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In Madhya Pradesh, eggs blur the line between religion and nutrition

SabrangIndia talks to people from both sides of the argument to understand the long-stretched debate on egg-consumption in Madhya Pradesh.

Vallari Sanzgiri 16 Sep 2020

Image Courtesy:huffingtonpost.in

There can be no greater culinary tragedy than the denial of eggs in Madhya Pradesh. For years, the majority of people in Madhya Pradesh have opposed the consumption of eggs due to its largely vegetarian cuisine. The irony is in the fact that Madhya Pradesh, one of the most malnourished States in India denies the intake of this prime source of protein.

Eggs contain all 22 amino acids, providing around 70 calories and 7gs of protein. The Recommended Dietary Allowance report of 2019 by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) stated that children between the ages of one to three years require 16.7gs of protein. Thus, simply two eggs per meal could greatly improve a child’s health.

As per the National Family Health Survey-4 (NFHS-4) of 2015-16, 42 percent children in the State are stunted, nearly 26 percent are wasted, 9 percent are severely wasted and nearly 43 percent are underweight. Moreover, 69 percent of children between 6-59 months are anaemic.

All of these figures would reduce drastically if the State government would accept Women and Child Welfare Minister Imarti Devi’s proposal of including eggs in anganwadi meals. However, the proposal has met with constant opposition ever since its introduction in 2009. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has gone as far as to say that the inclusion of eggs in anganwadi meals would never become a reality as long as he remained in power.

To understand the legitimacy of such a dramatic statement, one only needs to talk to one of the vegetarians in Madhya Pradesh.

“Eating eggs is a matter of dharma [religious conduct.] It is different from following rituals. How can we allow it?” said co-President of the Jain Social Group (JSG) in Ratlam Lalit Kanthed.

Kanthed said that he does not mind other people eating eggs. However, the inclusion of eggs in anganwadis would be too drastic because even Hindu children visit these places. He said parents who follow vegetarian diet would be scared to send their children to anganwadis on the off-chance that they ate the food item. Kanthed also made the argument that there were many other nutritious alternatives to eggs.

When asked about rumours that said egg consumption resulted in cannibalism, he rubbished the idea but insisted that eggs should not be a part of meals.

On the other hand, Dr. Preeti Shukla has long been a staunch advocate for high-protein food such as eggs. Over the years, she infrequently visited different anganwadis to raise awareness about nutrition and diet. In 2006, she conducted a survey for her doctorate wherein a group of young anganwadi girls consumed a high-protein diet that included eggs. She noted that their health drastically improved over the following six months.

Shukla said that eggs are a complete meal with high biological value proteins. Therefore, it is a good supplement for underprivileged children. However, even she could not fight against the dissent of the vegetarian community. She acknowledged that the majority of people in the State were vegetarian and thus opposed the introduction of eggs in meals. In the same vein, she also stated that most people who came to anganwadis were Maharashtrians or non-vegetarians who did not mind eating eggs. For these people she said that eggs should be allowed as a rich source of protein. She said that providing these 0-5 year children with an egg diet could address their protein requirement to a large extent.

Similarly, for vegetarians, she argued that meals could include alternatives such as ladoos made from peanuts or other nuts. Even so, eggs seem to be a cut above its vegetarian alternatives because the shelled-commodities are hardly ever contaminated. Among vegetarian alternatives, paneer (cottage cheese) can compete with eggs in terms of nutrition but there are chances of contamination with such proteins.

In ‘Community Traditional Food Resource Mapping Study’ by an NGO called Vikas Samvad, it was discovered that 99 percent of the Madhya Pradesh OBC tribes surveyed liked the consumption of non-vegetarian food. Moreover, eggs were consumed more than any meat product. Pregnant women consumed five to seven eggs per month, lactating mothers ate nine eggs per month while adolescent children 10 eggs per month. The data indicated that eggs, although not a part of the majority population’s diet, are still an important part of the State’s cuisine.

According to Market.TodayPriceRates, the product is also sold at an affordable rate of Rs. 5 per egg as of September 15. This makes it cheaper than milk, pulses or any other vegetarian alternative.

Yet the social constraints keep this food group from becoming a part of mainstream diet. There was hope for its normalisation in April 2020. However, once the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power, the question of nutrition has once again become politicised.

Related:

Feeding Mothers, Fighting Malnutrition: The East Godavari Experience
BJP States Most Resistant To Eggs In Mid-Day Meals, Cite Vegetarian Sentiments
Daal and Eggs critical to stem hunger in drought areas: Swaraj Abhiyan

In Madhya Pradesh, eggs blur the line between religion and nutrition

SabrangIndia talks to people from both sides of the argument to understand the long-stretched debate on egg-consumption in Madhya Pradesh.

Image Courtesy:huffingtonpost.in

There can be no greater culinary tragedy than the denial of eggs in Madhya Pradesh. For years, the majority of people in Madhya Pradesh have opposed the consumption of eggs due to its largely vegetarian cuisine. The irony is in the fact that Madhya Pradesh, one of the most malnourished States in India denies the intake of this prime source of protein.

Eggs contain all 22 amino acids, providing around 70 calories and 7gs of protein. The Recommended Dietary Allowance report of 2019 by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) stated that children between the ages of one to three years require 16.7gs of protein. Thus, simply two eggs per meal could greatly improve a child’s health.

As per the National Family Health Survey-4 (NFHS-4) of 2015-16, 42 percent children in the State are stunted, nearly 26 percent are wasted, 9 percent are severely wasted and nearly 43 percent are underweight. Moreover, 69 percent of children between 6-59 months are anaemic.

All of these figures would reduce drastically if the State government would accept Women and Child Welfare Minister Imarti Devi’s proposal of including eggs in anganwadi meals. However, the proposal has met with constant opposition ever since its introduction in 2009. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has gone as far as to say that the inclusion of eggs in anganwadi meals would never become a reality as long as he remained in power.

To understand the legitimacy of such a dramatic statement, one only needs to talk to one of the vegetarians in Madhya Pradesh.

“Eating eggs is a matter of dharma [religious conduct.] It is different from following rituals. How can we allow it?” said co-President of the Jain Social Group (JSG) in Ratlam Lalit Kanthed.

Kanthed said that he does not mind other people eating eggs. However, the inclusion of eggs in anganwadis would be too drastic because even Hindu children visit these places. He said parents who follow vegetarian diet would be scared to send their children to anganwadis on the off-chance that they ate the food item. Kanthed also made the argument that there were many other nutritious alternatives to eggs.

When asked about rumours that said egg consumption resulted in cannibalism, he rubbished the idea but insisted that eggs should not be a part of meals.

On the other hand, Dr. Preeti Shukla has long been a staunch advocate for high-protein food such as eggs. Over the years, she infrequently visited different anganwadis to raise awareness about nutrition and diet. In 2006, she conducted a survey for her doctorate wherein a group of young anganwadi girls consumed a high-protein diet that included eggs. She noted that their health drastically improved over the following six months.

Shukla said that eggs are a complete meal with high biological value proteins. Therefore, it is a good supplement for underprivileged children. However, even she could not fight against the dissent of the vegetarian community. She acknowledged that the majority of people in the State were vegetarian and thus opposed the introduction of eggs in meals. In the same vein, she also stated that most people who came to anganwadis were Maharashtrians or non-vegetarians who did not mind eating eggs. For these people she said that eggs should be allowed as a rich source of protein. She said that providing these 0-5 year children with an egg diet could address their protein requirement to a large extent.

Similarly, for vegetarians, she argued that meals could include alternatives such as ladoos made from peanuts or other nuts. Even so, eggs seem to be a cut above its vegetarian alternatives because the shelled-commodities are hardly ever contaminated. Among vegetarian alternatives, paneer (cottage cheese) can compete with eggs in terms of nutrition but there are chances of contamination with such proteins.

In ‘Community Traditional Food Resource Mapping Study’ by an NGO called Vikas Samvad, it was discovered that 99 percent of the Madhya Pradesh OBC tribes surveyed liked the consumption of non-vegetarian food. Moreover, eggs were consumed more than any meat product. Pregnant women consumed five to seven eggs per month, lactating mothers ate nine eggs per month while adolescent children 10 eggs per month. The data indicated that eggs, although not a part of the majority population’s diet, are still an important part of the State’s cuisine.

According to Market.TodayPriceRates, the product is also sold at an affordable rate of Rs. 5 per egg as of September 15. This makes it cheaper than milk, pulses or any other vegetarian alternative.

Yet the social constraints keep this food group from becoming a part of mainstream diet. There was hope for its normalisation in April 2020. However, once the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power, the question of nutrition has once again become politicised.

Related:

Feeding Mothers, Fighting Malnutrition: The East Godavari Experience
BJP States Most Resistant To Eggs In Mid-Day Meals, Cite Vegetarian Sentiments
Daal and Eggs critical to stem hunger in drought areas: Swaraj Abhiyan

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