January 17, 2018: Today is the 101st birthday of the late Dr M G Ramachandran, former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Dr MGR was not only a great institution builder but also a humanist. He has left his footprint in the sands of time in many areas. I would like to cite one example based on my personal experience. When he was Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu in the early 80s, he prepared a proposal for a Universal Nutritious Noon-Meal programme to be operated in all the government schools of Tamil Nadu. At the time he came up with his proposal to the Union Planning Commission, I was the Acting Deputy Chairman. He mentioned the idea to me before the formal meeting of the Planning Commission, since he expected some reservation due to cost consideration on the part of some members of the Planning Commission.
He narrated to me his background. He said that, when he was young, he went to school partially hungry since his family was poor. Due to hunger, he could not concentrate on what the teacher was saying. He realised that hunger affects badly the cognitive abilities of a child. He therefore told me that when he is Chief Minister of the State, he would like to ensure that no student remains hungry in the school. This was the genesis of the universal nutritious noon meal programme. He further mentioned that a school noon meal programme will help to attract and retain girl students from economically backward families. I was moved by his concerns, which lead to a very important public policy decision involving a considerable amount of money. We need leaders of this kind if we have to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor in the field of education. First generation learners and girls in particular need special attention. This is the legacy left behind by Dr MGR which we should take as a guideline in our desire to build a happy and healthy country.
( Pic credit of Dr MGR: Frontline)