Eggs And Prejudice

Child nutrition is being held hostage to spurious, largely upper caste, arguments.

Written by Reetika Khera | Published:June 6, 2015 12:09 am
Child nutrition, Child undernutrition, MP egg ban, egg ban mp, children egg ban, child malnutrition, child nutrition programmes, mp school egg ban, MP Child nutrition, school egg ban, indian express column, Reetika Khera column It is unfair to sacrifice children’s right to nutrition to spurious anti-egg arguments from a small minority among the upper castes.

Child nutrition is prime-time news only when a tragedy occurs. Child undernutrition is no less a tragedy but rarely recognised as such.

Attention to it, following the Madhya Pradesh chief minister’s rejection of a proposal to introduce eggs in anganwadis is significant and welcome.

Few people realise food intake in India is very poor. According to the 2005-06 National Family Health Survey, around 10 per cent of breastfed children aged six to 23 months had meat, fish, poultry, egg or milk products the day before the survey. Among children who are not breastfed, the figures are equally bad.

In a TV debate, a BJP spokesperson praised milk as the best source of protein, failing to mention that MP does not provide that either at anganwadis or schools. The urgent need to improve the quality of food provided in the mid-day meal (MDM) and Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) schemes has not been adequately recognised.

Cost is a major constraint. Allocations for child nutrition programmes are quite small (Rs 5-7 per child per day). Only states where the government is committed to the issues make additional allocations required to provide nutritious foods such as eggs. This year’s cuts in Central allocations for ICDS and MDM are likely to strain state budgets further.

Perishability and fear of adulteration impede improvements in food quality. Though milk and dal are protein-rich, both can easily be diluted and milk is perishable. Creative thinking can lead to solutions. In Karnataka, milk powder is supplied.

Eggs provide a nutritious and affordable solution. They contain all the nutrients (except vitamin C) required by small children and are generally more nutrient-rich than vegetarian options — without the problems of perishability and adulteration). People can easily monitor whether they have got their full entitlement, whereas that’s quite difficult with milk or dal. Further, eggs are important for infants, as they are nutrition-dense. In Odisha, eggs have emerged as the perfect “take-home ration” for children under three. Children also seem to love eggs.

At a mixed-caste government school in Shimoga, Karnataka, when asked to raise their hand if they would like an egg, almost all hands went up.

Recent arguments for denying eggs to children and forcing vegetarianism on them include: the strongest animals, horses and elephants, are vegetarian; Sant Ravidas was vegetarian, so all Dalits should be like him; as Dalits cannot afford non-vegetarian food anyway, schools and anganwadis need not provide eggs; separate seating arrangements might be difficult to manage. Without saying it explicitly, the message has been clear: rather than hurt the sentiments of a few among the so-called upper castes, it is better to keep eggs out.

Caste resistance is an important part of why northern and western states do not provide eggs. Often, these arguments are disguised as “rational”. First, create an impression that if eggs are on the menu, vegetarians will be forced to eat them (ignoring that vegetarians can be given fruit instead). Then, dress it up as a “freedom to choose” issue. Ironically, those who deny free choice to non-vegetarians are the ones levelling this allegation.

Karnataka provides eggs in anganwadis, but not in school meals. Why? Quite likely, this is because the Akshaya Patra Foundation is a big player in the MDM programme but not in the ICDS. Since 2007, the BJP has resisted eggs. That year, two BJP leaders disagreed on the issue. When religious leaders opposed eggs, the government caved in. The Congress is not very different. It announced eggs in the MDM scheme only for the northern nutritionally deprived districts, but even that has not taken off.

Instead of surrendering to the egg-resisters, states like MP and Karnataka should learn from others where opposition, if any, was overcome. It is unfair to sacrifice children’s right to nutrition to spurious anti-egg arguments from a small minority among the upper castes.

The writer is associate professor, economics, IIT Delhi

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App now

  1. C
    Communal Rukstales
    Jun 9, 2015 at 11:54 am
    Dalits/Adivasis (30%) are telling Upper caste (20%) to take their #CasteShareOfLand from India and go build their own nation;
    Reply
    1. C
      Communal Rukstales
      Jun 9, 2015 at 10:36 am
      Dalits/Adivasis (30%) are telling Upper caste (20%) to take their Caste of land from India and go build their own nation;
      Reply
      1. H
        Hari Haran
        Jun 6, 2015 at 12:09 pm
        These upper caste led Bjp is spoiling Icds and Mdm schemes.. Learn from Tamilnadu ... Providing eggs 5 days in a week... And its social indicators..
        Reply
        1. H
          Hari Haran
          Jun 6, 2015 at 12:11 pm
          Well said... We can give veg people separate veg diet like banana & milk... and egg loving child should get egg..
          Reply
          1. H
            Haradhan Mandal
            Jun 6, 2015 at 3:19 pm
            Kind of personal attack - don't know moderation policy allows such post.
            Reply
            1. H
              Haradhan Mandal
              Jun 6, 2015 at 9:54 am
              Only In India food has caste label and caste barrier - more importantly caste-hierarchy labels. Food is Food - for rest of the World (except something like Halal and Kosher) and even for the lower cl (50-60%) in India - provided they can afford it, or produce/raise/harvest/fish/hunt it for themselves. Only 10% of Indian are vegetarian (on 'purity' scale) .
              Reply
              1. R
                Rahul
                Jun 6, 2015 at 10:51 am
                Beef and pork more nutritious than eggs, fight for that
                Reply
                1. S
                  Saumitra Chaturvedi
                  Jun 6, 2015 at 12:01 pm
                  The author is not aware of the most comprehensive study ever done on nutrition called the China study, which has shown how animal proteins are directly responsible for activation of recessive genes leading to cancer, arthritis, etc. there is no such nutrient which cannot be compensated from vegetarian diet. Eight principles of food and health given by that study are: 1. Nutrition represents the combined activities of countless food substances. The w is greater than the sum of its parts. 2.Vitamin supplements are not a panacea for good health. 3. There are virtually no nutrients in animal-based foods that are not better provided by plants. 4. Genes do not determine disease on their own. Genes function only by being activated, or expressed, and nutrition plays a critical role in determining which genes, good and bad, are expressed. 5. Nutrition can substantially control the adverse effects of noxious chemicals. 6. The same nutrition that prevents disease in its early stages can also halt or reverse it in its later stages. 7. Nutrition that is truly beneficial for one chronic disease will support health across the board. 8. Good nutrition creates health in all areas of our existence. All parts are interconnected
                  Reply
                  1. a
                    abhardwaj8888
                    Jun 6, 2015 at 11:35 am
                    Ppl who dont eat egg r nt healthy if egg supporters r to b blvd,dont v hav cheaper options which can b stored and easy to transport,also eggs has very less shelf life,how will it b ensured that its the fresh one not the stale one
                    Reply
                    1. A
                      Anil Suri
                      Jun 6, 2015 at 1:26 pm
                      What is your difference between a study and prejudice? Just asking. "Anything can cause cancer or nothing can cause cancer. " IIN degree?
                      Reply
                      1. A
                        Anil Suri
                        Jun 6, 2015 at 1:06 pm
                        What rubbish! If the concern is to provide cheap protein, just give the children a cupful of boiled peanuts everyday! Children love them too! It would cost a fraction of an egg, and would have none of the hazards of csterol. An IIT professor, writing an article with no citations, and no attempt to substantiate her claims. Tut, tut!
                        Reply
                        1. A
                          Anil Suri
                          Jun 7, 2015 at 5:20 am
                          Peanuts have no vitamins? Have you done high-school science? The problem with an article not having proper citations and substantiation is, it is just meaningless rubbish. On an issue like this, I don't want to know the author's opinion, which could be entirely stupid - I want to know the hard facts.
                          Reply
                          1. B
                            Biswajit
                            Jun 6, 2015 at 11:09 pm
                            I'm surprised that jean has used d words of politicians ( who of'course r regularly painted sarcastically) to raise an issue. Even the figures on milk should haven't been discussed & more surprised why he didn't discuss Odisha's alternative of providing soya nuggets instead of egg which is high on protein low on costs
                            Reply
                            1. H
                              Harry
                              Jun 8, 2015 at 2:40 am
                              The question why state has to provide eggs? If so called secularists & activists are so concerned about health of children, they themselves should contribute funds for egg distribution at home of poor people who want it. What they really want is state to subsidize their ideology, with no money going out of their wallet.
                              Reply
                              1. H
                                Harry
                                Jun 9, 2015 at 4:07 pm
                                Dalit adivasis are not stupid or sucidal. Muslims were given 1/4 of land to build their own nation. Today Muslims have a nations of their own from India plus they are more than they were at the time of parion. so they will not be fooled by Taquiyas like you.
                                Reply
                                1. S
                                  Subramani
                                  Jun 6, 2015 at 12:22 pm
                                  Government should order all state governments to stop eggs. We should not have different rules. Also, alcohol and cigarettes are injurious to health. So please ban them both. Paan and gutka also to be banned. Killing animals for food is cruel plus how can vegetarians share universities, roads,trains and buses etc with people who eat them. Fish makes a strong smell and so fish eating should be banned. Lentil eaters produce lots of gas which is not useful in anyway so let us ban it. Rice is the root cause for diabetes so let us ban it too.
                                  Reply
                                  1. R
                                    Raghu Panjala
                                    Jun 6, 2015 at 4:07 pm
                                    There is nothing wrong with egg eating. Point is why is this article written. What happened was silly politics where some politician uttered some nonsense or some sense. It really doesnt matter. No govt in India will ever stop egg eating for kids. So whats the point of this article. Will this always play games on everything what silly happens and we shuld waste time on it. Please newspapers dont publish anything unless thats serious.
                                    Reply
                                    1. G
                                      Gopal S.
                                      Jun 6, 2015 at 1:00 pm
                                      actually alike the recent trend of communist, blaming upper cast for every thing whatever happening bad in india .. author is one more communist in side our prestigious technological insute ... actually we need to separate these pseudo science department from IITS ... Dear author will you please shed some light on the issue of goring potion of so called poors and its not the governments responsibility to feed 8-10 childrens of these so called poor... will you please tell me that, in country other than India where there is no ban on beef eggs etc ... why childrans are undernutrition....
                                      Reply
                                      1. G
                                        Gopal S.
                                        Jun 6, 2015 at 6:47 pm
                                        yeap that's whats we are saying ... then where is the upper cast in that business dear... off course its not governments responsibility to feed 8-10 children of each and individual poor... Dear our school need good quality of educated teacher not food ... ensuring the education for each individual is govts. duty .. not feeding them ok... don't tell me what is contains of egg or some other food i already knew it .. its like about like or dislike ... i have not said anything about egg ... there is no country other then India which is lunching such kind of nonsense programs... go some time to any govt. school and see there why children use to come their.. for food or for study.. how many sibling they have 4-5 or 6-7... so its govt. responsibility to feed them or parents responsibility ....
                                        Reply
                                        1. G
                                          Gopal
                                          Jun 6, 2015 at 6:18 pm
                                          No end to people sitting in Delhi and manufacturing needless controversies. The most striking thing about this article is that it is woefully short on data and long on attacking. For me it would be useful to know what the difference in nutritional value is, and what are the alternatives that could be considered. Also, what is the normal diet of children at home. As usual, there is no shortage of people in India who do no real productive work but waste time attacking those who do.
                                          Reply
                                          1. R
                                            Ravi
                                            Jun 6, 2015 at 8:14 am
                                            Pork and beef are even more nutritious. Should the mid day meals serve these too? One of the objectives of mid day meals is that all children eat together, to overcome caste and other barriers too? If eggs or meat is served, all children will not eat together, in fact some parents may not even let their children eat the mid day meal. How is the nutrition objective served in this case? The challenge should be to serve nutritious meals that all children can eat. It is foolish of the author to suggest that vegetarian children can be served fruit insteadof eggs, they are not equivalent.
                                            Reply
                                            1. Load More Comments