Inclusion of eggs in Karnataka midday meals triggers political row

Many members of Lingayat groups and seers have opposed the move aimed at countering malnutrition.
The National President of the Lingayatama Mahasabha, the Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, today demanded the withdrawal of the chicken egg order for school children.
The National President of the Lingayatama Mahasabha, the Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, today demanded the withdrawal of the chicken egg order for school children.

A week after the Karnataka government’s decision to provide eggs with midday meals three times a week to students in seven districts, the move is seeing opposition from a few religious groups. Speaking with reporters on Thursday, December 2, Lingayat seer Channabasavananda Swamiji said, “If eggs are given, then schools will turn into military hotels. Instead, grains and pulses should be given. If the rule isn't withdrawn, there will be severe protests.”

Many members of Lingayat groups have opposed the move aimed at countering malnutrition. This includes the Rashtriya Basava dal, Lingayat Dharma Mahasabha, Akkanagalambika Mahila Gana Karyakartharu, Basava Mantapa and the Rashtriya Basava dal.

The opposition is despite the government’s announcement that students who are vegetarians will be given bananas instead of eggs. However, amid the opposition, several groups and politicians have appealed to the state government not to backtrack on the move. Secretary of Jagatika Lingayat Mahasabha SM Jamadar told The Hindu that the organisation had “absolutely no problem” with eggs being provided, as long as an alternative was available for vegetarian children. He added that the organisation will not oppose the government’s decision. 

The matter of eggs being provided with midday meals in Karnataka has been a demand of activists and other stakeholders for several years. On November 23, the state government said that eggs would be available for students in seven districts -- Bidar, Raichur, Kalaburagi, Yadgir, Koppal, Ballari,and Vijayapura -- as instances of malnutrition and anemia are high in these areas.

Recently, many civil society organisations under the umbrella of ‘Our Food, Our Right’ have written to state Education Minister BC Nagesh, urging the government not to bow down to pressure from religious and political organisations.

They have also questioned why children in other parts of the state are deprived of eggs in their midday meal, and asked why eggs cannot be provided every day instead of just three times a week. They said, “ We, the members of different Civil Society Organisations, welcome the decision of the state government to provide eggs for children in select districts of Karnataka, as part of Mid Day Meals to uphold the Right to Food of every child as enshrined in the National Food Security Act 2013. This is very much needed to reduce malnutrition and promote their health.”

They added, “However, as a group of nutritionists, doctors, activists, lawyers, and citizens who are extremely concerned about child malnutrition in Karnataka, we think eggs are should be provided as part of the mid-day meal scheme on all school days to all children in Karnataka, who are used to consuming eggs.”

They cited the 5th National Family Health Survey (2019) which found that 35.4% children in the state report stunted growth, while 32.9% are underweight and expressed that the pandemic is likely to further worsen the situation.

In addition they have demanded that milk be also provided to children among other interventions.

The activists pointed out that Karnataka was the only south Indian state not to introduce eggs as part of the midday meals even though 94% students in the government and aided schools eat eggs.  They stated that states like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh who have similar budgets give eggs five days a week.

Related Stories

No stories found.
The News Minute