Jharkhand and Odisha’s rice and vegetable growing small cultivators question the logic of the top-down nutrition fix for residents in the form of mandatory rice fortification. Rural Adivasi residents of Odisha and Jharkhand question the new rice being distributed to them as food subsidies in the public distribution system.
The government is adding synthetic micronutrients – iron, Vitamin B and folic acid – as a potential solution to malnourishment and anaemia. But even after a few months – and in some sites even a year – of distributing this new fortified rice, the residents do not trust it for its artificial appearance and lack of consistency. They are rice growers themselves and reject this rice as lacking the inherent qualities of rice: its texture, colour, taste etc.
In the Chhotanagpur region, historically farmers have grown hundreds of indigenous varieties of rice, some of which are even more nutritious than this new fortified rice. But both the reduction in these varieties, as well as industrial processing systems over the decades have been reducing the nutrition on their plates. At the same time, the rice farmers remain reluctant to accept the new fortified rice as part of their everyday diets. For more information, read The Wire‘s series.