Stalin launches initiative expanding breakfast scheme, blames BJP over NEET, NEP

PTI, Aug 25, 2023, 5:39 PM IST

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin launched here on Friday the expansion of the state government’s breakfast scheme for primary school children across the State.

Without naming the BJP-led union government, he slammed it for ‘betrayal’ over the National Education Policy and NEET. With the expansion, about 17 lakh students in all the 31,008 state-run primary schools would be benefited. When Stalin inaugurated the initiative last year, 1.14 lakh students in Classes 1 to 5 studying in 1,545 government primary schools were covered under the scheme.

After serving food to children at the Panchayat Union Middle School in Tirukkuvalai, marking the inauguration of the expansion of the scheme, Stalin said the plan is launched in the primary school where former chief minister, the late M Karunanidhi studied and the day is a golden day. ”Though several welfare schemes have been implemented after I took over as chief minister, this breakfast scheme gives me a satisfaction,” he said and quoted a verse from Tamil epic Manimekalai which meant giving food is equivalent to giving life. ”The Dravidian model regime is working as a life-giving government.” Reformist leader Periyar E V Ramasamy, Dravidian icons C N Annadurai and Karunanidhi had said nothing -be it poverty or caste- should be an obstacle to access education. ”I am following their footsteps and fulfilling their dreams.” Stalin said the DMK regime is guided by the ideal of social justice taking all kinds of knowledge to all communities unlike the Guru Dronacharya–Ekalavya episode of Mahabaratha. ”Still there are some betrayal gurus who are placing barrier walls in the name of National Education Policy and NEET,” Stalin said. The Chief Minister asserted that ”this is the time of Ekalavya and not Dronacharya, everyone will get everything, this is the time of Dravidian ideology reigning supreme.” In Chennai, his son and cabinet minister Udhayanidhi Stalin launched the scheme’s expansion. Elected representatives belonging to the ruling DMK, allies including Congress inaugurated the scheme in their constituencies. Tracing the origin and upgradation of the free meal scheme in schools in Tamil Nadu, the CM said Thiagarayar, chief of Justice Party, the parent outfit of the Dravidian movement launched the mid-day meal plan in 1922 in one school, the Chennai’s Thousand Lights Corporation School.

In 1955, former chief minister K Kamaraj launched the full-fledged scheme and the DMK regime came up with additional nutrition plan –by providing ”baby bread”– and upgraded it in 1971 during Karunanidhi’s tenure as CM. In 1975, Karunanidhi implemented the Integrated Nutrition Scheme and it was further expanded by late Chief Minister M G Ramachandran during his tenure (1977-87).

In 1989, Karunanidhi provided egg to children and later banana, boiled pulsesentils\potatoes were served to students who did not prefer egg. Sweet pongal was also provided on the birth anniversaries of leaders. During late J Jayallithaa’s regime further ‘variety rice’ was added. ”All these schemes were mid-day meal schemes, right from the Justice Party’s regime that began in 1921 and till 2021 (AIADMK government till April that year).” Stalin said the breakfast scheme was implemented by him after his interaction with students of a government girls school in Chennai, where many had not taken food before attending classes. ”Though officials cited financial burden, I told them that there cannot be a more important thing than this and directed them to implement the breakfast scheme.” Also, a study was conducted which revealed anemia among many students and hence the breakfast scheme was implemented with care. ”I would like to mention the fund allocation for the breakfast scheme as investment, which will be profitable to the country in the form of talent, skill and ability.” Five objectives of the scheme are to ensure children attend school without hunger, see that there is no nutrition deficiency, no anemia, increased attendance and reducing the burden of working women. ”Our goal is to see that all the five objectives are fulfilled. We will achieve our goal. There is no doubt. The future Tamil society is set to be benefited.” He also referred to a state initiative to address nutrition deficiency among children below six years of age and underscored that about 62,000 children out of 92,000 witnessed significant improvement following provision of nutritious food items. The government is for all those people who are helpless. The CM requested officials and staff involved in food preparation and serving it to children to implement the scheme with care and affection. He urged students to concentrate on studies. The Chief Minister joined the children for breakfast and interacted with them. In his address, Stalin listed welfare schemes like fare-free travel for women in government town buses, Rs 1,000 assistance to girl students and the Rs 1,000 basic income scheme for women, set to be launched on September 15.

Stalin had earlier said order had been issued on June 7, 2023 to extend the breakfast scheme to all the 31,008 government primary schools, across urban and rural Tamil Nadu, aimed at benefiting 15.75 lakh primary students.

The government has embarked on expansion considering the excellent outcome witnessed in the preliminary phase. Stalin had days ago invited elected representatives to launch the plan’s extension in a government primary school in their respective constituencies.

The DMK has all along been opposing NEET and NEP maintaining that it is against social justice, state autonomy and poor and rural students. The test and policy went against the interests of those belonging to the oppressed and backward sections as well. In his Independence Day address, the CM had announced the free breakfast scheme’s expansion. On September 15, 2022, Stalin launched the breakfast scheme’s initial phase in Madurai.

Tirukkuvalai in Nagappatinam district, about 23 km from Tiruvarur, is the native place of Karunanidhi.

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