Other than the mid day meals (class one to eight), all the students from pre primary classes would be given this healthy treat, she added.

The laddu scheme has been launched as an experiment for eight weeks, said Nishu Kumari. “We will submit a report to the state government after reviewing the scheme feedback. The state government will then decide whether to continue or stop the laddu distribution,” she said.

She also clarified that so far the district administration had not received any complaints from schools. “Students are already enjoying the laddus and the school authorities are appreciative of the scheme too,” she said.

#middaymeal #milletladdus #jharkhand #schools 

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