Skip to main content

Odisha move on Vitamin C laced rice to benefit corporates, 'undermine' tribal habits

Counterview Desk

Several civil society organizations and activists from across India, including those associated with the Right to Food Campaign (RTFC), National Alliance of People’s Movements, Desi Bihan Surakhya Mancha (Odisha) in a letter to Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik, has sought for immediately withdrawal the decision to supply artificially Vitamin C laced rice in Malkangiri district.
Calling it a “whimsical decision”, the letter claims, it would lead to “wasteful use of people’s taxes during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic”, adding, the public distribution system (PDS) rice “is enough for only 10 days and the rest of the days people use other rice”, which suggests the government “is providing Vitamin C for only 10 days.”
Pointing out that this way the government is “forcing tribal people to change their agro-cultural food habits”, the letter contends, “Cooked rice will lose more than 75% of the Vitamin C added to the rice as Vitamin C is a water-soluble Vitamin lost in boiling and further in draining of water from cooked rice. The decision will only benefit companies engaged in artificial Vitamin C enrichment.”

Text:

On behalf of the Right to Food Campaign Odisha, National Alliance for People’s Movement (Odisha Chapter), Desi BihanSurakhya Mancha Odisha and other concerned civil society groups, we, the undersigned, would like to register our disagreement regarding the Govt of Odisha’s plan to introduce Vitamin C laced rice to the people of Malkangiri through the Public Distribution System (PDS).
We came to know of the government’s above decision through a news report in Odisha Post dated November 27 under the heading “Supply of Vitamin C laced rice in Malkangiri from February.” We strongly object to this decision of the Government to introduce artificially enhanced Vitamin C laced rice to PDS beneficiaries when there are ample substitutes in natural foods that are part of people’s traditional food practices.
The Government of Odisha needs to learn about nutrition and develop a basic understanding regarding Vitamin C and Calcium abundance in natural food consumed by the people in general which are available in plenty of vegetables and citrus fruits commonly found in all village and city ecosystems.
Vitamin C is water soluble and if the rice is laced with Vitamin C it will get washed away while the rice is cleaned before cooking. Therefore, it is futile to artificially lace the uncooked rice and that is reason why in tradition cooking practices, lemon juice is squeezed into cooked food before consuming it.
It has also been scientifically proven that natural source of Vitamin C not just provides Vitamin C but also many other nutrients and anti-oxidant. It is also need to be kept in the mind that only 50-55% of calories must come from cereals, now 70-80% of calories will come from rice because rice is expected to be a vehicle for Vitamin C also. This will lead to long term chronic diseases like diabetes etc.
We are wondering about the basis of this current decision and questions arise about whether the government has taken this decision based on any statistical data around Vitamin C and Calcium deficiency among PDS beneficiaries of Malkangiri! It is a travesty of food justice and mockery of food security to introduce artificially laced Vitamin C rice to the people of Malkangiri under the pretext of eradicating malnutrition.
If the Government of Odisha is truly committed to eradicating malnutrition, it would be more socially and ecologically just to support the PDS beneficiaries in Malkangiri access Vitamin C and Calcium nutrition through creating a support system around growing crops, trees and leafy vegetables like Amla, Guava, Papaya, Lemon, Kuler/ Barada Saag, Gandhari Saag and Tomatoes which are high in Vitamin C.
It would be socially, ecologically just to support a system to grow Amla, Guava, Papaya, Lemon, Kuler/ Barada Saag, Gandhari Saag, Tomatoes which are high in Vitamin C
These crops and fruit trees are commonly found and grown in most Adivasi villages of Malkangiri who are the major PDS beneficiaries being targeted under this initiative. Therefore, instead of the public taxpayers’ money going to Mumbai and Delhi based companies, the government should use the same funds to incentivize the direct consumption of Vitamin C and Calcium rich foods found in village and forest ecosystems.
One of the major reasons why Adivasi communities, particularly children and women, face malnutrition is their restriction in access to forests where fruits and greens are readily available for people to consume in their everyday diets. Further, Adivasi families are facing increasing threats to their rights to land and farming practices due to several development projects which is also an impediment to their access to natural food supplements and dietary practices.
It is important for the Government of Odisha to understand from this issue that in order to eradicate malnutrition the policies of the government needs to be more proactive and sensitive towards immediate settlement of tenurial rights over farmlands and community forests, incentivizing traditional mixed cropping cultivation practices and promoting diverse natural dietary practices amongst the PDS beneficiary families who are largely from Dalit and Adivasi communities.
It is in this context that we urge the Govt of Odisha to consider the following demands:
  1. To immediately withdraw the decision to supply Vitamin C laced rice to PDS beneficiaries in Malkangiri.
  2. The state government should provide vegetables rich in Vitamin C with PDS. 
  3. To use the funds allocated for the buying of machinery under the initiative to incentivize direct consumption of Vitamin C and Calcium rich foods found in village and forest ecosystems. 
  4. To immediately start the process of settlement of tenurial rights over farmlands and community forests to Adivasi and Dalit communities in Malkangiri. 
  5. To incentivize traditional mixed cropping cultivation practices and promoting diverse natural dietary practices among the PDS beneficiaries using funds from Odisha Millet Mission and Integrated farming projects being implemented in Malkangiri on a large scale.
---
Click here for signatories

Comments

TRENDING

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

How lead petitioner was rendered homeless when GM mustard matter came up in SC

By Rosamma Thomas*  On January 5, 2023, the Supreme Court stayed a December 20, 2022 direction of the Uttarakhand High Court to the Indian Railways and the district administration of Haldwani to use paramilitary forces to evict thousands of poor families occupying land that belonged to the railways.  Justice AS Oka remarked that it was not right to order the bringing in of paramilitary forces. The SC held that even those who had no rights, but were living there for years, needed to be rehabilitated. On December 21, 2022, just as she was getting ready to celebrate Christmas, researcher Aruna Rodrigues was abruptly evicted from her home in Mhow Cantonment, Madhya Pradesh – no eviction notice was served, and nearly 30 Indian Army soldiers bearing arms were part of the eviction process. What is noteworthy in this case is that the records establishing possession of the house date back to 1892 – the title deed with the name of Dr VP Cardoza, Rodrigues’ great grandfather, is dated November 14

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Tax buoyancy claims when less than 4% Indian dollar millionaires pay income tax

By Prasanna Mohanty  In FY18, the last year for which disaggregated income tax data is available, only 29,002 ITRs declared income above Rs 5 crore, while Credit Suisse said India had 7.25 lakh dollar millionaires (the wealth equivalent of Rs 8 crore and above) that year. Often enough, the Centre claims that demonetization in 2016 raised tax collections, improved tax efficiency, and expanded the tax base. Now RBI Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) member Ashima Goyal has also joined their ranks, attributing the “claims” of rising tax collections in the current fiscal year to “tax buoyancy” brought by the demonetisation . Do such claims have any basis in official records? The answer is unequivocal. The budget documents show the tax-to-GDP ratio (direct plus indirect tax) increased from 10.6% in FY16 (pre-demonetization) to 11.2% in FY17, remained there in FY18 (demonetization and GST fiscals), and then fell to 9.9% in FY20. In FY22, it improved to 10.8% and is estimated to drop to 10.7% in

Gandhian unease at Mahadev Desai book launch: Sabarmati Ashram may lose free space

By Rajiv Shah  A simmering apprehension has gripped the Gandhians who continue to be trustees of the Sabarmati Ashram: the “limited freedom” to express one’s views under the Modi dispensation still available at the place which Mahatma Gandhi made his home from 1917 to 1930 may soon be taken away. Also known as Harijan Ashram, a meeting held for introducing yet-to-be-released book, “Mahadev Desai: Mahatma Gandhi's Frontline Reporter”, saw speaker and after speaker point towards “narrowing space” in Gujarat for Gandhians (as also others) to express themselves. Penned by veteran journalist Nachiketa Desai, grandson of Mahadev Desai, while the book was planned to be released on January 1 and the meeting saw several prominent personalities, including actor-director Nandita Das, her scholar-mother Varsha Das, British House of Lords member Bhikhu Parekh, among others, speak glowingly about the effort put in for bringing out the book, exchanges between speakers suggested it should be rele

Why no information with Assam state agency about female rhino poaching for a year?

By Nava Thakuria   According to official claims, incidents of poaching related to rhinoceros in various forest reserves of Assam in northeast India have decreased drastically. Brutal laws against the poachers, strengthening of ground staff inside the protected forest areas and increasing public awareness in the fringe localities of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the State are the reasons cited for positively impacting the mission to save the one-horned rhinos. Officials records suggest, only two rhinos were poached in Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve since 1 January 2021 till date. The last incident took place probably in the last week of December 2021, as a decomposed carcass of a fully-grown (around 30 years old) female rhino was recovered inside the world-famous forest reserve next month. As the precious horn was missing, for which the gigantic animal was apparently hunted down, it could not be a natural death. Ironically, however, it was not confirmed when

Civil rights leaders allege corporate loot of resources, suppression of democratic rights

By Our Representative  Civil rights activists have alleged, quoting top intelligence officers as also multiple international forensic reports, that recent developments with regard to the Bhima Koregaon and the Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens (CAA-NRC) cases suggest, there was "no connection between the Elgaar Parishad event and the Bhima Koregaon violence." Activists of the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) told a media event at the HKS Surjeet Bhawan, New Delhi, that, despite this, several political prisoners continue to be behind bars on being accused under the anti-terror the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Addressed by family members of the political prisoners, academics, as well as social activists, it was highlighted how cases were sought to be fabricated against progressive individuals, democratic activists and intellectuals, who spoke out against "corporate loot of Indian resources, suppression of basic democratic

Kerala natural rubber producers 'squeezed', attend to their plight: Govt of India told

By Rosamma Thomas   Babu Joseph, general secretary of the National Federation of Rubber Producers Societies (NFRPS) at a recent discussion at Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, explained that it is high time the Union government paid greater heed to the troubles plaguing the rubber production sector in India – rubber is a strategic product, important for the military establishment and for industry, since natural rubber is still used in the manufacture of tyres for large vehicles and aeroplanes. Synthetic rubber is now quite widespread, but styrene, which is used in making synthetic rubber and plastics, and also butadiene, another major constituent of synthetic rubber, are both hazardous. Prolonged exposure to these even in recycled rubber can cause neurological damage. Kerala produces the bulk of India’s natural rubber. In 2019-20, Kerala’s share in the national production of rubber was over 74%. Over 20% of the gross cropped area in the state is under rubber cultivation, with total

Bangladesh 'rights violations': US softens stance, fears increased clout of China, India

By Tilottama Rani Charulata*  In December 2021, in addition to the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), the United States imposed sanctions on seven former and current officers of the force, alleging serious human rights violations. Benazir Ahmed and former RAB-7 commander Miftah Uddin Ahmed were banned from entering the US. RAB as an institution was also canceled the support it was getting from the US and its allies. At the same time, those under the ban have been notified of confiscation of assets held abroad. The anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit of the Bangladesh Police, RAB is the elite force consisting of members of the Bangladesh Army, Bangladesh Police, Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Air Force, Border Guard Bangladesh, Bangladesh Civil Service and Bangladesh Ansar, and has been criticized by rights groups for its use of extrajudicial killings and is accused of forced disappearances. The government of Bangladesh has been insisting about lifting the ban on RAB, but the US had till recen