Distribution of bread will continue: Lakshminarayanan

Pondicherry Nov. 24. Ever since the introduction of the breakfast scheme, named after Rajiv Gandhi, in Pondicherry, it has become a subject for gossip. With children falling ill sporadically after taking dishes served at the schools, the scheme serves more as an embarrassment to the Education Department and the Education Minister, K. Lakshminarayanan, in particular, than the purpose for which it has been launched.

Nine students of the Vallalar Government School at Lawspet near here were admitted to the Government Hospital for stomach pain and nausea on Saturday after they consumed bread supplied under the scheme. All of them were safe and seven were discharged within a few hours of admission.

Mr. Lakshminarayanan, during his visit to the children's ward at the hospital, reportedly mentioned that the scheme was launched with a good intention but hurdles in its way had been causing pinpricks to the Government. The Minister was practically in no mood and kept moving from one ward to another to know the condition of the children. He, however, made it clear that the distribution of bread would continue.

The Education Minister repeatedly maintained that the bread distributed by a government-owned corporation was being tested after a formal tasting by the staff in each school as per the guidelines. It was informally discussed by the Minister with officials at the hospital on Saturday whether biscuits could be supplied for bread. A thorough review of the scheme would be done, according to sources.

The scheme, launched on August 14 by the AICC president, Sonia Gandhi, suffered a setback within the month as about 1000 children from number of government schools fell ill on September 5, necessitating suspension of the scheme and also dissolution of the Board of Directors of Pondicherry Cooperative Milk Producers Union.

The Administration restarted it with supply of bread alone last month. It was introduced with an annual investment of nearly Rs. 9 crores to benefit children up to standard VIII.