DMK says socio-economic development initiatives cannot be called ‘free’

It is unacceptable to regard as “gratuitous” initiatives aimed at the socio-economic development of the backward, the most backward and all marginalized layers of society, the DMK said on Sunday.

Tamil Nadu’s ruling party, which knocked on the doors of the Supreme Court in the case against the gifts, said the use of the word “gifts” is wrong, inappropriate and unacceptable. The organizing secretary of DMK, RS Bharathi, who is the petitioner, said that the core of the ideology of the Dravidian movement is the socio-economic upliftment of the backward, most backward and all other oppressed layers of the society.

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Tracing the origin and rise of the Dravidian movement from the days of the Justice Party about a century ago, Bharathi said PTI that opening access to education to marginalized and backward people was the first step taken by the stalwart of the Justice Party (JP) Thiagarayar (1852-1925). The JP leader made education, books and lunch available to students for free. “It encouraged students to go to school. How can you call such initiatives free? Such initiatives evolved over time. The lunch program eventually turned into a nutritious meal program. Now our Chief Minister, Deputy Stalin, has launched the breakfast program for schoolchildren.”

Only such programs have broken down social barriers and opened up access to education for the backward classes and others, which was once only available to a small part of the population, he said. Education was made available free up to SSLC level during the time of former Chief Minister K Kamaraj. When DMK’s founder, CN Annadurai, took office, he ensured that it was open to students at no cost up to pre-university level.

“When Kalaignar (former Chief Minister M Karunanidhi) became Chief Minister, it was extended to graduation level. This enabled students from backward classes and oppressed sections of society to continue their studies. “Take the aid package of Rs 1,000 announced by our CM Stalin for female students, it is female empowerment; it was the dream of social justice icon Periyar EV Ramasamy and forms the foundation of Dravidian ideology,” he said.

Referring to the socio-economic conditions and the cases of women marrying at a young age avoiding higher education, Bharathi said that this assistance program would undoubtedly encourage families to send girls to university. Obtaining a degree would help girls seek employment and be financially independent, he said.

The government had announced that all female students studying in grades 6 to 12 in public schools would be paid Rs 1,000 per month directly into their bank account until the uninterrupted completion of their undergraduate, diploma and ITI courses . Students would be eligible for this scheme in addition to other scholarships, the government had said.

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Through this scheme, about 6 lakh female students could potentially benefit every year. For this new scheme, Rs 698 crore has been allocated in the state budget (2022-23). This year, the Moovalur Ramamirtham Ammaiyar Memorial Marriage Assistance Scheme was transformed into the Moovalur Ramamirtham Ammaiyar Higher Education Assurance Scheme. Bharathi gave another example of providing color TVs to beneficiaries under the previous DMK regime (2006-11) led by Karunanidhi.

“With the implementation of this program, one could find televisions in the huts. In the past, they would stand in front of the houses that had televisions to watch some of their favorite shows. He (the beneficiary) cannot afford to ‘to buy a television. Therefore, it was given to her for free. It was absolutely not a gift.”

The DMK’s organizing secretary said his party was fully committed to social equality. However, those who bet on “Manu Dharma” which divides people into four classes cannot understand equality, he said. Therefore, labeling initiatives aimed at the socio-economic development of the backward classes, the most backward, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, as “free” went against lofty principles of social justice, he said.