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Home > Mumbai > Mumbai News > Article > Mumbai Just 40 per cent veggie militants enough to deny eggs for schoolchildren

Mumbai: Just 40 per cent veggie militants enough to deny eggs for schoolchildren!

Updated on: 08 February,2024 06:48 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Dipti Singh | dipti.singh@mid-day.com

Under pressure, state tweaks Centre’s well-meaning diktat to allow vegetarian parents to decide on public schools serving eggs, and also lets meal providers drop the protein

Mumbai: Just 40 per cent veggie militants enough to deny eggs for schoolchildren!

(Left) School Education Minister Deepak Kesarkar with members of the Shree Mumbai Jain Sangh Sangathan on January 5

Key Highlights

  1. Including eggs in midday meals has long been a bone of contention
  2. changes have been made to GR that mandated students in schools across state be serve eggs
  3. A GR issued last month stipulated that eggs will not be included

Including eggs in midday meals has long been a bone of contention, with religious outfits speaking out against the move despite educationists and nutritionists highlighting its benefits. In the wake of opposition from religious groups, changes have been made to a government resolution (GR) that mandated students in schools across the state be served eggs once a week. 


A GR issued last month stipulated that eggs will not be included in the mid-day meal if 40 per cent of parents/students at a school do not consent to consuming them. It also specifies that schools receiving meals from Akshaya Patra and Annamrita Foundation, charities affiliated with the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), which provide food at nominal rates, will be exempted from serving eggs.


The changes were reportedly made after a few religious organisations including the Shree Mumbai Jain Sangh Sangathan (SMJSS), an organisation representing the city’s Jain community, and members of the BJP spiritual cell opposed the government's move.


The Shree Mumbai Jain Sangh Sangathan claims that only the poultry industry will benefit from the inclusion of eggs in midday meals. File pic/Sameer MarkandeThe Shree Mumbai Jain Sangh Sangathan claims that only the poultry industry will benefit from the inclusion of eggs in midday meals. File pic/Sameer Markande

On January 5, a presentation was given to Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and School Education Minister Deepak Kesarkar by the trustees and members of SMJSS. Following this, the state government made amendments to the mid-day meal notification issued on November 7 and a fresh GR was issued on January 24.

To step up the midday meal scheme—officially known as Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman (PM POSHAN)—in Maharashtra, the state government had decided to serve nutrition-packed food to around two crore students studying in government-run schools. It was decided that instead of the same old khichdi, the students would be served egg pulao and biryani, sweets, vegetables and fruits.

This was the first time in 20 years that the school education department had decided to reintroduce eggs to the midday meal menu. Students following a vegetarian diet were to be served bananas instead.

‘Only poultry industry will benefit’

Virag Shah from SMJSS said, “During the presentation, we highlighted that under the new midday meal plan, approximately four crore chicks per month and at least 36 crore chicks per year (excluding the vacation period) would be sacrificed for egg production. Now, as a result of the changes in the notification, nearly 2.25 crore and 20 crore chicks per month and year respectively will be spared. Adding eggs to midday meals will not benefit the 
stakeholders at all.”

SMJSS, which represents more than 1,125 Mumbai-based Jain Sanghs that have more than 1.5 million followers, in its presentation, claimed: “Eggs in midday meals is designed to benefit the poultry industry. There is no demand for eggs from any of the stakeholders. The state’s intention to support the poultry farmers will prove futile. The scheme will impose a huge economic burden on the state. The PM POSHAN scheme does not recommend eggs in its entire scheme. It advocates culturally accepted food. In Maharashtra, where the vegetarian population is 40 per cent, eggs cannot be called culturally accepted food.”

‘How is it fair?’

The principal of a BMC school in south Mumbai said, “It was decided that students at government-run and aided students would get an egg a week, either boiled or as part of other preparations such as pulao or biryani, while vegetarian students and those who don’t want the eggs would be served fruits. It was clear and nobody was going to be forced to eat eggs. These objections and the amendments made to the GR are illogical. My domestic help’s daughter studies at a BMC school. They prefer eggs. Just because 40 per cent of students/parents vote against eggs, she wouldn't get eggs with her meal. How is that fair?” 

What new GR says

In many urban areas of the state, ready-made meals are supplied through a central kitchen system operated by the Annamrita Foundation and Akshaya Patra. Considering the operational capacity of these two organisations, all schools receiving meals from them are permitted to provide bananas or, in exceptional circumstances, local fruits within the limit of Rs 5 per student.

In urban areas, ready-made meals are supplied through a central kitchen system managed by women’s self-help groups. Taking into account the number of beneficiaries from these self-help groups in urban areas, if 40 per cent of beneficiary students in a school request bananas instead of eggs, then all students in the respective school will be provided bananas or local fruits under exceptional circumstances.

If parents consent to the inclusion of eggs in their child’s midday meals, a conspicuous red dot should be placed on the child's identity card. Additionally, the students who are vegetarians or whose parents have not agreed to their children consuming eggs should be marked with a green dot on their identity cards.
Criticising the restriction, Prasad Gokhale, a parent and convenor of Marathi Shala Aaapan Tikavlya Pajihet, a parents' awareness group, said, “We are vegetarians, and would not prefer eggs in the meal. However, just because we don't, we cannot make others follow our preferences. Many dieticians and nutritionists recommend eggs, citing health benefits. Instead of relying on religious groups, the state government should have relied on experts to make these changes. This new kind of discrimination has now become a trend. I disagree with these amendments.”

DoctorSpeak

Niti Desai, a Mumbai-based consultant nutritionist, said eggs cannot be replaced with fruits. “Eggs are considered first-class protein or complete protein. The issue with the Indian diet is that we are very rich in carbohydrates and low in protein. Hence, eggs make a good filler for protein. However, eggs or other protein from animal sources have a high carbon footprint.  Of course, there are options to replace eggs with dairy products like milk, dahi, lassi, etc, but that will prove expensive. Another option is plant-based protein, peanuts, etc.”

She added, “Midday meals served in schools are very important and eggs would contribute to nutrition, but eggs cannot be substituted with fruit.”

Paediatrician Dr Hema Yadav said she recommends eggs and bananas to all kids for the treatment of malnutrition irrespective of religion and dietary preferences. “Eggs offer significant nutritional value as they provide high-quality protein. While it's possible to replace them with plant-based proteins, such alternatives may be costly and impractical. A single egg can easily fulfil a child’s daily protein requirements, whereas expecting children to consume or finish a bowl full of sprouts raises practical concerns.”

Jan 5
Day a presentation was given to CM

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