Congress questions Modi govt. for rolling out fortified rice under National Food Security Act despite caution by experts

Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera asks ‘what relation the government has’ with foreign conglomerate Royal DSM that has bagged a major contract to distribute the rice

Updated - May 26, 2023 07:43 am IST

Published - May 26, 2023 05:43 am IST - New Delhi

The Narendra Modi government rolled out fortified rice under the public distribution system (PDS) without ascertaining the ill effects of such rice on the health of 80 crore beneficiaries, the Congress alleged on May 25.

The Narendra Modi government rolled out fortified rice under the public distribution system (PDS) without ascertaining the ill effects of such rice on the health of 80 crore beneficiaries, the Congress alleged on May 25. | Photo Credit: V Raju

The Narendra Modi government rolled out fortified rice under the public distribution system (PDS) without ascertaining the ill effects of such rice on the health of 80 crore beneficiaries, the Congress alleged on Thursday.

Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera, at a press conference, asked what was the tearing hurry to implement the scheme of providing fortified rice containing prescribed micronutrients and “what relation does the government have with the foreign conglomerate Royal DSM” that has bagged a major contract to distribute the rice in the country.

Congress spokesperson Khera alleged the Modi government rolled out fortified rice under the Food Security Act despite “failed” pilot projects and multiple warnings by experts, government officials, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and Niti Aayog.

Mr. Khera claimed that Prime Minister Modi had on Independence Day in 2021 made the rather “unusual and unconventional” announcement about implementing the fortified rice scheme despite warnings.

Three days later, NITI Aayog officials began drawing up a plan to universalise rice fortification. But on November 29 that year, Niti Aayog’s Member on Agriculture Ramesh Chand raised the concerns expressed by some medical experts about the adverse effect of iron-fortified rice on the health of children.

He said the Director General of the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) had stressed the need for consultation with a wide range of experts on the effect of fortification of rice on human health before pushing it further.

“This meant that even the ICMR - India’s premier medical research body - had serious doubts about the effectiveness of fortified rice. Member of NITI Aayog’s National Technical Board on Nutrition Anura Kurpad found an increase in serum levels linked to diabetes in children who were given iron-fortified rice,” he said.

“Will 80 crore people pay the price of the ill-conceived imposition of PM Modi’s fortified rice? Did the Modi government get enamoured by a foreign conglomerate or were there vested interests involved,” asked Mr. Khera.

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