Maharashtra Governor Vidyasagar Rao on Thursday called for formulating a policy for promoting cultivation and consumption of nutricereals. Such a policy, he said, would result in enhancing the income of marginalised farmers and in tackling the issue of malnutrition and other lifestyle diseases, especially in the scheduled areas of the state.
The governor was speaking at a meeting of ministers for agriculture, women and child development, tribal development and food and civil supplies at Raj Bhavan here. Rao asked these ministers to work closely to introduce a policy of procurement and distribution of nutricereals through public distribution system in Maharashtra.
The meeting was convened by the governor to discuss the findings of a report on nutricereals prepared by the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad, under the leadership of Academic Director of the Bharati Institute of Public Policy Ashwini Chhatre. The report noted that Maharashtra is a surplus state in terms of production of nutricereals.
However, the procurement of nutricereals and their distribution through PDS would allow reinforcement of traditional dietary patterns and also help in moving towards nutritional security, Rao said. The governor said such a policy should focus on encouraging farmers to produce nutricereals.
He asked the department concerned to explore the possibility of developing value-added products from nutricereals and to invest in research and development of such products. Rao asked the government to take steps toward enhancing productivity of nutricereals by involving universities, academicians and agro-industries.
In this connection, the governor called for taking up a pilot project in one district of the state having scheduled areas, characterised by under development and sizeable tribal population. Ministers Chandrakant Patil (Agriculture), Pankaja Munde (Women and Child Development), Jayakumar Rawal (Food and Civil Supplies) and secretaries of the departments concerned were present at the meeting.
The ISB report noted that malnutrition levels of children are 35.7 per cent underweight; 38.4 per cent stunted and 21 per cent wasted. In Maharashtra, 23 per cent of children in 0-23 months age group were stunted, of which 8 per cent were severely stunted. Also, approximately 23 per cent children were underweight, of which 7 percent were severely underweight, the report said.
About 59 per cent of pre-school children, 61 per cent of adolescent girls, 76 per cent of pregnant women and 73 per cent of lactating mothers in Maharashtra suffer from anaemia, it said. The percentages of these deficiencies in scheduled areas are higher than for non-scheduled ones, the report said.
The report further said that mineral content in millets ranges from 1.7 to 4.3 g/100g which is several folds higher than wheat (1.5%) and rice (0.6%). Calcium content of finger millet is about eight times higher than wheat and rice whereas pearl millet is a rich source of iron.
Millets, also called nutricereals, are also good sources of beta-carotene and B vitamins especially riboflavin, niacin and folic acid, the report added. Millets, which consist of ragi, jowar and some other cereals, have high nutritive value.
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