In the Independence Day speech by Prime Minister Modi, he mentioned that the Union government would supply fortified rice under the country's public distribution system (PDS) under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) in three phases until 2024. The scheme, which is estimated to cost around ₹ 2,700 crores annually, aims to reduce malnutrition amongst the poor.
However, experts believe that the Centre's decision might do more harm than good to the tribal communities or the indigenous people in the country, who suffer from sickle-cell anaemia and thalassemia and are genetically prone to these ailments; a multi-disciplinary team of NGOs and medical practitioners, mentioned.
Anaemia Among Children Under Five
On April 8, 2022, the Union approved supplying fortified rice in government-run food security schemes, including over 800 million beneficiaries, Hindustan Times reported. Iron deficiency and anaemia are prevalent in the country. The latest edition of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) showed that India slightly improved the health sector.
Moreover, anaemia amongst children aged under five has only increased to 67.1 percent in the latest survey compared to 58.6 per cent in NFHS-4. Among adult women, 57 per cent of women of child-bearing age are anaemic.
What Is Fortified Rice?
Fortified rice is made as per the standards fixed by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). It has prescribed blending rice with three micronutrients - Iron, Folic Acid and Vitamin B12. The health experts visited the Jharkhand belt, where fortified rice was distributed in the pilot project and discovered that the rice led to adverse health impacts on the indigenous population.
While several research studies have shown that fortified nutrition would improve such deficiencies, iron-fortified rice might not be the correct answer. On the other hand, other experts also suggested a diversified diet as the only correct solution to the problem of malnutrition in the country.
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