1. Vitamin D Deficiency in India

Why in News

Researchers have claimed that vitamin D deficiency can negatively affect Covid-19 high-risk patients, particularly those who are diabetic, have heart conditions, pneumonia, obesity and those who smoke.

It is also associated with infections in the respiratory tract and lung injury.

Key Points

  • India has a large population suffering from vitamin D deficiency among the public irrespective of their location (urban or rural), age or gender, or whether they are poor or even rich.
  • This is despite India being a tropical nation getting abundant sunshine, which is a precursor to Vitamin D formation in the body.
  • According to an analysis published in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism in 2017, the level of vitamin D in people from different states of India ranged between 3.15 nanogram/millilitre to 52.9 ng/ml, which was considerably lower than the needed level of 30-100 ng/ml.
  • Vitamin D level among south Indians is 15.74–19.16 ng/ml. Females showed consistently lower levels than males.
  • Vitamin D deficiency also occurs among people of the Indian sub-continental origin settled in Great Britain.
  • This suggests a correlation between genetics of people of this region and Vitamin D metabolism.
  • According to data by the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau (NNMB) over the last 50 years, the calcium levels in average Indian populations has plummeted from 700 units per day to 300-400.
  • The normal, needed level of Calcium is 800-1,000 units per day. Vitamin D helps in absorption of Calcium by the body.
  • The body needs calcium to maintain strong bones. It is also needed for muscles to move and for nerves to carry messages between the brain and every body part.
  • It also helps release hormones and enzymes that affect almost every function in the human body.
  • This deficiency of Calcium stands in contrast to the fact that India produces the maximum amount of milk per day in the world which is a rich source of calcium.

Vitamin D

  • Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin which is naturally present in very few foods like fatty fish, and fish liver oils, beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks.
  • It is also produced endogenously when ultraviolet rays from sunlight strike the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis.
  • The sunlight triggers a chemical reaction to a cholesterol-based molecule, and converts it into calcidiol in the liver and into calcitriol in the kidney.
  • These molecules technically called 25-OHD are physiologically active.


  • Vitamin D maintains adequate calcium and phosphate concentrations in blood. It prevents weakening of bones.
  • Vitamin D has other roles in the body, including cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function, and reduction of inflammation.

Required Amount

  • The level of 25-OHD in the range 30-100 ng/ml is thought to be sufficient for a healthy body; levels between 21-29 ng/ml are considered insufficient, and levels below 20 ng/ml mean the individual is deficient in the vitamin.

Effects of Deficiency:

  • Rickets in children and osteomalacia (softening of bones) in adults. Bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen (Effects of deficiency).
  • Vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.
  • Bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen (osteoporosis) Vitamin D.

Nutrition in India

  • A major chunk of the population in India suffers from hidden hunger and malnutrition and nutrition deficiencies.
  • Over 80% adolescents in India suffer from hidden hunger according to UNICEF’s report, ‘Adolescents, Diets and Nutrition: Growing Well in a Changing World, 2019’.
  • In India, 63% of children below 5 years in urban areas (72% in rural areas) are found to be anaemic and 55% of women and 24% of men are found to be anaemic.
  • The production, procurement and distribution system for food in India has still not been able to address the food security issues in India.
  • For example, the food being provided to the poor (Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana) during Covid contains pulses and cereals but lacks vegetables — raw or cooked.
  • The balanced diet is still unaffordable for many Indians.
  • As per FAO’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020, a nutrient-adequate meal costs Rs. 25 per meal, and a ‘healthy diet’ about Rs. 100 per day.

Government Initiatives

  • Mid-day meal scheme has helped in combating nutrition deficiencies in poor school-going children.
  • The feeding programmes for preschool children and pregnant women under the Integrated Child Development Services through anganwadis have been vital.
  • The government is trying to ensure the food requirement of the poor section of society through the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and the Public Distribution System (PDS).
  • POSHAN Abhiyaan, launched in 2017-18, aims to reduce stunting, undernutrition, anaemia and low birth weight babies through synergy and convergence among different programmes, better monitoring and improved community mobilisation.
  • Biofortification e improvement of the nutritional quality of food crops through agronomic practices, conventional plant breeding, or modern biotechnology is being promoted by the government for various crops like carrots (Madhuban Gajar), wheat (MACS 4028) etc. in order to ensure nutritional security.


  • The Central and State governments need to consult nutrition experts and institutions to advise and suggest the type of nutritive items that can be added to the current ‘ration’ food given to the poor, and the meals given to school children.
  • The meals given to the poor or children should include vegetables like spinach and other green leafy vegetables, beans, peas, carrots, tomato, potato, milk/curd and fruits like bananas, and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids (and an egg).
  • Besides vitamin D and calcium, food rich in other micronutrients (such as B complex vitamins, plus Fe, Zn, I, Se, Zn) should be offered to the poor, so that immunity against any infection is ensured.
  • The government can mass supply free-of-charge vitamin D, other vitamins and calcium, in consultation with medical and public health experts to the public.
  • Schools can have their students stand in sunlight for 20-30 minutes daily, and encourage physical exercise and games for an hour per day. Further, it is important to raise awareness about the importance of healthy eating and nutritional requirements of the human body.

Way Forward

  • Only when we ensure a healthy populace, we can imagine developing immunity to battle a pandemic like Covid-19. Dealing with Vitamin D and Calcium deficiency is the foremost step in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals of ending Hunger (SDG- 2) and ensuring good health and well-being for all (SDG-3).




  1. 24 States under One Nation-One Ration Card

Why in News

Recently, Manipur, Nagaland and Uttarakhand, along with the Union Territory (UT) of Jammu and Kashmir have been integrated with the One Nation-One Ration Card (ONORC) Scheme.

  • Now a total of 24 States/UTs are connected under the ONORC scheme. The remaining states/UTs are targeted to be integrated into the scheme by March 2021.

Key Points

The ONORC Scheme:

  • It was started as an inter-State portability of ration cards in 2019. It allows the migratory National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013 beneficiaries to lift their entitled quota of food grains from any Fair Price Shop (FPS) of their choice anywhere in the country.
  • This can be done by using their existing ration card with Aadhaar based authentication.
  • With 24 States/UTs connected under the scheme, about 65 crore beneficiaries, comprising 80% of the total beneficiaries covered under the NFSA, can now get their subsidised ration from anywhere in these 24 states and union territories.

Benefit of ONORC Scheme:

  • Transparency: It will bring more transparency and efficiency in the distribution of foodgrains.
  • Identification: It will improve the mechanism to identify fake/duplicate ration cards and provide the option to Public distribution system (PDS) beneficiaries to lift their entitled foodgrains from the Fair Price Shops of their choice at the national level.
  • Food Security: The scheme will ensure food security of migrant labourers who move to other states to seek better job opportunities.
  • SDG: This will help achieve the target set under Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDG) 2 of ending hunger by 2030.
  • Also, it will address the poor state of hunger in India, as highlighted by the Global Hunger Index, where India has been ranked 102 out of 117 countries in 2019.

Issues Involved:

  • Distribution of Ration: The distribution of ration had become an issue during the lockdown when migrant workers didn’t have ration cards in the states they were staying. This led the migrants to walk towards their villages amid lockdown.
  • Logistical Issues: An FPS receives the monthly quota of products strictly in accordance with the number of people assigned to it.
  • The ONORC, when fully operational, would disrupt this practice, as some FPSs may have to cater to more numbers of cards even as others cater to less, owing to migration of people.
  • Lack of Data: There is no exact data on the mobility of poor households migrating to work, locating intra- and inter-state destinations and sectors employing the workers.


  • The Unorganised Sector Social Security Act, 2008, had drawn up a system of documenting informal sector workers through a system of welfare boards.
  • In order to get credible data regarding the migrant workers, this must be implemented in letter and spirit.
  • A dedicated e-commerce platform ONORC may resolve the challenge of logistical issues.
  • Social auditing must be made mandatory to measure the performance of ONORC. NFSA defines food security as nutritional security.
  • Therefore, portability of Integrated Child Development Services, Mid- Day Meals, immunisation, health care and other facilities for poor migrant households can’t be neglected and should be made portable.
  • In the longer run, the PDS system may be replaced by a fool-proof food coupon system or direct benefit transfer, targeting the poor, wherein a Below Poverty Line family can buy rice, pulses, sugar and oil from any Kirana store at the market price, by either paying fully through the coupon or by cash.



  1. RaTG13 Sarbecovirus

Why in News

According to a recent study published in Nature Microbiology, the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has been circulating unnoticed in bats for decades.

  • Bats have been the ‘primary reservoirs’ for SARS-CoV-2, which is likely to have diverged from closely related bat viruses called the RaTG13 sarbecovirus, 40-70 years ago.

Key Points

  • The current study confirms an earlier Chinese study and also suggests the probable time of divergence of the two viruses.
  • According to that Chinese study, SARS-CoV-2 is most closely related to RaTG13, which was isolated from a horseshoe bat in Yunnan province in 2013.
  • Based on the nearly 96% genome sequence identity between SARS-CoV-2 and RaTG13, it was held that an origin in bats is probable for the Covid- 19 outbreak.
  • SARS-CoV-2 has not arisen from recombination of any sarbecovirus.
  • Recombination: It is a process by which pieces of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) are broken and recombined to produce new combinations of alleles (forms of a gene). This recombination process creates genetic diversity at the level of genes that reflects differences in the DNA sequences of different organisms.
  • The ability of the spike protein in the virus to bind to Angiotensin- Converting Enzyme 2 (ACE2) human receptors had emerged within bats and is an ancestral trait shared with bat viruses and not one acquired recently via recombination.
  • The results of the study suggest the presence of a ‘single lineage’ circulating in bats with properties that allowed it to infect human cells.
  • This was also the case with the bat sarbecoviruses related to the 2002 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)


  • The researchers analysed the evolutionary history of SARS-CoV-2 using genomic data on sarbecoviruses.
  • They employed three approaches to identify regions in the virus that had not undergone recombination and that could be used to reconstruct its evolution.
  • All approaches suggest that RaTG13 and SARS-CoV-2 share a single ancestral lineage and estimate that SARS-CoV-2 genetically diverged from related bat sarbecoviruses in 1948, 1969 and 1982.

Challenging Assumptions:

  • The study challenged the idea of pangolins serving as an intermediate host where the virus would have acquired its ability to infect human cells thus facilitating the jump into humans.
  • It is possible that pangolins could have been a medium for the transmission to humans, but there is no evidence that pangolins facilitated adaptation to humans by being an intermediate host.
  • Current evidence is consistent with the idea that the virus evolved in bats and enabled itself to replicate in the upper respiratory tract of both humans and pangolins.
  • Snakes were thought to have served as intermediate hosts of SARSCoV- 2 as well but the present study has found no evidence to support this hypothesis.


  • The long divergence period raises the possibility of other undocumented virus lineages circulating in horseshoe bats that have the potential to jump from bats to humans.
  • Different and yet unstudied bat sarbecoviruses that have descended from the SARS-CoV-2/RaTG13 common ancestor form a clade with properties to infect many different mammals, including humans.
  • Due to the lack of better sampling, it is impossible to estimate whether or how many of these additional lineages exist.
  • The diversity and dynamic process of recombination amongst lineages in the bat reservoir makes identifying viruses difficult. Many species of bat harbour several viruses which can cross over to new
  • With the disruptions of their habitats, humans will face more such threats.

Way Forward

  • To identify the viruses and their lineages, there is a need for a global network of real-time human disease surveillance systems for pathogen identification and characterisation so that pandemic-like situations can be avoided.


  1. Thenzawl Golf Resort in Manipur

Why in News

Recently, the Thenzawl Golf Resort Project in Manipur has been virtually inaugurated.

The project was implemented under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme of the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India.

Key Points

  • The project was sanctioned under the Integrated Development of New Eco- Tourism under Swadesh Darshan-North East Circuit at Thenzawl and South Zote, District Serchhip and Reiek, Mizoram. Eco-Tourism has been broadly defined as tourism which is ecologically sustainable.
  • A total amount of Rs. 92.25 crore was sanctioned for it, out of which Rs. 64.48 crore was sanctioned for various components at Thenzawl including the golf course which is designed to have facilities of international standards.
  • The competitive advantage of Thenzawl Golf Course is that it will provide quality golfing experience at a fair price.

Golf Tourism in India:

  • Currently, India has more than 230 golf courses in all out of which several are of international standards and golf events held there attract domestic and international tourists.
  • Golf tourism has a strong potential in India because the climatic condition is more favourable here as compared to most countries.
  • India’s picturesque landscapes and exceptional hospitality services add to the enhanced experience.
  • The Ministry of Tourism, Government of India endeavours to work as a catalyst and active supporter for the development of golf tourism in the country.
  • For that, it is creating a comprehensive and coordinated framework for promoting golf tourism in India as a niche tourism

Swadesh Darshan Scheme

  • It was launched in 2014-15 for integrated development of theme-based tourist circuits in the country.
  • Currently, there are 15 theme based circuits – Buddhist, Coastal, Desert, Eco, Heritage, Himalayan, Krishna, North-east, Ramayana, Rural, Spiritual, Sufi, Tirthankara, Tribal and Wildlife.
  • Theme-based tourist circuits are developed on the principles of high tourist value, competitiveness and sustainability in an integrated manner to enrich tourist experience and enhance employment opportunities.
  • It is a Central Sector Scheme.
  • Under the scheme, the Ministry of Tourism provides Central Financial Assistance (CFA) to State Governments/Union Territory Administrations for infrastructure development of circuits.
  • This scheme is envisioned to synergise with other schemes like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Skill India, Make in India, etc. with the idea of positioning the tourism sector as a major engine for job creation, driving force for economic growth, building synergy with various sectors to enable tourism to realise its potential.

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