Updated: December 13, 2021 3:17:57 am
Following opposition from seers of various mutts in the state, the Karnataka government has begun “exploring options” to find an alternative to boiled eggs in mid-day meal as it looks to tackle malnourishment among school children in various parts of the state.
“The decision to include boiled eggs in the mid-day meal scheme was based on surveys and reports from the Centre that indicated malnourishment persisting among children. We also had inputs from experts that egg was the best-known single source of protein. This led to its inclusion in the mid-day meal scheme to help children combat malnutrition,” Primary and Secondary Education Minister B C Nagesh explained.
“The state government is exploring other options to provide protein-rich food to children as an alternative to egg,” he said in Mandya, responding specifically to whether the government was reconsidering the move. Nagesh further clarified that eggs “were not being forced” and those opting not to have it were provided boiled bananas as a substitute.
Following results from the recent National Family Health Survey, the state government had introduced boiled eggs or bananas for students in Ballari, Bidar, Kalaburagi, Koppal, Raichur, Vijayapura and Yadgir districts.
The scheme which began from the first week of December is expected to go on till March 2022, for four months, when students in these select districts would get 42 boiled eggs (or bananas) each. A total of 14,44,322 students are estimated to benefit from the scheme.
Among prominent seers who opposed the move was Sri Vishwaprasanna Theertha Swami of Sri Pejavar Matha who urged the BJP-led government not to “force kids” to consume eggs. He had suggested last week, in Udupi, that the government could instead distribute the money it intends to spend on buying eggs. “In schools, there will be kids from all communities, the government should not make eating eggs compulsory,” he said.
Lingayat mutt seer Channa Basavananda Swami, the national president of Lingayat Dharma Mahasabha, had also spoken against the initiative, accusing the government of “discriminating children in terms of food.” He said: “The government should provide food which is acceptable to all without discrimination.”
The issue has also drawn responses from the political sphere as BJP MLA from Hubballi-Dharwad West constituency Arvind Bellad corroborated religious leaders. “Students must not be forced to eat eggs. The government must provide other nutrient-rich foods to control malnutrition,” he said.
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