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Independence Day: ‘Rice provided under govt schemes to be fortified by 2024'

Modi said that under the Jan Aushadhi Yojana, the poor and the needy are now getting affordable medicines. Over 75,000 health and wellness centres have been built and we are working on a network of hospitals at the block level, he said.Premium
Modi said that under the Jan Aushadhi Yojana, the poor and the needy are now getting affordable medicines. Over 75,000 health and wellness centres have been built and we are working on a network of hospitals at the block level, he said.

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it is the government's priority to take ‘poshan’ to every person, every poor person

In a move that may address the problem of malnutrition in India, government on Sunday announced to provide fortified rice to the poor under its various schemes. Prime Minister Narendra Modi while addressing the nation on 75th Independence Day from Red Fort in Delhi said that providing nutrition to every poor person of the country is also a priority of this government.

“Malnutrition and lack of essential nutrients in poor women and poor children poses major obstacles in their development. In view of this, it has been decided that the government will fortify the rice given to the poor under its various schemes. Will give rice fortified with nutrition to the poor. Be it the rice available at the ration shop, the rice provided to the children in the mid-day meal, or the rice available through every scheme, it shall be fortified by the year 2024," said Modi.

Health and nutrition experts have said that the announcement assumes significance for the nation as the government distributes over 300 lakh tonnes of rice under various schemes covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013.

“Food fortification is one of the simplest and most sustainable public health strategies to address the challenge of micronutrient deficiencies. Not only is it a cost-effective, scientifically proven, and globally recognised complementary approach, it also helps to easily reach wider, vulnerable populations through existing food delivery systems," said Sujeet Ranjan, Public Health Nutrition Expert.

“Rice has the highest uptake in government food safety net programmes such as the public distribution system, mid-day meal schemes, integrated child development services, etc. It has a potential to reach more than a million people, especially women and children making rice an ideal vehicle for fortification," he said.

India bears the largest burden of iron-deficiency and anaemia globally, with nearly 59% of children and 50% of pregnant women being anaemic, according to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS 4) report. Child and maternal malnutrition is responsible for 15% of country's total disease burden. The NFHS-4, conducted in 2015-2016, found that the prevalence of underweight, stunted and wasted children under five was at 35.7, 38.4 and 21.0%.

“Child Malnutrition remains a major threat to the survival, growth and development of children. Micronutrient deficiencies or ‘hidden hunger’ and the negative consequences of a diet lacking in essential vitamins and minerals/trace elements continue to pose significant public health problems in Indian populations. This hidden hunger is more prevalent in vulnerable populations, including women of reproductive age and young children and adolescents," said Ranjan.

The Centre has allocated 328 lakh tonnes of rice for Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), Mid-Day Meal (MDM) and Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) under NFSA during 2021-22.

“As per the FSSAI standard fortified rice contains Iron, Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid. this intervention will largely address a majority of anaemia prevalent in the country. Fortifying rice, a major staple food in the two large social safety net program- PDS and MDM ensures access to essential nutrition to the most vulnerable population in the country," said Mini Varghese, Country Director- India Nutrition International adding that the program need to be well implemented with strengthen regulatory mechanism, close monitoring and using data and information for regular corrective action.

Modi during his speech said that the campaign to provide better health facilities to every poor in the country is also going on at a fast pace for which important reforms have also been made in medical education. “Equal attention has been paid to preventive healthcare. Simultaneously, there has been a substantial increase in the number of medical seats in the country. Under the Ayushman Bharat scheme, quality health services are being provided to every village in the country. Affordable medicines are being made available to the poor and middle class through Jan Aushadhi Yojana," said Modi.

“So far, more than 75 thousand Health and Wellness centers have been set up. At the block level too, modern health infrastructure is being exclusively set up on a network of good hospitals and modern labs. Very soon thousands of hospitals in the country will also have their own oxygen plants," he said.

Modi said that to take India to new heights in the 21st century, the optimal utilisation of India's potential is the need of the hour. “We need to provide hand holding to the backward categories and sectors. Along with the concern of fulfilling the basic needs, reservation is being ensured for the Dalits, Backward classes, Adivasis and the poor people from general category. More recently, in the field of medical education, reservation has also been ensured for the OBC category in the All India quota. By formulating a law in Parliament, the right to make their own list of OBC has been given to the states," said the prime minister.

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