Published: 23rd June 2021
Kerala High Court instructs Lakshadweep administration to resume serving meat, chicken and fish in schools
The Kerala High Court also directed that dairy farms in the Union Territory must continue to function until further orders are given, in response to a petition filed by a Kavaratti Island resident
The Kerala High Court has opined that food, including meat, chicken, fish and 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. "To make it clear, the earlier system should continue. Prima facie, we find no reason for the change of food items, with the exclusion of meat and chicken," observed the court.
"Prima facie, we are of the view that switching over to a different menu, with the exclusion of chicken and meat would run contrary to National Programme of Mid Day Meal in schools, especially, when it is constituted with the avowed object of ensuring the physical and mental health of the children," observed the Bench. The court also held that the functioning of dairy farms should be continued until further orders.
The order was issued on a petition filed by Ajmal Ahmed of Kavaratti island challenging the order to shut down dairy farms as well as the decision of the Administration on the midday meal scheme to drop non-vegetarian items from the menu of the midday meal scheme. He also pointed out that without assigning reasons, the Administrator has directed to close down all diary farms run by the Department of Animal Husbandry, including Bulls, Calves, Heifers, and Ducks.
S Manu, the standing counsel of Lakshadweep submitted that there are two dairy farms in the Union Territory of Lakshadweep and there are 69 animals, out of which, only 47 are functioning. He stated that the maintenance of two farms, with the production of very little quantity, is not financially viable. Hence, he submitted that a policy decision was taken to prevent revenue loss and, therefore, such a decision cannot be said to be arbitrary.
"Due to the second phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and due to difficulty in the procurement of certain items, a decision was taken to change the menu of food items," the counsel submitted. Besides, there was no proposal from the Director of Education, to allocate the work of preparation and distribution of food by the Non-Governmental Organisation 'Akshayapatra' who have their offices in Bengaluru. The administration submitted that the Mid Day Meal Scheme has been implemented for the academic year 2020-2021, and that, therefore, it has no relevance for the academic year 2021-22.
The court observed that it could not understand how there could be a change in the menu of food items given to the children, prepared taking into account, the vital aspect of the health and how such a distinction can be drawn, merely, by saying that it was prepared, for a different academic year.
The minutes of the UT Level monitoring committee and District Task Force meeting held on January 27 reveals that even a Physician, who attended the meeting, had opined that non-vegetarian foods (fish, chicken, and egg) are essential for the growth of children and that children need a healthy balanced diet containing foods from each group (veg along with non-veg), so that they get a wide range of nutrients. The court said that there was no reason as to why, the opinion of the Physician is not taken note of, but then, the Committee seemed to have suggested food, with the exclusion of meat and chicken.