Half of Karnataka's adolescent girls are underweight

Dont deny us an eggucation Karnatakas children sayRight to Food campaign
news Mid-Day Meals Friday, October 02, 2015 - 22:04

Twelve-year-old Mehraj flexed his arm in body-builder style. “Eggs give us strength. That’s why we want them.”

Bundled into a lorry that would take them back home to Ullala Upanagara near Kengeri, Mehraj stood near the exit. Asked what his parents did, he said his father was a “welder” and his mother a “housewife”. Standing near him, Class 7 student Bheema said: “It’s enough if they give us one each. There should be enough to go around, no? They should give us one egg a day.”

Mehraj and Bheema are two of around 500 children from government schools in Bengaluru and surrounding districts who staged a protest in front of the Town Hall in Bengaluru demanding their right to nutritious food in the form of eggs in the mid-day meal scheme.

Cries of “Beke-beku, motte beku” filled the air as the children demanding eggs and raising slogans against the state government for its denial of nutritious food to children.

Permission to organize the protest came with a caveat: they could protest, but were asked not to even display eggs, let alone eating them as part of their protest. Despite this, organizers – the Right to Food campaign – had brought boiled eggs in large containers. Shells were taken off on the spot and eggs distributed to the children who ate them at the venue.

Eggs have been recommended by health experts as a source of nutritious food that can be feasibly supplied to children. Religious groups in Karnataka have opposed the inclusion of eggs in the mid-day meal since it was first proposed by the HD Kumaraswamy government in 2007, and insisted on vegetarian fare. This includes the Akshay Patra Foundation run by ISKCON, which has a contract to supply the mid-day meal in several government schools in Bengaluru and other parts of the state.

Read: Eggs in school meals are not just about food habits. It's about social justice too

Class 9 student Sushmita, one of the children who was asked to speak during the protest, said: “Children in other states like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala are being given eggs. Why are only children in Karnataka not being given eggs? We want nutritious food.”

 

Obalesh of the Karnataka Janaarogya Chaluvali, one of the associations which is part of the RTF, said that urban poverty was seriously affecting children. “If we want to dispel malnutrition in urban slums, we need to give children eggs five days a week. Nutritious food is not anna-sambaar (rice-sambaar). Children need meat, but (if not that) at least eggs should be provided because they are highly nutritious.”

According to the Rapid Survey on Children conducted by UNICEF in 2013, 63 percent of adolescent girls in Karnataka are underweight while 35 percent of children are stunted, and 30 percent of children are underweight.

The RTF campaign will organize similar protests across the state in October to put pressure on the government, organizers said.

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