[Yojana January 2023 Summary] India’s Wealth: Millet For Health – Explained, pointwise

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Introduction

In 2021, the Government of India had proposed at the United Nations for declaring 2023 as the International Year of Millets. India’s proposal was supported by 72 countries and United Nations General Assembly declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets (IYM 2023) in March 2021. To take forward this declaration, the Government of India has decided to celebrate IYM 2023 by making it a peoples’ movement or ‘Jan Andolan to enhance awareness regarding millets and health benefits and promoting millets as a healthy option for the food basket. Activities are also being taken up to propel demand creation of millets at both global and local levels, for better remuneration to the farmers for its production, to provide protection of sources (soil and water), and creation of direct and indirect employment.

India produces more than 170 lakh tonnes of millets per year and is the largest producer of millets in the world; accounting for 20% of global production and 80% of Asia’s production. India’s average yield of millets (1239 kg/hectare) is also higher than global-average yield of 1229 kg/hectare. Major millet crops grown in India and their percentage share of production are Pearl Millet (Bajra,61%), Sorghum (Jowar, 27%), and Finger Millet (Mandua/Ragi, 10%). The Prime Minister has also tried to promote millets through his various speeches. He has highlighted that millets have been part of India’s tradition, culture and ancient civilization, their relevance being cited in sacred texts like Vedas and Tolkappiyam.

What are Millets?

Millets, popularly called ‘Mota Anaj‘ in Hindi, are a collective group of small-seeded annual grasses that are grown as grain crops, primarily on marginal land in dry areas of temperate, sub-tropical, and tropical regions. They are one of the ancient foods dating back to the Indus Valley Civilisation, around 3000 BC. They are grown in almost 131 countries today. Currently, millets constitute the traditional food for 59 crore people across Asia and Africa.

In India, millets can be clubbed into major, minor, and pseudo categories.

Major Millets: Sorghum (Jowar), Pearl Millet (Bajra), Finger Millet (Ragi/Mandua).

Minor Millets: Foxtail Millet (Kangani/Kakun), Proso Millet (Cheena), Kodo Millet, Barnyard Millet (Sawa/Sanwa/ Jhangora), Little Millet (Kutki).

Pseudo Millets: Buck-wheat (Kuttu) and Amaranth (Chaulai).

The top five states producing Millets are Rajasthan, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana.

Read More: Millet Production in India – Explained, pointwise
What is the importance of Millets?

Climate-friendly Crop: Apart from health benefits, millets are: (a) Resilient to climate change as they are pest free; (b) Adapted to a wide range of temperatures and moisture regimes; (c) Demand less input of chemical fertilisers to grow; (d) Have low carbon and water footprints; (e) Require minimum rainfall for their growth, hence they can sustain in drought-prone areas. These benefits make them bio-diverse and climate-smart crops.

Viable options for Small Farmers: Due to the low investment needed for the production of millets, they prove to be a sustainable and viable income source for small and marginal farmers.

High in Nutrition and Health Benefits: (a) Storehouse of nutrition : Millet are known to be a storehouse of nutrition as they are good sources of calcium, zinc, magnesium, phosphorous, copper, vitamin, iron, folate, carbohydrates, micronutrients, antioxidants and phytochemicals with nutraceutical properties. They can help provide ; (b) Addressing Modern Lifestyle Diseases: They can help fight many modern-day, lifestyle diseases like Diabetes Mellitus & Heart Disorders, Cancer and Brain Disorders; (c) Around 70% fatalities around the world are attributable to non-communicable diseases caused due to modern lifestyles and changed consumption patterns. Health Experts say that dietary habits are causing ‘oxidative stress‘ leading to cancer and DNA damage. Millets have antioxidants which can address the ‘oxidative stress’ and help cure these lifestyle diseases; (d) Tackling Malnutrition: They are gluten-free and considered good for celiac patients (Celiac disease is an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. For patients suffering from celiac disease, eating gluten triggers an immune response in small intestine. Over time, this response prevents the intestine from absorbing some nutrients (malabsorption). The intestinal damage often causes diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, bloating and anemia). The promotion of millets can be an effective strategy for tackling malnutrition in the country.

Phytochemicals present in Millets and Health Benefits UPSC

Phytochemicals present in Millets. Source: Yojana January 2023

Economic and Food Security: Under India’s National Food Security Mission the area and production of millets have increased. Over the years, the production of millets has increased from 14.52 million tonnes (2015-16) to 17.96 million tones in 2020- 21 (Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare). Its exports are increasing exponentially as the demand for millets is increasing at a fast rate With the growing demand for millets, it is creating more business opportunities for all stakeholders.

Millet as a part of the Food basket

The Government of India has initiated the revival of millets in the past few years and declared 2018 as the ‘National Year of Millets’ to raise awareness about its health benefits and boost millet production. They are labelled as ‘Nutri-cereals’ due to their high nutrition quotient. Millets have been included under POSHAN Abhiyan in 2018.

The Government has also launched Mission POSHAN 2.0 in 2021 to tackle malnutrition and leverage traditional knowledge systems and popularise the incorporation of millets in local recipes in order to enhance the quality of supplementary nutrition.

Under the POSHAN Abhiyan every year, September is celebrated as Rashtriya Poshan Maah or National Nutrition Month across the country. The Ministry of Women and Child Development has encouraged all States and the UTs to incorporate millets in the recipes to enhance the nutritional quality of the meal provided under the Supplementary Nutrition programme of Anganwadi centres. Millets are being mandatorily supplied at least once a week.

Balanced diets based on locally available low-cost nutritious foods and benefits of consuming millets are being shared with mothers’ groups through the Anganwadis. Millets are being incorporated in supplementary nutrition in several States and Union Territories such Odisha, Telangana, etc.

Initiatives towards making IYM 2023 a success

The Government has embarked on a nationwide Jan Andolan to enhance awareness and highlight the nutritional benefits of millets, positioning it as a modern-day healthy food that is easy to cook and quick to prepare.

Various creative campaigns on several forums such as radio, print, social media, offline events, and activities are being taken up to break the stigma of millet being the ‘food of the poor’ showcasing it as a superfood, combating misinformation, reviving lost recipes, thus making it as an essential part of the mainstream food basket.

Millets have been showcased in various reputed events like India International Trade Fair, Dubai Expo and Surajkund Mela etc.

Over 500 startups are working in millet value chain while the Indian Institute on Millet Research has incubated 250 startups under RKVY-RAFTAAR. More than INR 6.2 crores has been disbursed to over 66 startups while about 25 startups have been approved for further funding.

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is actively spreading awareness of the health benefits of the miracle crop by celebrating ‘Recipe Ravivar‘ every Sunday on social media platforms where each month is dedicated to a specific variety of millets.

Seven Sutras

The Government of India has launched a set of seven sutras in the run-up to IYM 2023 and has allocated different government departments for the same. The seven sutras outline areas in: (a) The enhancement of production/productivity; (b) Nutrition and health benefits; (c) Value addition; (d) Processing, and recipes development; (e) Entrepreneurship/startup/collective development; (f) Awareness creation-branding, labelling and promotion, international outreach; (g) Policy interventions for mainstreaming.

Of the seven sutras, nutrition and health benefits will focus on: (a) Generating awareness regarding health and nutrition benefits by developing mass campaigns such as Eat Right Campaigns; (b) Enhancing steps to avail technology support for Indian Agricultural Research Institute (ICAR), SAUs and others like Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), AYUSH, Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR), Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) and International Crops Research Institute for Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT) to research and collate evidence; (c) Promoting bio-fortification of millets; (d) Giving more focus on the digital publication of papers on millets; (e) Encouraging commissioning of studies by National/International reputed organisations, spreading awareness among mothers through Anganwadis.

The Government also plans to establish Centres of Excellence on millets across the length and breadth of the country and link industries with these centres.

Conclusion

Due to various activities and efforts of different Departments and Ministries of Government of India and the States and UTs, momentum has kickstarted for popularising millets and turning it into a revolutionary movement. In line with Prime Minister’s vision for a healthier India, at a time when the country is entering ‘Azadi ka Amrit Kaal‘, there is a strong focus on Jan Bhagidari or people’s movement to bring the spotlight on this superfood and for bringing this ancient food to the centerstage.

Source: Yojana January 2023

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