New Delhi: In order to tackle malnutrition among children, the BJP government in Karnataka is planning to expand its initiative of serving eggs in mid-day meals to more schools across the district.
The state government had last year introduced the scheme in seven districts of north Karnataka, namely Bidar, Raichur, Kalaburagi, Yadgir, Koppal, Ballari and Vijayapura, but faced stiff opposition from Lingayat, Jain and other communities. The scheme was implemented from December 2021 to March 2022.
The proposal, once finalised, will be tabled before the state cabinet, The Indian Express reported. The government will bear the tentative cost of around Rs 6.50 per egg, which was Rs 6 earlier.
If the proposal is passed, Karnataka will be among the few BJP ruled states and first major state ruled by the party to include eggs in the scheme by the central government.
The mission of the mid-day meal programme, a flagship initiative of the Indian government launched in 1995, is to meet the nutritional needs of school-going children. Despite eggs being an excellent source of protein and essential nutrients, it remains a controversial ingredient in mid-day meals.
Eggs in mid-day meals in different states
Thirteen states and three union territories currently have eggs on their mid-day meal menus. Seasonal fruits, bananas etc are also given as alternatives to students who do not consume eggs.
States and UTs bear the cost of eggs and its alternatives but the Centre and Karnataka government had split the cost of the pilot egg initiative in a 60:40 ratio.
Eggs are included daily in mid-day meals in Tamil Nadu, while in Andhra Pradesh it is served five days a week. In Telangana it is served thrice a week, while in Jharkhand, Odisha and Tripura twice a week. In Bihar, Kerala, Mizoram, Uttarakhand, West Bengal and Assam, eggs are served once a week and in Sikkim once a month.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands serve eggs thrice a week, while in Ladakh it is served once a week, and Puducherry twice a week.
Nutrition vs politics
The inclusion of eggs in mid-day meals has not been uniform throughout the country because of different food habits.
Some studies have shown that a majority of the Indian population consume non-vegetarian food. Consumption, however, is restricted to certain products, or days depending on the dietary preference, faith and traditions.
Eggs have been a controversial ingredient in the mid-day meal scheme for various reasons. The BJP had earlier opposed the inclusion of eggs in mid-day meals in many states. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Chauhan had rolled back decision taken by the short-lived Congress government in the state under Kamal Nath to introduce eggs in anganwadi meals in 2015.
The mid-day meal scheme was renamed to PM Poshan Scheme by the Union Ministry of Education in September last year. The central government had also said that it was allocating more freedom to states to include food items of their choice in the scheme. Many states then went on to include items like ragi roti, bajra roti and millet khichdi among others.