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Mythbusters regarding #CAB2019, focusing on North East India

 

 Myth: CAB dilutes ‘Assam Accord’

Fact: Union Government is committed to implement the Assam Accord which is a commitment of the Government to the people of Assam. There is a Standing Committee in MHA to monitor implementation of Assam Accord. CAB does not dilute the sanctity of Assam Accord as far as the cut-off date of March 24, 1971, stipulated for detection/deportation of illegal immigrants, is concerned. CAB is a special legislation intended to address the concerns of only a few identified minorities on humanitarian grounds. The cut-off date of December 31, 2014, in the context of CAB in no way, dilutes the sanctity of Assam Accord.

 

  • Myth: CAB is against the interest of indigenous people of Assam

Fact: CAB is not Assam-centric. It is applicable to the whole country. CAB is definitely not against National Register of Citizens/NRC, which is being updated to protect indigenous communities from illegal immigrants. Union Government is committed to take every step for the protection of the indigenous people in Assam. Union Government has constituted a Committee comprising eminent personalities of Assam to recommend steps for implementation of Clause 6 of Assam Accord, which states that constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards as may be appropriate shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.

  • Myth: CAB will violate provisions of Article 371

Fact: No provision of Article 371 would be violated by this Bill. The linguistic, cultural and social identity of the people of the North East would be preserved.

 

  • Myth: Provisions of Citizenship Amendment Bill will apply to the tribal areas of NE

Fact: Provisions of the amendments to the Citizenship Act would not be applicable to the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura, as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution.

 

  • Myth: Areas regulated through ‘The Inner Line Permit” will be included.

Fact: The areas regulated under ‘The Inner Line’ permit have been exempted. Manipur will also be brought under the Inner Line Permit (ILP) regime as announced yesterday.

 

  • Myth: CAB aims to facilitate intruders

Fact: It is only a Constitutional process to give citizenship to those were denied basic civil rights for the last 70 years. It aims to target genuine refugees and not intruders.

 

  • Myth: Bengali Hindus will become a burden for Assam

Fact: CAB is applicable to the whole country. Persons facing religious persecution are not settled only in Assam. They are staying in other parts of the country as well. As such, the fear that Assam will have to bear extra burden is misplaced. Further, Bengali Hindus over generations have immensely contributed to the economic development of the State.

  • Myth: CAB will trigger fresh migration of Hindus from Bangladesh

Fact: After partition of the country, religious minorities faced severe persecution and took shelter in the country from time to time. As per reports, population share of Hindus in Bangladesh has declined steeply from 28% to nearly 8% now. Thus, most of the minorities have already migrated from the country. Moreover, the scale of atrocities on them in Bangladesh has been coming down in recent years. In the changed scenario, large-scale migration on account of religious persecution is now a remote possibility. Further, there is a cut-off date of December 31, 2014 and benefits under CAB will not be available for members of the religious minorities who migrate to India after the cut-off date. As such, there is no question of fresh migrations being triggered on this count.

  • Myth: CAB will lead to domination of Bengali speaking people

Fact: Most of the Hindu Bengali population is settled in Barak Valley of Assam, where Bengali is declared the 2nd State Language. In Brahmaputra Valley, Hindu Bengalis are settled in isolated pockets and have adapted themselves to Assamese language. As such, there is no question of linguistic domination of Assamese-speaking people by Bengali-speaking people. There is perfect harmony between the two linguistic groups at present which will continue even after CAB is passed.

 

  • Myth: CAB will affect the interest of minorities in Assam

Fact: CAB applies to minorities from other countries, and has no connection to minorities in Assam. This has been clarified by the Home Minister in Parliament.

 

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Why the Citizenship Amendment Bill is necessary

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Shantanu Mukharji

Retired IPS officer

 

Concerns have been raised about Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) process, that was aimed at identifying illegal Bangladeshi immigrants residing in the State.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior ministers of his Government have repeatedly asserted that no genuine citizen of the country will be left out of the final NRC.

Concerns are now also being raised over the Citizenship Amendment Bill. Critics say, is that while the NRC is about protecting and identifying people of ethnic Assamese heritage, the CAB is about religion. They argue that this is a manifestation of a sectarian agenda and goes against the interests of the indigenous people of the state of Assam.

 

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However, one needs to simply look at the provisions of this Bill to realise that this has nothing to do with religion.

The Bill does not speak of providing citizenship only to Hindus. Instead it includes members of other religious communities as well: Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians. It clearly identifies those who stand to qualify for Indian citizenship as people who may have fled to India from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan because of religious persecution. These are people who may have been left across the border, out of no choice, post Partition.

The Bill, already passed by the Lok Sabha by a wide margin, seeks to grant citizenship to persecuted minorities from these countries after five years of residence in India. While this suggestion has a lot of people up in arms and has led to accusations of the Indian Government favouring a select few religions over others- one must remember that the persecution which Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians face in these three countries is no secret.

In fact, their mistreatment and discrimination is in a way inherent to the Constitutions of these countries which endorse Islam as the state religion.

India on the other hand has a secular mindset that is enshrined in and protected by our Constitution. From time immemorial, we have given refuge to victims of persecution, and history is witness to this fact.

Be it the Zoroastrians from Iran in the 12th century, or the Sri Lankan Tamils fleeing a civil war, from Hindus from Pakistan who have faced repeated ignominies to Afghans who came to India to escape the violence of the Soviet War or even the exiled Tibetans who have found peace and prosperity in India, our country has always prided itself in showing humanity and generosity by opening her arms to those people who seek refuge.

It would also be important to keep in mind that just because this Bill speaks of providing refuge to persecuted minorities from three countries- it in no way suggests that these refugees will be guaranteed Indian citizenship. Such persons will still have to go through the due procedure for acquiring Indian citizenship and their applications would be considered on a case to case basis. There is no proposal or even a suggestion of a blanket approval for all.

One must remember that the proposed beneficiaries of the amended Citizenship Bill have fled to India due to the hostile atmosphere against them in their respective countries and not merely to seek better economic opportunities. These aren’t economic refugees who have entered India in the hope of improving their standard of living or exploiting the immense opportunities that exist in the Indian economy. These people have been subjected to various forms of atrocities without any protection from their State.

This essential aspect differentiates these persecuted minorities from other illegal immigrants- like the Rohingya. It is important to note that when it comes to refugees from Myanmar, the Indian intelligence set-up has specific and targeted information that suggests that there is a very tangible threat of radicalisation among those Rohingya refugees who are currently living in the country or are trying to enter Indian territory at its border with Bangladesh.

The intel that we have at hand shows that there’s a credible threat to India’s national security set-up from such groups. Ignoring that would not only be foolhardy but detrimental to the safety of all Indian nationals and a risk that no Indian government would want to take.

Many ill-informed critics have spread canards that suggest the state of Assam will have to bear the entire burden of these persecuted communities once the Bill is passed. But the fact of the matter is that this Bill is intended for the entire country.

The adoption of the CAB also does not suggest the dilution of the Assam Accord. This accord is the basis on which the NRC was conducted. It set the cut-off date for recognition as a citizen of India as March 24, 1971.

A Government that is making elaborate efforts to right old wrongs and is acting proactively to continue to protect the interests of the ethnic Assamese people cannot be accused of jeopardising their interests in the same breath.

There are many who have also incorrectly expressed concerns that the Citizenship Amendment Bill will lead to a renewed exodus of Hindus from Bangladesh into India and more importantly into Assam. Critics claim that such an event will undo the work of the NRC and alter the linguistic and ethnographic balance of the State.

However, what’s important to remember is that it was in the immediate aftermath of the Bangladesh Liberation war that India saw an increased migration of Hindus into India. As per recent reports, the population of Hindus in Bangladesh has declined steeply from 28% to nearly 8% now. If we go by these numbers, it’s clear that most members of minority communities have already migrated out of the country. Moreover, the extent of atrocities committed against such groups in Bangladesh have significantly reduced in the recent years. This puts to rest concerns of a large-scale migration into India on account of religious persecution.

India cannot and must not turn its back on its brethren – those brothers and sisters who have been unfortunate enough to be vilified by governments only because of their faith and those who were left behind in the chaos that followed the division of India. It is our Constitutional duty to make room for them in India, to open our arms and welcome them, to help undo mistakes of the past and to give them a chance to live a life of dignity and respect among their own. This duty will be carried out by all Indian States and will never just be a burden to be borne by the people of Assam.

At the same time, we must remember the geopolitics of our region. Surrounded by countries whose Constitution puts religion at the heart of its state policies, we cannot blindly allow non-persecuted nationalities to enter India by claiming refugee status.

 

-The author is a retired IPS officer

MISSION INDRADHANUSH 2.0: REITERATING INDIA’S COMMITMENT TO VACCINES FOR ALL

 

 

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Dr Manisha Verma
Addl. DG (M&C), MoHFW

 

The Government of India is dedicated to achieving the highest standards of health and well-being of the nation. The immunization programme is a critical component of our commitment towards Universal Health Coverage. It is integral to India’s efforts of reducing the burden of vaccine-preventable diseases and achieving universal care for children. Over the years, efforts have been fruitful and proved India’s belief in quality, equitable, and affordable health care for all.

Government of India had launched ‘Expanded Program for Immunization’ in 1978, which was later termed as the ‘Universal Immunization Program’ (UIP) in 1985 aiming to reduce mortality and morbidity among children from vaccine-preventable diseases. India’s immunization programme is the largest in the world, with annual cohorts of around 26.5 million infants and 29 million pregnant women. Despite steady progress, routine vaccination coverage has been slow to increase. According to the National Family Health Survey-4 2015-16 (NFHS-4), the full immunization coverage is around 62%. The factors limiting vaccination coverage include the rapid urbanization, presence of large migrating and isolated populations that are difficult to reach, and low demand from underinformed and unaware populations.

India has achieved ground-breaking success in eradicating/eliminating life-threatening vaccine-preventable diseases by systematically implementing vaccination programmes.  These include smallpox, polio and more recently, maternal and neonatal tetanus. Despite persisting challenges such as a vast population, poor sanitation and hygiene, and difficult geographical terrain that make containing outbreak of disease and increasing access to vaccines difficult. The Ministry of health and family welfare has employed an effective approach – such as involving the community, seeking support from other Ministries and partner agencies, establishing an organized surveillance system, and employing mass campaign management strategies to reach every unreached child for vaccination.

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Owing to low childhood vaccination coverage, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched Mission Indradhanush (MI) in 2014, to target underserved, vulnerable, resistant, and inaccessible populations. These included pregnant women and children who had previously been left out or had dropped out, of immunization programmes. This contributed to an increase of 6.7% in full immunization coverage after the first two phases of Mission Indradhanush. In October 2017, the Prime Minister of India launched Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI)—an ambitious plan to accelerate progress. It aimed to achieve 90% full immunization coverage (FIC) with a focus towards districts and urban areas with persistently low levels. IMI was built on MI, using additional strategies to reach populations at high risk, by involving sectors other than health. It was an effort to shift routine immunization into a Jan Andolan, or a “peoples’ movement”. It aimed to mobilize communities and deal with barriers to seeking vaccines.

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Nationally, coordination between health and 12 non-health ministries was facilitated by the Cabinet Secretariat. In the districts, participation was coordinated by the District Magistrate through a District Task Force. In subdistricts, direct interaction between field workers from health and other departments was facilitated.

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IMI has contributed to a significant increase in fully immunized children in 190 selected districts in India. IMI showed that cross-sectoral participation can be effective in vaccinating children at the highest risk of infection. However, a number of systemic and practice-related changes, particularly with regards to the communications’ strategy, are needed for this approach to be even more effective. Overall, around 3.39 crore children and 87.18  lakh pregnant women received vaccination under all phases of the program and effected a tremendous improvement in the quality of life of thousands of pregnant women and children.

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Now the government is poised to launch Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI) 2.0 between December 2019 – March 2020 to deliver a program that is informed by the lessons learnt from the previous phases and seeks to escalate efforts to achieve the goal of attaining a 90% national immunization coverage across India. The program will be delivered in 271 districts of 27 states and 652 blocks of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar among hard-to-reach and tribal populations. Several ministries, including the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Panchayati Raj, Ministry of Urban Development, Ministry of Youth Affairs, among others, will come together to make the mission a resounding success and support the central government in ensuring the benefits of vaccines reach the last mile.

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  • Immunization activity will be in four rounds over 7 working days excluding the RI days, Sundays and holidays
  • Enhanced immunization session with flexible timing, mobile session and mobilization by other departments
  • Enhanced focus on left-outs, dropouts, and resistant families and hard to reach areas
  • Focus on urban, underserved population and tribal areas
  • Inter-ministerial and inter-departmental coordination
  • Enhance political, administrative and financial commitment, through advocacy

 Schedule of IMI 2.0

Intensified Mission Indradhanush immunization drive, consisting of 4 rounds of immunization will be conducted in the selected districts and urban cities. The schedule is as follows:

  • Round 1 –  2nd December 2019
  • Round 2 –  6th January  2020
  • Round 3 –  3rd February  2020
  • Round 4 –  2nd March 2020

After the completion of the proposed four rounds, the states will be expected to undertake measures to sustain the gains from IMI, through activities like the inclusion of IMI sessions in routine immunization plans. The sustainability of IMI will be assessed through a survey.

In order to mobilize the identified beneficiaries for vaccination under the campaign strategies have been framed. This includes:

  • Collaboration with other Ministries/ Department/Agencies: The IMI strategy will require support from key ministries and departments; strong leadership through meaningful collaboration between different arms of the government, working closely with the community, civil society and the youth. Other ministries have agreed to provide support for Intensified Mission
  • Mobilizers: NGOs, Public Relations, CSOs, Rotary International, NSS, National Cadet Corps (NCC), Nehru Yuva Kendra, MSW, along with relevant stakeholders will be involved as mobilizers in the activity.
  • Key partners: WHO, UNICEF, UNDP, Global Health Strategies, IPE Global, Rotary International, Technical Support Units (TSUs) established in select states and others as per program needs.

In the longer term, it is hoped that the lessons learnt from IMI will be incorporated into routine programming and overall development, with cross-sectoral participation leading to a people’s movement for reducing vaccination inequities through social change.

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With the launch of Intensified Mission Indradhanush 2.0, India has the opportunity to achieve further reductions in deaths among children under five years of age, and achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of ending preventable child deaths by 2030. By building on successes of the past, learning from challenges, and consolidating efforts across stakeholder groups, the country can fulfil its aim of attaining a disease-free India. Vaccines are a truly critical intervention in this journey and are the key to safeguarding our present and building a healthier tomorrow for our future generations.

भारतीय संविधान के 70 साल : मूल्यपरक शिक्षा राष्ट्र निर्माण की आधारशिला

रमेश पोखरियाल निशंक

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70 साल पहले आज के ही दिन 26 नवंबर 1949 को संविधान सभा ने देश का संविधान अंगीकार किया था। इन 70 सालों में भारत दुनिया के सबसे बड़े और मजबूत लोकतंत्र के रूप में उभरा है, जहां हर नागरिक को समान रूप से मौलिक अधिकार दिए गए हैं। लेकिन एक नागरिक के रूप में हमारे कर्तव्य क्या होने चाहिए और राष्ट्र के प्रति कर्तव्यबोध से संपन्न भावी पीढ़ी तैयार करने में शिक्षा क्या भूमिका निभा सकती है, यह बता रहे हैं केंद्रीय मानव संसाधन विकास मंत्री रमेश पोखरियाल निशंक

विश्व के सबसे बड़े जनतंत्र के विशालतम शिक्षा तंत्रों में से एक होने के गौरव के साथ-साथ हमें एक बड़ी जिम्मेदारी का भी अहसास है। हमें पता है कि अच्छी शिक्षा के माध्यम से ही हम नवभारत के निर्माण की आधारशिला तैयार कर सकते हैं। हम लगभग 33 करोड़ विद्यार्थियों के भविष्य का निर्माण कर रहे हैं और उनके स्वर्णिम भविष्य का निर्माण तभी हो सकता है, जब हम उनका परिचय उन शाश्वत मूल्यों से कराएंगे जो मानवता के आधार स्तंभ हैं।

मुझे लगता है कि अगर किसी को अभिव्यक्ति की स्वतंत्रता चाहिए तो उसे यह सुनिश्चित करना चाहिए कि जब दूसरा अपनी भावनाओं को उसके समक्ष रखे तो वह धैर्य, सहिष्णुता और सहनशीलता का परिचय दें। हैरानी की बात यह है कि अधिकांश लोकतांत्रिक देश मूल अधिकारों की बात करते हैं, परंतु मूल कर्तव्यों के विषय में मूक हैं। हमारे संविधान में कर्तव्यों का समावेश सोवियत संघ से प्रेरित रहा है। जिस दिन हम अपने विद्यार्थियों को कर्तव्यों का महत्व समझा पाए, हमारी काफी समस्याएं अपने आप ही हल हो जाएंगी।

जब हम भारत केंद्रित, संस्कारयुक्त शिक्षा की बात करते है तो हमारे सांविधानिक कर्तव्य प्रत्यक्ष या परोक्ष रूप से इसमें शामिल हो जाते हैं। देश में 33 साल बाद नई शिक्षा नीति आ रही है। नवाचारयुक्त, मूल्यपरक, संस्कारयुक्त, शोधपरक, अनुसंधान को बढ़ावा देती यह नई शिक्षा नीति देश के सामाजिक-आर्थिक जीवन में नए युग का आगाज करेगी। नई शिक्षा नीति देश को वैश्विक पटल पर एक महाशक्ति के रूप में स्थापित करने के लिए समर्पित है।

बच्चों को यह समझाना अत्यंत आवश्यक है कि विविधता से परिपूर्ण भारत एक देश नहीं बल्कि पूरा उपमहाद्वीप है, जिसके विभिन्न भागों में अलग-अलग रीति रिवाज और अलग-अलग परंपराएं हैं। भारतीय संस्कृति ने मानव सभ्यता की आध्यात्मिक निधि में हमेशा ही बहुत बड़ा योगदान दिया है और इसके सरंक्षण की आवश्यकता है।

यहां हर 10 किलोमीटर पर हमारी बोली बदल जाती है, कुछ 200 किलोमीटर दूर जाने पर हमारे खानपान व परिधान बदल जाते हैं, भाषाएं बदल जाती हैं और 1000 किलोमीटर दूर जाने पर पूरी जीवन शैली के पृथक रंग उजागर होते हैं। इन सब के बावजूद हम सदियों से एकता के सूत्र में जुड़े रहे हैं।

हमारी संस्कृति हमें एकता, समरसता, सहयोग, भाईचारा, सत्य, अहिंसा, त्याग, विनम्रता, समानता आदि जैसे मूल्य जीवन में अपनाकर वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम की भावना से आगे बढ़ने के लिए प्रेरित करती है। आज मनुष्य तन-मन की व्याधियों से जूझ रहा है।

विचार से ही हम विश्वगुरु बने थे और फिर विचारों से विजय हासिल करेंगे। डिजिटल युग में हम किस प्रकार शिक्षा के माध्यम से अपने मूल्यों को संरक्षित-संवर्धित करें, यह बड़ी चुन्नौती है। नई शिक्षा नीति से हमने अपने विद्यार्थियों को जड़ों से जोड़ने का प्रयास किया है।

मुझे लगता है कर्तव्यों के प्रति जागरूकता बचपन में विद्यालय के माध्यम से स्वतः ही हो जाती है। मुझे याद है कि सुदूरवर्ती हिमालय अंचल में स्थित मेरे प्राथमिक विद्यालय में शिक्षा से पहले, हमें अच्छा नागरिक बनाना सिखाया जाता था। प्रार्थना के दौरान हमें सिखाया गया कि किस प्रकार राष्ट्रीय झंडे का सम्मान करें, राष्ट्रगान की गरिमा का ध्यान रखें, किस प्रकार आसपास के स्थान को स्वच्छ बनाएं, कैसे सबके साथ प्रेमपूर्वक रहें।

यह सच है कि उस समय संविधान में वर्णित कर्त्तव्य नहीं थे, पर यह जरूर समझाया गया कि अच्छा इंसान या नागरिक बनने के लिए अच्छा मानव बनना परम आवश्यक है। मुझे लगता है कि आज समाज की जितनी भी विकृतियां हैं, उसके लिए मूल्यपरक शिक्षा का अभाव जिम्मेदार है।

अत्यंत चुनौतीपूर्ण वैश्विक वातावरण में यह हमारा सौभाग्य है कि भारत को अपनी जनसंख्या का अनोखा लाभ मिला है। हम सर्वाधिक युवाओं वाले देश हैं और जहां यह हमें वैश्विक प्रतिस्पर्धा के युग में बढ़त दिला रहा है, वहीं हमारे समक्ष सबसे बड़ी चुनौती है कि हम अपनी युवा शक्ति को कैसे सकारात्मक और सृजनात्मक रास्ते पर प्रेरित करें। आज हमें अपने विद्यार्थियों को न केवल सांविधानिक कर्तव्यों के प्रति जागरूक करना है, बल्कि एक ऐसा वातावरण बनाना है, जहां सभी अपने कर्तव्यों का पालन पूरी तत्परता और गंभीरता से करें। वर्ष 2055 तक भारत में काम करने वाले लोगों की संख्या सबसे ज्यादा रहेगी।

ऐसी स्थिति में यह जरूरी है कि हम अपनी युवा पीढ़ी को गुणवत्तापरक, नवाचार युक्त, कौशलयुक्त शिक्षा के साथ मूल्यपरक शिक्षा देकर कर्तव्यों के महत्व को समझाने में सफल हों ताकि वैश्विक प्रतिस्पर्धा के लिए कुशल मानव संसाधन तैयार किए जा सकें। हमारे युवा हर क्षेत्र में मूल्यपरक शिक्षा के माध्यम से उत्कृष्टता हासिल कर सकते हैं। यही उत्कृष्टता देश के सामाजिक और आर्थिक जीवन में प्रगति के नए युग का सूत्रपात करेगी।

 

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मैं समझता हूं कि किसी भी देश की युवा पीढ़ी को सकारात्मक, सृजनात्मक राह पर ले आना बड़ी चुनौती है। नई शिक्षा नीति में मूल्यपरक शिक्षा के माध्यम से शैक्षणिक संस्थानों में कर्तव्यों का महत्व बताने के लिए एक विशिष्ट इको-सिस्टम विकसित करने का प्रयास हो रहा है। नई चुनौतियों का मुकाबला हम अपने विद्यार्थियों के भीतर मानवीय मूल्यों का विकास करके ही कर सकते हैं।

भारतीय समाज के ताने-बाने को मजबूत करने के लिए हम सभी के बीच शांतिपूर्वक सहयोग की भावना होना परम आवश्यक है। यह भी आवश्यक है कि सामुदायिक जीवन में हमें अपनी जिम्मेदारी और कर्तव्यों का न केवल आभास हो, बल्कि उन्हें शांतिपूर्वक निभाने की इच्छाशक्ति भी हम रखें। आपसी समझ और आपसी सहयोग से ही देश की प्रगति सुनिश्चित हो सकती है। कई देशों ने अपने शैक्षिक कार्यक्रमों में नागरिकता को पाठ्यक्रम का हिस्सा बनाया है। इस बात में कोई संदेह नहीं कि बच्चों को अधिकार और दायित्व समझाकर हम न केवल उनकी मदद कर रहे हैं, बल्कि राष्ट्र निर्माण की आधारशिला को मजबूत कर रहे हैं।

 

Celebration of Constitution Day: Fundamental Duties

 

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Justice CK Prasad Chairman Press Council of India, & Former Judge, Supreme Court of India

 

The concept of dharma is deeply rooted in our culture. Performance of duty was considered to be an essential part of man’s character in ancient India and it was conceived that failure to perform one’s duty is equivalent to committing ‘sin’. The force behind the importance of the performance of duty in ancient India was more of a religious command than a legal command which is the case in the present times.

Performing duty has always been given prime importance in Indian philosophy. Rights cannot exist in isolation without duties attached. A right without duty is nothing but an imposition that leads to the decomposition of the concept of rights itself. Rights and duties are two sides of the same coin and they are indeed interrelated and inextricable. Duty is the source of rights, rights flow when duties are well performed. To every right, there is a corresponding duty that is to be performed to enjoy a particular right. When everyone performs their duties it automatically leads to the protection and promotion of others’ rights. Mahatma Gandhi had said “the true source of right is the duty. If we all discharge our duties, rights will not be far to seek”.

Part 51 A was introduced in the Indian Constitution in the year 1976 with the attempt to balance between an individual’s civic freedoms with his civic obligations. Incorporation of the fundamental duties has brought our Constitution in line with Article 29(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states “everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of the personality is possible”.

Rights are conferred upon people not only for the development and well-being of the individual but also the nation’s development can be achieved only through the performance of duties by individuals.

Amongst the most celebrated fundamental rights, the right to freedom of expression is a significant one that entitles the citizens of India to express their views, opinions, and ideas through various mediums like television, print, radio or digital media. Expressing self-thoughts or ideas help individuals to have a sense of self-fulfilment that is an essential aspect of the growth of any individual as well as the State. The framers of the Constitution characterized freedom of speech and expression as the very life of civil liberties and the Supreme Court of India expounded it as the Ark of the Covenant of Democracy. The Constitution of India though does not mention freedom of press or media separately but, the scope of freedom of speech and expression has been expanded by the Indian Courts to include the freedom of the press.

However, free it may be but the freedom has not been made an absolute one. Under Article 19 (2) it is subjected to reasonable restrictions, in the interests of the nation and its people. It can be defied if it hinders the security, sovereignty or integrity of the state, and is damaging to foreign relations, or is against decency or morality or causes defamation.

Though fundamental duties, alike fundamental rights, do not directly address the press, but press has an essential role to play in promoting fundamental duties as well as the rights of the people. The press, therefore, can sensitize people about their rights as also raise awareness about the duties of the citizens towards the nation. Such awareness amongst public would lead or encourage them in fulfilling their duties towards the assurance of the existence of good governance in the nation through exercising their adult franchise.

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Voting is a right but it is also a duty of every citizen to vote sincerely and participate in the electoral process and the democratic polity to strengthen the State. Equally, it is important to sensitize the public in performing their part in maintaining cleanliness, protect the environment including rivers, lakes and wildlife. In case of the duty to be performed by the press within its space, it should act responsibly in reporting incidents, without making an event sensational just for the sake, mixing views with news or misusing the power of the press. Misconstruing or misinterpreting someone in the press can definitely be detrimental to the growth of a society and nation. It is the duty of the press to promote harmony and brotherhood amongst people of India cutting across its religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities.  In recent times, the media has played a remarkable role in reminding people about their duties to keep India clean and green. Reminded the parents that providing education to their children is not only the right but it is the duty of parents to ensure that children are educated with elementary education.

In our Constitution, much emphasis was given to the rights until it was realised that to enjoy the fundamental rights one should also perform certain minimum duties. It acts as the foundation of human dignity and builds national character. The duties form the conscience of our Constitution.

 

Importance of Citizens’ Duties

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**Minister of Law and Justice of India

Ravi Shankar Prasad

The idea of citizenship has acquired a new meaning, content and purpose in the democratic world. While emphasizing on rights, it very important that one is also sincere about his or her duties towards the society at large and the country, especially its safety and security imperatives.
Universally, great emphasis has been laid on citizens’ duties. Article 29(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.”
Many nations across the world have transformed into developed economies by embodying the principles of “responsible citizenship” — all the responsibilities and duties that citizens of a nation should exercise and respect. The United States of America is a classic example in this respect. The Citizens’ Almanac, issued by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, details the responsibilities of its citizens — a copy of this document is given to every person on becoming a citizen of the country. Every year, during September 17-23, Americans celebrate the “Constitution Week”, using the time to reflect on the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and what it means to be a US citizen.
Another example is Singapore, whose growth story has been fueled by its emphasis on the relentless pursuit of duties by its citizens. As a result, Singapore has transformed from a less developed nation to a highly developed one in a short span of time.
India is one of the few countries in the world with a glorious tradition of democracy since ancient times. Eminent historian K P Jayaswal remarks that the concept of a republic in ancient India is older than of the Roman or Greek republican system. The ancient republics or janpadas such as Vaishali, Kapilavastu and Mithila — and their constitutions — date back to 600 BC. These form the foundation for the constitutional democracy that India is today — as well as for the role of Indian citizens in making democracy a success in India.
Since ancient times, people in India have had a tradition of performing their duties — even in partial disregard of their rights and privileges. Since time immemorial, an individual’s “kartavya” — the performance of one’s duties towards society, his/her country and his/her parents — was emphasised. Describing the role of a king, Chanakya stated, “It is a king’s utmost duty to look after the progress and welfare of the people of his country”. Modern civilisations, sadly, do not offer many inducements for the performance of duties — they certainly don’t teach people that the real reward for responsible citizenship is the preservation of a free society.
Traditionally, the fundamental impulse to accept responsibilities and perform duties, in every society, has been religious. Performing one’s duties with sincerity, is in fact, a worship mechanism. As a line from the Rig Veda notes,” O, citizens of Bharat! As our ancient saints and seers, leaders and preceptors have performed their duties righteously, similarly, you shall not falter to execute your duties”. (Rig.10.191.2)
The Bhagwad Gita and Ramayana also ask people to perform their duties. In the Gita, Lord Krishna ordains, “One should do one’s duties without expectation of any fruits”. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “I learnt my duties on my mother’s lap. She was an unlettered village woman… She knew my dharma. Thus, if from my childhood we learn what our dharma is and try to follow it our rights look after themselves… The beauty of it is that the very performance of a duty secures us our right. Rights cannot be divorced from duties. This is how satyagraha was born, for I was always striving to decide what my duty was.” Gandhiji further said that the true source of right is duty. He said, “If we all discharge our duties, rights will not be far to seek”. Swami Vivekananda rightly observed, “it is the duty of every person to contribute in the development and progress of India”.
The authors of the Constitution, under the able leadership of Babasaheb Ambedkar, put their hearts and minds into drafting an inclusive Constitution for a diverse India. As chairman of the Drafting Committee, Ambedkar displayed utmost clarity on one point — the purpose of the Constitution. He stated, “the Constitution is not a mere lawyer’s document; it is a vehicle of life and its spirit is always the spirit of age”.
A very significant feature of our Constitution is that it balances citizens’ rights and duties. These are social concepts that have grown through time, tradition and usage. The citizens’ duties as enshrined in the Constitution are essentially a codification of tasks integral to the Indian way of life — they focus on tolerance, peace and communal harmony. A close scrutiny of the clauses of Article 51A of the Constitution indicate that a number of them refer to values, which have been part of Indian tradition, mythology, religion and practices.
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The chapter on Fundamental Rights in the Constitution itself recognises the essence of duties. One pertains to freedom of speech but Clause 2 to 6 of Article 19 permits reasonable restrictions on the exercise of such rights in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, and the security of the state, public order, decency and morality. This implies that while exercising one’s rights must remember one’s duties towards these constitutional concepts.
Today, it is important to emphasise the need to remember our constitutional duties for the progress of our country. Democracy cannot establish deep roots in society until the citizens don’t complement fundamental rights with their fundamental duties. Let us remember the sacrifices of our brave jawans and officers of our security forces who laid down their lives while performing their duties to keep the country safe and secure.
Fundamental Duties must serve as a constant reminder of our national goals as well as inculcate, in all of us, a profound sense of social responsibility. It is only through the fulfillment of our duties in the most earnest way, that we can live life to our truest potential and help lead our nation towards prosperity and development.
The rationale for citizens’ duties can be summarized in the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Every citizen plays a key role in building a New India — a clean, healthy and prosperous nation. Everyone performing their duties, even mechanically, would pave the way for a better neighborhood, better society, and ultimately, a better country. Let us together build a responsible India, let us together imbibe the spirit of responsible citizenship to achieve the full potential of our country. Let us all remember our fundamental duties in the same way as we remember our fundamental rights.

With Love from Russia 50th IFFI showcases Russia as the Country of Focus

 

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**By Syed Mahmoud Nawaz

The inseparable bond between India and Russia has always stood the test of time. Hand-in-hand we are together again. The Golden Jubilee Edition of the International Film Festival of India, here in Goa, is showcasing Russia as the Country of Focus. Eight films from Russia are being screened currently at IFFI and these films are strong cinematic reflections of the contemporary Russian society. 

The 8 film package also includes a documentary on the legendary master of the art of Cinema, Andrei Tarkovsky. The film has been made by his son Tarkovsky Jr and it beautifully portrays master’s cinematic journey in his own words where he signals that his works were actually poems of the screen which not many understood in their true spirit. All his masterpieces were a creative way of praying and searching for the real meaning of human existence.

 

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The film ‘Abigail’, directed by Aleksandr Boguslavskiy captures the adventurous and daring escapades of Abigail who can’t continue to live in her own city because of the magical powers stirring inside her.

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‘Acid’, directed by Alexander Gorchalin, very well focuses on the dilemma and agony of young adults while they face the real tests of life. ‘Why don’t you just die !’, directed by Kirill Sokolov tells the story of a detective whose own house becomes a platform for dangerous game of revenge. ‘Once in Trubchevsk’ which is directed by Larisa Sadilova is a story of a small town caught in the web of deceit and lies. ‘Great Poetry’, directed by Alexander Lungin is about two young men trying to find poetry in this superficial world and ending up going for looting a bank.

 

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Kantemir Balagov who has been a student of acclaimed film-maker Alexander Sukorov has made a classic period film ‘Beanpole’. Set in Leningrad around 1945, the film starkly depicts the pain of the people who have survived the War but are caught in the physical and emotional wreckage that remains. The process of rebuilding their ruined lives is not easy and its cinematic depiction is equally hard hitting.
‘The Hero’, produced and directed by Karen Oganesyan, is a thriller capturing the story of Secret Service Agents who willingly or unwillingly face a game of ruthlessness and betrayal in both their professional and personal lives.
Russian cinema has come a long way from the Soviet days of Sergei Eisenstein’s ‘Battleship Potempkin’ to the days of 3D, IMAX and Dolby Atmos and the rampant use of VFX. Today Russia has most modern production and post production facilities, backlots and soundstages and a wide variety of film professionals.
In an interview given to the Russian News Agency ‘TASS’ on the occasion of Russia being the ‘Country of Focus’ at IFFI Goa, Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky said “The development of Russian-Indian relations in the humanitarian sphere has special importance for both countries, and there is great potential for building up cultural cooperation. This year, Russia is acting as a partner for the 50th anniversary of the International Film Festival of India, which points to serious success in consolidating bilateral contacts. Our goal is to create joint films in the near future”.

‘A Journey Beyond the Three Sea’ in 1957, ‘Black Mountain’ in 1971, ‘Rikki-Tikki-Tavi’ in 1975, ‘Sunrise Over The Ganges’ in 1985, ‘Ali Baba And The Forty Thieves’ in 1979, ‘A Legend of Love’ in 1984, ‘Black Prince Ajouba’ in 1989 and ‘By The Law Of The Jungle’ in 1991 were some of the examples of our joint venture films in the Soviet Era.
Indian Cinema as such has been very popular with the Russians. Some of the Indian films that made it big there in those days were Raj Kapoor’s ‘Awaara’, ‘Bobby’, ‘Disco Dancer’, ‘Zita and Gita’ and ‘Mamta’.
Nikita Mikhalkov, the world renowned film maker from Russia, who was honoured with the Life Time Achievement Award during the 46th Edition of IFFI in 2015 told me in an interview that he fell in love with India long ago when he came here for the first time. Humming the song ‘Awara hoon….he said “Raj Kapoor was so popular in Soviet times that he could have even become our President. All Russians just love India”.

While interviewing Alexey Govorukhin, the executive director of Kinoreporter who is currently visiting Goa as part of the Russian Delegation to IFFI, I asked him what binds Russians with the people of India, he said it is the virtues of Kindness, love and family values. He further said that we must also promote student exchange programmes between the various film schools of India and Russia.

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Recently, in September 2019, a joint agreement was signed in Vladivostok in Russia for expanding cultural exchanges between India and Russia. His Excellency Nicolay R. Kudashev, the Ambassador of Russia was also in Goa for IFFI. While addressing media, he said that it is the right time to take advantage of the joint agreement by joining hands together for achieving our common goals. Ambassador Kudashev said that he was delighted that the Government of India has chosen Russia as the ‘Country of Focus’ in this momentous Golden Jubilee year of the International Film Festival of India.

Head of the Russian Delegation to IFFI, Ms. Maria Lamesheva told the media that she is delighted to see the kind of interest which people of India are showing in the diverse variety of films from Russia. She further said that Indian Film makers must utilize the co-production agreement under which up to 40 percent of the budget would be given back by the government. It is worth mentioning here that the nodal agency for such subsidies will be the Russian Export Center JSC, which has now opened an office in Mumbai too.

The Russian landscape offers a wide variety of film-making locales. It varies from subtropical coastline to frozen lakes, tall mountains to vast planes and deserts to deep forests. And India too narrates itself through amazing landscapes and has a lot of variety to offer to film-makers for shooting their films here.

We are sure that the cinematic relations between India and Russia will achieve new heights of cooperation and excellence in the times to come and that this will also help in further solidifying the bond between the two nations.

(Author is a senior journalist and film-maker. He writes on a variety of subject

The inseperable bond between India and Russia has always stood the test of time. Hand-in-hand we are together again. The Golden Jubilee Edition of the International Film Festival of India, here in Goa, is showcasing Russia as the Country of Focus. Eight films from Russia are being screened currently at IFFI and these films are strong cinematic reflections of the contemporary Russian society.
The 8 film package also includes a documentary on the legendary master of the art of Cinema, Andrei Tarkovsky. The film has been made by his son Tarkovsky Jr and it beautifully portrays master’s cinematic journey in his own words where he signals that his works were actually poems of the screen which not many understood in their true spirit. All his masterpieces were a creative way of praying and searching for the real meaning of human existence.
The film ‘Abigail’, directed by Aleksandr Boguslavskiy captures the adventurous and daring escapades of Abigail who can’t continue to live in her own city because of the magical powers stirring inside her.
‘Acid’, directed by Alexander Gorchalin, very well focuses on the dilemma and agony of young adults while they face the real tests of life. ‘Why don’t you just die !’, directed by Kirill Sokolov tells the story of a detective whose own house becomes a platform for dangerous game of revenge. ‘Once in Trubchevsk’ which is directed by Larisa Sadilova is a story of a small town caught in the web of deceit and lies. ‘Great Poetry’, directed by Alexander Lungin is about two young men trying to find poetry in this superficial world and ending up going for looting a bank.
Kantemir Balagov who has been a student of acclaimed film-maker Alexander Sukorov has made a classic period film ‘Beanpole’. Set in Leningrad around 1945, the film starkly depicts the pain of the people who have survived the War but are caught in the physical and emotional wreckage that remains. The process of rebuilding their ruined lives is not easy and its cinematic depiction is equally hard hitting.
‘The Hero’, produced and directed by Karen Oganesyan, is a thriller capturing the story of Secret Service Agents who willingly or unwillingly face a game of ruthlessness and betrayal in both their professional and personal lives.
Russian cinema has come a long way from the Soviet days of Sergei Eisenstein’s ‘Battleship Potempkin’ to the days of 3D, IMAX and Dolby Atmos and the rampant use of VFX. Today Russia has most modern production and post production facilities, backlots and soundstages and a wide variety of film professionals.
In an interview given to the Russian News Agency ‘TASS’ on the occasion of Russia being the ‘Country of Focus’ at IFFI Goa, Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky said “The development of Russian-Indian relations in the humanitarian sphere has special importance for both countries, and there is great potential for building up cultural cooperation. This year, Russia is acting as a partner for the 50th anniversary of the International Film Festival of India, which points to serious success in consolidating bilateral contacts. Our goal is to create joint films in the near future”.

‘A Journey Beyond the Three Sea’ in 1957, ‘Black Mountain’ in 1971, ‘Rikki-Tikki-Tavi’ in 1975, ‘Sunrise Over The Ganges’ in 1985, ‘Ali Baba And The Forty Thieves’ in 1979, ‘A Legend of Love’ in 1984, ‘Black Prince Ajouba’ in 1989 and ‘By The Law Of The Jungle’ in 1991 were some of the examples of our joint venture films in the Soviet Era.
Indian Cinema as such has been very popular with the Russians. Some of the Indian films that made it big there in those days were Raj Kapoor’s ‘Awaara’, ‘Bobby’, ‘Disco Dancer’, ‘Zita and Gita’ and ‘Mamta’.
Nikita Mikhalkov, the world renowned film maker from Russia, who was honoured with the Life Time Achievement Award during the 46th Edition of IFFI in 2015 told me in an interview that he fell in love with India long ago when he came here for the first time. Humming the song ‘Awara hoon….he said “Raj Kapoor was so popular in Soviet times that he could have even become our President. All Russians just love India”.

While interviewing Alexey Govorukhin, the executive director of Kinoreporter who is currently visiting Goa as part of the Russian Delegation to IFFI, I asked him what binds Russians with the people of India, he said it is the virtues of Kindness, love and family values. He further said that we must also promote student exchange programmes between the various film schools of India and Russia.

Recently, in September 2019, a joint agreement was signed in Vladivostok in Russia for expanding cultural exchanges between India and Russia. His Excellency Nicolay R. Kudashev, the Ambassador of Russia was also in Goa for IFFI. While addressing media, he said that it is the right time to take advantage of the joint agreement by joining hands together for achieving our common goals. Ambassador Kudashev said that he was delighted that the Government of India has chosen Russia as the ‘Country of Focus’ in this momentous Golden Jubilee year of the International Film Festival of India.

Head of the Russian Delegation to IFFI, Ms. Maria Lamesheva told the media that she is delighted to see the kind of interest which people of India are showing in the diverse variety of films from Russia. She further said that Indian Film makers must utilize the co-production agreement under which up to 40 percent of the budget would be given back by the government. It is worth mentioning here that the nodal agency for such subsidies will be the Russian Export Center JSC, which has now opened an office in Mumbai too.

The Russian landscape offers a wide variety of film-making locales. It varies from subtropical coastline to frozen lakes, tall mountains to vast planes and deserts to deep forests. And India too narrates itself through amazing landscapes and has a lot of variety to offer to film-makers for shooting their films here.

We are sure that the cinematic relations between India and Russia will achieve new heights of cooperation and excellence in the times to come and that this will also help in further solidifying the bond between the two nations.

(Author is a senior journalist and film-maker. He writes on a variety of subject)

One year of Ayushman Bharat: A Healthcare Revolution Unfolds

Author: Preeti Sudan and Indu Bhushan

Nine year-old Shiv, suffering from a leaky heart valve, cried softly as his despondent father took him back home after being told by the doctor in Bihar that the needed surgery would cost Rs.3 lakh, more than what his father could possibly earn in three years. He got a new heart – and a new life – at Delhi’s All India Institute for Medical Sciences, thanks to the timely and cashless treatment under Ayushman Bharat – Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY). When Shah Mohammad, 50, got treated for a fractured jaw in Gurgaon, he could not believe that he did not have to pay a single rupee as he walked out of the private hospital, an exclusive bastion of the wealthy in India thus far. 38 year-old Singri got a new lease of life after a football-sized tumor was removed from his head. Carrying the tumor since his teenage years, he says PM-JAY helped him become fit and an eligible bachelor in his village in Jharkhand. These are only some of the myriad stories of joy, hope and triumph that have played out over the last few months in the country.

Ayushman Bharat is a conscious attempt to holistically address health — encompassing
prevention, promotion and ambulatory care — at primary, secondary and tertiary levels. It promises to bring healthcare to the poorest, through two components: Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs) delivering comprehensive primary health care through the development of 1.5 lakh HWCs, and PM-JAY, the health assurance scheme delivering secondary and tertiary care to 55 crore people through a health cover of Rs. 5 lakh per family per year. Ayushman Bharat has been designed on the fundamental precepts that prevention is better than cure, and that no one should fall into poverty because of expenditure on healthcare, or die because they cannot afford treatment.

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The journey of Ayushman Bharat started in remote Jangla, on April 4,2018, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the first Health and Wellness Center. On 15 th August last year, he formally announced PM-JAY to the nation, from the ramparts of the Red Fort. This promise of free health care to the poorest 55 crore people in the country would help them avoid the catastrophic healthcare expenditure that pushes an estimated 6 crore people below the poverty line each year in India. A hugely ambitious and truly transformative scheme, PM-JAY sought to cover a population larger than that of Canada, United States and Mexico put together. A year ago, on 23rd September, the Prime Minister launched the scheme in Ranchi, Jharkhand.

A year later, the dream of Ayushman Bharat as envisioned by the Prime Minister is on the way to becoming a reality and is off to a promising start. More than 20,000 HWCs have been made operational. More than 5 crore people have been screened for a whole range of common non-communicable diseases. Under PM-JAY, more than 45 lakh hospital admissions have taken place for cashless treatment in more than 18,000 empaneled hospitals across the country, resulting in savings of more than Rs. 13,000 crores for the beneficiary families. Every 3 seconds, a beneficiary is being treated – and the numbers continue to rise.

Ayushman Bharat has provided a platform and framework for the country to accelerate their progress towards comprehensive Universal Health Care. Envisaged as an alliance with the states, PMJAY in several States and UTs has provided the opportunity to extend the benefits to far larger numbers beyond those covered under PMJAY. 11 States/UTs have expanded the coverage to include almost all the families. In addition, 23 have expanded the beneficiary base with same benefit cover as PMJAY or lower in some cases. Several States have merged their many ongoing schemes with the PMJAY to make implementation simpler for both beneficiaries and participating hospitals. They need no more deal with different target groups, rates and reporting systems. Karnataka has merged 7 different existing schemes into one, and Kerala has merged 3 different schemes.

The private sector has played an active role in the early pick up of the scheme. More than half of the empaneled hospitals are private. Over 62% of the treatments have been done by private hospitals. PM-JAY has created a massive demand for private (and public) sector services by making hospital facilities accessible for 55 crore people. In tier II and tier III cities private sector hospitals are already witnessing an almost 20 % increase in the footfall. Some hospital chains are already contemplating plans for expanding their capacity or opening new facilities in underserved areas. Public sector facilities, have streamlined their processes so as to improve service quality, and improve amenities with funds from PMJAY.

With its focus on delivering healthcare to a large population, Ayushman Bharat is set to
become one of the largest drivers of jobs in the country. With the setting up of 1.5 lakh
HWCs by 2022, an expected 1.5 lakh jobs will be created for community health officers,
including 50,000 multi-purpose health workers. It generated an estimated fifty to sixty
thousand jobs in its first year and is expected to add over 12.5 lakh jobs in both the public and private sectors over the next 3-5 years, with 90 per cent of them in the healthcare sector and the remaining in allied sectors such as insurance and implementation support. As more people seek in-patient care, 1.5 lakh beds will be added in existing and new hospitals. This, in turn, will lead to the creation of around 7.5 lakh new opportunities for doctors, nurses, technicians, pharmacists and frontline healthcare workers such as Pradhan Mantri Arogya Mitras (functionaries who are the key interface between beneficiaries and the scheme).

This ambitious scheme is supported by a strong IT backbone that facilitates the identification of beneficiaries, recording treatments, processing claims, receiving feedback, and addressing grievances. A live dashboard helps in monitoring and improving performance, based on real-time data and regular analyses. This platform also helps the States to compare their performance. A strong and sophisticated fraud prevention, detection and control system at the national and State levels has proved to be critical for PM-JAY to ensure that frauds are largely prevented. If attempted, they are quickly detected and strong action taken.

A good beginning has been made, but a lot needs to be achieved before we reach our goals. Opportunities that lie ahead need to be effectively harnessed. One such lies in exploiting the potential of collective bargaining and leveraging economies of scale. This could deliver more affordable and quality healthcare, by negotiating better prices for various devices, implants and supplies, and leveraging other policies such as Make in India. Ensuring quality treatment of patients by prescribing and ensuring adherence to standard treatment protocols is another opportunity waiting to be fully harnessed. Further strengthening the linkage between HWCs and PMJAY will improve the backward and forward referrals and enhance overall healthcare services, especially to the poor. “Green field” States with no past experience of implementing healthcare schemes have to work harder to scale up their progress. All the states will need to make sincere efforts towards providing seamless health services to the last mile, to reach the last person in the queue.

As the Ayushman Bharat revolution unfolds, we are optimistic that India will make sure healthcare is no longer a privilege and is available to every Indian. Thus, will be written many more stories of joy, hope and triumph, like those of Shiv, Shah Mohammed and Singri- and of so many others who will be assured the gift of life and good health.

**Ms. Preeti Sudan is Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, Government of India Dr. Indu Bhushan is CEO, Ayushman Bharat PM-JAY and National Health Authority
Views expressed are personal to the authors

Ayushman Bharat – Accelerating India on the path to Universal Healthcare

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Author: Dr. Harsh Vardhan

Our people are our greatest strength. India cannot realise its demographic dividend without its citizens being healthy. This government resolutely believes in realising the full potential of our people and has therefore made health a national priority.

Despite its economic strength and growing global stature, India continues to face the multiple challenges in health. An estimated 6 crore Indians get pushed below poverty line each year because of catastrophic expenditure on healthcare. The triple burden of disease is an enormous challenge – the high maternal mortality rate, infant mortality rate and prevalence of communicable diseases; second the high and rising incidence of non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes and hypertension; third, the burden of infectious diseases such as dengue, malaria, Tuberculosis, Nipah ,Hepatitis, AES etc.

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The Prime Minister’s vision is that the best of healthcare should be accessible to the poorest of the poor as a matter of right. The healthcare landscape in India is undergoing a dramatic transformation. Exactly one year ago, Government of India launched Ayushman Bharat and rolled out this game-changer initiative for 55 crore poor and vulnerable citizens. Ayushman Bharat health protection mission, is a path-breaking approach for attaining the ultimate goal of universal healthcare.

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Through its two components: Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs), to ensure comprehensive primary health care through operationalising 1.5 lakh HWCs and PM-JAY, the health assurance scheme to deliver secondary and tertiary care for serious illnesses through a health cover of Rs. 5 lakh per family per year, Ayushman Bharat is a clarion call towards fulfilling Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay’s vision of reaching the last man in the queue.

Ayushman Bharat is a transformative initiative that seeks to meet the National Health Policy 2017 goal of “attainment of the highest possible level of health and well-being for all and at all ages, through a preventive and promotive health care orientation in all developmental policies, and universal access to good quality health care services without anyone having to face financial hardship as a consequence.” Ayushman Bharat, especially PM-JAY, aims to ensure improved access to, affordability of, and lower the cost of healthcare delivery through a combination of government hospitals and empanelled private providers. It recognizes the critical importance of universal health coverage which is central to achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) of ensuring good health and well-being for all.

PM-JAY has had a tremendous start. The scheme is now being implemented across 32 States and Union Territories, which is a demonstration of our commitment to the highest ideals of cooperative federalism, a proof of the historic mandate given to this Government and the faith reposed in us by the people of our great nation on 23rd May this year when Shri Narendra Modi ji embarked upon his second innings as Prime Minister. In the last one year since its launch, about 50 lakh free treatments worth over Rs 7,500 crores have been given at empanelled facilities across the country and, 55% of the total utilised amount has been for tertiary procedures related to orthopaedics, cardiology, and radiation oncology. It is indeed heartening that of the 18,000 plus empanelled hospitals, 53% are private hospitals and they are willingly putting their best foot forward to be a part of Ayushman Bharat.

As PM-JAY gradually increases the empanelment of tertiary facilities, the utilization of tertiary procedures — in terms of volumes as well as amount — will further increase. One outstanding feature of this scheme is portability, which means that an eligible patient from any state implementing PM-JAY can avail free treatment anywhere in India, in any empanelled hospital. Around 40,000 beneficiaries have received such treatment outside their States/UTs.

 As it moves steadily on way to becoming the world’s largest health insurance/assurance scheme, Ayushman Bharat has caught the attention of the globe, and has received wide support and acclaim from the international community.

In the past year, since its launch, PM-JAY has come to stand for access to quality, affordable in-patient healthcare for the poorest of the poor people in a hospital of their choice without suffering the fear and anxiety of catastrophic hospital bills. The endeavour of the scheme is to constantly improve so that it can better meet the needs and expectations of the 55 crore Indians. Recently the Governing Board of the National Health Authority decided to overhaul the existing health benefits packages and rationalize the cost of the packages to remove any aberrations. This will ensure wider private sector participation by empanelling more hospitals to improve access to hospitalization related care. We also approved an upgrade to our IT system to make it even more user-friendly, interoperable, secure and state-of-the-art. Initiatives for improving the quality of services were also endorsed.

 To ensure more effective implementation and uptake of PM-JAY and strengthen patient safety through quality care, we have instituted a robust fraud control structure, flowing from the Centre to the states and districts, and analytics and audit-based mechanisms to prevent, detect, and deter medical malpractices and wrong doing by any of the stakeholders. Due to our policy of zero tolerance towards corruption, 97 errant hospitals have been de-empanelled and penalties worth more than Rs.1.5 crore have been levied.

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To improve health sector in our country, we need to transform the medical profession and expand it to get more people to take up careers as doctors, paramedics and frontline health workers. The National Medical Commission Bill, is a milestone in the medical education sector which will reduce the burden on students, ensure probity, accountability, transparency and quality in medical education. 75 new medical colleges are being set up in the govt. sector and 82 more are in various phases of development that will help increase the number of medical seats and strengthen the medical education infrastructure in the country. It will also bring down the cost of medical education, ensure quality education and provide wider access to people for quality healthcare. 

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Our Government understands that Health in India is a complex space with several challenges and opportunities. There is no single magical pill that can ameliorate our health burden. This is why we are putting in place an entire ecosystem of programmes and legislations (some of them described above) targeting all key areas requiring reform such as progressively achieving universal health coverage, nutrition, aligning the growth of private health care sector with public health goals, health systems performance and strengthening, among others.

 I congratulate our beloved Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi for his undaunted efforts in each sector to live up to the promise of “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas”. Emulating his extraordinary vision, I too am working to fast-track all initiatives in the health sector. Being a doctor by profession, my task becomes easier as I have first-hand knowledge of healthcare. On the first anniversary of AB-PMJAY, as I urge my fellow professionals and Indians to join and support this healthcare movement, I re-dedicate myself to the service of the nation. To be able to achieve a disease-free India, and to be able to attain global standards of healthcare for every Indian, is now the goal of my life.

*The author is the Union Cabinet Minister for Health and Family Welfare, and Science & Technology & Earth Sciences. Views are personal.

Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare addresses a press conference on completion of one year of Ayushman Bharat scheme on September 16, 2019 at National Media Centre (NMC), Raisina Road, New Delhi.

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