September 18, 2021 2:14:50 am
A DIVISION bench of Kerala High Court on Friday rejected a PIL challenging the decision of the Lakshadweep administration to close down dairy farms and drop meat from the menu of mid-day meals for school students, giving a boost to reforms being pushed by the Administrator of the Union Territory, Praful K Patel.
A slew of reforms that have been proposed and, in some cases introduced, in Lakshadweep since January this year, had created a furore in the islands as well as in mainland Kerala.
In June this year, acting on the PIL moved by a resident of the islands, Ajmal Ahamed, the High Court had temporarily stayed two orders of the administration: one pertaining to the closure of dairy farms; the other on the change in the menu of mid-day meals in schools. The court lifted the interim stay after the administration filed a counter-affidavit, asking that the PIL be rejected.
Senior standing counsel for the Lakshadweep administration, S Manu, said in the counter-affidavit that the administration had been incurring a loss of Rs 1 crore annually on account of running the dairy farms. The daily production of milk is only 170 litres on the Kavaratti and Minicoy islands, and caters to only 300-odd customers among the around 20,000 population of the two islands, he said.
Regarding the menu of the mid-day meal, the administration said instead of meat, other nutritious items, including fruits, have been added to the menu. The government has every right to make the menu vegetarian, if required, as long as it met the stipulated nutritional requirements, he said. Counsel for the administration produced the vegetarian menu of West Bengal, Goa, Puducherry, and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
The petition had wanted that the Administrator should desist from implementing any reforms “infringing the ethnic culture, heritage, food habit and affecting the serene and calm atmosphere in the Lakshadweep Islands and also infringing the constitutional right guaranteed under Article 19 and 300A of the Constitution of India’’.
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