The West Bengal government has decided to introduce chicken and seasonal fruits in mid-day meals in state-run schools from January to April, said an official notification issued on Tuesday.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has claimed that the mid-day meal menu has been revised in view of the the upcoming panchayat elections, which are likely to be held in April-May.

According to the official notification issued by the School Education Department, Rs 371 crore has been allocated to serve chicken and fruits weekly. This is in addition to the existing mid-day meal menu of rice, pulses, vegetables, soybean and eggs, PTI reported.

Rs 20 will be spent per week on providing additional nutrition to every student enrolled in the mid-day meal scheme, now known as Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman. This will continue for 16 weeks, the notification said.

In West Bengal, more than 1.16 crore students in state-run and aided schools are beneficiaries of the mid-day meal scheme. While the state and Centre share the cost of Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman on a 60:40 ratio, the additional allocation of Rs 371 crore will be borne entirely by the West Bengal government, the notification said.

An unidentified school department official told PTI that no decision has been taken on whether the additional diet would be continued after April.

BJP leader Rahul Sinha questioned why the Mamata Banerjee-led government “all of a sudden” introduced chicken and fruits in the mid-day meal scheme.

“Why were poor children deprived of these items and only given rice and lentils till recently?” he asked. “The decision smacks of a political motive to secure votes as panchayat polls are around the corner.”

However, Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MP Santanu Sen said his party always stands by the side of the citizens and the move “reaffirms that fact”, PTI reported.

He added: “Trinamool Congress is a people-centric party, unlike the BJP which wants to do politics on every issue. During the Covid pandemic and lockdown, our state ensured that children were not deprived of mid-day meals and distributed rice, pulses, potato, soybean regularly from school buildings. Despite difficulties, we did not shut down mid-day meals.”