Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is not one to compromise on his diet. He is a strict vegetarian and he must be applauded for this healthy lifestyle choice. But when he begins to impose it on people, in this case children, becomes a little unpalatable. He has decreed that as long as he is chief minister, he will not allow eggs to be given to children in anganwadis.
The women and child department of the state had tried to introduce eggs twice a week into the children’s diet, only to be given short shrift by the chief minister.
Perhaps, Chouhan does not know that 43% of children under the age of five in India are underdeveloped thanks to poor nutrition. Sixty million children are stunted due to chronic under-nutrition. Children who eat eggs go from malnourished to moderately underweight within a few weeks. Eggs contain choline which is vital for brain development. But, surely if the provision of eggs can cause a crucial difference in children’s health, he should not let his preferences get in the way. Eggs are easily digested, are relatively low-cost and not easily perishable.
Here is another fact for the doughty Chouhan. According to the Anthropological Survey of India, 88% of Indians are non-vegetarians. Many opt to remain vegetarian because of the lack of access to meat or due to its high cost. Substitutes like soya and milk are not as effective as eggs. Going by Chouhan’s logic, eateries in the state should be totally vegetarian. For many children, the anganwadi literally holds the difference between a life of severe malnourishment and the hope of good health. Diet plays an important role in this. There are surely far more important things for Chouhan to do in a state which has severe development deficiencies than put in place steps which are detrimental to children’s health.
Such erratic and illogical behaviour can be expected from the fringe Hindutva elements. But the chief minister of a state where child health is a problem should surely be more sensitive and rational. This is a move which could end up with Chouhan getting egg on his face.