Govt ends up with egg on its face
Bowing down to pressure from the right-wing, the state government has put on hold its proposal to introduce eggs in the mid-day meal scheme. The withdrawal of notification comes after instructions from the mid-day meals in Gandhinagar to conduct a survey to check for number of students willing to consume eggs as part of the meal after a petition was filed in the Supreme Court, stated officials. The withdrawal letter from the commissioner’s office issued to the collector office on February 10 has asked the officials not to conduct the survey as they planned to continue with vegetarian food in the midday meal.

The plea was filed by Swaraj Abhiyan, an organisation run by eminent lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan. As per official sources, the survey has reached midway but the commissioner is not interested in the results considering the withdrawal of notification. The state had proposed introducing eggs in the mid-day meal scheme to provide additional protein source to students following reports of malnutrition among children and women. The notification states “There is no change in the current system of providing dal and pulses to students and we will continue with the same system. No non vegetarian food is being served and will not be served.”

Meanwhile, Deputy Collector of mid-day meal B K Panchal said, “We had asked mamlatdars to do a survey and update us about the willingness of children to have eggs, but following this letter we have not asked for the result.” Chairman of the Ahmedabad Municipal School Board, Jagdish Bhavsar stated that it is a good decision. “Gujarat is a vegetarian state and it is a good decision to withdraw the notification. What people want to consume should be left on them; it is not the government’s lookout,” he stated.

The circular issued by the Gujarat government in February had started of a debate with several quarters suggesting rather than knowing student’s egg-eating habits, authorities should consider giving them milk, paneer apart from other vegetarian food. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh spokesperson Pradeep Jain said he would not like to comment on the same. Senior Congress leader, Arjun Modhvadia however stated that he wouldn’t be miffed even if the state government intended to study number of egg-eating students in schools. “Malnutrition among children and women — mainly in tribal areas is a reality.

Lentils and pulse are a source of protein and milk also might be a rich protein source but it is not affordable. Eggs are a great source of protein so if they are served to students, it will be good for their health. One thing is clear that it must be served to those who have habit of eating eggs and preparation (of eggs and vegetarian food) should be done completely separately,” he stated. Calling the earlier notification ‘scientific’, Modhvadia stated, “Kids should be taught to respect other’s food habits and so it should not be a problem if a boy with vegetarian food habit sits next to a boy with non-vegetarian habit,” he said.