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Biscuits may be served under mid-day meal

Prasad Nichenametla  |  New Delhi 

The country's Rs 6,000-crore biscuit industry is trying to double its market share by offering to supply biscuits to schoolchildren under the government's mid-day meal scheme (MDMS). The Budget allocation for the scheme in 2007-08 is Rs 7,324 crore.
The Indian Biscuit Manufacturers' Association (IBMA), based in New Delhi, has proposed this to the human resource development ministry.
"As is evident, the cooked-meal programme has not shown the desired results. There are also problems of cooking and hygiene. What we have proposed to the ministry is to supply biscuits that are ready to eat, hygienic and nutritious," BP Agarwal, president, IBMA, told Business Standard.
IBMA has sought an appointment with HRD Minister Arjun Singh to explain the proposal.
"We sent a formal proposal in November and expect to meet the minister next week. We are capable of supplying the required quantity all over the country through our associated federations. The IBMA will act as the nodal agency and ensure quality," said KP Mohan Das, secretary, IBMA.
But a Supreme Court order that children should be served only cooked meals can be a hurdle to the plan.
"We know biscuits do not form part of the meals. But we are trying to show that biscuits can be a good alternative," he said.
According to Das, the IBMA is an association of about 1,500 (direct and indirect) biscuit manufacturers. "At present, the biscuit industry has a market of around Rs 6,000 crore and the organised industry produces about 1.7 million tonnes of biscuits every year," he said.
HRD ministry officials confirmed receiving the proposal. When asked about the Supreme Court directive, they said the idea was only at the proposal stage.
The scheme provides free mid-day meals in schools to children till Class V.
According to the ministry, the estimated countrywide coverage under the MDMS for 2006-07 was 119.8 million children in 990,000 government, government-aided primary schools and other education centres.
This year, the programme would also cover children till upper primary sections in 3,479 educationally-backward blocks of the country. The government proposes to extend the scheme to upper primary classes all over the country in 2008-09.

First Published: Wed, December 12 2007. 00:00 IST