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"This is a nutrition enigma," he said and added that this called for a multi-sectoral approach involving areas, including agriculture, health and rural development to ensure nutrition for people across the social spectrum.
In his concluding remarks at the three-day conference on 'Farming System for Nutrition,' held by M S Swaminathan Research Foundation in Chennai, he spoke of studies reiterating that malnourishment affected the intellectual growth of children.
There is a need for a public policy on a balanced diet and several states, including Tamil Nadu and Karnataka had initiated schemes for better nutrition. It was being done through noon meal scheme and by providing millets and pulses in the Public Distribution Scheme, he said.
"Therefore, states have a significant role in addressing malnutrition in the country," he said.
The conference deliberated ways to ensure nutrition and many recommendations were made in this regard.
Ramesh Chand, Member Niti Aayog, emphasised the need for data for planning. "Niti Aayog is in the process of developing input indicators for nutrition, relevant to India, rather than based on international standards," he said.
Affirming the Central government's commitment to nutrition, he suggested that the Indian Council for Agriculture Research make recommendations on 'farming system packages' rather than for individual crops so that nutrition sensitive agriculture could be promoted.
Rasha Omar, country director International Fund for Agricultural Development, pointed out that coordinated action across different sectors like health, agriculture and sanitation was required to address nutrition. She also said women's empowerment and education is important for nutrition outcomes.
The three-day consultation was organised by M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) with the support of Tata Trusts, which brought together scientists and experts in nutrition and agriculture, farmers, policy makers and NGOs.