The Lakshadweep administration has told the Supreme Court that meat was excluded from the menu of mid-day meals for school students to ensure the inclusion of fruits and dry fruits. It said that meat was part of the home diet of the islanders otherwise but the consumption of fruits and dry fruits was less.
"The Lakshadweep administration was well within its power to carry out a modification in the menu with regard to the non-vegetarian diet, and to include fruits and dry fruits. It is submitted that the nutritional requirement of the children will be met by such modification, which is in keeping with the objectives of Midday Meal Guidelines. Thus, the varied menu will provide the children a balanced nutrition for their growth and development. It is also pertinent to note that the school MDM is meant to be an addition to, and not a substitute for, meals which parents should in any case provide to the children at home. 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," the affidavit states.
The counter affidavit filed by Mr Mahesh Dahiya, Director (Education), Lakshadweep Administration Office has been filed in a plea filed by an island resident challenging the Kerala High Court's September 2021 judgment which approved the changes in the mid-day meals menu.
On May 2, 2022, a Supreme Court bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and AS Bopanna, while issuing notice in the SLP preferred by Ajmal Ahmed, had passed an interim order directing the continuation of meat items in the midday meal menu.
It has also been stated in the affidavit that since in the UT, the school dropout rate is zero another objective of the midday meal scheme is to encourage children belonging from the lower social economic strata to attend school regularly.
"In the UT of Lakshadweep fresh fish is more easily available on a daily basis for consumption in comparison to meat. Also, maintaining hygiene while storing/ transporting may be an issue with meat. In fact, during the monsoon season it becomes more difficult to bring sufficient quantity of meat for smooth functioning of the mid-day meal scheme, whereas Fish, egg and dry fruits can be made available in an easier way in the Islands. Moreover, the nonavailability of sufficient storage facilities in the islands will not hamper providing of nutritious midday meals to the children without interruption if meat and chicken are omitted from the menu, since the inclusion of egg and fish as well as fruits and dry fruits is sufficient to provide enough nutrition to the students," affidavit further states.
With regards to closure of dairy farms, the affidavit states that the decision was a well considered policy decision taken after detailed and elaborate discussions in the UT's Administration. Referring to the review meeting conducted on April 19, 2021, April 23, 2021 and April 20, 2021 and the note dealing with the functioning of the dairy farm, the affidavit said, "Government is well within its rights to disengage from a commercial activity which was resulting in huge loss to the public exchequer. The decision to close down the farms has no relation to the proposed Animal Preservation Regulation."
Questioning the maintainability of the interim relief that has been sought by the petitioner, the affidavit further states that the same is not maintainable as the dairy farms have been dismantled, cattle have been sent to various cow shelters in the mainland and that the modifications in the menu of the mid day meal have been carried out after due deliberations.
Case Title : Ajmal Ahmed versus Union of India and others | SLP(c) 19225/2021