A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court has observed that prima facie switching over to a different menu, with the exclusion of chicken and meat from the mid-day meal scheme of schools in Lakshadweep, would run contrary to the National Programme of Mid Day Meal in schools. This is especially so when it is constituted with the avowed objective of ensuring the physical and mental health of the children.
The Bench, led by Chief Justice M. Manikumar, made the observations in its order staying the decisions of the Lakshadweep administration to close down dairy farms and remove meat from the menu of the mid-day meal scheme.
The court ordered that the serving of food, including meat, chicken, fish and egg, and other items to the school-going children of Lakshadweep be continued until further orders.
The court also pointed out that the minutes of meetings of the Union Territory-level steering monitoring committee and district task force on midday meal scheme held on January 27 revealed that even a physician who attended the meeting had opined that non-vegetarian foods, especially fish, chicken and egg, were essential for the growth of children and that children need a healthy balanced diet containing foods from each group (veg and non-veg), so that they get a wide range of nutrients to help them stay healthy.
The court said that there was no reason as to why the opinion of the physician was not taken note of. But then, the committee seemed to have suggested the exclusion of meat from the menu.
The court also ordered that the functioning of the dairy farms be continued until further orders.
S. Manu, standing counsel of Lakshadweep, had submitted that there were two dairy farms in Lakshadweep. Of 69 animals in the farms, 47 were only milking. With the production of a very little quantity of milk, maintenance of the two farms was not financially viable. The decision to close down the farm was taken to avoid revenue loss. The decision on the change in the menu of mid-day meal scheme was taken due to difficulties in procurement of certain items in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.