BENGALURU: In the midst of a tug of war between advocates who are for serving eggs in midday meals and seers and their likes against it, a new demand has risen from civil society.
Advocates for nutrition from the Right to Food Campaign, have demanded that the contract for the supply of eggs should be given to local self-help or women’s groups to support the livelihood of these communities as well.
The suggestion seems to have been running at the education departmental level too — an official at the department claiming that the scheme has been decentralised completely.
Talking to TNIE, the official said that the "School Development and Monitoring Committee has been given the power to procure the eggs at a local level. Hence if they find such organisations (local suppliers), then it is well and good and these suppliers can be linked in. The process has been decentralised completely”
The official also added that the department did make an attempt at roping in local self-help organisations and groups, however, they were unable to find such groups (involved in egg supply).
Meanwhile, in the backdrop of data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 5th round (2019), which suggests most children in Karnataka do not reach their ideal height and weight, the activists feared that the incidence of stunting and underweight that are common among children even before they start school especially for those from vulnerable communities, may have worsened during the pandemic and lockdown.
"Due to the vicious combination of malnutrition and illness, the children and families of these communities are the most vulnerable without the intervention of the state. Eggs in these scenarios can tilt the nutritional status of a child and would help to gain essential nutrients in fighting malnutrition and ill-health conditions,” said the right to food activists.
Meanwhile, the education department has already completed its baseline study to gauge the impact of eggs and bananas in midday meals and the results are being analysed by the Karnataka State Rural Development and Panchayat Raj University, Gadag. UNICEF, Tata Trust, nutrition experts are all on board with the education department with regards to this study, which pits an intervention district (Yadgir) against a non-intervention district ( Gadag) to check the exit outcomes.
In a positive to the activists demanding eggs be given to all children of the state, an official had told TNIE that the study which also looks at administrative corrections that need to be made, can also be used for future policy framework.