11 Sep 2023 2:45 PM GMT
The Kerala Pradesh School Teachers' Association and the Headmasters of certain government and aided schools have approached the Kerala High Court seeking a direction to the Director of General Education to absolve the Head Masters from the responsibility of running the 'Noon Meal Scheme' and to entrust the same with an independent agency.The noon-meal scheme was introduced by the Government...
The Kerala Pradesh School Teachers' Association and the Headmasters of certain government and aided schools have approached the Kerala High Court seeking a direction to the Director of General Education to absolve the Head Masters from the responsibility of running the 'Noon Meal Scheme' and to entrust the same with an independent agency.
The noon-meal scheme was introduced by the Government for students upto Grade VIII in Government and Aided Schools in the State. The plea is filed in light of alleged untimely and inadequate disbursal of funds under the scheme.
It is claimed that the fund allotted under the scheme is not sufficient to meet even 50% of the actual cost, and that the Headmasters of the schools often have to meet the expenses for the scheme from their salaries, and from borrowed funds. Moreover, even the so called allocated funds are not disbursed in time, it is averred.
The petitioners also state that when the Government had implemented the Scheme, it had ordered fixing of the amounts payable to schools depending on the number of students in each school, and for the said amount to be transferred to the accounts of the Headmasters in advance. However, it is averred that a mere look at the cost per child fixed would make it clear that the costing was "grossly unworkable and inadequate". "The difference in cost has to be met by the Principals concerned from their pocket. This was the hard situation to which the Head Masters are put," the plea states.
The petitioners state that the Government had also directed that the students be given Eggs and Milma Milk, and that the total cost for the two items alone would amount to a minimum of Rs. 22.80/- per week per student.
"The maximum reimbursement by the Government per student is only Rs. 40 per week. Deducting the cost of egg and milk, what remains is only Rs. 17.20/- per student per week. Therefore, what is available per student per day is only Rs. 3.54/-. This is inclusive of the cost for fuel and transportation. It is impossible to run the scheme with the present contribution by the Government," the petitioners state.
The petitioners aver that most Head Masters have taken out heavy personal loans to run the scheme, and that they are also not in a position to stop the scheme, lest they be subjected to disciplinary action. The petitioners thus submit that the Government has no authority to compel the Head Masters to pay from their pockets to run the scheme, and that the State should either meet the entire expenses for the scheme and pay the same in advance or stop the same altogether.
"In the circumstances, it is necessary that the respondents take urgent steps to find out the actual cost of the scheme and pay the money payable in advance to the Schools, sufficient to meet the cost, or else, supply all groceries, egg and milk at the their cost to all schools. The only practical way out is for the Government to engage an outside agency to run the scheme," the petitioners aver.
The petitioners have thus sought the issuance of a direction to the Government to scientifically ascertain the cost of implementing the 'noon-meal scheme' in Government and Government Aided schools, and to disburse the amount required for the same to the Headmasters of the concerned schools every month.
They also seek the issuance of a direction that the Head Masters shall not be bound to implement the scheme unless the expenses for implementing the same are paid to them every month in advance. Additionally, the Head Masters seek to be absolved from the responsibility of implementing the Scheme, and to entrust the same with any other independent agency.
Lastly, as an interim relief, the petitioners seek that the Head Masters shall not be compelled to implement the scheme unless the respondents pay the cost for the same in advance every month, pending the disposal of the plea.
The plea has been moved through Advocates Tony George Kannanthanam, Thomas George, and Alex George.
Case Title: Kerala Pradesh School Teachers' Association & Ors. v. State of Kerala & Anr.
Case Number: W.P.(C) 29565/ 2023