Home / Politics / Policy /  How a millet revolution in India will ensure a nutritious diet

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said that India will have to work on Millet Revolution to ensure nutritious diet for good health. Modi pointed out that the world has started adopting the food that Indian gave up such as barley, jowar, ragi, kodo, sama, bajra, samva, many such grains that were once part of Indians’ food, but gradually disappeared from the plates, because it was tagged with poverty.

Highlighting the reemergence of millets as health foods across the world, Modi while speaking at Yoga awards ceremony said, “Now we see that this nutritious diet is in demand all over the world. Nowadays when we go to online shopping portal we are often surprised. The grain, which was not ready to be taken for free, is being sold at the rate of hundreds of rupees per kg. Now the time has come to replenish this treasure of Nutrition."

“We will have to increase work on the Millet Revolution and farmers should grow Millet and our industries related to food processing should create such attractive products from them, which will be liked by every generation and also become part of their catering," Modi said.

Modi government has been pushing for production of millets for quite some time, stating, it will help in providing nutritional value, especially to the poor. Besides providing nutritional security, the government claims, it also helps in preventing malnutrition.

Public health experts and nutritionists lending support to Modi’s statement claim that millets can aid in good health and should be a part of a healthy diet. According to a study published in Journal of Nutrition in 2018, consuming bio-fortified pearl millet (bajra) stems the deleterious effects of iron deficiency and significantly improves learning and mental abilities related to perception, attention, and memory among Indian school-going adolescents.

“Millets have been a part of the Indian diet for centuries and something our forefathers ate. Post independence, the Green Revolution in the 60's popularised the production of wheat and rice and over the decades, millets have been grown lesser and lesser. Millets are called "super cereals" since they are rich in vit b, protien and fibre. Someone looking at weight loss must definitely include millets in their diet," said Charu Dua, Head of Department, Nutrition and Dietetics, Max Healthcare.

In India, Millets are cultivated in low-fertile land, mountainous, tribal and rain-fed areas. These areas include Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Telangana. In the pre-Green Revolution era, in 1965-66, millets were cultivated in 36.90 million hectares.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, in 2016-17, the area under millet cultivation declined to 14.72 million hectares (60% less coverage area) due to change in consumption pattern, dietary habits, unavailability of millets, low yield, less demand and conversion of irrigated area for cultivation of rice and wheat. As a result of this, nutrients like protein, Vitamin-A, iron and Iodine levels fell in women and children.

“There are various kinds of millets such as finger millet (ragi) that has good fibre but less than wheat and higher glycemic index than wheat, so likely inferior in nutrition for obesity and diabetes. On the other hand pearl millet (bajra) has same protein as wheat, so wins in some compartments. Wheat is still cheapest but prices may vary, lowest in areas these are grown. Bajra has lower glycemic index and same protein as wheat, so wins in some compartments. We always say that roti and indigenous grains are good," said Anoop Misra, chairman, Fortis-C-DOC, Centre for Diabetes, Metabolic Diseases and Endocrinology.

Modi said that Ayush is going to play a very big role, when India is going with the target of $ 5 trillion economy.

“Not only modern medicine, but more and better professionals are also being made in the education of AYUSH, necessary reforms are being made. Especially the kind of technology being used will help in preparing AYUSH for the future. The idea of Ayush Grid is also appreciated. This will help in removing many silos associated with AYUSH sector," Modi said.

“The benefits of this modern infrastructure of AYUSH, medical, are also widespread. Along with healthcare, they are proving to be a huge means of employment generation in India. Especially in small villages - towns, Tier 2, Tier - 3 cities, there is a possibility of getting medical and para medical education near home," he said.

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