Eggs and equality
The problems of large-scale malnutrition and stunting in India are giant imponderables.
First, the good news. The Madhya Pradesh government will introduce eggs in mid-day meals, starting April 2020, after anganwadis in the state approved the proposal despite stiff resistance from many quarters, with leader of Opposition Gopal Bhargava fantastically claiming it could turn children into “cannibals”. The more sobering news is that this scheme, when implemented, will still be a differential one — excluding children from vegetarian families.
The social facts nationwide continue to be as stark as ever — just one-third of states, mostly in the southern and eastern parts of the country, provide eggs to children — Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand being the sole exceptions among the northern states, and recently Chhattisgarh.
The biological truth is that eggs remain the most efficient food for growth. Scientists frequently use eggs as a standard for measuring the protein quality of other foods, and at 93.7 per cent, eggs score higher than any other.
The problems of large-scale malnutrition and stunting in India are giant imponderables. While stunted adults never reach their full mental and physical potentials, they pathetically go on to develop diabetes and high blood pressure should they be exposed to a healthy diet later in their lives. The offspring of these adults inherit this immeasurable loss. The worst sufferers are the ones with the least means to exercise choice, the poor and Dalits the largest majorities therein.
Academic debate regarding food habits and traditions aside and notwithstanding, what we are doing to our children in the name of adherence to a majoritarian brahminical culture is, therefore, criminal, by the most liberal of estimates. What, for instance, would the former Shivraj Singh government now say to children deprived of a normal diet for the last 10 years? Would it spin a fiction like Aamis and brandish it before their credulous eyes? Would it even have the requisite imagination? Crucially, would it be able to distinguish between policy and art?