Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has again opposed the inclusion of eggs in anganwadi meals in his state, which is infamous for rampant malnutrition among children, especially in tribal blocks.
A strict vegetarian, Chouhan had first shot down in 2015 a proposal to include either egg curry or boiled eggs in anganwadi meals on a pilot basis in tribal areas of Alirajpur, Mandla and Hoshangabad districts.
The Women and Child Development department had drafted the proposal after a meeting called to discuss ready-to-eat breakfast to be served to children aged between 3 and 6 in anganwadis.
Five years later, the suggestion was again mooted by Women and Child Development Minister Imarti Devi, a loyalist of BJP Rajya Sabha MP Jyotiraditya Scindia whose rebellion helped the BJP to topple the Congress government in March.
Devi held the same portfolio in the previous Kamal Nath government. She wanted eggs to be included in anganwadi meals in 89 tribal blocks. Her department’s detailed proposal was pending approval from the finance department, which found the cost a bit prohibitive.
Besides Chouhan, other BJP leaders too had opposed the proposal by Devi that time.
ThePrint reached Devi through phone calls for a comment, but there was no response until the time of publishing this report.
‘Will distribute milk to malnourished children’
Earlier this month, Devi revived the idea of including eggs in anganwadi meals despite knowing Chouhan’s stiff opposition to eggs. She said eggs would be served only to those who eat them at home and the rest would be given alternatives like fruits.
But, unlike previously, Devi or her department didn’t come up with a formal proposal this time.
When reporters approached Scindia immediately after Devi went public with her idea, he remained non-committal, saying the matter was between the minister and the government.
Chouhan, who had not commented on Devi’s proposal then, made his stand clear Tuesday while talking to reporters at the BJP headquarters.
The CM said milk, not eggs, will be served at anganwadis. “We will distribute milk to malnourished children. Not eggs but milk will be given to the children. We will start a campaign (against malnutrition),” Chouhan said.
The CM had first aired his opposition to eggs in 2010 while addressing a gathering of Jain saints. Jains constitute 0.78 per cent of the MP’s population.
‘Govt should include edible oil and pulses in PDS’
Right to Food campaigner Sachin Jain said the CM’s stand means that the government’s policy-making process is not inclusive, it promotes exclusion.
The government had suggested milk as an alternative even in 2015 but it was not successful. Milk is not locally available everywhere and milk powder is not a substitute, he added.
“If the government is politically sensitive and committed to tackling malnutrition it should include edible oil and pulses in the public distribution system (PDS) to bring quality and variety in nutrition,” Jain added.