Defending his decision to reject a proposal to include either egg curry or boiled eggs in anganwadi meals, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan maintains that eggs were never served in anganwadis and will never make it to the menu as long as he is at the helm of affairs in Madhya Pradesh.
But nearly seven years ago, in a tribal block of Hoshangabad district, the vegetarian CM had launched “Project Shaktiman”, under which malnourished children were served boiled eggs and boiled potatoes among other things.
The project took its name from Mukesh Khanna’s popular serial Shaktiman. Accompanied by the actor, Chouhan had then announced that his government was committed to ensuring that not a single child remains malnourished in the state.
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Incidentally, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries Minister, Kusum Mehdele, then held the portfolio of Women and Child Development. Mehdele has now taken on Chouhan by saying that she saw nothing wrong in serving eggs in anganwadi meals.
“The project ran for nearly a year and a half. As many as 45 anganwadis in five clusters of Kesla block were covered. The results were very good. The weight of almost all beneficiaries increased,’’ Sanjeev Shrivastava — the then Project Coordinator, Integrated Child Development Services (Kesla) – told The Indian Express. He said the project also entailed organising health camps and getting children treated at the Nutrition Rehabilitation Centres.
Swarnima Shukla, who was then the district head, recalls that “children covered under the project showed drastic improvement.’’ She also said that nobody had any objection to inclusion of eggs. “It’s a policy matter now,’’ she said when asked about the no-egg diktat.
“All children relished eggs because they also eat them at home,’’ said Putala Sarathe, an anganwadi worker at Pathrota, about 30 km from Hoshangabad.
The eggs were served for nearly a year and a half till project Shaktiman existed on pilot basis. The no-egg policy was inked only when the government came up with Atal Bal Aarogya Evam Poshan Mission in 2010. A week before the official launch in 2010, the Jain community reportedly got Chouhan to declare that eggs will not be served. Before that, a 78-page document about the mission had spelled out how eggs would be useful to fight malnourishment because they are rich in protein.