Political and Religious Stigmas on the Way of Nutritional Programmes
- JWB Discussion
- June 2, 2015
India has the world’s largest number of undernourished people.
To cope with this the problem, India runs mid-day meal programmes and other nutritional initiatives meant for children. Under various schemes, Indian states provide eggs, milk, fruit and other nutritional food to school children.
Recently Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has turned down a proposal by the state’s women and child development department that eggs, a rich and relatively inexpensive source of protein, be included as part of a nutritional scheme for pre-school children in the state.
Undernourishment among children in Madhya Pradesh is very high. A 2010 study by the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, found that 51.7% of children under 6 in MP were underweight. A 2012 report by the state planning commission contained this chilling sentence: “…the number of severely acute malnourished (SAM) children is so high, that it is impossible to treat all of them”.
Hindutva ideology and related vegetarian dogma followed by upper-caste Hindus might be coming in the way of providing a cheap source of nutrition to deprived and malnourished children, whose cultural preferences would wholeheartedly welcome the opportunity to consume an egg.
While 12 states in India give eggs to children as part of the mid-day meal scheme, two states give glasses of milk or bananas instead. All states which offer eggs also serve fruits to vegetarian states, according to Narayan. No nutritional programme that serves eggs makes it mandatory for vegetarian children to consume them. But the policy influence of vegetarianism is such that all children, including tribals and other groups of severely disadvantaged communities, are denied eggs. Scroll details the up-hill battle faced by right to food campaigners in various states to get eggs included in state-run nutritional schemes.
Share your opinion on how to make nutritional programme more effective despite the fact of having firm religious and political stigmas.