The Chhattisgarh government announced on Tuesday that “special arrangements” will be made to provide eggs for children in the mid-day meals in government schools.
The Department Of School Education asked district collectors to hold a meeting of the Shala Vikas Samitis – school development committees – and parents within two weeks to identify students who do not want eggs in their mid-day meals. “Eggs should be cooked separately and while serving meals, separate sitting arrangement should be made for vegetarian students,” the department said.
The department added that vegetarian students should be provided soya milk, protein crunch, fortified biscuits, or cooked fortified pulses as an alternative. “If there is no agreement on serving eggs (if vegetarian parents do not want it at the school at all), then the school development committee concerned should devise a system to serve eggs to students (who want to have it) at their homes,” the department added.
The Congress government’s plan to serve eggs in mid-day meals had caused a row after Kabirpanthis, the followers of 15th-century saint Kabir, wrote to the district collector of Kawardha on July 12 demanding that eggs be banned from the scheme since it was against their customs, the Hindustan Times reported on Wednesday. The Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party had joined the protest on July 15, claiming the move will force vegetarian children to eat eggs.
The previous government led by the BJP had removed eggs from the mid-day meal scheme in 2015. The Congress government led by Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel re-introduced eggs in the meal scheme in January.
Right to Food activists have often pointed out the importance of providing eggs in the school meal. The dietary guidelines of the National Institute of Nutrition in Hyderabad highlights that animal proteins have higher quality than plant proteins. People can get their protein requirement from a vegetarian diet but such a diet will have to contain a combination of cereals, millets and pulses to provide all the amino acids that build better-quality proteins. Eggs are the best sources of protein having a very high biological value – the metric used to measure protein content – and therefore the best way to fight severe undernutrition among children across India.