Boiled eggs are a cheap source of high quality protein in free mid-day meals for school children, but Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Chouhan has directed officials not to include eggs in meals for tribal children at anganwadi centres in three districts of the state.
Officials in charge of the project had proposed to include eggs twice or thrice a week in ready-to-eat breakfasts for children in the 3-6 age group in anganwadis run under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).
The Jain community, which is strictly vegetarian, pressured officials to change the proposal and took up the matter with Chouhan, who said eggs should not be part of the meals in Alirajpur, Mandla and Hoshangabad districts, The Indian Express reported.
S K Mishra, principal secretary to the chief minister, said: “It has been a sentimental issue with the CM from day one. Moreover, there are better, more nutritious options available.”
Anil Badkul, spokesperson for the Digambar Jain Mahasamiti, said, “Do eggs grow on trees? No. Its consumption has several side-effects. When children eat non-vegetarian food, their sensitivity dies,"
“Bachcho ko bachana hai, andon ko bachana hai (children have to be saved, eggs have to be saved),” he added.
Activists said the introduction of eggs in meals is one way of ensuring children get protein-rich food, especially in tribal areas where malnutrition is a concern. Right to Food campaign activist Sachin Jain said the state government, by taking an “unscientific stand”, will deny children the protein they badly need. Children in several states are already eating eggs and their health has improved, he said.
Twitter was abuzz on Monday with users complaining about what they say is government interference in people choosing their diet.
"This interference by the govt is ridiculous," @rajyasree tweeted.
"So when a chief minister imposes his dietary preferences on hapless school children, it is not #Bigotry?" wondered @sonaliranade
"Veg Chauvinism about food has to end," tweeted @WrongDoc.
The National Egg Co-ordination Committee (NECC) calls the egg “one of nature's perfectly balanced foods, containing all the protein, vitamins (except vitamin C) and minerals essential for good health”.
The organisation managed to rope in popular cricket players to support its popular campaign with the theme “Sunday ho ya Monday, roz khao ande”.
Watch: Sunday ho ya Monday, roz khao ande