Chennai: “Every student shall enter classrooms with their stomachs full through this scheme,” declared Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin while unveiling a free breakfast scheme in Government schools for students of classes 1 to 5 on Thursday.
The breakfast scheme, an expansion of Tamil Nadu’s pioneering noon meal scheme replicated in other States, is not a freebie, the Chief Minister said, against the backdrop of the recent debate in the Supreme Court on State-sponsored welfare measures.
“In fact, it is the foremost duty and responsibility of a State Government to ensure its children are fed. Such schemes are the face of a Government,” he said while launching the scheme at the Adhimoolam Corporation Primary School in Madurai.
Stalin recalled that while interacting with students recently in Chennai, he had asked them why they appeared tired and if they had eaten food.
“The students said they usually don’t eat in the morning, which struck a chord. Many officials and teachers confirmed this was the case. This led to the birth of the free breakfast scheme. Every student shall enter classrooms with their stomachs full through this scheme,” he said.
A sum of Rs 12.75 will be spent on a child everyday under the breakfast scheme.
“In my view, money spent on schemes benefitting education and health sectors is beyond critical lenses,” Stalin said. He reminded the students education is the only asset that cannot be snatched from anyone and urged them to study without worry.
“I am here to back you,” he said.
From Friday, free breakfast would be served to over one lakh students in 1,545 schools across Tamil Nadu daily.
On the menu for the launch breakfast, which the Chief Minister also partook with the children, was a serving of vegetable rava kichadi, rava kesari (sweet) and sambar. This would be the menu for Thursdays, with a different combo for each of the other four working days.
Stalin noted that Tamil Nadu had such a scheme a century ago. Justice Party doyen P Theagaraya Chetty, who was then President of the Madras Corporation (Mayor), had 102 years ago rolled out a scheme to provide tiffin to students.
Over decades, the scheme was improvised under different Chief Ministers. Former Congress veteran and Chief Minister K Kamaraj had introduced mid-day meals for primary schools.
In the 1980s, Chief Minister M G Ramachandran (AIADMK) had introduced a scheme to cook noon meal in schools. Later Governments headed by M Karunanidhi (DMK) and J Jayalalithaa (AIADMK) had added eggs, nutritious ball and variety rice to the meal.
On the occasion, Stalin honoured Kamalathal, an aged woman who sells idlis for just 1 rupee at her shop in Coimbatore.