IAS UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 21st May 2019
TOPIC: General studies 2
- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources
- Issues relating to poverty and hunger
General studies 3
- Inclusive growth and issues arising from it
- Public Distribution System and Food security
Pan-India scale up of food fortification: Steps taken and Challenges
India has been able to dramatically reduce the number of people living in extreme poverty from 306 million people living on less than $1.90 (on a PPP basis) a day in 2011 to 48 million today.
However, a similar dynamism in record against malnutrition is not seen. The country is home to the largest number of malnourished children in the world despite major government interventions:
- Providing highly subsidised foodgrains to the poorest 67 per cent of the population under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
- A free Mid-day Meal Scheme (MDM) that targets around 100 million students in government schools.
- A supplementary nutrition programme through the ICDS network.
Fighting Anaemia: Simpler strategies required
- Anaemia affects every second child in the country.
- There has been no perceptible decline in anaemia among 15 to 49-year old women; it affects around 60 per cent of them. This public health emergency needs to be addressed immediately.
- Poverty, gender disparity, poor sanitation, low health and nutrition service coverage and poor nutritional intake — particularly an iron-deficient diet — continue to impede our fight against anaemia.
- The NFSA’s focus on wheat and rice has forced millets — traditional source for iron and minerals — out of the market.
- The government’s iron supplementation programme to overcome IDA has led to only 30 per cent of pregnant women consuming iron and folic acid tablets.
This compels us to think of simpler and effective strategies like fortification of food staples with essential micronutrients like iron and vitamin.
What is food fortification?
Fortification is the addition of key vitamins and minerals such as iron, iodine, zinc, Vitamin A & D to staple foods such as rice, milk and salt to improve their nutritional content. These nutrients may or may not have been originally present in the food before processing.
Food fortification: A critical strategy
Food fortification is a largely-ignored, yet critical, strategy which has proved an effective, affordable, scalable and sustainable intervention in many countries.
India had tested the idea when it successfully tackled the widespread problem of goitre by mandating iodised salt in 1962.
As there are numerous programmes to address malnutrition, this simple idea of fortifying meals has the potential to reach every segment of the population.
Policy-makers have recently begun to address this blind spot to change the country’s nutritional landscape.
- Comprehensive regulations and standards have been framed by the FSSAI on fortification of food.
- The Women and Child Development and Human Resource Development ministries have issued advisories to the states to mandatorily use fortified wheat flour and edible oil in ICDS and MDM.
However, given that fortification of these staples is still relatively new in India, traction has been slow.
Centrally-sponsored scheme on rice fortification in PDS:
The Department of Food and Public Distribution, facilitated by the NITI Aayog, has recently launched a centrally-sponsored scheme on rice fortification in PDS. The programme is designed to cover 15 districts, initially.
Rice is the staple for 65 per cent of the Indian population, most of whom are located in high malnutrition burden states. Supply of fortified rice through a network of fair price shops is a cost-effective intervention to address anaemia across all sections of the population.
A successful pan-India scale up of fortification will depend on many factors —
- The political will of state governments. Flexibility to allow states to adapt the fortification model to their procurement and distribution systems and capacity building of different stakeholders.
- The FSSAI’s role, its enforcement machinery and the quality control labs needs to be strengthened.
- Lastly and most crucially, sustainability of fortification depends on the regular consumption of fortified food by the consumers and thus a comprehensive state specific strategy should be developed to generate awareness among the consumers.
Connecting the dots:
- India is home to the largest number of malnourished children in the world despite major government interventions. Simpler and effective strategies like fortification of food staples with essential micronutrients like iron and vitamin can play a major role. Comment.
TOPIC: General studies 1 and 2
- Population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues
- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources; poverty and hunger
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation
India becoming older before becoming richer
Data from the 4th National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) 2015-16 for the survey period 2013-15 has signaled a monumental shift in modern Indian demographics. For the first time in its history, India has reached a TFR (Total Fertility Rate) of 2.18, which is below the average world replacement rate of 2.3.
Population growth is past its peak:
There are not enough young people coming into India to replace the current population. As can be seen in the population pyramid chart, from NFHS 4, there are fewer babies being born over the last 10 years. The population pyramid has inverted for the first time ever. This rate of decline is only expected to accelerate in the coming years.
- The percentage of children under the age of 15 declined from 35% in NFHS-3 (2003-05) to 29% in NFHS-4 (2013-15).
- In contrast, the population of those aged 60 years and older increased slightly, from 9% in NFHS-3 to 10% in NFHS-4.
India is now on the verge of becoming an older country, where we can expect the country’s average age to increase over the next few decades.
Will India become older before becoming richer?
This demographic movement is a monumental event that will significantly shape national policies in the coming decades, necessitating the government to take some difficult decisions.
Here are a few noteworthy measures the government will need to prioritise:
1. Increasing women’s participation in the workforce:
To bolster the capacity of wealth creation of India’s working class, India must tap into the underutilised working-age women population.
- According to a 2018 World Bank report, the labour force participation rate among females in India was 27% in 2018 while the world average stood at 48.5%.
- According to IMF research, raising women’s participation in the labour force to the same level as men can boost India’s GDP by 27% and contribute additively to India’s GDP growth every year.
2. Improving social security:
- Incentivising investments in retirement schemes like pensions is paramount for India, given its changing demographic profile.
- Of every 10 Indian workers, eight are informally employed, with limited access to retirement savings accounts. Further, a growing middle-class is witnessing increasing wage rates and an improving quality of life, which will result in increased expectations for retirement income.
3. Reimagining education for tomorrow:
Today’s job market is vastly different from what it was a decade back. Further, 65% of children joining primary school today will eventually work in a job that does not yet exist.
- To meet this skills-gap, the education curriculum and delivery across a student’s lifecycle requires a significant revamp.
- There is also an urgent need to reskill a large chunk of population that is stuck in legacy roles.
The government must work towards reskilling workforces in industries where job requirements are expected to alter drastically because of the shift in India’s demographics.
4. Implementing tech-enabled healthcare:
The use of technology in healthcare coverage will be necessitated with a growing older-aged population in India. With a doctor-to population-density of 1/1,700, the country’s dearth of quality medical talent is not a predicament that it can soon overcome.
Technology can be revolutionary in delivering quality healthcare services in India by improving access, increasing efficiency of diagnosis and care, and further, reducing the cost of healthcare delivery and insurance.
There needs to be enough wealth created by the country’s working-class population for the growing segment of longer-living senior citizens that will increasingly rely on pensions. India will need to move beyond policies for population control and towards building wealth at a brisk pace.
Connecting the dots:
- India’s population pyramid has inverted for the first time. In such a scenario India will need to move beyond policies for population control and towards building wealth at a brisk pace. Elucidate.
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