The Karnataka government’s announcement to give eggs to children studying in Classes 1 to 10 as part of the mid-day meal scheme triggered protests in the state. The government announced that only children studying in government-run and government-aided schools in seven districts will receive eggs as part of the scheme. However, several Lingayat and Jain groups protested, demanding that the state withdraw its order.
Karnataka is the only southern state that does not give eggs to school children as part of the mid-day meal scheme. In fact, for years food activists have been demanding that the state introduce eggs, pointing to high levels of malnutrition among children in several districts.
According to the 2018 Comprehensive National Nutrition Scheme, only 57% of children
between the age of 5 and 9 consumed eggs in Karnataka. This was the lowest percentage among the southern states. Children in this age group in Karnataka were also trailing when it came to consuming meat, fish and cereal compared to their southern counterparts. But when it came to green leafy vegetables, tubers, milk and fruits, Karnataka fared well. The same report found that 28% of children in Karnataka had low BMI, 32.5% kids under 5 were stunted, while 19% under the age of 5 had acute malnutrition.
So given these numbers, can the state government afford to repeal its order? Is this the first time that Karnataka is seeing such a controversy? And why are Lingayat seers protesting? TNM’s Anna Isaac explains.