Egg’s out, milk’s in. Around 10 million children in Madhya Pradesh who are provided free lunch in nurseries (anganwadis) and state schools will now get milk as part of their diet, said chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Friday.
The chief minister, who is vegetarian, had recently instructed officials not to include eggs in the anganwadi meals in three tribal districts, opening the floodgates to comments that he was depriving children of an easy available source of protein.
To fend off criticism, Chouhan, at a public rally at Khurai in Sagar, district made a terse announcement: All children in state would get hot milk thrice a week.
The principal secretary of department of women and child development, J N Kansotiya, revealed to HT the finer details of the project teased by the chief minister.
Kansotiya said the plan to provide milk to children at anganwadis as well as schools was ready and would be implemented from July.
He said milk would become part of the supplementary nutritious food being given to pre-school children (of 3-6 years of age) at nurseries and schoolchildren till class 8 as part of the midday meal programme.
Midday meal programme became universal in India after an order by the Supreme Court in 2001. It has been credited with improving school attendance and addressing nutrition needs of students.
The state will have to feed milk to 28 lakh preschool children at anganwadis and 76 lakh students till class 8.
Milk will be supplied in powdered form to which hot water will be added before being served.
The new diet plan would be implemented by the self-help groups who prepare and serve cooked food to children in anganwadis as well as schools, the official said.
At present, students get lentil (dal) soup-rice, chapatti-vegetable, lentil-chapatti and such combinations apart from puree (fried chapatti) and kheer (sweet dish of rice and milk) occasionally under free lunch scheme and the supplementary nutritious programme run at anganwadis.
The principal secretary said the budget for the add-on in the meal, milk, will be borne by the state government.
But the nag in the proposal is that milk is prone to adulteration than eggs, said activists.
Right-to-food activist Sachin Jain welcomed the move but said providing diet like milk was always fraught with challenges: availability of clean water to prepare milk from powder, adulteration risk and so on.
He also said there were chances of pilferage of packaged food like milk powder.