NEWS STATES TAMIL NADU
‘Providing eggs to schoolchildren every day not feasible during lockdown’
CHENNAI 27 JULY 2020 23:54 IST
UPDATED: 27 JULY 2020 23:54 IST
The State government on Monday told the Madras High Court that it had ordered for provision of 16,138.69 tonnes of rice and 5,207.84 tonnes of dhal to 42,61,124 schoolchildren who had missed nutritious meal due to closure of schools during the lockdown to fight COVID-19.
Justices M.M. Sundresh and R. Hemalatha were informed that a Government Order had been issued on July 2 to provide dry rations to 23,71,316 children in Class I to V and 18,89,808 students of Class VI to VIII at their schools and under the supervision of the headmasters concerned.
Though rice and dhal might not match the nutritive value of eggs provided in schools every day, they certainly match the Centre’s norms on the quantum of calories and proteins required to be provided to primary and upper primary school children every day, the government said.
The submissions were made in a counter affidavit filed in response to a public interest litigation petition preferred by advocate R. Sudha who sought to fulfil the nutrition requirement of schoolchildren besides seeking a direction to provide boiled eggs at Amma canteens. Social Welfare Secretary S. Madumathi told the court that the government was actually providing nutritious meal to 48,56,783 students including 5,90,913 studying in Class IX and X and 4,746 under the National Child Labour Project, during all school working days before the lockdown.
Each student was given an egg weighing 46 grams providing 6.12 grams of protein and 80kcal of energy. Those who do not consume eggs, were given bananas. Apart from this, students were also provided with black Bengal gram, green gram and potatoes.
Considering the iron and iodine deficiency among many children, double fortified salt was also used for cooking in all 43,246 nutritious meal centres in the State. The nutrition provided to schoolchildren in the State was way higher than the Central norms.
“Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, providing eggs along with dry ration was analysed by the government and due to its perishable nature, children/parents can’t be gathered to provide eggs daily. Also purchasing and transportation at this period is not advised,” the counter read.
However, since the schools in the State were closed since March 17 and the Union Minister for Human Resource Development had, on April 28, insisted upon providing nutrition to students even during summer vacation, the State government issued the July 2 G.O. As far as the Integrated Child Development Services aimed at taking care of pregnant as well as lactating mothers and also the children between six months to six years of age was concerned, the Secretary said those beneficiaries were provided nutritious food even during the lockdown.
Though the Anganwadi centres were also closed due to the lockdown, rice, dhal and eggs were being supplied to 33,12,629 beneficiaries at their homes, the government added.
After taking the counter on file, the judges adjourned the case to Thursday for hearing.