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Modi’s mega plan to fight malnutrition, over dozen ministries combine to fight the menace

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New Delhi, Feb 25, 2021-
In its biggest fight against ‘hidden hunger’, the Narendra Modi-led government has chalked out a mega plan to alleviate malnutrition through biofortified food crops.

As more than 38 per cent of children in the country suffer from stunting, and over 58 per cent of them are affected by anaemia, the government has finally geared up to fix the curse of malnutrition.

For the first time, top officials from more then a dozen Central ministries will hold a brainstorming session on Friday to overcome the major problem which impacts human health, particularly that of children under five years of age.

Hidden hunger or malnutrition not only affects the human health, but also hinders the growth of the nation. However, the biofortified crops have the potential to fight hunger and alleviate malnutrition.

From protein packed rice to zinc fortified lentil, the new varieties developed in the country would serve as “sanjeevani” for the overall health of the children and their parents living in poverty.

On Friday, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani and over a dozen secretaries of various ministries, ranging from Commerce to MSME and Food Processing to Education, would meet to expedite the plan to alleviate malnutrition.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had earlier dedicated 17 biofortified crop varieties to address India’s food and nutritional security.

The Modi government plans to involve the Department of School Education and the Department of Women and Child Development to execute the distribution of such health food at the ground level.

The government has also included the Ministry of Food Processing Industries and the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) to promote the biofortified varieties in the food matrix.

“We no longer need medicines to fight protein or vitamin deficiency. If biofortfied varieties of cereals or pulses are provided to the children, they would overcome such deficiency. The Department of Food and Public Distribution is also being included in the plan so that such food is delivered to the remote areas,” an official said.

Sources said the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had expressed its concern over the problem of malnutrition, which leads to poor health and increased susceptibility to various diseases.

A report of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) reveals that biofortified food crops help in preventing diseases besides maintaining the body metabolism for physical and mental well-being.

Backed by the Centre, the scientists at ICAR have developed improved nutritional quality in cereals, pulses, vegetables and fruits. For example, a new variety of potato(Kufri Manik) contains anthocyanin, which possess antidiabetic, anticancer, anti-inflammatory and anti-obesity effects.

Similarly, a new variety of cauliflower contains Provitamin A, essentially required for normal functioning of eyes and the immune system.

The ICAR report says that 21.9 per cent of Indian population still lives in extreme poverty where malnutrition results in major health issues. As many as 38.4 per cent of children are stunted, and 21 per cent are wasted (thin). Besides, 58.4 per cent of children and 53 per cent of adult woman are affected by anaemia.

The report says that 70 per cent of children in the country are estimated to be iron deficient. The one prominent way to address these health issues is to provide biofortified food to the children. The report says that ICAR and the state agriculture universities have made significant progress in developing 71 biofortified varieties of 16 different crops. (Agency)

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