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Army to reintroduce millets in soldiers’ diets, cooks being trained to whip up ‘tasty, nutritious’ meals

At present, each soldier is entitled to daily ration of 620 grams of rice or atta. Under the new plan, 25% of the 620 grams will be millets. Ragi, jowar & bajra varieties to be offered.

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New Delhi: Over half a century after it was replaced with wheat atta, millet flour is set to be reintroduced in the diets of Army soldiers. Three varieties bajra, jowar and ragi will now be part of their rations. 

Special emphasis has been given to introducing millet items and snacks in the meals of troops deployed along the borders with China.

“With a view to promote consumption of millets in light of the UN declaring 2023 as the International Year of Millets, the Indian Army has steered introduction of millets flour in the rations of soldiers,” read a statement issued by the Army Wednesday.

Till 1966, Army rations included bajra and jowar, which were discontinued as wheat atta availability stabilised in the country following a shortage.

According to the Army’s statement, government sanction has been sought to procure millet flour not exceeding 25 per cent of the authorised entitlement of cereals (rice and wheat atta), in rations for troops from the year 2023-24 onwards. 

At present, each soldier is entitled to a daily ration of 620 grams of rice or atta. So now, 25 per cent of the 620 grams will be millets, sources in the defence establishment told ThePrint. 

Millet foods are being introduced through the Army’s CSD (Canteen Stores Department) canteens as well as dedicated corners being set up in shopping complexes within cantonments. The force has also issued advisories for millets to be extensively used in functions, Barakhanas and home cooking. 

Centralised training of chefs is being undertaken to prepare wholesome, tasty and nutritious millet dishes, the Army said, adding that millets have the benefit of being a good source of proteins, micronutrients and phyto-chemicals, thus boosting the nutritional profile of a soldier’s diet.

The Union government has been pushing for increased use of millets. A team at ICAR-Indian Agricultural Research Institute is using an age-old Indian technique to make millet flour softer, last longer and present it as an alternative to wheat and rice flour.

Also read: Even BJP officials, ministers are now bored of millet. But Modi is promoting it everywhere

‘Vital step in mitigating lifestyle diseases’

Procurement and supply of millets will be based on soldiers’ preferences and quantity demanded

Troops will be supplied bajra, jowar and ragi duly considering preference, according to the Army statement.

Asked how soldiers on the ground will choose what they want to eat given that the units do community cooking, sources said it would be decided by the mess committee.

“The mess committee has representation from all ranks of a particular unit and they decide the menu, which is changed every week. So they will decide what millet dish to have on what day besides of course the wheat atta and rice,” a source explained. 

The Army said this move will ensure troops are supplied with native and traditional grains after over half a century, when these were discontinued in favour of wheat atta.

Traditional millet foods with proven health benefits and suited to our geographical and climatic conditions would be a vital step in mitigating lifestyle diseases and enhancing satisfaction and morale of the troops, it said, adding that millets would now form an integral part of the daily meal for all ranks.

(Edited by Gitanjali Das)

Also read: Is bajra the new wheat? How ICAR’s turning humble millet into versatile, ‘luxury’ ingredient


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