Centre approves Karnataka move to keep eggs in school meals in 7 districts
The Centre has approved the Karnataka government’s decision to keep eggs in the mid-day meal menu of seven backward districts even in the next academic year, extending a pilot initiative to address malnutrition that was opposed by many religious seers of the state.
The development comes at a time the Karnataka government is considering a proposal to add more districts where eggs are on the mid-day meal menu. But, for now, it is official that the children of Raichur, Yadgir, Bidar, Kalburgi, Koppal, Bellary, Vijayapura will be the beneficiaries of the extension.
The decision was taken at the meeting of the Project Approval Board (PAB) of the mid-day meal scheme, which was renamed as PM POSHAN in 2021. According to the minutes of the meeting approved on May 17, the intervention, which will benefit 16.06 lakh children, will cost Rs 44.94 crore.
“After detailed discussions, PAB-PM POSHAN approved to provide supplementary nutrition items i.e. one egg to 16,06,092 lakh children for 46 days in 7 districts viz. Raichur, Yadgir, Bidar, Kalburgi, Koppal, Bellary, Vijayapura at an estimated expenditure of Rs 44.94 crore comprising Rs 26.96 crore as central share and Rs 17.98 crore as State share,” according to the minutes.
The move to extend the initiative is significant as last year, when the state started providing eggs as part of mid-day meal to children of these districts, influential forums such as the Lingayat Dharma Mahasabha, Rashtriya Basava Dal and the Jain Mutt had petitioned the government to drop the plan.
According to a Union government official involved in the deliberations, the Karnataka government’s decision to cast aside the objections mainly stems from the fact that many studies have underlined the urgency to provide supplementary nutrition to children of the state.
Sticking to eggs
Despite its nutritional benefits, eggs are missing from the mid-day meal menu in many states and Union Territories. For now, Karnataka appears to have overcome the pressure mounted by dominant caste and religious groups against the introduction of eggs in the school lunch programme. The move, which was introduced last year, has now been extended, but is still limited to seven of its districts which are backward.
The state told the Centre that its north-eastern parts are “identified as most socio-economically and educationally backward”.
“Most of the family members are found illiterate, unhealthy, jobless and suffering from sociological myths and misconception. They are not able to afford their children sufficient food daily. As a result of their severe poverty and insufficient food, their children found out of schooling, heavy dropouts and most of them suffering from malnutrition, anaemic and lacking immunity and also prone to diseases,” according to the 2021-22 annual work plan and budget for mid-day meal prepared by the state government.
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Now, the state government has been advised by the Centre to provide the eggs by the third quarter of 2022-23 to “mitigate the nutritional challenges posed by the COVID pandemic”.
While the cost of eggs will be borne in the 60:40 ratio by the Centre and the state, the Karnataka government will entirely fund the initiative to provide milk to children of classes I-X under the “Ksheera Bhagya Yojana”.