“Karnataka Government is Undermining the Health of Children by not resuming Ksheera Bhagya Scheme”
Information received from the Department of Public Instructions through RTI has revealed that since June 2020, the Government of Karnataka has not provided milk or milk powder to school children studying in government-run and government aided schools under the Ksheera Bhagya Scheme. This has grave consequences for the nutritional health for the children of Karnataka.
Before schools were closed down in March 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic, the children studying in government-run and government-aided schools were being provided with a hot glass of milk in the morning under state-funded Ksheera Bhagya Scheme and cooked meal under the Akshara Dasoha (Mid-day meals) Scheme. For the period March-May, the government provided milk powder to children from the existing stocks under the Ksheera Bhagya scheme and dry rations as an alternative to Akshara Dasoha scheme. Both were then discontinued and neither dry rations, nor milk/milk powder was provided from June onwards. After a group of citizens wrote to the Principal Secretary, Department of Primary and Secondary Education and the matter was raised in the High Court of Karnataka, the government issued orders to provide dry rations but the government has refused to resume Ksheera Bhagya scheme.
Milk is rich in several nutrients like water soluble vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, folate, fat soluble vitamins , zinc, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus. 28 gm of milk powder provides 10 gm of protein and studies show that children receiving milk powder show significant increase in heights and weights. Milk is also one of the best sources of calcium and in addition also has growth factors which help prevent stunting (less height for age) in children. A recent report from National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad states that milk has good digestibility and net protein utilisation which means better quality. The amounts of milk needed daily range from 200 to 370 ml if other animal source foods are included in the diet and 300 to 500 ml daily if they are not.
Even before the pandemic, the prevalence of protein and micronutrient deficiency among children in Karnataka was very high, as reported by the Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey 2018. 94% of the children studying in government schools come from Dalit, Adivasi and OBC communities. The non-provision of milk under Ksheera Bhagya scheme, in the context of loss of livelihoods and incomes due to the pandemic and lockdown, is going to worsen nutritional health of the children.
Keeping the seriousness of the issue, a group of citizens has sent a representation to the Chief Minister appealing for resumption of the Ksheera Bhagya Scheme. They have pointed out that the Karnataka Milk Federation has surplus stocks which could be used to provide some relief to school-going children through Ksheera Bhagya Scheme. These minimal measures to ensure nutritional health should be seen as a necessary step to keep the children of Karnataka safe from COVID and other illnesses. The epidemic of child malnutrition in Karnataka needs as much urgency as the fight against COVID-19. Inspite of India being one of the highest milk producing nation in the world, it is a pity that this is being denied to children.
- The Times of India, “Activists: Restart milk scheme in Bengaluru“, Dec 03, 2020.
- Edexlive, “Children in Karnataka have been denied milk for six months, reveals RTI“, Dec 03, 2020.