Stirring the 'egg debate' again, Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Chouhan on Sunday, announced that his government will be providing cow milk instead of eggs to severely malnourished children as part of the mid-day meal scheme. Chouhan, when in power from 2005-2018, had refused to follow the UPA government's direction to include eggs as part of the mid-day meal school programme. The Kamal Nath government had previously introduced eggs in the mid-day meal for children in Anganwadis in October 2019. The Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNNS) released in 2019, shows 54 per cent of kids in Madhya Pradesh in age group of one to four years are anaemic, while stunted growth is at 40%.
We have decided to provide cow milk in place of eggs to severely malnourished children in Madhya Pradesh: Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan https://t.co/q0n75C8EHG— ANI (@ANI) November 22, 2020
In 2019, Congress had announced it will be serving eggs as part of the mid-day meal for children in Anganwadis and pregnant women in Anganwadis in a serious bid to check malnutrition, as per reports. Taking offence to it, BJP argued 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. The state's women and child development minister Imarti Devi had said, "We don't care about the opposition to this scheme. All we care about is that the children get the nutrition they need."
Since then, Imarti Devi - a Jyotiraditya Scindia loyalist - switched to BJP. During her bypoll campaign she said that 'eggs will be given in mid-day meals to children who want it while others will be given fruits to combat malnutrition at anganwadis'. She lost her seat to Congress' Suresh Raje. Eggs have been introduced and revoked in states as per the political rule at any given time.
Inspite of the Centre's recommendation in 2013, BJP governments across India have been reluctant to include eggs into the diet of school children as part of mid-day stating 'vegetarian' diets. As per the Right to Food Campaign (2015), 13 states across the country serve eggs as part of the meals. As per reports, states like Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, and West Bengal perform much better among the highly populated states as they provide eggs/bananas to children twice a week.
Meanwhile, BJP-ruled states like Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Karnataka, Gujarat either serve no egg or just one egg to students per week, citing religious reasons. A few non-BJP states like Punjab, Mizoram and Delhi too do not serve eggs. With 195 million undernourished in India, the National Institute of Nutrition has stated that proteins derived from egg had comparatively higher protein bioavailability of 94%, compared to vegetable proteins like Bengal gram (76%) and soya bean (54%).