“Meals," says the girl.
“Who gave this to you?" the mother asks.
“Mukhya Mantri (chief minister)," the child replies.
The interaction takes place in a video, which has gone viral in Kerala.
It is emblematic of how the public is lapping up the Kerala government’s initiative to deliver mid-day meals to homes with nursery-class students.
The children are at home because schools have been shut down for the month of March because of the coronavirus epidemic.
Kerala has one of the most successful mid-day meal schemes in the country, partly the result of long-running welfare policies that form the core of its budgets.
The idea is that the state should feed school-going children from nursery classes to class VII, something that also acts as an incentive for children from unprivileged families to attend school.
Typically, the supplies to homes consist of rice, pulses vegetables, eggs, banana and the biweekly 150ml of milk. A plan to include fruits is also underway.
Kerala allocated 14.6% of its budget, or ₹20,862 crore, to education in 2020-21.
The move to continue midday meals was discussed at the same special cabinet meeting on Tuesday, wherein chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced his decision to shut down schools.
Kerala has the largest number of Covid-19 cases in India at 22, including three who recovered fully.
The state’s Left-leaning cabinet came up with another out-of-the-box idea: It has decided to ask technology companies to augment broadband internet strength since thousands of people are expected to be under home quarantine or in isolation wards in hospitals.
The moves have been praised by many social media users. Some have been quick to contrast Kerala initiatives with Minnesota representative Ilhan Omar’s fight to continue subsidized school meals during coronavirus-related school closures in the US.
“Kerala, a state of 34m in southern India, is now home-delivering midday meals to pupils whose schools have been shut due to COVID-19. Somehow between tracing contacts, quarantining people, and slowing the spread of the virus, their Communist-led government thought of this, too," tweeted Saugato Datta, managing director of New York-based non-profit Ideas42, which uses insights from behavioural economics to find solutions to social problems.
Datta quoted a tweet by Omar about her introducing a bill in the US House of Representatives that seeks uninterrupted continuation of the mid-day meals scheme.
Meanwhile, back in Kerala, students are also making use of school closure to spread awareness about the virus. In several parts of the state, schoolchildren are participating in door-to-door campaigns and making videos to spread awareness about the dos and don’ts in order to check the spread of the virus.
“Ni poda corona viruse, ninak ene onum cheyan patila (Get lost you coronavirus, you can’t do anything to me)," said Neeraj, a lower kindergarten (LKG) student in Thattathumala, Thiruvananthapuram, in a two-part awareness video, which, too, has gone viral. The videos, directed by his brother Niranjan, who is a class VIII student of the same school, show the need to properly wash hands using soap, with doses of humour and punchy dialogue.
When his mother warns him to not play in the water, he counters: “Ingane kalichilenkil pani kittum amme (If I don’t play like this, there will be trouble mom)".
The video was shared by Kerala’s finance minister Thomas Isaac with a note: “Even small children are joining in our fight against corona."