Skip to main content

Top Govt of India institute told to withdraw report calling onion, garlic, eggs "tamasik"

Counterview Desk
A group of signatories -- 10 organizations and 94 individuals* -- including activists, academicians, lawyers, doctors, journalists and researchers, have sent an open letter to scientists of the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), asking it to withdraw its report submitted to Government of Karnataka regarding the appropriateness of the food being supplied by Akshaya Patra Foundation (APF) as part of Mid-day Meals scheme.
APF has been supplying food to 2,814 schools across six district in Karnataka as part of Mid-day meals scheme which is fully-funded by Government of India and Government of Karnataka. A sister concern of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), it has refused to include onion and garlic in the food supplied to schools because it considers these ingredients to be 'tamasik' (evoking negativity).
The signatories believe, this is in violation of not only the menu prescribed by the Government of Karnataka but also the terms of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by APF itself. It also violates Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) Guidelines which prohibit propagation of private beliefs through Mid-day Meal scheme, not to speak of the basic tenets of the Constitution.
Following complaints by the Karnataka State Food Commission and civil society groups, the Government directed APF to comply with the prescribed menu. Subsequently, APF approached higher officials in the State government, which sought technical advice from the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) and the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI). While CFTRI refused to comment on most of the questions regarding nutritional adequacy, taste, diversity, safety and hygiene etc. of the food being supplied by APF in the absence of a systematic empirical study, the singatories feel, NIN offered completely unfounded and biased comments on the food supplied by APF without so much as visiting a single school or talking to a single student eating this food.
A pivotal scientific institution providing technical inputs for nutritional policy making in the country, the signatories feel, NIN providing technical inputs without any rigorous scientific field evaluation does injustice not only to its reputation as an independent institution but has the potential of adversely affecting the nutritional status of several children, some of them from extremely deprived conditions. They urge NIN to immediately withdraw the report submitted to the Government of Karnataka, pending a systematic field evaluation.

Text of the letter:

We the undersigned have held the National Institute of Nutrition in high regard for its contributions to nutrition research and evidence-building, and have the used its work as part our effort to secure right to food for all citizens of India. We are therefore dismayed at the unscientific, biased and irresponsible response sent by the Institute through its Director to the request from Government of Karnataka regarding assessment of nutritional value of food supplied by Akshaya Patra Foundation (APF).
APF has been supplying food to 2,814 schools in Karnataka as part of the Mid-day meals scheme (MDM) which, it needs to be emphasized, is a scheme fully funded by Government of India and Government of Karnataka. The scheme aims at providing students studying in the schools, a nutritious meal containing locally and culturally relevant food, which children will find tasty enough to eat in adequate quantity.
APF, on the other hand, has refused to provide eggs or use onion and garlic in the food supplied because it considers these foods as ‘tamasik’. Since onions and garlic are part of the traditional foods like sambhar in Karnataka, and hence has been included as part of the menu prescribed by the State government, their non-inclusion by APF was raised by the Karnataka State Food Commission and civil society groups.
Following this, the Government of Karnataka had asked National Institute of Nutrition and Central Food Technical Research Institute for its technical inputs on nutritional adequacy, bioavailability, diet diversity, taste and food safety and hygiene.
In their response, CFTRI has refused to comment on the nutritional quality, taste, diversity and safety of food supplied by APF instead asking for sufficient time and resources to do a proper assessment. NIN, on the other hand, to our utter shock and dismay, has made sweeping statements praising APF, without carrying out any systematic scientific study.
No empirical data was collected on the quantity and quality of ingredients used or amount consumed and amount wasted by children to certify food supplied by APF as nutritionally adequate. Instead, a paper menu submitted by APF, was considered evidence enough to comment on an aspect of the scheme which have nutritional impact on lakhs of children!
Even more shockingly, without visiting a single school or speaking to children consuming the food, NIN has taken the unwarranted liberty of commenting on the taste and safety of the food even which fly in the face of observations by State Food Commission of monotony of the food supplied by APF or media reports of children vomiting after consuming the food on some occasions.
The eagerness exhibited by NIN to offer opinions in this case, in absence of any scientific field evaluation, raises serious questions regarding NIN's credibility and independence.
In view of NIN's history and tradition of rigorous scientific research and considering that the nutritional future of the lakhs of children studying in government schools and availing mid-day meals has been undermined by the unscientific report submitted by NIN to Government of Karnataka, we urge you to withdraw the report immediately pending a systematic field evaluation of the food being supplied by APF.
---
*Click HERE for the list of signatories

Comments

Prof Prem raj Pushpakaran writes --- 2018 marks the 100 years of National Institute of Nutrition!!!
https://www.youth4work.com/y/profpremrajpushpakaran/Prof-Prem-Raj-Pushpakaran-popularity

TRENDING

Nirma varsity demand for higher fees 'illegal', violates Article 14: Letter to Gujarat HC

Counterview Desk
Students of Gujarat’s top private institute, Nirma University, situated in the outskirts of Ahmedabad, in a letter to the Chief Justice the state High Court, have complained that the authorities are demanding “full fees” from students, without taking into account the “disproportionate impact” the lockdown has on the livelihood of students and families.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Vulnerable to Covid-19, sharp rise in murder of Indian journalists during pandemic

By Nava Thakuria*
Vulnerability of working journalists in India is no way an alien issue as the populous country loses a number of working journalists to assailants as also medical emergencies. Even though there was only one casualty in the Indian media fraternity during the first half of 2020, who was targeted for journalistic work, India has begun witnessing an alarming number of media casualties during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Govt 'assures' Gujarat HC no action against MBBS students defying corona sahayak order

By Our Representative
The Gujarat government has assured the High Court that no action would be taken against Part-I and Part-II MBBS students of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC)-controlled NHL Medical College and LG Hospital and Medical College. The assurance follows the direction by Justice SH Vora to the State government not to prosecute or initiate action against the students who were defying the college authorities’ order to work as corona sahayaks (helpers).

Renounced US citizenship to serve workers, tribals, Sudha Bharadwaj 'odiously' in jail

By Atul, Sandeep Pandey*
Professor Sudha Bharadwaj has been in jail since August 2018. She was taken into police custody on August 26, 2018 on suspicion of being involved in Maoist terror activities after Republic TV claimed that she had allegedly written a letter to Maoists and was conspiring to create public disorder and unrest in India.

Cruel legacy of Green Revolution? Covid-19 underscores 'risky, fragile' food system

By Moin Qazi*  The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the risks of an unhealthy diet and the extreme fragility of food systems. The economic reconstruction that will follow the pandemic is the perfect opportunity to provide better nutrition and health to all. The pandemic should spur us to redefine how we feed ourselves, and agricultural research can play a vital role in making our food systems more sustainable and resilient.

Plant organic, eat fresh: Emlen Bage's journey from migrant labour to agri-entrepreneur

By Chandrashekar and Kriti*
Who is a farmer? Type this question in the google search and check out the images? You can see men thronging the screen. This is the popular perception around the globe. Well one can understand how difficult it would be for a woman to defy this perception.

High youth unemployment: India 'fails' to take advantage of demographic dividend

By Varun Kumar
As coronavirus pandemic continues amplifying challenges among youth with regard to employment opportunities, government policies have further resulted in economic slowdown, leading to mass unemployment and loss jobs. According to the International Labour Organisation report “Covid-19 and the World of Work” (May 27, 2020), around 94 percent of the world’s workers are living in countries with some sort of workplace closure measures in place.

Dichotomy? US Hindutva groups oppose racism, mum on Modi's 'anti-minority' stance

By Our Representative
The Hindus for Human Rights (HHR), a US-based advocacy group, has noticed a major dichotomy between the stance taken by RSS’ US arm, Hindu Swayamsewak Sangh (HSS), expressing “shock” at the “painful killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others”, all of which suggest “the tragic tale of racial injustice” in US, and HSS’ “hatred” for India’s religious minorities and Dalits.