“Chhattisgarh govt not considering policy on eggs in ICDS, MDM schemes”: CG Health Minister TS Singh Deo

egg in mid day meals

‘Eggs in our plate, no more debate’, read the placard being held by a 5-year-old in front of Chhattisgarh health minister TS Singh Deo’s residence on Sunday morning. He, along with his mother and at least 150 other women and children were demanding the inclusion of eggs in the aanganwadi and school meals as part of the Anda Do Campaign. The campaign is being helmed by local collective ‘Chhattisgarh Kisan Majdoor Sangathan’ and national network ‘Right to Food Campaign’. People from four blocks of the Surguja district – Lundra, Batauli, Udaypur, and Lakhanpur – joined the gathering on Sunday. In addition, members of the Chhattisgarh Kisan Majdoor Sangathan, doctors from local organization Sangwari were also present, and activists from Odisha and Bihar were also present to make the case on behalf of the children.

Singh Deo, who met the group soon after they assembled, agreed with the need for eggs but said, “The Chhattisgarh government is not considering bringing a policy on introducing eggs for children in aanganwadis and primary schools.” Instead, he added, a local initiative must be made to provide eggs through SHGs at the village level.

The minister acknowledged that there is opposition from religious groups against including eggs in school meals, however, in response, members of the sangathan emphasized the nutritional importance of eggs. “Nutrition is a right and must not be influenced by any other factor. Children and parents should be free to choose whether they want to consume eggs,” said Gangaram Paikra, convenor of the Chhattisgarh Kisan Majdoor Sangathan.

The sangathan also submitted a memorandum to the state government with the following demands–

1) In ICDS, kids aged 3-6 years must be given eggs for at least 5 days in a week.

2) Pregnant and lactating women, and kids aged 6 months to 3 years must be given eggs as take home ration for 3 days in a week.

3) In MDM, we demand eggs on at least two days in a week.

The Anda Do Campaign has been kickstarted on the heels of a survey covering 170 aanganwadi centres, and 414 primary and upper primary schools. The aanganwadi survey was conducted from 26/12/22 to 31/12/22, while the implementation of the Midday Meals scheme was surveyed from 2/1/23 to 4/1/23. Among the aiming to gather data on the nutritional value of meals in aanganwadis and schools, the survey also sought to study the diversity of food provided and whether THR was being distributed as stipulated.

The following are a few of the findings of the survey – 1) 13% of the aanganwadis did not open even once for the entirety of the survey and 30% work days of the aanganwadi were lost to closure in the duration of the survey; 2) Not a single aanganwadi was found to be providing eggs during the duration of the survey; 3) Only 24% aanganwadis were serving meals which had vegetables apart from potato and soya nutri-nuggets (for eg: Green leafy vegetables, brinjal, cauliflower, chana, etc); 4) 22% of the primary and upper primary schools had last served eggs over a month ago; 5) Teachers in 67% of the schools said that there was an increase in attendance when eggs are served in midday meals.

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