Introduction of eggs in the midday meal menu has helped improve attendance in schools in Bengal and Telangana, a study commissioned by the Union Human Resource Development Ministry has found.
The findings of the seventh joint review mission (JRM) come just a few months after Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan shot down a proposal to serve eggs to children in anganwadis (pre-school) on a trial basis.
Chouhan, a strict vegetarian himself, had rejected the idea after receiving a representation from the Jain community.
Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi too had said she was against offering eggs in anganwadis, as they are perishable and full of cholesterol. She had also said that serving eggs could lead to corruption.
The eight-member team of the seventh JRM visited Maharashtra, Telangana, West Bengal and Assam in March this year to monitor the progress of the world’s largest school meal programme, which serves over 10 crore children across 12 lakh schools.
In Bengal, egg curry is served twice a week. The JRM observed that there was an increase in attendance specifically on days when egg was on the menu.
“Students attended the schools in large number whenever the egg was served,” the JRM stated in its final report, adding that teachers reported that “children were much happier on the days when the egg is served than on other days”.
The addition of eggs to the midday meal menu has been at the centre of a heated debate ever since the HRD Ministry advised state governments to emulate each other’s good practices, including the serving of eggs.
Apart from Bengal and Telangana, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh are among the states that have introduced eggs in their school midday meals.