Saturday, December 9, 2023

Let them eat fruit: Lakshadweep Administration tells Supreme Court on removing meat from mid-day meal

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The Supreme Court has been informed by the Lakshadweep administration that it has decided to omit meat from the mid-day meal menu of the schools, while adding fruits and dry fruits in its place because inhabitants of the island eat meat regularly at their home, but consume fruits and dry fruits occassionally.

The Supreme Court had asked for a reply from the Centre on an appeal against a judgement of the Kerala High Court, challenging the decision of the Lakshadweep administration.

The plea challenged the decision of the administration for closing down the dairy farms and taking meat off the menu of mid-day meal in schools.

Praful Khoda Patel, Administrator of the Union Territory, said in his counter-affidavit that mid-day meal in schools was not a substitute to the food provided to students at home.

The affidavit said, “In Lakshadweep, meat and chicken are normally a part of regular meals in all homes. On the other hand, consumption of fruits and dry fruits among the islanders is very less. Thus, omitting meat and chicken from the menu of mid-day meal scheme and including fruits and dry fruits is perfectly in tune with the objective of mid-day meal scheme.” 

The affidavit further mentioned that procuring meat can be a difficult task in the monsoon season, while eggs, fish, fruits and nuts are easy to procure and rich sources of minerals and vitamins. It was also argued that lack of proper storage facilities could be a great trouble, where mutton can turn rotten or unfit for consumption, whereas the given options last longer without any special facility.

According to the National Food Security Act of 2013, the mid-day meal for lower primary classes should have 450 calories and 12 gm protein. In its counter-affidavit, the Lakshadweep administration said, “Neither in the rules nor in any direction issued by the Central government, is there any stipulation that meat and chicken shall be necessarily provided in mid-day meals.”

According to the administration, dry fruits were included instead of meat, which provided sufficient nutrition, along with fish, egg and vegetables.

The decision taken by Lakshadweep administration to close down dairy farms of the department of animal husbandry was because the farms could only meet the need of 300 to 400 people, whereas the total population of Lakshadweep was much beyond this figure, which ultimately was causing a loss of Rs 96 lakh to the public exchequer.

The Union territory said “The government is well within its rights to disengage from a commercial activity, which is causing a huge loss to the public exchequer.” 

A Bench comprising Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice A.S. Bopanna had revived a High Court order of June 22, which had granted interim relief to the petitioner and ordered, “food, including meat, chicken, fish, egg and other items, prepared and served to the school going children of Lakshadweep, as done in the past, should be continued until further orders”.

The petitioner had said that the menu has been in force since its inception and that they have been serving cooked meat and other food to school going children from pre-primary to elementary levels.

The petitioner added that after 2009, the same was also provided to students till 12th standard as well.

Talking about the new menu, the petitioner said that a new menu without any meat products was implemented, which was completely violative of the Right to Food guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

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