Reshma, 5 and Ramnesh, 6, of Shripura could not contain their excitement as they sat patiently for lunch at Panch Bhavan at Shripura village of Shivpuri district on Friday morning.
The children took only a few minutes to lap up the boiled eggs and khichdi (lentil-rice porridge) served to them as a part of a community-led egg-feeding programme organised by the Right to Food Campaign (RTFC).
The programme was organised in the two villages of Shripura and Ganeshkheda in the tribal-dominated district, about 315km from Bhopal, as a symbolic protest against chief minister’s ‘no egg’ anganwadi menu, Aarushi Kalra of RTFC told Hindustan Times.
“I have not seen our children so happy in a long time. It was really a big feast for them,” Gajraj Adiwasi, father of two other children from Shripura, who participated in the programme, told HT over the phone.
Ram Swaroop of Ganeshkheda village, whose four grandchildren were a part of the egg feeding programme, said: “We are non-vegetarian food eaters, though it is a different matter that most of us can’t afford it often.”
About 200 children aged up to six years and some pregnant and lactating women were served eggs (laced with lemon juice) and khichdi at the programme. Prominent development economist Jean Dreze was present at Shripura.
“Bananas were available as vegetarian option, but very few children preferred them,” Kalra said. She added many families contributed Re1 each to show their support to the programme and become a part of it.
Issue of feeding eggs to children as supplementary nutritious food in anganwadis snowballed into a major controversy in state last month after the chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan shot down a proposal of the women and child development department to introduce eggs in the anganwadi menu.
Chouhan had announced that hot flavoured milk would be provided to anganwadi and school kids thrice a week instead of eggs. The milk distribution, which was to start from July 1, has now been deferred to July 15 because of fund-release issues.
‘Eggs cheaper than milk’
According to the RTFC, eggs are an excellent source of protein for young children. They are cheaper, safer, more nutritious and easier to procure than alternatives such as milk or bananas. Eggs are now part of the midday meal in anganwadis and government schools in many states, including Odisha, Bihar and Jharkhand.