The Kerala High Court last week stayed the order of the Lakshadweep administration to shut down dairy firms and remove chicken and meat from mid-day meals for children studying in government schools. Hearing a PIL filed against the order of the administration, the court decided to lift the ban on serving meat, chicken, fish, eggs and dairy firms in the meals of school children of Lakshadweep till further orders.
The court observed in its judgment, “We do not understand how the menu of food items served to children can be changed, while it has been prepared keeping in mind the important aspects related to health.” .’ The next hearing of the case is scheduled for June 30. Referring to the Lakshadweep level monitoring committee and district task force level meeting on mid-day meal scheme on January 27, the court said that even a doctor who attended it had said that non-vegetarian food, especially fish, chicken and egg, is important for the development of children. are necessary for. The doctor had said that a balanced vegetarian and non-vegetarian diet is needed for the physical and mental development of children.
The goal of the Mid Day Meal program is to provide nutritious food to the children so that their mental and physical development takes place properly. Mid Day Meal was started on 15th August 1995 in a few thousand blocks to encourage the children studying in Government Primary Schools. From the year 2002, this program was implemented for the children studying from 1st to 5th standard across the country. Later, children up to class 8 were also given its benefit. Earlier, it was decided to give 300 calories and 8 to 12 grams of protein to each child. Later in September 2004, the amount of calories and protein in the children’s plate was increased.
However, the removal of non-veg from mid-meal or government canteens is not new. In the year 2019, the government of Madhya Pradesh had decided to give eggs in the mid-day meal to the children studying in Anganwadi. In protest against this decision, BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya had tweeted, ‘We will oppose it. I think religious beliefs of people should not be interfered with. In March this year, the Gurugram Municipal Corporation decided to shut down all meat shops in the area citing ‘Hindu sentiments’. Although the politics related to the plate has been debated for a long time. It is one thing to spread awareness on non-vegetarianism or vegetarianism, but where it is part of the food habit of the people, it is quite another thing to change it by taking orders from the government.
It is also to be remembered that overall more than 70 percent people of the country are non-vegetarian. There are differences in eating habits in different states. In some states like West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Telangana, more than 90 percent are non-vegetarian. Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab are the least non-vegetarian states. Gujarat has more than 40 percent non-vegetarian population. Archaeological evidence and literature from South India show that meat products have been widely used there since ancient times. Texts on food were first composed during the Middle Ages. For example, there are plenty of references to it in the texts Mansolassa and Lokopakra.
In such a situation, the decision given by the Kerala High Court regarding the nutrition of children should be considered in the interest of the children. Governments should also refrain from tampering with the plate of the people, because the plate of any area is not made in a single day. It took many generations to make it.
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are those of the author.