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Priyanka joins Rahul on free meal recce

Bangalore, Oct. 21: After a scan of the infotech sector, Rahul Gandhi was today joined by sister Priyanka and her husband in pursuit of information of a different kind.

The trio wanted to figure out the key areas of hygienic food and healthcare in remote areas, more precisely mid-day meal scheme for schoolchildren and tele-medicine.

So Rahul, Priyanka and Robert Vadra zeroed in on Iskcon's Akshay Patra scheme for 100,000 poor children in schools here and neighbouring areas.

They observed how large quantities of food are cooked and transported to schools in time for the lunch break and followed the food flow down to its arrival at a primary school in one of Bangalore's slums.

The success of such a free-meal scheme had caught the eye of President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, prompting a visit to Iskcon this July.

Rahul later got a low-down on the concept of telemedicine and the network of 14 superspeciality hospitals linked by the Indian Space Research Organisation to 50 remote medical centres through Insat satellites. It has facilitated over 13,000 teleconsultations in cardiology, paediatrics, neurology and nephrology.

Rahul said his private visit to Bangalore helped him acquire 'valuable insight into the IT sector and its contributions'. He had on Tuesday toured top IT companies and ended the day with a dinner meeting with CEOs and the director of IIM, Bangalore.

Asked if they had complained about infrastructure bottlenecks in the city, the first-time Congress MP said: 'There is pressure on infrastructure.'

But he added 'I am no one to suggest' remedial steps to the Congress-led state government.

Rahul said he was particularly impressed with Bhoomi, a project for computerisation of land records and taxation in rural areas (introduced by the previous S.M. Krishna government), and would strive to replicate it in his constituency of Amethi with help from the Uttar Pradesh government.

'I will focus on development of Amethi for the next six months. I cannot plan major IT projects in my constituency though some schools do use computers.'

On the last day of his visit, Rahul's party workers managed to get his attention. About 30 Congress legislators, including Tejaswini Sriramesh, MP, spent 30 minutes discussing the Congress's failure to win a simple majority in the Assembly polls here this year.

'We spoke about ways of strengthening the party here and elsewhere. It is obvious that the party's shortcomings were discussed in Karnataka,' Rahul said.

Only one veteran leader managed a meeting with the trio: former chief minister S.M. Krishna, who played host at a dinner. He did not take calls from the media today.

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