After inaugurating the breakfast scheme for government school students of classes I to V, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin said that the scheme “will remain in the golden pages of history and bring positive changes in the lives of my people”, in an opinion piece for The Hindu on Friday, September 16. The Chief Minister's breakfast scheme was launched by Stalin earlier on Thursday at the Aathimoolam Corporation Primary School in Simmakkal, Madurai. Stalin had first announced the scheme in the Tamil Nadu Assembly on May 7 this year, on the occasion of completing one year in office. In Tamil, the scheme is named "Mudalamaicharin Kalai Unavu Thittam (Chief Minister's Breakfast Scheme)."
In his article in The Hindu detailing the necessity and history behind the breakfast scheme, Stalin wrote that "the Athimoolam (root cause) of the problems faced by the suppressed and marginalised people in the society must be identified and suitable remedies be provided,” adding that this was the reason the scheme was launched at the Aathimoolam Primary School. He also noted that it was exactly 102 years ago, on September 16, that Justice Party leader Sir Pitti Thiagarayar passed a resolution to introduce the mid-day meal scheme for children in Chennai Corporation.
Research shows that providing breakfast in schools improves students’ learning ability and attendance, Stalin said, adding that the demand for breakfast schemes has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic. The Chief Minister further mentioned that he was following in the path of EV Ramasamy (Popularly known as Periyar), CN Annadurai, and M Karunanidhi, who believed neither poverty nor caste should be an obstacle to one's education.
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The history of providing food to school children in Tamil Nadu was also detailed in the article. Stalin highlighted the contribution of Tamil intellectual and anti-caste visionary Iyothee Thass Pandithar, recalling that he was the one who first expressed the idea of providing food to school children along with education. "In the early period of 1900, he sowed the seed for the idea of providing mid-day meals in the Olcott Memorial schools in Chennai region. A few months before India’s independence, the meal scheme was discontinued by the British government citing financial crisis," the article reads.
Around 1.14 lakh children in Classes 1 to 5 in 1,545 government primary schools will benefit from the scheme in the academic year 2022-23. Noting that the government will bear a cost of Rs.12.75 per day per child for the scheme, Stalin wrote, “I quote the ‘cost’ in administrative terminology. In fact, it is not an expenditure; it is the duty of our government.” A total of 25,769 students of 117 primary schools run by the Chennai Corporation are eligible for the scheme.
The first phase of the scheme is being rolled out in primary schools located in Tiruvottiyur, Madhavaram, Tondiarpet and Royapuram zones in North Chennai, in which 37 schools have been identified for the scheme. As of now, 5,941 students in North Chennai will benefit from the scheme, which is expected to be launched in all the primary schools in Chennai within a month.
Stalin recalled in the article that the mid-day meal scheme was started in 1956 when Kamarajar was the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, and implemented by the then Director of Public Education NT Sundaravadivelu despite strong opposition from a few officials. Later, in 1971, under Karunanidhi's regime, the scheme was enhanced further as the Nutritional Meals Programme, which provided nutritional meals to children and pregnant mothers, Stalin wrote. He also noted the contribution of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) supremo MG Ramachandran and former CM Jayalalithaa – great rivals of the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) – for their contribution in carrying the nutrition schemes forward.