With the quality of the mid-day meal in schools becoming a contentious issue after the Bihar school tragedy, the National Egg Coordination Committee (NECC) has asked the Punjab government to include egg in the meal to augment the nutrient value of food being served to children.
In a letter to the Punjab government, NECC zonal chairman Jodh Singh Bhandari said adulteration in eggs is almost impossible. Egg is the safest and purest form of protein intake, which the government can serve with rice or wheat products in the mid-day meal. Above all, it's very easy to cook and serve, as it can even be eaten after boiling, adds Bhandari.
He said southern states of the country had taken this decision way back in 2007-2010 and the results are optimistic. In southern states, governments have also included chicken in the menu of the mid-day meal.
Citing government figures of high prevalence of anaemia among adolescent girls, the NECC representative said it has been scientifically proven that the intake of egg in childhood decreases the risk of anaemia.
"Punjab has nearly 3,000 small and big poultry farms, thus the state government can easily meet the demand of eggs for schools, if it is included in the mid-day-meal menu," he added.
Besides Bhandari has also urged deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal to use his good offices for opening poultry trade with Pakistan. He said it will give a fillip to Punjab's poultry industry, as egg is being sold for R10 and chicken at R300 per kg in Pakistan. These poultry products are almost three times cheaper in the Indian market, he added.
Meanwhile, on the directions of the Punjab government, the rural medical officer held surprise checks on the mid-day meal in different parts of the district. Dr Rajesh Kumar, in-charge of Mallewal dispensary in Nabha block, said the meal at most of the schools was found safe for consumption. "Still, we have advised the staff to take extra care of hygiene aspect and maintain food quality," he added.