Non-vegetarians beware! “Your food causes you to easily cheat, tell lies, forget promises, be dishonest, steal and commit sex crimes”, according to a Class VI book titled ‘New Healthway: Health, Hygiene, Physiology, Safety, Sex Education, Games and Exercises’ brought out by S. Chand publishers who print textbooks for several hundred schools in the country.

That is not all. The book (on page 56) further credits the tastiness of meat by saying that “it is the waste products which largely produce the flavour of meat”.

While the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has washed its hands of the book and the issue, its chief Vineet Joshi has said: “This is not a Board recommended book. Schools are allowed to select their own text books according to the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) syllabus till Class VIII. We are looking into this matter.”

Reacting to the issue, Union Minister for Human Resource Development M.M. Pallam Raju called the text in the book “unfortunate and an occasional aberration”.

“Sensitivities of communities have to be kept in mind. Also State bodies have to stay alert about the content of the text books which reaches several children across the country,” he noted.

Advocating ‘clean/pure food’ and stating that they believe in the ancient Indian philosophy which says that you are what you eat and your food shapes up the way you think and consequently impact your behaviour, Tihar Jail spokesperson Sunil Gupta said: “We serve only vegetarian food to the inmates as we believe that non-vegetarian food does have a negative impact on the psyche of the individual.”He added: “As a matter of fact, the practice was challenged by a group of prisoners from other countries who described the food provided to them as unpalatable. The reason, they argued, was that they were not used to vegetarian food. We, on the other hand, told the court that this was offensive to our eating habits and that no specific arrangements are made for Indian (vegetarian) prisoners incarcerated in other countries. The court rejected their appeal. At Tihar Jail the food provided to prisoners is as per a diet plan approved by a dietician and has a mix of cereals and vegetables.”

Seconding the belief that non-vegetarian food produces two very strong negative reactions “anger/fear”, socio-spiritual educational institution Brahma Kumaris national co-ordinator B.K. Sushant said: “We believe that killing an animal releases toxic hormones and that gets into human beings, which further creates a negative impact on his moral, mental and physical well being.”

Rubbishing the statement, former warden at Ramjas College Professor Tanvir Aeijab said: “The debate is never-ending. We cater to students from all over the country who come here from various cultures. Food is more about the region that you come from and the food habits that have been passed on for generations. Food doesn’t dictate your moral fibre. We have catered to thousands of children and found no difference in vegetarians or non-vegetarians.”

The book meanwhile (ignoring Japan’s extensive consumption of sushi and other seafood) also lauds the Japanese for their vegetarian diet, which it says leads to a longer life span. “The generous use of green leafy vegetables, soya beans and grams has helped the people to maintain vigour, strength and endurance throughout the centuries,” states the book.

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