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Should Karnataka govt push for onion, garlic in midday meal or let ISKCON follow own plan?

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Akshaya Patra, an NGO under International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), has come under fire from civil society groups in Karnataka for not using onion and garlic in the midday meals they serve in government schools.

ThePrint asks: Should Karnataka govt push for onion, garlic in midday meal or let ISKCON follow own plan?

Why should adding onion and garlic to midday meals be a problem?

H.D. Kumaraswamy 
Chief Minister of Karnataka 

Onions and garlic help maintain good health. So, the question I would like to raise is, why should it be a problem in adding it in the midday meals that are served to children in the state?

Let food experts and doctors also explain the benefits. Food experts should advise the government whether to use these ingredients. Karnataka government is seeking the opinions of dietitians, food scientists and others on the advantages and disadvantages of onion and garlic. Then the government will take a call on what has to be done and whether other ingredients can substitute onions and garlic.

Let there be a debate on this on a public platform with all the stakeholders involved and then arrive at a decision.

Govts across states have appreciated ISKCON’s efforts to give best to children

Naveena Neerada Dasa
Head of communications, ISKCON

ISKCON is committed to feeding hot nutritious meals as prescribed by the MHRD and the state government.

In the last 18 years, we have put all effort to ensure that every child gets a nutritious meal. A lot of investment has gone into the infrastructure for cooking and providing hot meals.

We ensure that meals are cooked in the most hygienic conditions and we spare no effort. Akshaya Patra always feels that feeding the hungry is not a business but our social responsibility. Governments across the state have appreciated our efforts to give the best to children.

We can look at innovative alternatives like adding garlic and onion as powder form later

Basavaraju R 
Executive director, Grassroots Research and Advocacy Movement (GRAAM)

I would say that the government should not insist, but persuade ISKCON to include these ingredients.

We know that garlic and onions are good and many dieticians say that. ISKCON maintains a very high-quality standard, and so, the government has no other option in those five districts that they serve in.

On the other hand is they insisted, I think ISKCON may agree. They should also respect dietary habits.

Children do consume it, but it would also be extreme to say that ISKCON should be forced to serve egg or meat. It will be against their philosophy. It is better to leave this decision on whether these ingredients are a must to the food experts.

We could also look at if onions and garlic can be made in powder form and added later when the food reaches the venue.

Onion and garlic is not as much a source of nutrition, as it is a taste enhancer. If the government wants to take the decision of stopping ISKCON’s good service, then it will also have to take up additional responsibilities of hygiene and nutrition. Teachers will be additionally burdened. That’s not fair. We should see if dialogue works, if not, we should explore innovative options.

Children should not be caught in this political crossfire

Rohini Swamy
Associate editor, ThePrint

The controversy over using onion and garlic in midday meals has seen enough debate, but the bigger question is whether those who are availing the service are satisfied or not.

The Karnataka government should seek opinion of those who are involved in the scheme to understand whether the meals really offer a balanced diet to children or not. While many diet specialists say that onion and garlic are just taste enhancers and can be compensated with other food ingredients, a scientific approach to this issue is needed.

Another important point to note is that Akshaya Patra has been maintaining high standards of food quality control. This has been one of the primary reasons why the government is hesitant in taking any action against the NGO. Nearly one lakh children are served food under the midday meal scheme daily by Akshaya Patra, and in the last 18 years, there have been no major complaints against the quality or quantity of the food served. Akshaya Patra maintains that they follow the standards set by the MHRD.

With political parties using this issue as a weapon to target each other, children should not be caught in this crossfire.

By Rohini Swamy, associate editor at ThePrint.

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  1. It’s ridiculous to force Akshay patra.knowing fully well their values, the govt has entered into MoM. If it is so nutritious that one cannot do without it, let it be served separately as salad locally along with sprouted grams which are indeed proved to have nutritive value.

  2. If the food served by ISCON is hygenic and serving the purpose for 18 years, why rake up the issue now. Children have only one meal at school and other two (likely) at home, where they are at liberty to be served with onion and garlic. Let us not politicise this issue and appreciate yeoman service rendered by ISCON.

  3. Pathetic excuse…. why not keep the age limit 20 ….younger people are best then make Rahul Gandhi pm….he is younger and smart ??

  4. The dalit dieticians want to make statements by so called bramhinical bashing without bothering on the future of scheme that is helping millons of students, i guess their only goal is to include beef

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