Chouhan not alone, denying eggs to malnourished children is a trend in BJP-ruled states

Eggs are a source of protein, potassium, carbohydrate and several vitamins, and are generally considered good for health. Experts say that in case of malnourished children, an egg provides more nourishment than even milk.

But does the BJP government care about science? Looks like not. Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi has now jumped to the defence of Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who recently rejected a proposal to introduce eggs in anganwadi centres and has now said that eggs are expensive.

 Chouhan not alone, denying eggs to malnourished children is a trend in BJP-ruled states

Representational image. AFP

According to The Hindu she was of the opinion, "that eggs were expensive and there were cheaper sources of protein that could be used to feed children in government mid-day meal programmes."

While Chouhan suggests that milk and bananas be served to children instead of eggs, the truth is that these foods have significantly lesser amounts of protein and some vitamins like Vitamin D are missing altogether. While a glass of milk has less than half of the percentage of Vitamin B-12 that is there in an egg, this vitamin is completely missing in a banana.

Despite finding a friend in Maneka Gandhi, Chouhan and BJP have been widely criticised for this latest move. Experts like economist Jean Dreze have criticised Chouhan saying this was forcing one's own habits on others. He also blamed vegetarian lobbies.

"This obstruction (by vegetarian lobbies) is hard to justify since there is no difficulty in having a vegetarian option (say, a banana) for children who prefer not to eat eggs. Surely vegetarianism is about abstaining from certain food products and not about enforcing the abstention on others," Dreze tells The Telegraph.

Another Right to Food campaign activist Sachin Jain told The Indian Express that "by taking an “unscientific stand”, the state government will be denying children the protein they badly need, especially in the tribal areas where malnutrition is a major worry. He said children in several states were already eating eggs and their health had improved."

What is more surprising is such a pattern is prevalent in several BJP-ruled states. The Huffington Post reports, "A perusal of the trends makes one thing clear--what is common to all the states that consistently provide eggs to undernourished children is a non-BJP government. In other words, the party's Hindutva ideology and related vegetarian dogma followed by upper-caste Hindus might be coming in the way of providing a cheap source of nutrition to deprived and malnourished children, whose cultural preferences would wholeheartedly welcome the opportunity to consume an egg."

Maps published by the Right to Food Campaign show how states in central and western India (mostly BJP ruled states) do not serve eggs as opposed to those in eastern and southern India (non-BJP ruled states).

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It was in April 2014, that the State Women and Child Development Department Principal Secretary of Madhya Pradesh JN Kansotia had asked officers in Alirajpur, Mandla and Hoshangabad districts to send proposals regarding the introduction of egg curry or boiled eggs in anganwadi meals on an experimental basis. His direction came after some district officers suggested to him that since eggs are nutritious and protein-rich, they should be given to children at least twice a week to help tackle the problem of malnourishment.

But then, the Jain community in the state was pushing for non-inclusion of eggs in the anganwadi meal. A delegation of the community members made a demand to this effect to the state government.

This wasn't the first time Chouhan rejected such a proposal. PTI reports that in September 2010 as well, Chouhan had rejected a proposal for introduction of eggs. When a Jain delegation had met Chouhan in 2010 over the same issue, Chouhan had assured them that eggs would not become a part of anganwadi meals as long as he was at the helm of affairs.

PTI reports that Chouhan had told the delegation, "What is the need for eggs in angandwadis. As long I am the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, eggs will not be introduced. In any case, the human body is meant to consume vegetarian food, which had everything the human body requires."

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Updated Date: Jun 03, 2015 17:39:55 IST