Children who eat meat could grow up to become cannibals, according to Madhya Pradesh BJP leader Gopal Bhargava. Mr Bhargava, the Leader of Opposition in the state, made the comment on Wednesday as his party leader Kailash Vijayvargiya criticised the inclusion of eggs in food served to children at anganwadis in Madhya Pradesh, describing it as "interfering with the faith and religious beliefs of the people".
Speaking to reporters, Mr Bhargava also attacked Chief Minister Kamal Nath's Congress government and said children were being forced to eat eggs and meat.
"What else to expect from this government? Feed children eggs... those who don't eat, force them. If they don't eat that, they will feed them chicken, mutton. You see... in our Indian culture, eating of meat is not allowed. If we eat this from childhood then I don't know... when we grow up we could become cannibals," Gopal Bhargava said, adding that he abstained from even garlic and onions in accordance with his caste's rules.
#WATCH Madhya Pradesh (MP) BJP leader Gopal Bhargava on MP government's proposal to distribute eggs at Anganwadis says, "Bharat ke jo sanskar hain, sanatan sanskriti mein mansahaar nished hai. Agar bachpan se hi hum ise khaayenge toh bade ho kar nar bhakshi na ho jaayen." (30.10) pic.twitter.com/s9INELUsYw— ANI (@ANI) October 31, 2019
The idea to make eggs part of children's diet was put forward by Imarti Devi, the state's Women and Child Welfare Minister. Ms Devi said the idea was being considered by the state because of the high nutritional value of such a diet.
The opposition BJP has fiercely objected to the plan.
"We will oppose any such proposal. I think this is an attempt to interfere with the religious belief and faith of the people," Kailash Vijayvargiya said, while MLA Rameshwar Sharma claimed "several children and their mothers don't event touch eggs".
Ms Devi has hit back, saying "I don't care if BJP is protesting".
"I do not care even if BJP is protesting. In blocks where there are malnourished kids we will be providing the service. There are many nutrients in egg. Even I eat eggs as they are very healthy," she was quoted by news agency ANI.
The debate eggs being served to children comes days after a report tracking hunger and malnutrition levels in the world listed India behind Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.
The Global Hunger Index or GHI scores countries on a 100-point "severity scale", where zero is the best score (no hunger) and 100 is the worst. "With a score of 30.3, India suffers from a level of hunger that is serious," the report said.
In 2017, the centre prepared a report - the National Action Plan for Egg & Poultry 2022 - in which it identified the poultry sector as playing a "pivotal role in achieving nutritional security of the country", with particular reference to rural areas.
The report described an egg as a "wholesome, nutritious food with high nutrient density... provide 12 per cent of daily value for protein and a wide variety of other nutrients... along with various other important ingredients so crucial for growth and good health".
With input from ANI