Bhopal: Fearing opposition on religious ground, the BJP-led Madhya Pradesh government has refused to include eggs in mid-day meals.
The Ministry of Agriculture had suggested to the state government to introduce eggs in mid-day meals, which would benefit both malnourished children as well as poultry farmers.
As per a 2011 survey by the National Institute of Nutrition, every second child in Madhya Pradesh is malnourished, and eggs could prove to be a cost effective way to increase the nutritional value of mid-day meals. The state government, however, says it may hurt the sentiment of people.
"The biggest reason for not agreeing to it is our social belief. Most of the people in the state are vegetarian. And we do not want to hurt their sentiments. They may later say the government is forcing children to have eggs," state's Rural Development Minister Gopal Bhargava told NDTV.
Contrary to the government's stand, a 2006 survey says only 35 per cent of the state's population is vegetarian. The Congress says it feels the government can come up with a mechanism where the vegetarian children could be served an alternative to eggs. It also suspects the government may be opposing to safeguard the vested interest of few.
"There must be a lobby after the mid-day meal scheme which must be controlling it," Leader of Opposition Satyavrat Katare told NDTV.
Social activists say eggs can be an ideal and cost-effective source of proteins and micro nutrients from which malnourished children can benefit. Also it is very easy to cook with no chances of adulteration, and it will leave very less room for pilferage. As it will have to be procured locally, there will be very little margin of embezzlement.
"The communities facing maximum number of malnutrition cases are tribals and Dalits where eggs can be served. The government is trying to send a message that they are trying to not hurt the sentiments of traditional vegetarian communities like Hindu, Jain, which is the not the right approach," said social activist Sachin Jain.