Apart from increasing nutrition of schoolchildren, the move will help to boost production
The Agriculture Ministry has asked the States to include millets in the mid-day meal scheme to increase the demand for the cereal and, thereby, enhance farm incomes.
Millet crops or coarse cereals are known for their high nutritional value and are effective in controlling diabetes and obesity. But the area under millets has been steadily declining though they are suited for arid and semi-arid regions, besides adaptability to moisture stress.
The commonly cultivated millets under rain-fed conditions are sorghum (jowar), finger millet (ragi or mandwa), pearl millet (bajra), foxtail millet, barnyard millet, proso millet, kodo millet and little millet.
In his letter to the Chief Secretaries of the States, Union Agriculture Secretary Ashish Bahuguna said introduction of millets in the meal scheme would go a long way in increasing the nutritional standards of schoolchildren. He said the Department of Food and Public Distribution System had agreed to facilitate supply of millets but the response from the States for allocation for the meal scheme was not very encouraging.
The Agriculture Ministry last year introduced a scheme — Initiative for Nutritional Security through Intensive Millet Promotion (INSIMP) to boost cultivation. But it has not picked up mainly due to a lack of adequate demand for millets.
Describing the move to introduce millets in the meal scheme as a “fantastic step,” Millet Network of India (MNI) national convener P.V. Satheesh told The Hindu that it should have been done decades ago.
“This will go a long way in reducing nutritional deficiency. India stands 128th in the Global Malnutrition Index mainly because the food given under various schemes, including mid-day meal and the Integrated Child Development Scheme is rice and wheat-based which by itself is not enough.”