The Rajasthan government’s new flagship Annapurna Milk Scheme for supplying milk thrice in a week to about 62 lakh children studying in the State-run schools is set to increase the burden on teachers, who are already performing a number of tasks in addition to their main work of imparting education.Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje launched the scheme at the Government Model Senior Secondary School at Dahmi Kalan, near here, on Monday, barely five months before the Assembly elections due later this year. The scheme is considered one of the biggest ones initiated by the BJP government. Ms. Raje affirmed at the launch ceremony that the Annapura Scheme would lay the foundation for the State’s happy and healthy future. “Every child in the government schools will get fresh, pure and nutritious warm milk three days a week. This will improve nutritional levels among children and help increase enrolments,” she said.Women’s cooperativesThe Chief Minister said the women’s milk producers’ cooperative societies would be entrusted with the task of supplying milk to schools. “This will ensure good quality of milk, as mothers do not compromise on the quality of their children’s milk,” Ms. Raje remarked.62 lakh studentsUnder the scheme to be implemented with a budget allocation of ₹218 crore, about 62 lakh students in 66,506 government schools will be provided warm milk as part of the mid-day meals. Students till Class V will get 150 ml of warm milk thrice a week, while those studying in Classes VI to VIII will get 200 ml.Teachers of government schools will be involved in the purchase of milk from the milk cooperative societies and distribution to the students. With crucial questions on the flagship scheme’s proper implementation coming up, the Rajasthan Shikshak Sangh (Shekhawat) said while the schools were understaffed, the teachers would be “overburdened” with new responsibilities.“The milk will be served without sugar because no extra budget has been allotted for it. The teachers will be burdened with the additional work of storing and boiling the milk. It will affect the standard of education and may lead to dropout of students,” Shikshak Sangh spokesperson Prakash Mishra said.Perishable itemSince milk is a perishable item and there is an inadequate infrastructure in the schools, the teachers will be unwilling to take on the extra responsibility. Mr. Mishra said the scheme would in fact encourage privatisation of education, as the Right to Education Act was being violated “with impunity” in the State.
The long-awaited cabinet reshuffle is now imminent. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday met President Pratibha Patil and sought time to expand his council of ministers.File photo of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with President Pratibha Patil.Sources say Jyotiraditya Scindia could take over as Minister of State for External Affairs, a position lying vacant since the exit of Shashi Tharoor.Rajiv Shukla could be brought in as MoS Parliamentary Affairs.K. Rahman Khan, currently the deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha, could take over as the Minority Affairs Minister.Salman Khurshid could be elevated to a cabinet post.Sharad Pawar’s request of being divested of Food and Civil Supplies portfolio could also be taken up in this reshuffle.Kapil Sibal is likely to retain the Communications and Information Technology portfolio.It remains to be known who will be the replacement for Prithviraj Chavan as the Minister of State in the PMO.The challengesThe prime minister may utilise the opportunity to regain the lost momentum by bringing in new faces in his cabinet. He has met Congress President Sonia Gandhi more than twice in the last one week to chalk out the entire exercise.The coalition compulsions for the prime minister are many. On the one hand the DMK is pushing for T.R. Baalu’s re-induction into the cabinet in place of A. Raja, while on the other the NCP wants Praful Patel, currently the minister of state for civil aviation with an independent charge, to be elevated to cabinet rank.advertisementBut the Prime Minister is likely to assert his authority and even show the door to some of his colleagues.Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister C.P. Joshi could get the boot.B.K. Handique and Virbhadra Singh could also be eased out owing to their advanced age.Even Sports Minister M.S. Gill could be replaced.Sources told Headlines Today that I&B Minister Ambika Soni and Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad could also be interested in party work.The Prime Minister is likely to bring in more representation from states like Uttar Pradesh, which has sent 22 MPs to the Parliament, but doesn’t have a single cabinet minister.