Seers of various mutts in the state have opposed the Karnataka government’s decision to introduce eggs in the mid-day meal scheme for malnourished school children in the backward districts of Kalyana Karnataka.
On Thursday, Sri Vishwaprasanna Theertha Swami of Sri Pejavar Matha in Udupi said the government should not force kids to consume eggs. “Food is the choice of individuals and no one can force it. Every community has its own food habit and the government’s job is not to force kids to have eggs. Let the government, instead, distribute the money it intends to spend on buying eggs,” he said. “In schools, there will be kids from all communities, the government should not make eating eggs compulsory.”
After a government study indicated that nearly 3.5 lakh children in the state are malnourished, the BJP government decided to add boiled eggs to the mid-day meal scheme in seven districts – Bidar, Raichur, Kalaburagi, Yadgir, Koppal, Ballari and Vijayapura – where malnutrition was detected.
According to the state’s Department of Public Instruction, 14.4 lakh children in these districts suffer from malnourishment. A circular from the Primary and Secondary Education Department said, “From December 1, 2021 to March 30, 2022, (as many as) 14,44,322 students in government and aided schools in seven districts will be given eggs or bananas for those who don’t consume eggs. Students in classes 1 to 8 will receive 12 eggs/bananas in a month on school days at a cost of Rs 6 per each egg or banana.”
Lingayat mutt seer Channa Basavananda Swami, who is the National President of Lingayat Dharma Mahasabha, too has demanded a rollback of the decision. “Basic structure of schools is the uniformity where kids wear the same dress code, study the same syllabus. Then why discrimination in terms of food,” he questioned. “The government should provide food which is acceptable to all without discrimination,” he added.
Jain leaders have also opposed the move which was implemented from the beginning of this month. Jain Mutt seer Bhattaraka Charukeerthi Swami has urged the state government to withdraw its decision. In his letter to Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, the seer said the government’s decision has saddened the minority Jains who consume only vegetarian food.
“Some children are vegetarians by birth. Providing non-vegetarian food in government schools affects the harmony in schools. Instead of providing eggs, the state government can provide pulses, badam, milk and fruits to the children,” he suggested in the letter.
Meanwhile, BJP MLA from Hubballi-Dharwad West constituency Arvind Bellad came out in support of the seers. He pointed out that there were other ways to improve children’s health and malnutrition. “Students must not be forced to eat eggs. The government must provide other nutrient-rich foods to control malnutrition,” he said.
Earlier too, the Karnataka government had attempted to introduce eggs in schools, but in vain. When H D Kumaraswamy was the chief minister in 2007 and when Siddaramaiah occupied the CM’s post in 2015, they had both tried to include eggs in the mid-day meal programme.