Egg in midday meal: ‘Won’t let Karnataka government backtrack’

Egg and bananas being served to students at a school in Kalaburagi on the first day of their inclusion in the midday meal on December 1, 2021.   | Photo Credit: ARUN KULKARNI

Taking exception to Lingayat organisations demanding reversal of the Karnataka Government’s decision to include eggs in midday meals, many leaders representing various communities and organisations insisted that the government stick to its decision. Some even warned of a statewide agitation and legal battle if the government steps back.

Going a step ahead, C.S. Dwarakanath, former Chairman of Karnataka State Commission for Backward Classes, demanded inclusion of meat in the midday meal along with eggs to fight malnutrition among children.

“The government should include not just egg but meat as well in the midday meal. Majority of children are suffering from anaemia caused by vitamin B12 deficiency, which can be corrected with meat intake. The government cannot deprive the majority of children of their right to nutritious food of their choice just because a few people don’t like it,” Mr. Dwarakanath told The Hindu adding that he would move court if the government withdraws its decision.

S.M. Jamadar, secretary of Jagatika Lingayat Mahasabha, said that his organisation had absolutely no problem as long as an alternative vegetarian item was given to schoolchildren.

“Compelling children from vegetarian communities, like Lingayats, Jains and Brahmins, to eat eggs is wrong. Since the government has given a vegetarian alternative [banana] to egg, it is perfectly alright. It provides children with an opportunity to choose from various options. We are not going to oppose the government’s decision,” Mr. Jamadar said.

Pandit Aradhya swami, head of Sanehalli branch of Sirigere mutt, said that diet is a personal choice. “It is very difficult to distinguish what is vegetarian and what is non-vegetarian. In a sense, even mother’s and cow milk are non-vegetarian. Doctors often advise people to have eggs and meat for better health. But, for that reason, we cannot impose egg and meat on everybody. Diet is an individual choice and others should not interfere in it. What one should or should not eat should not be decided by others,” the seer said.

Rubbishing the opposition to egg in midday meal, Vishwaradhya Satyampete, a Lingayat scholar, said that the vachana movement in the 12th century could be widespread because it had involved all oppressed and marginalised communities respecting their diets.

“There are several vachanas composed by 12th century sharanas [reformers] that uphold the individual’s choice of food. Sharanas never advocated pure vegetarianism. If they had imposed a vegetarian diet, their movement could not be so widespread involving meat-eating downtrodden communities. Nobody has the right to snatch anybody’s food, and there is nothing wrong in the government’s decision to provide eggs as long as there is a vegetarian option,” Mr. Satyampete said.

A few organisations in Bidar, including the Republican Party of India (RPI), Dalita Vidyarthi Parishat, Ramabhai Bhajna Team, Janwadi Mahila Sanghatan and Gonda Vidyarthi Sanghatane, submitted a memorandum to Bidar Deputy Commissioner on December 1 demanding the government stay firm on its decision to offer eggs to schoolchildren.

“The decision to include eggs in midday meals came after a team of experts recommended the same to fight malnutrition among children in Kalyana Karnataka. Opposing the government’s decision is a conspiracy to deprive poor and malnourished children of their rightful nutritious food. Those who are opposing egg in midday meal are rich and can afford to send their children to high-level convent schools. They have no right to snatch nutritious food from the plates of poor children enrolled in government schools,” said Mahesh Gornalkar, Bidar district president of RPI.

The circular

The government had issued a circular in October directing local authorities to include egg and banana in midday meals in schools in seven backward districts – Bidar, Kalaburagi, Yadgir, Raichur, Koppal, Ballari (and Vijayanagara) and Vijayapura – that reported rampant malnutrition among children. Children who don’t eat eggs have the option of having bananas.

The move, which was overwhelmingly welcomed by teachers and parents cutting across religious and caste lines, was expected to improve attendance in schools apart from boosting the health of malnourished children. It is learnt that an internal survey by the Additional Commissioner of Public Instruction (Kalaburagi division) had found that around 80% of children had expressed willingness to have egg in the midday meal.

However, some Lingayat organisations, including Rashtriya Basava Dal, had opposed the government’s decision.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2022 6:02:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/egg-in-midday-meal-wont-let-karnataka-government-backtrack/article37786445.ece

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