A strict vegetarian, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has shot down a proposal to include either egg curry or boiled eggs in anganwadi meals on a pilot basis in the tribal areas of Alirajpur, Mandla and Hoshangabad districts.
Activists say introduction of eggs in meals was one way of ensuring children get protein-rich food, especially in the tribal areas where malnutrition remains a concern.
When the proposal was brought to his notice recently, Chouhan was said to have told officials he would not clear it because he had publicly declared that eggs would not be served in anganwadis as long as he was chief minister.
The proposal was drafted after a meeting called last month by the Women and Child Development department to discuss ready-to-eat breakfast for children in the 3-6 age group in anganwadis run under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).
When his comments were sought, S K Mishra, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, said: “It has been a sentimental issue with the CM from Day One. Moreover, there are better, more nutritious options available.”
When he speaks in public, Chouhan says “milk and bananas will be served, but never eggs’’.
Project officers had suggested that eggs be served twice or thrice a week. When word of the new menu reached the powerful Jain community, its members became active. Pressure was mounted on bureaucrats to change the proposal and the matter was eventually raised with Chouhan.
“The bureaucrats told us that they will introduce eggs only after the CM’s clearance. We were not convinced, so we reached him directly,’’ Anil Badkul, spokesperson for the Digambar Jain Mahasamiti, said.
“Do eggs grow on trees? No. Its consumption has several side-effects. When children eat non-vegetarian food, their sensitivity dies,’’ Badkul said. “Bachcho ko bachana hai, andon ko bachana hai (children have to be saved, eggs have to be saved).”
Right to Food campaign activist Sachin Jain said by taking an “unscientific stand”, the state government will be denying children the protein they badly need, especially in the tribal areas where malnutrition is a major worry. He said children in several states were already eating eggs and their health had improved.