CURRENT AFFAIRS – 15/05/2023

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 15/05/2023

The nutritional value of millets

Why are millets popular sources of nutrition? What are the different parts of a millet kernel? How are nutrients in millets affected by processing and polishing? Can millets thrive in harsh, resource-poor conditions?


The story so far:

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has declared 2023 to be the ‘International Year of Millets’, giving these crops a shot in the arm even as countries worldwide are looking to them for their ability to grow in environmental conditions that the climate crisis is rendering more common. Millets are becoming more popular in India as well because of their low input requirements and high nutritional density, both of which are valuable for a country whose food security is expected to face significant challenges in the coming decades. However, the consumption of millets face one threat that has already overtaken India’s major food crops — grain-processing.

What are millets?

Millets are fundamentally grasses. They are cultivated worldwide, but especially in the tropical parts of Africa and Asia, as cereal crops. Some of the more common varieties include pearl millet (Cenchrus americanus), barnyard millet (Echinochloa utilis), finger millet (Eleusine coracana), and foxtail millet (Setaria italica).

There is both palaeontological and textual evidence to indicate that millets were being cultivated in the Indian subcontinent five millennia ago. According to the Agricultural and Processed Foods Development Authority, India is the world’s largest producer of millets. In 2021-2022, the country accounted for 40.51% of the world’s pearl millet production and 8.09% of sorghum. Within the country, pearl millet made up 60% of all the millet production, sorghum 27%, and ragi 11%.

Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), adlay millet (Coix lacryma-jobi), and teff (Eragrostis tef), among others, are grasses that differ in some respects from millets but are grouped together with them.

Why are they sought after?

Millets have two broad features that render them attractive — their nutritional value being comparable to that of major extant food crops (and better on some counts) and their ability to reliably withstand harsh, resource-poor conditions.

They are drought-tolerant, adapted to growing in warm weather, and require low moisture (axiomatically, they are particularly efficient consumers of water) and loamy soil. They don’t grow well in water-logged or extremely dry soil which might occur after heavy rainfall or particularly bad droughts, respectively. Nonetheless, millets have the upper hand over crops like rice and maize with more drought-like conditions expected in many parts of the world, including the newly realised prospect of ‘flash droughts’. That being said, millets don’t abhor better growing conditions, and respond positively to higher moisture and nutrient content in the soil.

According to the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, millets also “thrive on marginal land in upland and hilly regions”; marginal land is land whose rent is higher than the value of crops that can be cultivated there.

Are millets nutritious?

The nutritional content of millets include carbohydrates, proteins, fibre, amino acids, and various minerals. Different millet varieties have different nutrient profiles. For example, pearl millet — one of the oldest cultivated varieties — has been found to have higher protein content than rice, maize, and sorghum, while being comparable to that of barley. According to various studies, foxtail millet is rich in the amino acid lysine; finger millet has more crude fibre than wheat and rice; proso millet has a significant amount of the amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and methionine; and overall, millets have been found to be important sources of micronutrients and phytochemicals.

Where are the nutrients stored?

According to a paper published in 2021 in the journal Agriculture & Food Security, each millet kernel consists of three major parts, called pericarp, endosperm, and germ. The pericarp has an outer covering called the husk. The husk and the pericarp together protect the kernel from inhospitable conditions, disease, and physical damage.

The endosperm is the largest part of the kernel and its ‘storage’ centre. It has a protein covering called the aleurone. According to an FAO article about sorghum, the endosperm is “relatively poor in mineral matter, ash and oil content” but “a major contributor to the kernel’s protein (80%), starch (94%) and B-complex vitamins (50-75%)”. Similarly, pearl millet has a relatively larger germ, which is “rich in oil (32%), protein (19%) and ash (10.4%),” plus “over 72% of the total mineral matter”.

This is why, according to various experts, millets deserve to be included in people’s diets. But whether they’re actually included depends on the availability of “delicious products to satisfy the taste, providing knowledge on nutritional and health facts on millets, and improving accessibility,” as per a 2021 study.

How does processing affect the nutrients?

Processing and preparing millets for consumption can affect nutrients in three ways — enhance them, suppress/remove them, and ignore them. In this context, ‘whole grain’ refers to the endosperm, germ, and bran (pericarp + aleurone) whereas ‘refined grain’ refers only to the endosperm.

The husk is removed from the grains because it is composed of cellulosic matter that the human body cannot digest. But at least one study has found that when this is done to pearl millets, their phytic acid and polyphenol contents drop. (On the other hand, a paper published in 2021 found that millet husk could be briquetted and used as household fuel, and potentially alleviate energy poverty in north Nigeria.)

The second common step is to decorticate the grain, that is, remove any other outer covering and expose the seed. While studies have found that mechanical and hand-worked decortication did not have significant effects on the grain, they both removed crude and dietary fibre. But decortication also makes the grain more edible and visually attractive, which are favourable factors when marketing them to urban centres.

The typical next steps are milling, to grind the grains into flour, and sieving to remove large ‘impurities’, including bran. One 2012 study of finger millet found that whole-flour had a high content of “total polyphenols and flavonoids” while sieving made the flour more digestible and its nutrients more accessible to the body. However, it also reduced nutrient content due to the loss of bran.

On the other hand, according to the February 2022 study, germination and fermentation — in which the grains are soaked in water for an extended duration — “showed a positive improvement in the overall nutritional characteristics of millets”.

What is the effect of polishing?

A frequent last step is polishing.

The longer the grains were milled, the more protein, fat, and fibre contents the process removed. A different 2012 study found that barnyard millet could be polished with a rice polisher for up to three minutes without significant nutrient loss. Polishing is the process whereby brown rice, for example, is changed to white rice by rubbing off the bran and the germ.

A 2012 study in the Journal of Cereal Science assessed the effects of polishing in the nutritive value of two major Asian rice varieties — indica and japonica. Using a combination of precision abrasive polishing, plasma mass spectrometry, and fluorescence microscopy, they found that polishing removed 8-10% of grain weight and also removed 60-80% of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and manganese in both varieties. The loss of bran also compromised the grains’ fibre content. Yet rice polishing is considered desirable because, as per a 2009 study, most consumers favour the resulting taste and texture and prefer the shorter cooking time, and retailers want longer shelf-life, which can be achieved by removing the bran.


Millets are fundamentally grasses. They are cultivated worldwide, but especially in the tropical parts of Africa and Asia, as cereal crops. Some of the more common varieties include pearl millet (Cenchrus americanus), barnyard millet (Echinochloa utilis), finger millet (Eleusine coracana), and foxtail millet (Setaria italica).

Millets have two broad features that render them attractive — their nutritional value being comparable to that of major extant food crops (and better on some counts) and their ability to reliably withstand harsh, resource-poor conditions.

Processing and preparing millets for consumption can affect nutrients in three ways — enhance them, suppress/remove them, and ignore them.

This strategic-economic bloc will only tighten the leash

In November 2019, India walked out from the trade pact called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) involving China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and the 10-state Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) grouping. Fast forward to 2023, and now India along with many of the same countries, but with China replaced by the United States, is getting into the U.S.-driven Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF). The obvious questions are: what has changed? And how are the two economic partnership frameworks different?

The devil and deep sea

The one clear difference is of China versus the U.S. Developing a strategic partnership with the U.S. is India’s top foreign policy priority. Its relationship with China has, meanwhile, further deteriorated. But a strategic partnership with the U.S. need not come at the cost of economic dependency on it. With China, the big economic fear was any trade deal’s impact on India’s manufacturing sector; of cheap Chinese goods flooding Indian markets. But the economic issues with the U.S. have been no less problematic, e.g. about agriculture, intellectual property, labour and environment standards, and the digital economy. Strategic partnership should not mean accepting a completely U.S. self-interest-driven economic framework that does not suit India’s current economic interests.

Traditionally, trade deals used to be mostly about tariffs. Increasingly though, issues related to intellectual property, services, investment, domestic regulation, digital, and labour and environmental standards, are becoming more important. The U.S.’s IPEF proposal completely removes the tariff element of typical trade deals, and is entirely about all these other areas. In any case, traditional trade deals in the U.S. face likely roadblocks in the legislature. The U.S. has also found a tariffs-free trade deal, presented as a new kind of win-win economic partnership, as a good way to get around the resistance of many countries, including India, to free trade agreements, as they used to be called.

However, the IPEF’s ‘new age’ language itself is the biggest trap. It knits vaguely-worded webs that are not obvious in their actual economic impact, other than to U.S. strategists who created the proposals. Early assessment by many experts shows that the IPEF would result in a complete stranglehold over the economic systems of the participating countries, in a manner that is to the complete advantage of the U.S. The IPEF is really about developing a strategic-economic bloc — an integrated economic system centred on the U.S., and, as importantly, excluding China. The systemic integration caused by the IPEF’s actual long-term impact will leave little leeway for domestic policies to help a country’s own industrialisation (for example through tight supply chain integration that many elements of the IPEF contribute to).

A trade deal googly

Developing country trade negotiators are used to the traditional language of free trade agreements. Having honed their skills looking for problems in them, they find it quite difficult to understand and respond to the sophistry that the IPEF’s innocent-sounding text is filled with. This is especially so given that the IPEF is proposed to be concluded by November 2023, and when real engagements only began late last year. Traditional free trade agreements are much more focused but still take years to conclude. The supposed innocence of the relatively high-level language of the IPEF is being used as an excuse to rush it through. However, this is precisely the kind of language that will unsuspectingly trap countries in economy-wide permanent commitments, with domestic policy making space considerably compromised, but whose real implications will only become obvious by and by.

The IPEF has four pillars: trade, supply chains, clean economy, and fair economy. Fearful of a possible trap, India has joined the other three pillars but not trade. But there is great pressure on it to join trade too, and India could relent. Joining the trade pillar is the worst, but the other pillars too contribute to developing hard new economic architectures and structures that are not tariff-based.

In the long run, that could have an even stronger effect on economic and trade flows than tariffs. In the digital arena it is said that ‘code is law, and architecture is policy’. In an increasingly digitalising world, hard-wiring supply chains and giving up policy spaces in key areas such as digital, labour and environment, and export constraints, would take the form of a gilded techno-legal cage of irreversible economic dependency. Does a strategic partnership with the U.S. need to come at such a price?

The IPEF can already be seen to have deep implications in agriculture, in terms of genetically modified seeds and food, surrendering policy space for regulating Big Tech, and compromising a comparative advantage in manufacturing because of unfair labour and environment standards. It will also seriously affect India’s ability to create a vibrant domestic ecosystem in emerging areas such as a digital economy and green products.

The U.S.-driven Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity would result in a complete stranglehold over the economic systems of the participating countries.

Explaining mitochondrial donation treatment: how a baby has three parents

MDT is the process through which an egg, which has the genetic material (DNA) from the parents, and mitochondria from a selected female donor, is implanted in the uterus, and carried to full term to yield a baby, free of any mitochondrial disease

The announcement that a baby was born using three persons’ DNA in the U. K. on Thursday caused the stir that news of this kind was expected to evoke. The baby, technically, has three parents, deriving the mitochondria from a donor apart from the genetic material (DNA) from biological parents. Pioneering technology was used to facilitate this, in order to prevent the child from inheriting the mother’s mitochondrial disease.

Why did the baby need ‘three parents’?

The baby carried most of its DNA from its parents, and a minor per cent from the donor, whose mitochondria has been used while fertilising the egg.

Mitochondria are basically the powerhouses of the cells. They generate energy, and thus are also responsible for cell function in the human body. Certain defects might occur impacting the way the mitochondria produces energy for the cells (especially in the ‘energy-hungry’ tissues of the brain, nerves, muscles, kidneys, heart, liver), and thereby impacting cell function. The diseases that arise out of such mitochondrial mutations are called mitochondrial diseases. When the mitochondria are impaired and do not produce sufficient energy, it affects how organs function, leading to a broad assortment of symptoms across the body, including brain damage, organ failure and muscle wastage. The symptoms get more and more debilitating as a child grows, and have no cure, but can be treated. Some estimates put the incidence of mitochondrial diseases as one in 5,000 people.

In this case, the mother had a mitochondrial disease she was intent on not passing on to her baby. She also did not want to have a donor egg, for the baby would carry the genetic material of the donor.

What is the scientific process?

Mitochondrial diseases are only passed on by the mother, and research has been attempting to find a way for protecting the infant from inheriting the disease. Here, through an advanced in vitro fertilisation technique developed and refined by the Newcastle Fertility Clinic, the baby’s biological father’s sperm was used to fertilise the eggs from the biological mother, who has a mitochondrial disease, and a third, female donor with clear mitochondria, separately.

Then, the nuclear genetic material from the donor’s egg is removed and replaced with the genetic material from the biological parents’. The final product — the egg — which has the genetic material (DNA) from the parents, and the mitochondria from the female donor, is implanted in the uterus, and carried to full term to yield a baby who will be free from the mother’s mitochondrial disease. This process is termed Mitochondrial Donation Treatment (MDT).

Priya Selvaraj, Scientific and Clinical Head, GG Hospitals, Chennai, an IVF centre, says: “If we are talking about inheriting genetic mitochondrial diseases then it’s maternal. That’s why this particular technique is of relevance. This is specifically only for couples who wish to have their genetic child and are not okay with using a donor egg. With this special process, the final cytoplasm (which holds the genetic material and mitochondria) has healthy mitochondria while the genetic material belongs to the biological parents.”

Is there a law to facilitate MDT?

The Guardian reported that “research on MDT, which is also known as mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT), was pioneered in the U. K. by doctors at the Newcastle Fertility Centre…. to help women with mutated mitochondria to have babies without the risk of passing on genetic disorders.”

The progress in research led the U. K. government to amend the law allowing the procedure in 2015. It was further added that it was two years later that the Newcastle clinic became the first centre to get a licence to perform it, and the first few cases were approved in 2018. “Approval is given on a case-by-case basis by the U. K.’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which has given the green light for at least 30 cases,” the paper said. While details of the cases were not revealed to the media to protect the identity of the patients, a freedom of information application by The Guardian revealed that there were “less than five cases”.

The Newscientist reported in 2016 of a Jordanian baby born of ‘three parents’, with a technique employed by the team led by John Zhang at New Hope Fertility Centre in New York, but working in Mexico.

Are there any side effects to the procedure?

The Guardian, quoting a Pubmed article from February this year, has mentioned that sometimes it is possible that a small amount of the maternal mitochondria with errors may get passed on during the procedure. Dr. Sevaraj makes the case for more information on the process itself, “while largely helpful, the procedure is not without these minimal risks. As for the process, they use terms such as reversion or reversal and it’s inexplicable as of now. More published data is needed to establish consensus.”

  • UK became first country in world to legalise MGT
  • MRT or Mitochondrial donation is a medical technique in which defective mitochondria carried by a woman is replaced with the healthy mitochondria of a donor.
  • Through invitro fertilization technique (IVF), the egg is then fertilised with the partner’s sperm. Thus the embryo remains free from any such defects.
  • The two most common techniques in mitochondrial donation are maternal spindle transfer and pronuclear transfer.

 Pronuclear transfer: This involves transferring the nucleus of the mother’s fertilized egg or embryo into the cytoplasm of a donor egg or embryo with healthy mitochondria. The resulting embryo has nuclear DNA from the mother and father and healthy mtDNA from the donor.

Maternal spindle transfer: This involves transferring the nucleus of the mother’s egg into a donor egg with healthy mitochondria before fertilization. The resulting embryo has nuclear DNA from the mother and father and healthy mtDNA from the donor.

  • Thus this medical technique prevents the transmission of mitochondrial (genetic) disease from one generation to the next.
  • MRT proposes to give parents chance of having a child that is over 99% genetically matched to them and most importantly free of the mitochondrial disease.

Mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell and are responsible for producing energy. They have their own DNA, separate from the nuclear DNA that determines an individual’s physical traits.

The term ‘mitochondrion’ is derived from the Greek words “mitos” and “chondrion” which means “thread” and “granules-like”, respectively. It was first described by a German pathologist named Richard Altmann in the year 1890.

Functions of Mitochondria

The most important function of mitochondria is to produce energy through the process of oxidative phosphorylation. It is also involved in the following process:

  • Regulates the metabolic activity of the cell
  • Promotes the growth of new cells and cell multiplication
  • Helps in detoxifying ammonia in the liver cells
  • Plays an important role in apoptosis or programmed cell death
  • Responsible for building certain parts of the blood and various hormones like testosterone and oestrogen
  • Helps in maintaining an adequate concentration of calcium ions within the compartments of the cell
  • It is also involved in various cellular activities like cellular differentiation, cell signalling, cell senescence, controlling the cell cycle and also in cell growth

Govt. nod for 4th Positive Indigenisation List for DPSUs

Continuing the efforts to minimise imports by defence public sector undertakings (DPUSs), the Defence Ministry has approved the fourth Positive Indigenisation List (PIL) of 928 strategically important line replacement units (LRUs), sub-systems, spares and components, including high-end materials and spares, with an import substitution value of ₹715 crore, a Ministry statement said on Sunday.

“The DPSUs will soon initiate procurement action for these notified items. The industry may look for expression of interest (EoI), request for proposal (RFP) on the Srijan portal dashboard, especially designed for this purpose, and may come forward to participate in large number,” the statement said.

This fourth list is in continuation of the previous three indigenisation lists, which were published in December 2021, March 2022 and August 2022, respectively.

Centre announces Praveen Sood as  new CBI Director

Karnataka’s Director-General of Police (DGP) Praveen Sood was appointed Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Sunday, according to an order of the Department of Personnel and Training.

The key appointment will see Mr. Sood at the helm of affairs of the investigating agency during the 2024 Lok Sabha election.

Mr. Sood — who has never served with either the CBI or the Union government — was not empanelled as DGP at the Centre. His name was not among the original panel of officers shortlisted for the job.

An official said that the empanelment at the Centre will not apply in the case of the CBI Director, unlike in the case of other Central government appointments, as he or she derives powers under the Delhi Police Special Establishment Act, 1946.

“Approval of the Competent Authority is hereby conveyed to the appointment of Shri Praveen Sood, IPS (KN:86) as Director, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for a period of two years from the date of assumption of charge of the office vice Shri Subodh Kumar Jaiswal, IPS (MH:85) consequent upon completion of his tenure,” the order said.

Mr. Sood’s name was finalised on Saturday by a three-member panel comprising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, and Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.

The two-year fixed tenure of the present incumbent Subodh Kumar Jaiswal is coming to an end on May 25.

  • Central Bureau of Investigation is the premier investigating agency
  • Set up in 1963 by a resolution of the Ministry of Home Affairs
  • Operating under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions (India)
  • Special Police Establishment (which looked into vigilance cases) setup in 1941 was merged
  • recommended by the Santhanam Committee on Prevention of Corruption
  • Not a statutory body, derives its powers from the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946
  • Provides assistance to the Central Vigilance Commission and Lokpal
  • Exempted from the provisions of the Right to Information Act
  • India’s officially designated single point of contact for liaison with the Interpol

Composition of Central Bureau of Investigation

  • Headed by a Director (an IPS officer with a rank of Director General of Police)
  • Security of two-year tenure by the CVC Act, 2003

CBI handles Crimes like Economic, Anti Corruption,Special and Suo Moto cases.

Appointment of the Director of CBI

Director, CBI as Inspector General of Police, Delhi Special Police Establishment, is responsible for the administration of the organisation.

Till 2014, the CBI Director was appointed on the basis of the DSPE Act, 1946.

In 2003, DSPE Act was revised on Supreme Court’s recommendation in the Vineet Narain case.

A committee that had members from Central Vigilance Commission, Secretaries from Home Ministry, Ministry of Personnel and Public Grievances would send recommendations to Central Government for the appointment of CBI Director.

In 2014, the Lokpal Act provided a committee for appointment of CBI Director:

Headed by Prime Minister

Other members – Leader of Opposition/ Leader of the single largest opposition party, Chief Justice of India/ a Supreme Court Judge.

Home Ministry sends a list of eligible candidates to DoPT. Then, the DoPT prepares the final list on basis of seniority, integrity, and experience in the investigation of anti-corruption cases, and sends it to the committee.

Bail orders should not be too long or come too late as both violate personal liberty: SC

The Supreme Court has held that orders of courts in bail cases should neither be too long and elaborate nor come too late as both violate the constitutional mandate of personal liberty.

A Bench of Justices B.R. Gavai and Sanjay Karol said judges, while rejecting or granting bail to accused persons, should not slip into extensive deliberations on the merits of the case or evidence involved. Such “long” debates at the stage of bail may prejudice the case itself for the accused.

Again, once a case for bail is reserved for orders, the pronouncement of the decision should not take too long. Every day of waiting is a dent on the personal liberty of an undertrial.

The Bench underscored the importance of brevity in bail orders and the need for promptness in their pronouncement while allowing bail to Kadar Nazir Inamdar, represented by advocates Sana Raees Khan and Sriram Parakkat, who is an accused in the murder of Shiv Sena leader Rahul Shetty in 2020.

Plea for bail

Ms. Khan argued that the Bombay High Court had rejected his bail application in a “detailed” 16-page order elaborating the merits and evidence of the case. Moreover, the HC had kept the case reserved for orders for three months, July to September, last year.

The court agreed with Ms. Khan that Inamdar had been behind bars for nearly three years. He was accused of only conspiracy.

The Maharashtra counsel had vehemently objected to the plea for bail, saying the High Court had discussed the “circumstances” of the crime, which “clearly points the finger towards” Inamdar.

The Supreme Court, however, deprecated the “practice of detailed elaboration of evidence in the orders granting/rejecting bail/anticipatory bail and the practice of long delay between reserving the matter for order and pronouncing the order”.

“In matters pertaining to liberty of citizens, courts are expected to decide the matters expeditiously,” the court noted.

Bail is a legal agreement between an accused and the court in which the accused pays a sum of money as an assurance that he/she will appear in court. The accused can be released temporarily on payment of bail. As per the Indian Constitution, every accused is entitled to apply for bail in India.

  1. What are the types of bail?

There are three main types of bail in India, interim, regular and anticipatory bail.

Regular bail: This type of bail is granted to a person who is in police custody.

Interim bail: This is a temporary bail where the higher court calls for documents before a final decision regarding the bail application can be taken.

Anticipatory bail: This type of bail is granted by the Session Court or High Court to any person who believes that he/she will be arrested for a non-bailable offence.

  1. Where is bail defined in the Indian Constitution?

In the Indian Constitution, bail is defined and explained in the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. This section also defines the bailable and non-bailable offences in India. The Constitution of India also defines bail as a fundamental right of any Indian who is accused of a civil or criminal offence.