Shivpuri, Friday 10 July 2015. The Sahariya children of Shirpura village (Shivpuri district, Madhya Pradesh) rarely get a chance to eat an egg. Today however, they enjoyed a boiled egg as part of a midday meal organized with contributions from the village community. This was also a symbolic protest against the Chief Minister’s recent refusal to let eggs be served to young children in Anganwadis.
As soon as word spread that eggs were to be served, children flocked from all sides to the venue. Barely containing their excitement, they sat in rows and waited patiently for their khichri and egg. The community meal took place in a cheerful atmosphere punctuated with slogans such as “Sunday ho ya Monday, roz khaenge ande”. Though bananas were available as a vegetarian option, all the children preferred an egg.
Nearly one hundred children under the age of six years participated in the event, along with some pregnant or lactating women.
It may be recalled that Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan recently vetoed a proposal to introduce eggs in Anganwadis in three tribal districts (Mandla, Hoshangabad and Alirajpur) of Madhya Pradesh. This is all the more unfortunate as Madhya Pradesh has some of the worst child undernutrition rates in India.
Eggs are an excellent source of protein for young children. They contain all essential nutrients except Vitamin C. They are cheaper, safer, more nutritious and easier to procurer than alternatives such as milk or bananas.
Eggs are now part of the midday meal in Anganwadis or schools in many states, including some of India’s poorest states (e.g. Odisha, Bihar, and Jharkhand). Powerful vegetarian lobbies, however, have obstructed similar initiatives not only in Madhya Pradesh but also in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh – despite a vegetarian option being available wherever eggs are part of a midday meal menu.
Informal enquiries in other villages in Shivpuri suggest that eggs are popular among a vast majority. In fact, some people consider eggs to be vegetarian.
Among other participants in Shirpura was Aarushi Kalra from the Right to Food Campaign. She said: “It was a revelation to see how excited children were when they heard that eggs were being distributed. A great injustice is being done to them.”