Eggs-bone of contention for mid day meal

  • Served by Iskcon

Lata Jain

In 2001, the Supreme Court ordered that the states should provide cooked meals for all school-children up to the fifth standard. The primary objective was to retain the students in the classrooms, rather than lose them to hunger and family pressures for additional income. Four years later, in the southern states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, the statistics show that this primary objective has been met. School authorities say, and the records shoot up admission in schools.

The introduction of mid-day meals scheme (MMS) was the result of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Rajasthan, before the the Supreme Court. The case was filed initially against the Government of India, Food Corporation of India (FCI) and six state governments, alleging that more than 50 million tones of food grains was stocked up with FCI while there was widespread hunger in the country, particularly in the drought-hit states of Rajasthan and Orissa. Eventually the list of respondents was extended to include all the States and Union Territories. The Supreme Court issued an order asking the states to implement eight different centrally-sponsored schemes for food security and to introduce cooked mid-day meals in all the government and government-aided schools. Later, in 2003, the Government of India announced that the scheme would thereafter cover students up to the seventh standard.

When the Andhra Pradesh government launched the mid-day meals scheme in January 2003, it worked as a boon to the daily wage-earning parents. There were various hitches in this scheme like caste and economic problems and NGOs were selected to take this job of mid day meal schemes.

A move to bring in the International  society for Krishna consciousness (ISKCON) to run the mid day meal scheme in Guntur GHMC has drawn wide spread criticism for two reasons, Mainly ISKCON believes in serving vegetarian food and the self help groups would lose their jobs.

The GHMC has 11 upper primary schools and 10 municipal schools in Guntur. The food was served by self help groups till date. Under this scheme rice,dal and a curry are being served. Eggs are served twice in a week.

But ISKCON does not serve eggs. The debate around eggs in the school feeding programme has resurfaced this week. Former MLC K.S.Laxmana rao strongly objects to this decision as a wholesome food is must for the child and meals devoid of eggs will not provide the required nourishment is his argument. Now egg is the bone of contention for the mid day meal scheme at Guntur.

Nutrition expert Anita Singh said: “If the children are not vegetarian, there is a lot of merit in providing eggs in the mid-day meal. It is a meal in itself, full of nutritious value.”

The scientific findings are clear: eggs can be the ideal protein to battle the country’s record-breaking malnourishment. Protein is essential to build muscle, increase height, balance hormones and to repair tissue especially for growing children and lactating mothers.

Renuka Sharma a community pediatrician and national convener of the public health resource network, explains that eggs are ideal for public nutrition programmes not only because of nutritional advantages: they are also cheaper than meat, safer, easier to cook, and can boost community poultry industries.”There might be a diverse vegetarian diet that provides the same benefit as eggs, but these are only easily available for upper class families,” says Prasad.

Our local self help groups should continue to be encouraged and not discarded in favor of ISKCON argue local politicians.

Mid-day meals are an important terrain of future engagement not just for the State, but also for social movements and indeed the public at large. The challenge is particularly relevant to anyone concerned with social equity.

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