Schools in Goa are set to re-open for the new academic year next week but the State government's failure to pay up last year's bills may leave thousands of students without their entitled mid-day meal as dozens of self-help groups have threatened not to supply the meals if their pending bills are not cleared.
Payments aggregating a whopping Rs 13-odd crore of some 100-plus SHGs engaged to provide the mid-day meals in schools across Goa are said to be pending.
On Friday, representatives of these SHGs met Director of Education Shailesh Zingde to pursue their pending payments but were told that the Central component of the funds had not come.
According to these SHG representatives, many of them had not been paid for over six months. They said, they have now told the department that they will stop the mid-day meal supply to schools on July 1 if the payments are not made by then.
"As schools are starting from June 5, we don’t want to inconvenience students. We will supply mid-day meals for now but will discontinue from July 1 if the payments don't come," they have warned the department.
They said, when their delegation went and met Zingde, the latter assured them that their bills will be cleared soon.
Zingde meanwhile claimed that the Central government's component of the mid-day meal fund had not yet been received by the State.
"I have asked that the State's share be released first,” Zingde said while speaking to the media.
According to Zingde, the mid-day meal funds had got exhausted but if the State's share comes within the next 15 to 20 days, almost all the bills can be cleared.
The DoE also claimed that a meeting with the authorities dealing with the matter from the Central government was held earlier this week and expressed confidence that the issue will be resolved soon.
Non-payment of their bills periodically and regularly, is a common complaint of the mid-day meal suppliers to schools across the State. On several occasions in the recent past, these suppliers which are mostly self-help groups, have temporarily discontinued supplies when the erratic cash flows left them high and dry for raw material supplies.