The Lakshadweep administration has told the Supreme Court that omitting meat and chicken from the menu of the mid-day meals, and inclusion of fruits and dry fruits is perfectly in tune with the objectives of the scheme.
In a written response, the administration of island UT said: "In Lakshadweep, meat and chicken are normally part of the regular menu in almost all families. On the other hand, consumption of fruits and dry fruits is very less among the islanders. Therefore, the omitting of meat and chicken from the menu of the mid-day meals scheme, and inclusion of fruits and dry fruits is perfectly in tune with the objectives of the mid-day meal scheme."
It said it was well within its power to carry out a modification on the menu with regard to the non-vegetarian diet, and to include fruits and dry fruits. It added that the nutritional requirement of children will be met by such modification, which is in keeping with the objectives of the mid-day meal guidelines. "The varied menu will provide the children with balanced nutrition for their growth and development," it added.
The administration said that mid-day meals in schools are not meant to be in addition or substitute to the food to be provided to students at their home. It further pointed out that the objective of the mid-day meal scheme is to encourage children belonging from the lower socioeconomic strata to attend school regularly and in Lakshadweep, the school dropout rate is zero.
The administration's response came on an appeal filed by a resident of the island challenging a Kerala High Court judgment passed in September 2021, dismissing a plea challenging the decision of the Lakshadweep administration.
In reference to the monsoon season, the administration said it is difficult to procure meat and chicken whereas availability of fish, eggs, fruits, and dry fruits remain unhindered. "Due to lack of proper storage facilities, there is more scope of providing the altered menu to the students rather than the one with meat and chicken," it said.
The appeal had also challenged the administration's decision to shut down dairy farms along with the omission of meat from the menu of mid-day meals in schools on the Lakshadweep islands.
In connection with shutting down of dairy farms, the administration said the farms met the demand of only 300 to 400 persons whereas the total population of Lakshadweep Island is 20,000. Therefore, the farms were causing a loss of Rs 96 lakh to the public exchequer.
( 434 Words)