Tribal people have saved Sri Anna from extinction

Pro TV Kattimani
vice chancellor
Central Tribal University, Andhra Pradesh

Millets were once a part of the staple diet of Indian communities. The prevalence of wheat, rice and sugar in Indian food culture began in the 20th century. The Green Revolution made wheat and rice popular in the Indian plains. But the tribals never left Kodo, Kutki, Kanguni, Sajja, Jowar, Sava, Maduva Ragi, Kangu etc. He preserved the indigenous varieties of these millets. We know how white rice and wheat changed the food culture of humans and pushed the Indian continent towards diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and low blood pressure etc.

Millets are also water resistant and drought resistant. Its nutritional and medicinal benefits are endless. These diets are rich in fiber and various proteins. They contain high concentrations of calcium, iron, minerals and vitamin B complex. Along with being low in carbohydrates, it is also gluten free, making it ideal for type 2 diabetes and heart patients. These are based on low glycemic index which can increase bone strength and energy levels, aid in weight loss, reduce inflammation and provide relief from joint pain. They do not have any side effects. They are naturally anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic and provide relief from high blood pressure.

It has come into limelight with UNESCO declaring 2023 as the Year of Millets. The Government of India has taken millets in mission mode and has announced legal and financial help for its growth. The techniques before and after cultivation and processing of millets have now become easier. The strong distribution system has ensured its availability in every corner of the country. Today all grocery stores have a corner for millets and its products.

In the G-20 meeting hosted by India, millets got a special place in the menu of the program with the title ‘Shri Anna’. PM Modi is a pioneer in recognizing the power of tribals and millets. He has encouraged the tribes and people associated with the cultivation and conservation of millets. Lahari Bai, a tribal woman from Silpidi village in Dindori district of Madhya Pradesh, has been praised by the Prime Minister in Mann Ki Baat for her contribution in saving millets from extinction and creating a seed bank and named her as ‘Millets Rani’.

Lahari Bai has identified 150 millets seed varieties and distributed the seeds to 350 farmers in 25 villages in 2022. Provision has also been made in the budget for the cultivation of millets in the country. Many state governments have taken positive steps to promote its cultivation. Odisha and Andhra Pradesh governments have stories of achievements in this area. The Government of Odisha has made the Millets Mission a big project and has involved universities, research stations and NGOs to work on it district wise.

Tribal areas are known for their indigenous approach to food gathering and growing food. Padmashree Kamla Pujari of Patraputi (Jeypore) has inspired the tribals of Odisha to join the Millets. Dauna Bhoi, a young entrepreneur who is growing millets, belongs to the Parja tribe. Indigenous varieties of millets, organic farming method, conservation of extinct varieties of millets even in low rainfall, community method of farming, Raimati Ghuria, who established a farm school by donating one acre of land to the society, has been made the brand ambassador of millets.

Raimati is from the Bhumiya tribe and is inspired by Kamla Pujari. One can see Millets market in his village Nuagada. She along with her female associates have saved and developed 40 varieties of Mandiya-Ragi. About 160 types of millets have also been identified. Koraput district has become the center of cultivation, storage and production of ragi. The support of the Government of Odisha in declaring minimum fair price for millets processing and purchasing the millets produce from the government has made the tribes of Odisha self-reliant in millets.

Today the world is rapidly moving towards science and technology. With the growing threat of climate change, the whole world is looking towards crops that do not require as much water, land or pesticides as crops like wheat and rice. As a solution to the threat of global hunger, which may intensify due to global warming, agricultural scientists are developing genetically modified crops (also known as GM crops). But it also has many side effects, like allergies, reduced effectiveness of antibiotics, disturbances in the digestive system, etc. Millets can deal with such adversities as an engineering based crop in the form of Shree Anna.

(These are the personal views of the author.)

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