The Karnataka government has decided to temporarily resume free distribution of milk powder under the Ksheera Bhagya scheme to school children enrolled in all government schools across the state. The move is aimed at boosting the children’s immunity levels in anticipation of the third wave of the pandemic. This comes after state Women and Child Development Minister Shashikala Jolle reviewed the child nutrition programme on June 15 and told reporters that there are around 4.47 lakh malnourished children in the state and among these, 7,751 children are severely malnourished.
“Currently our focus is on streamlining and improving the tackling of malnourishment among these children as nutrition programmes have been severely affected due to prolonged lockdowns and severe restrictions of transport movement. We’re trying to address these issues on a case-by-case basis,” she had said.
According to the circular issued by the government late on Friday, the free distribution of milk scheme would be resumed temporarily. “Each school student from class 1 to 10 will receive a supply of free 500 gm milk powder daily for two months, June and July,” the circular stated. Regular schools have remained closed since the first lockdown imposed in March 2020.
Owing to logistical challenges and other issues, Karnataka had stopped supplying free milk to schools as they had been closed physically due to the coronavirus outbreak in March 2020. The circular stated that the scheme is targeted at covering 56,64,873 children studying in Class 1 to Class 10 in around 51,000 government schools.
The state government had already commenced its milk powder distribution to children aged below 6 years through its vast network of anganwadis. Around 39 lakh children are enrolled in around 64,000 anganwadis in the state.
The Karnataka government’s decision to resume the Ksheera Bhagya scheme assumes significance in the backdrop of several child activists, NGOs working with slums as well as health experts urging the same. Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah, who had launched the scheme in 2013 during his chief ministership, had also been demanding that supply of milk to school children be resumed.
“Malnutrition is a major issue for children from the economically backward sections, hence the government must take steps to resume free distribution of milk before the third Covid wave hits the state,” Siddaramaiah had said in a letter to the CM.