The Lakshadweep government has told the Supreme Court that omitting meat and chicken from the midday meal menu and including fruit and dried fruit is perfectly in line with the aims of the scheme.
In a written response, the UT Island Board said: “In Lakshadweep, meat and chicken are normally part of the regular menu in almost all families. On the other hand, the consumption of fruits and dried fruits among the islanders is much less. The omission of meat and chicken from the midday meal menu and the inclusion of fruit and dried fruit is therefore perfectly in line with the objectives of the midday meals.”
It said it was well within its power to make a change to the menu regarding the non-vegetarian diet and to include fruits and dried fruits. It added that such a change will meet children’s nutritional needs, which is in line with the goals of the midday meal guidelines. “The varied menu will provide the children with balanced nutrition for their growth and development,” it added.
The government said midday meals in schools are not intended to supplement or replace the food provided to students at home. It further pointed out that the aim of the midday meal program is to encourage children from the lower socioeconomic strata to attend school regularly, and in Lakshadweep the school dropout rate is zero.
The administration’s response came to an appeal filed by a resident of the island against a Kerala Supreme Court ruling passed in September 2021, rejecting a plea that challenges the Lakshadweep administration’s decision.
Regarding the monsoon season, the administration said it is difficult to obtain meat and chicken while the availability of fish, eggs, fruits and dried fruits remains unimpeded. “The lack of proper storage facilities means there is more room to offer the modified menu to the students rather than the one with meat and chicken,” it said.
The appeal had also objected to the government’s decision to close dairy farms and remove meat from the midday meal menu in schools in the Lakshadweep Islands.
In connection with the closing of dairy farms, the administration said the farms met the demand of only 300 to 400 people, while the total population of Lakshadweep Island is 20,000. Therefore, the farms caused a loss of Rs 96 lakh to the public treasury.
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