In 2015, Chhattisgarh government under the BJP rule had decided to remove eggs from the menu of mid-day meals and argued for it to be replaced by vegetarian substitute. However, in January this year, the newly elected Congress Government re-introduced eggs in mid-day meals for government schools and anganwadis. Chhattisgarh’s health indicators have been among the worst in the country and about 38% of children under the age 14 are malnourished, while the rate is 44% among the tribal children.
The issue now has triggered a new controversy in the state as Hindu vegetarian groups such as Kabirpanthis, Radha Swami, Gayatri Pariwar, Jains etc are opposing the decision and had earlier staged protests; while the opposition led by BJP has also demanded the eggs to be removed from the menu calling it threat to “harmony” of the state.
Following these oppositions, the state government on 17 July issued new directions for “special arrangements.” According to a news report, The Department Of School Education in its new order has given directions to the district collectors that “Eggs should be cooked separately and while serving meals, separate sitting arrangement should be made for vegetarian students.” The new order also stated that “if vegetarian parents do not want their children to be served eggs in mid-day meals at school, then authorities should arrange to provide it at home to students whose families have no objection to it.”
Following these row of incidents, a collective of various NGOs, civil society groups issued a statement demanding the inclusion of eggs in mid-day meals of government schools and anganwadis. The press release has been reproduced below :
The situation of child malnutrition in Chhattisgarh is extremely grave. Government surveys find that 38% of children in Chhattisgarh are malnourished (NFHS-4). The malnutrition percentage is higher, i.e.44%, among children belonging to the Scheduled Tribe category. Among poor families almost every second child is malnourished. Malnutrition has an adverse effect on the learning capabilities of children.
Eggs are an excellent source of protein for growing children. Eggs contain and can provide most of the nutrients needed in a nutritious diet, with the exception of Vitamin C and few others. Eggs are popular, delicious and considered safe to eat.
As per government surveys like SRS 2014, more than 83% people in Chhattisgarh consume eggs. The proportion of children who eat non-vegetarian food would be higher among those children going to government schools and anganwadi centres. Therefore,eggs are an excellent optionfor adding high protein-rich food in government programs. For several years now, more than 15 states in India have been providing eggs in their midday meal and anganwadi centres. This includes neighbouring states like Odisha, Jharkhand, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
While including eggs in government programs, the sensitivities of those parents who do not want their children to consume eggs,need to be considered. There should be provision of milk, banana or any other vegetarian option for these children. In fact, the Chhattisgarh government order released in January about giving eggs in mid-day meals also mentions that there should be alternative vegetarian food items in the menu for those who do not eat eggs. Thereforethe protest by a few people against the provision of eggs in midday meal and anganwadis is not at all justified.
Child malnutrition in the state can be reduced by providing eggs in schools and anganwadis. If eggs are not included in the state programs even now, then the children of Chhattisgarh will be pushed further into malnutrition. The state government needs to take a strong initiative to include eggs five days in a week in government schools and anganwadi centres at the earliest.
- Right to Food Campaign, Chhattisgarh.
- Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, Chhattisgarh.
- Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha, Chhatisgarh
- Chhattisgarh Mahila Adhikar Manch, Chhattisgarh
- Dalit Mukti Morcha, Chhattisgarh
- Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan, Chhattisgarh
- Sarva Adivasi Samaj, Bastar
- Aadim Jati Baiga Samaj, Chhattisgarh
- People’s Union for Civil Liberties (P.U.C.L), Chhattisgarh
- Bharatiya Mazdoor Anganwadi Karyakarta Sahaika Sangh, Kabirdhaam
- Adivasi Jan Van Adhikar Manch, Chhattisgarh
- Chhattisgarh Naagrik Sanyukt Sangarsh Samiti,Chhattisgarh
- Krantikari Sanskritik Manch, Chhattisgarh
- Koitur Yuva Samiti Kabirdhaam
- Gaon Bachao Samiti, Kabirdhaam
- Bal Adhikar Sanagathan, Kabirdhaam
- Chhattisgarh Van Adhikaar Manch, Kabirdhaam
- Kishori Sangharsh Manch, Kabirdhaam
- Divyang Jan Forum, Kabirdhaam
- Loktantrik Sanskritik Pehel, Rela
- Shanti Sadbhavana Manch, Chhattisgarh
- MNREGA Mazdoor Sangathan, Chhattisgarh
- Dalit Adivasi Manch, Mahasamund
- Adivasi Mahila MahaSangh, Jashpur
- Gondwana Samagra Kranti, Bastar
- Yuva Prabhag Sarva Adivasi Samaj, Bastar
- Chhattisgarh Bal Adhikar Abhiyan, Raipur
- Janchetana, Raigarh
- Adivasi Adhikar Samiti, Koriya
- Pahari Korwa Mahapanchayat, Sarguja
- Dalit Adhikar Abhiyan, Pamgarh
- Adivasi Dalit Mazdoor Kisan Sangarsh, Raigarh
- Gram Sabha Adhikar Manch, Balrampur.
- Jago Jan Parishad, Bilaspur
- Gondwana Youth Force, Charama
- Jan Sahayogi Manch, Kanker
- Chhattisgarh Kisan Mazdoor Andolan, Surguja
Featured image courtesy: Outlook India
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