1. Buttermilk in school midday meals The Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDMS, as it is officially called) is the largest school feeding scheme in the world. K Kamaraj, the last of the Congress titans in Tamil Nadu began this in the late 1960s – when he was chief minister – along with free education. It was a super success, attracting far more underprivileged children to school than ever before. MGR, when he was Tamil Nadu chief minister in the late 1970s and early 1980s, added to the menu and named the scheme after himself.
2.Saturday as sports day in schools India has not been a sports superpower. Parents tend to look down on sport, encouraging children to focus on the non-physical. India speaks of engineers, doctors, politicians, lawyers, journalists and business administrators, not sportspeople. This robs the country of A-list status at sport in contrast to the US, Russia, China, Japan, the UK and Germany – all of whom are powerful nations at geopolitics and sports. Lack of sports activity also hurts fitness levels of Indians.
3. Separate schools for the talented This is another topnotch move from Smriti Irani that puts the focus on talent. In the past, governments have worked on a concept of model schools. The idea was to have better schools for brighter children. Typically, it didn’t take off. The UPA government tried to get the private sector into it, saying the government would run 3500 such model schools and also help private players run another 2500 schools. Even then the private sector stayed inert.
4. 9 am start to workday All people who have achieved greatness started their day even earlier. Governments in tropical nations like India shouldn’t have trouble beginning early but it needed Modi to crack the whip. He had to formally instruct government employees that the day begins at 9am. It has improved since, although still far from ideal. Urban development minister Venkaiah Naidu and environment minister Prakash Javadekar, for instance, found on inspection many staff members not in office even by 11am.
5.Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Campaign) This is a masterstroke from Modi. It connects him with Mahatma Gandhi in public memory and it gives unhygienic Indians something to act on. Filth is a prime issue in India and Modi has given it the primacy it needed. There is, however, a tendency to misread daily hygiene. Sweeping, mopping, dusting and washing help improve thought and action in daily routine. It has nothing to do with, for instance, the Bhopal gas tragedy. That is an industrial disaster which involves policy.