Kumarasami Kamaraj was a politician in India in the 1950's and 60's. He was the chief minister (Equivalent of a Governor in the US) for three terms from 1954 to 1963. His top priority was education.
Kamaraj pioneered a system that led to huge education advances for Indian children that extended beyond his lifetime. Under his leadership, the government opened 12,000 new schools and made sure that no village was left without a primary school. And the whole thing centered around one program that was put in place in the schools: the mid-day meal.
Poverty was rampant in that area, and people avoided sending their children to school because they could make them earn money instead of going to school.Kamaraj realized that, if those children could get one good meal at school, it would be worth it to the parents to send them instead.
It worked. When the British ruled the area, education was at 7 percent. Under Kamaraj, it increased to 37%. There are millions of children who have an education in India today because of the introduction of the mid-day meal. Kamaraj was very popular, and his creation has lasted ever since.
That is why people in India were so shocked last week when dozens of children fell violently ill in India's eastern Bihar province. Immediately after eating their mid-day meal, the symptoms began, including diarrhea and vomiting. Soon 23 children were dead.
ABC News confirms that autopsy reports showed insecticide had been placed inside food. Officials believe the cooking oil had been placed in a container formerly used to store insecticides. All of the dead children were between the ages of 5 and 12.
Shortly after the incident, the school's female principal, Meena Kumari, went into hiding. The police found out that one of the school's cooks had suspected something wrong with the food, but the principal ordered her to continue cooking. They went to arrest Meena Kumari.
In India, if you are in hiding from an arrest, your property can be seized by the police. They posted a notice on Kumari's door to that effect. She soon turned herself in. It was learned that the food had been purchased at a store owned by Kumari's husband. And there is even suspicion that the poisonings were politically motivated. Kumari's husband is a member of a local opposition party. He has been at large ever since.