MP govt introduces eggs in mid-day meal, sparks row

Representative image. DH Photo

Amid protest by the BJP, the Kamal Nath government has decided to introduce eggs in the mid-day meal for children in Anganwadis from next month.

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre had asked state governments to start feeding eggs to malnourished children in Anganwadis in 2013 but the BJP ruled states including Madhya Pradesh had rejected the recommendation citing “religious sentiments of vegetarian Hindus”.

The Congress and non-profit organisations working for children welfare had strongly criticized the Shivraj Singh government for denying eggs, arguably the cheapest source of protein, to undernourished children on the specious grounds that the move hurt religious sentiments of Hindus.  

State Women and Child Development Minister Imarti Devi said on Wednesday that the department has planned to provide eggs in mid-day meal to children and also to pregnant women in Anganwadis in a serious bid to check malnutrition in Madhya Pradesh.

Accusing the previous BJP government of doing precious little to minimise malnutrition in the last 15 years, the minister said that serious efforts are being made to ensure that the state’s poor and undernourished children are well taken care of.

She regretted that despite spending hundreds of crores of rupees the menace of malnutrition continued to remain a big challenge for the government. The minister recalled that a similar scheme was prepared during the tenure of previous government "but they did not implement it."

Dismissing the BJP’s opposition to the scheme, the minister said, "We don't care about the opposition to this scheme. All we care about is that the children get the nutrition they need."

BJP MLA Rameshwar Sharma, on the other hand, raised questions about the arrangements made for vegetarian children.

"We are saying is that vegetarian children also come to these Anganwadis and that separate arrangement should be made for them as well," he said.

Sharma’s argument is that if eggs are served in the mid-day meal, “vegetarian children” will stay away from the food served in the Anganwadis and this will result in further escalation of malnutrition.

BJP spokesperson Rahul Kothari alleged a conspiracy behind the decision.

"BJP government also took several key initiatives to end malnutrition in the state and we also won several international awards for the same. We think this decision by the state government is a part of a larger conspiracy. If an attempt is made to harm the religious culture of the country, we will not accept it," he said.

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