By Sanjana Sanghi:
In view of Anganwadi meals being served in the tribal areas of Alirajpur, Mandla and Hoshangabad, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, CM of Madhya Pradesh, turned down a proposal that suggested inclusion of eggs in order to make them more wholesome and nutritious.
“It has been a sentimental issue with the CM from day one. Moreover, there are better, more nutritious options available,” believes SK Mishra, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister.
The Women and Child Development department, that drafted the proposal after a meeting called last month, is undoubtedly correct in believing that including eggs in the diet of children will result in more steady growth and development, especially at the crucial turn of adolescence.
Chouhan has gone on to publically declare that, “Milks and bananas will be served, but never eggs.” Being a strict vegetarian himself, he has received supportive echoes from the Jain Community which sternly believes that, “When children eat non-vegetarian food, their sensitivity dies.”
The fact that nearly 7 years ago, the strictly vegetarian CM launched a certain “Project Shaktiman”, as a part of which boiled eggs and boiled potatoes were served, is clear indication that such crucial decisions are severely influenced by political stances and electoral agendas. Chouhan had previously declared that his government was “committed to ensuring that not a single child remains malnourished in the state.” This project realised that eggs would be useful in fighting malnourishment as they are rich in protein.
The Jain community in the State has long been lobbying for eggs to be taken off the menu, and have reached out to the CM on several occasions in view of the same. “Do eggs grow on trees? No, it’s consumption has several side-effects. When children eat non-vegetarian food, their sensitivity dies,” said Anil Badkul of the Digambar Jain Mahasamiti. The political clout of the Jain Community has often influenced Chouhan’s decisions.
The irony of Project Shaktiman, which introduced eggs into the meals, and 7 years hence the subsequent banning of eggs in their meals, is hard to dismiss as pure coincidence. It is a clear indication of the extent to which the drive for political power doubles up as apparent concern for the people. It renders all us Indians, at the receiving end, as a duped mass of gullible individuals who are at the mercy of self-serving and unsympathetic political leaders. As though India climbing right on top of the World Hunger List, with 25% of our population being severely undernourished, wasn’t enough. Any possible efforts to reduce occurrences of malnutrition and improper growth need to be battled with constructive solutions, such as the inclusion of high protein-content food items such as eggs. The only other form of protein for these children is dal, which is highly watery and lacks real pulses.
Several other states such as Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan have proposed strictly vegetarian meals as part of the mid-day meal scheme in the past, most often yielding to pressure from private contractors who supply the mid-day meals as well as upper-caste lobbies. As though the beef ban in neighbouring Maharashtra was not controversial enough, such an irrational ban on providing eggs to children in their Anganwadi meals raises several questions regarding what the motives of our political leaders really are.