Serving eggs to children in anganwadis can make them susceptible to infectious diseases such as salmonella or bird flu, sections of the bureaucracy in Delhi have been arguing since 2017, resisting the proposal to overhaul the ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services) menu, official records show.
Officials also got nutritionists from Lok Nayak Hospital to put the objections in writing, The Indian Express has learnt.
While the government has managed to overrule the objections for the time being, and a tender to overhaul the menu of hot cooked meals has been floated, it is now struggling to get a fresh set of tenders for take home rations (THR) and milk.
Need for eggs
Activist Anjali Bhardwaj of the Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan said introduction of eggs, fruits and milk will lead to a more nutritive diet. “When there is an epidemic, advisories are issued. Eggs have been welcomed in several states. We don’t see why it shouldn’t be in Delhi,” she said. Dy CM Manish Sisodia too said that eggs are being served under ICDS in 13 states. Many BJP-ruled states had dropped eggs from the menu in the past. Chhattisgarh recently saw the return of eggs in mid-day meals, after the Congress government took office.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who also holds the Women and Child Development portfolio, intervened and stated that as part of the overhauled menu, eggs should be served at least once a week, albeit as an option. The cooked meal menu has remained unchanged since 2008.
“Denying egg-consuming families the option of eggs for their children with weak reasoning like ‘eggs are prone to get infected by Salmon (Salmonella) or bird flu’ is against the overwhelming evidence and view of nutritionists that well-cooked and hygienically prepared eggs are one of the most wholesome foods and a powerful intervention to tackle rampant malnutrition,” Sisodia noted.
Apart from eggs, the new menu comprises bananas (twice a week), suji halwa and kala chana for those who don’t eat eggs, sewai, rajma chawal, khichdi with moong daal, veg poha and chole chawal.
The AAP government also plans to float fresh tenders for THR and milk. Official inquiries have found that the ‘Take Home Ration’ system, which on paper is distributed to beneficiaries once a week in packets, has completely collapsed in the city due to widespread corruption.
“My spot inspections have revealed that THR is like a ghost which is never found in the anganwadi and cannot be traced either. The ready excuse from supervisor to worker is that — ‘it has already been distributed to beneficiaries’ or ‘it has not been delivered for this week yet’. When the matter is further investigated by visiting homes of beneficiaries, it tells a tale of complete and deliberate mismanagement and obfuscation. Listed beneficiaries have either never taken the THR or even if they have, they get it at irregular intervals; many weeks are missed with no ration,” Sisodia observed in a note.
The Indian Express has been reporting on the irregularities plaguing the ICDS system in Delhi, which may have possibly played a role behind last year’s starvation deaths of three sisters in Mandawali.