Kerala Kaumudi Online
Monday, 20 May 2024 1.48 PM IST

Kerala govt should take note of MGR's 'prophetic' words


The news about the state's midday meal scheme reaching court is painful and embarrassing. The burden of taking the scheme running has fallen on the poor teachers of primary schools, who themselves are struggling to make ends meet. In February and March alone, the government has created an arrear of Rs 110 crores.

Even the wages of cooks remain unpaid. The Kerala Private Primary Headmasters Association has approached the High Court saying that it is difficult to move forward with the scheme. It has now turned into a practice for the teachers to spend from their pocket, or else plead money from others to keep the scheme from going redundant. The teacher’s organization from the opposition party has also extended support to the case.

There are around 30 lakh students up to eighth standard in government and aided schools, who avail the benefits of the scheme. The midday meal scheme was introduced as a pilot project by Tamil Nadu, which gained massive popularity, only to be emulated later by all other states.

The scheme started during the Chief Ministership of K. Kamaraj which was later upgraded to Nutrition Scheme for School Students in 1982 during the Chief Ministership of MG Ramachandran. It was during this time that the Finance Department expressed concern about the liability this would entail, but MGR, a vital voice of the downtrodden, was not ready to succumb to such challenges and made a stern order to his officials to not ever back out from the project that helps in the nutrition of school students.

The mid-day meal scheme was started in Kerala in 1984. The government will supply the necessary domestic goods required for the meal, and it is the onus of the headmistress and the teachers within the school to ensure that the cooking is hygienic and all students are being benefitted.

The scheme should not be viewed as a mere food distribution ritual. Think about the situation in tribal sections. Those students don’t have the luxury of taking meals to school and thus rely on the midday meal scheme. People from tribal sects, others from financially affected families and many other children from various social ladders sit together to eat the midday meal from school in sheer joy. The food, the prattle and the friendship give an egalitarian message to the society.

Don't forget that the school lunch scheme is quietly helping extinguish the embers of inferiority and is also sprinkling the elixir of equality in society. The government is currently mired in a crippling economy. However, it is no good reason to suddenly call a stop to one of the much-needed egalitarian projects of the state. Remember the words of MGR: Don't delay the issue of children's midday meal. You just have to find the amount somehow.

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