Press Information Bureau

Government of India

Indian Railways: A Journey towards Swachh Bharat

i2016102101.jpgAuthor : H.C. Kunwar

With its green initiatives, Indian Railways is reinforcing its commitment to environmental sustainability and steadily proceed on a greener path.  Indian Railways has taken several initiatives which reaffirm its obligation towards minimizing the impact of its operations on the environment.

Bio-Toilets in trains

In order to contribute to ‘Swachh Bharat’ mission launched by Prime Minister, Ministry of Railways have taken up a mammoth task of providing human discharge free bio-toilets in all its coaches and the this task would be completed by September 2019.


With the provision of bio-toilets in all its coaches, discharge of human waste from trains on to the ground would be completely stopped which in turn would help in improving cleanliness and hygiene. Indian Railways have already provided 40,750 bio-toilets in its coaches till middle of this year and in the current financial year, it plans to fit additional 30,000 bio-toilets.

After extensive research and field level experimentation, Indian Railways have introduced Bio-toilets in trains that will contribute cleaner, environment friendly and more efficient discharge of human waste.

The DRDO-designed bio-toilet uses anaerobic bacteria to convert human excreta into water and methane

The under slung tanks below the coach toilets have specially developed inoculums which continuously keep on decomposing the waste and regenerate itself.  As a result no replenishment of bacteria is required and toilets are totally maintenance free.

The technology has been developed jointly by Indian Railways and Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO) for railway passenger coaches. This environment friendly, low cost and robust technology, is the first of its kind in Railway Systems in the world.

First Green Train Corridor 


To mark the beginning of this journey towards ‘Swachh Bharat’, Ministry of Railways recently started 114 Kms long First Green Train Corridor – Rameswaram-Manamadurai track, free from human waste discharge from trains. Accordingly, 10 passenger trains consisting of 286 coaches moving over this section have been provided with bio-toilets.

After Rameswarm-Manamadurai, Okha-Kanalas Junction(141 Kms), Porbandar-Wansjaliya (34 Kms) and Jammu-Katra(78 Kms) would also be taken up for making them free from human waste discharge from trains. For this around 35 trains consisting of nearly 1110 coaches would be further provided with bio toilets and the work is underway. These sections and stations were chosen, because the number of trains originating and terminating at these stations and sections are few, thus making it operationally easier and faster to make them human-discharge free.

In order to carry out efficient disposal of waste, Indian Railways has decided to provide separate dustbins for collections of biodegradable (wet waste) and non-biodegradable (dry waste) on the platforms and all passenger interface areas in A1 & A category stations apart from vending stalls. Zonal Railways will train the staff engaged in cleaning duties at railway stations for separate collection and further handling for final disposal of segregated dry and wet waste from the dustbins.

Indian Railways had already instructed for efficient disposal of waste arising out of pantry car services and static units as also to provide adequate dustbins on platforms and by the side of stalls at all railway stations for environment friendly disposal of waste.


Indian Railways will provide different coloured dustbins and polythene liner bags for bio-degradable and non-biodegradable waste viz. Green for bio-degradable and Black for non-biodegradable. In the first phase. Zonal Railways will ensure provision of separate dustbins for segregated collection of garbage at all A1 category stations immediately, followed by ‘A’ category stations on or before the end of this year.

Countrywide mass mobilization activities on cleanliness

To commemorate the second anniversary of the country’s Swachh Bharat Mission, countrywide mass mobilization activities were carried out on cleanliness and for Open Defecation Free communities.


In keeping pace with the programme, Indian Railways undertook intensive cleanliness drives on all stations. All stations wore the ceremonial look with posters and banners spelling the message loud and clear to the travelling public that the Railway is their travelling home. Railway officer and staff donned the ceremonial caps interacting with the travelling public and conducting inspections at station premises. Anti-littering slogans were posted at various locations. Dustbins for garbage were provided and awareness programmes were undertaken. All major stations on the Northern Railway were inspected by all levels of hierarchy from top executives and supervisory cadres. A drive on garbage handling and disposal was also undertaken at railway stations, Trains and Depots. Tree plantation ceremonies were held at various places.

Earmarking each day with specific focus area for spruce-up, the cleanliness programme has certain defined themes like Swachh Stations (Clean Stations), Swachh Rail Gaadi (Clean Train), Swachh Neer (Clean Water), Swachh Parisar (Clean Complex), Swachh Samarpan (Dedication for ensuring Cleanliness), Swachh Aahar (Clean Food) etc. Indian Railways is committed to continue this Cleanliness drive on sustained basis. The Indian Railways has been constantly appealing to all rail users to express their solidarity through greater public support and an active public co-operation to make the Railways a place of pride and rail journey a pleasant experience.

Evaluation & Green rating of industrial units of Railways

A Memorandum of Understanding between Ministry of Railways and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) to evaluate the Green Initiatives and rate the performance of Industrial Units of Indian Railways which are pursuing environmentally sustainable practices was signed in July this year. CII will extend technical co-operation for various Green initiatives in three Railway’s Industrial establishments, with an objective to make Indian Railways, as a leading Government organisation in the field of Environment.

Increased reliance on renewable sources of energy

Indian Railways envisages sourcing at lease 10% of its energy requirements through new and renewable energy sources, achieving 15% enhanced energy through improved energy efficiency in both traction as well as non traction use.

Towards this end, solar panels at stations, level crossing gates, are being installed.  A 10 MW windmill has been set up at Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai which is expected to earn about 20,000 CERs (Carbon Emission Reduction) per annum.  Two more windmill plants of 10.5 MW capacity have been sanctioned for Southern and North Western Railways through Public Private Participation.

In addition, new trains introduced in Mumbai suburban section with IGBT based propulsion system have been equipped with regenerative braking features which have recorded energy regeneration while braking to the tune of 35-40% of energy used for hauling these trains.

An alternative fuel – Bio-diesel


Bio-diesel is an environment friendly, fuel used to replace Petro-diesel.  This viable and indigenous alternative to fuel the railways is derived from multi feed stock like fresh and used vegetable oils of both non-edible & edible types, animal fats, grease etc.  Indian Railways have decided to use bio-diesel extensively in its diesel locomotives and road vehicles.  This environment friendly oil is free from sulphur and does not emit any sulphur dioxide.  Its combusts completely releasing very little carbon monoxide.

Free distribution of CFLs


Indian Railways has also brought in annual reduction of 0.14 million tonnes of CO2 emissions through free distribution of 26 million CFLs (4 CFLs per family) to Railway employees in replacement of energy inefficient incandescent lamps.  The project is entirely financed with the carbon credits earned under CDM framework.

*Author is an independent journalist. He was earlier associated with the PR Wing of Indian Railways.


The First Digital Revolution in Health Care

How the 3 A.M. Serpentine Queues Vanishedgbfcg.jpg

Author : V. Srinivas


Building strong Institutions is one of the major objectives of Good Governance. The Digital India initiative represents a landmark in ushering in the First Digital Revolution in Health Care at AIIMS. The successful implementation of the AIIMS e-Hospital Project and the AIIMS OPD Transformation Project, transformed AIIMS to India’s first fully digital public hospital. In 16 months of implementation since the launch in July 2015, the AIIMS e-Hospital project has had the largest footprint of Digital India projects.


The creation of a patient friendly hospital has benefitted 35 lac patients till date, reducing wait times at the Hospital by nearly 6 hours, brought transparency to OPD appointments; created digital medical records and represents a sustainable and replicable model for hundreds of India’s Hospitals.

The Challenge

The very name invokes images of crowds, a sea of humanity that is present at the hospital doors, waiting from 3  in the morning, to rush for expert medical consultation at 8.30 am when the OPD opens.


With an average of 10,000 OPD patients per day, 35 lac OPD patients per annum,  55 Departments, 640 faculty, 2000 resident doctors and 5100 Nurses,  AIIMS represents India’s behemoth in tertiary care super specialty hospitals.


While the Institute led by highly driven professionals works with clockwork precision, the overwhelming patient loads have proved impossibly challenging for a manual system and required significant systemic changes in terms of improved digital practices and process re-engineering, as millions of India’s population seeks medical care at the Nation’s apex Medical Sciences University.

AIIMS – UIDAI – DeiTY Collaboration:

It was in January 2015 that the first step in the Digital AIIMS project was taken with the creation of an effective linkage between AIIMS, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeiTY).


A unique health identification number for every patient visiting AIIMS was generated on an Aadhar platform. The patient could log into the AIIMS OPD Appointment System ( and submit a request for an appointment online using his Aadhar number. The verification of the demographic details of the Patient was based on the one-time password for the patient being transmitted to the mobile phone number of the patient registered in the Aadhar data base. The Unique Health Identification Number gave every Patient visiting AIIMS a Digital Identity. The Patient could use the UHID for his entire lifetime and every consultation visit was documented by the system.

The e-Hospital project proceeding at a modest pace, suddenly gained significant momentum with the launch of Digital India Initiative. There was a new urgency in DeiTY and NIC for expeditious development of the software so that the Online Registration System could be established. This was followed by the collaboration between AIIMS and Pay Gov for creation of a payment portal.

The e-Hospital project necessitated transparency in OPD appointments. AIIMS always encouraged walk-in patients and also had several follow-up patients coming for consultation. The streamlining of the new OPD cases began with 15 percent of the total new OPD appointments being given for online registration. The out-patient appointments of each of the Departments of AIIMS was placed online and every consultation room in the OPD was allotted a fixed number of OPD patients identified by name.

AIIMS – TCS Collaboration:

The AIIMS-TCS collaboration for the AIIMS OPD Transformation Project was conceptualized as a Corporate Social Responsibility Project in April 2015. It was only after several months of observations at OPD followed by conceptualization, discussions, capacity building, consensus building and software development that the TCS prescribed a model of AIIMS OPD transformation.


The approach was to facilitate faster registration, to dissipate crowds with larger patient waiting areas, introduction of several new measures like fresh signages, screening at the entry point, patient care coordinators at the registration/ consultation areas and the rather unique exit OPD counters for all follow-up patients. Today, the AIIMS-TCS collaboration has provided the country with a role model for transforming OPD services at all major Central and State Government Hospitals.

The newly adopted model envisaged construction of a Patient Registration Center, with 50 Registration Counters each one equipped with a computer terminal loaded with e-Hospital software. It was constructed and operationalized in a record time of six months.


Now the registration time was a mere 40 seconds for all new appointments with UHID numbers generated from the online registration system. Fast Track Queues were created where the patients who had already registered themselves under the online registration system could get their OPD cards and move quickly to the Patient Waiting Areas. Patient Care Coordinators ensured that Patients understood clearly where to visit during the entire process. The whole approach was one of empathy and efficiency. The successful operationalization of the Patient Registration Center meant that the waiting time in the Hospital had come down by nearly 6 hours per patient. The 3 am serpentine lines were no longer there. They were replaced by a more orderly queue system that commenced at 8 am and reached the OPD consultation rooms by 9 am.


AIIMS attracts 10,000 patients per day but the patient waiting areas had only 2500 seating capacity. This meant that patients rushed to consultation areas without any wait time in a comfortable environment. The TCS model envisaged creation of seating spaces for an additional 3500 patients. Air conditioned Patient Waiting Halls were developed where the patients could comfortably wait for their turn to visit the OPD Consultation rooms.

Initially, the new model was implemented in the Medicine and Pediatric OPD areas on a pilot scale in December 2015. The Clinicians would commence work at 9 am. Patients would reach the clinician’s rooms in an orderly manner. All multiple registration counters in these Departments were discontinued. The successful implementation encouraged AIIMS to introduce the model in all the 5 floors of the Rajkumari Amrit Kaur OPD covering all 55 Departments.

The most innovative feature of the new model was the introduction of EXIT OPD Counters. Patients who were recommended for advanced Laboratory Tests, Radio-Diagnosis, Virology and Pathology Tests as follow-up appointments, all of which could be scheduled from the EXIT OPD Counters. The Patient thus had a very orderly journey from the point of entry to the Hospital to the point of exit. Even the VIP Patients including the officials at senior position in government willingly went through the entire OPD Transformation Process and found the entire experience quite expeditious and satisfying.

Specialised Cadres

AIIMS transformed itself into a patient friendly hospital by its willingness to adopt the modern day digital practices and create specialized cadres who enabled rapid scaling up of the new technology. The Nursing Informatics Specialists provided the linkage between the Clinical Departments and the OPD appointments. Nurses with an aptitude for technology were deployed to coordinate between the Departments, OPD, Wards and the software professionals.


The Patient Care Coordinators touched every patient entering the OPD with their empathy. They were the friends and guides who ensured patients followed the established protocols. They were also deployed to assist with the E-Kiosks to enable literate and tech savvy patients with appointments.


The Data Entry Operators were deployed at Patient Registration Center and the EXIT OPD Counters. They were trained to handle cash collections simultaneously. Security Personnel were trained in Queue Management systems with a considerable degree of patience.

AIIMS–India’s First Fully Digital Public Hospital

Hitherto, the implementation of the e-Hospital project had not been orderly. For AIIMS to be a fully Digital Hospital, each of the e-Hospital modules needed to implemented in an orderly manner to create a comprehensively digital hospital. By June 2016, the e-Hospital module implementation in AIIMS was completed. The NIC took a big step forward in completing the AIIMS e-Hospital Project. NIC Teams from Tripura worked with each of the Departments in AIIMS in a prescribed time frame to transform AIIMS as India’s first fully digital public hospital. The modules comprised of Blood Bank module, Billing Module, In-Patient Department comprising admission and bed to bed management, Laboratory Module integrating 55 laboratories, establishment of nearly 200 Kiosks with Net Banking Facilities for ease of payments, Laundry Module for monitoring the central laundry operations, Store management for inventory purposes, Dietary Module for preparation of electronic diet charts for in-patients, and RIS-PACS (Radiology Imaging System – Picture Archiving Communications System) for exchange of radiology data.

The Titanic is Saved

The transformation of AIIMS to a patient friendly hospital under the Digital India Initiative can be compared to “Saving the Titanic”. Under the Digital India Initiative, a core team of officials collaborated cordially and constructively over a long period of time to make the First Digital Revolution in Health Care possible.


There was considerable resistance from every possible quarters– patients, support and administrative staff, security apparatus and even some medicos had their share of doubt during the course of the implementation of the Project. Needless to say, now everyone is satisfied and happy. As the success story unfolds benefitting 35 lakh patients, in 12 months’ time, the hours and hours of effort put in by those involved in the project, are adequately rewarded. The Prime Minister launched the Online Registration System as part of the Digital India Initiatives in July 2015. Following a year of successful implementation wherein the project benefitted 35 lac patients, the Prime Minister mentioned the successful implementation of the AIIMS e-Hospital Project from the ramparts of Red Fort in his Independence Day Address this year. The AIIMS OPD Transformation Project has enthused several State Governments. AIIMS has been mandated to conduct on-boarding workshops for replication across all 12 Central Government Hospitals.

Thus the AIIMS Transformation Project represents India’s First Digital Revolution in Health Care. No doubt, it is a remarkable success story.


*Author is a senior civil servant, an IAS officer of 1989 batch, presently serving as Deputy Director Administration, AIIMS New Delhi.

Focus on Human Dignity and Human Rights: A Global Movement for Ethics in Medicine

First World Bioethics Day, October 19i2016101605.jpg

Author: Dr. Smita N. Deshpande

There is a felt need to adopt ‘global ethics’ to indicate ethical science devoted to protecting the environment and our own future species.

Rapid strides in medical technology with an artificial human being almost in sight, designer babies, organ and gene replacements, are all creating an explosion of ethical dilemmas in medicine. Where should technology stop? The world is becoming more ‘anthropocentric’, to the extent that entire species of other animals are disappearing. On the clinical level, conflict between medical practitioners and their patients is becoming more and more common today. At least partly, this is due to failure to recognize each other as individuals and human beings, each with their own rights.


The need of the day is to adopt ‘global ethics’ (a term coined by the American biochemist Van Rensellaer Potter) to indicate ethical science devoted to protecting the environment and our own future species.  Named ‘bioethics’, these are ethical principles based on sound transcultural understanding. The UNESCO Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights, adopted on 19 October 2005 codifies these principles. Among them, the first principle is that of Human Dignity and Human Rights: (Article 3): 1. Human dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms are to be fully respected. 2. The interests and welfare of the individual should have priority over the sole interest of science or society .

Based on this principle, more than 114 Units across the world will mark the First World Bioethics Day with a uniform program on topics around human dignity and rights.


In 2001, the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics was established at the International Center of Health, Law and Ethics, University of Haifa. The UNECO Chair Haifa, headed by Prof. Amnon Carmi, gradually established a number of Units at medical Universities all across the world. Their aim was to form a network to ‘coordinate and stimulate an International Network of Institutes for Medical Ethics Training (NIMED)’. The UNESCO Chair of Bioethics is tasked with developing a culturally sensitive yet responsive syllabus in ethics for medical schools all over the world. Dr. Russell D’Souza, an Indian psychiatrist settled in Australia is heads the Asia Pacific region for the UNESCO Bioethics Chair, Haifa. The Indian Medical Association, Medical Council of India, National Board of Examinations, and Vice-chancellors of several health Universities in India are all Units of UNESCO Chair. Units for medical students are also being formed. Among such units, the Central India Unit is based at PGIMER-Dr. RML Hospital in Delhi. The International Forum of Teachers in Bioethics has been established for membership to medical teachers who are already trained in bioethics.

All Units meet at least once a year to discuss progress and formulate future plans. At their Annual Meeting in 2015, a decision was taken to mark the signing of the UNESCO Universal Declaration by observing a World Bioethics Day, with programs focused on the First Principle of Bioethics- Human Dignity and Human Rights.The UNESCO bioethical principles are:

  • Respect for human dignity and human rights (Article 3.1)
  • Priority of the individual’s interests and welfare over the sole interest of science or society (Article 3.2)
  • Beneficence and non‐maleficence (Article 4)
  • Autonomy (Article 5)
  • Informed consent (Article 6)
  • Protection of persons unable to consent (Article 7)
  • Special attention to vulnerable persons (Article 8)
  • Privacy and confidentiality (Article 9)
  • Equality, justice and equity (Article 10)
  • Non‐discrimination and non‐stigmatization (Article 11)
  • Respect for cultural diversity and pluralism (Article 12)
  • Solidarity and cooperation (Article 13)
  • Access to healthcare and essential medicines (Article 14)
  • Benefit sharing (Article 15)
  • Protection of future generations (Article 16)
  • Protection of the environment, the biosphere and biodiversity (Article 17).

Thus, these principles not only emphasize the imperative changes we should bring in our attitudes and behavior towards each other, but also to the environment and to other species.

As the Bioethics Movement widens, it is hoped that not only will health care improve, but also mutual respect and recognition between patients and their healthcare providers will enter a more informed and respectful phase.

*Author is Professor & Head, Department of Psychiatry & De-addiction Services; Centre of Excellence in Mental Health, PGIMER, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, New Delhi, and member of Council for National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences.

Food and Nutrition Security in the light of Climate Change


Author : Santosh Jain Passi, Akanksha Jain

There is a need to increase food productivity across the world in the face of burgeoning world population and Climate Change

By 2050, the world population will reach nearly 9.5 billion, which effectively means that we will have to produce 70% more food for over two billion additional mouths. Hence, the food and agriculture systems need to adapt fast to the changing climate and become more resilient, productive and sustainable. This would require judicious use of natural resources and minimised post-harvest losses coupled with improved harvesting, storage, packaging, transportation and marketing practices as well as appropriate infrastructural facilities.

Aptly, theme for this year’s World Food Day is “Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too”. Ever since 1979, it is being celebrated on October 16 with the aim to raise public awareness regarding hunger challenges and encourage them for necessary actions to fight hunger.


The global goal for achieving ‘Zero Hunger’ is 2030 which cannot be reached without addressing climate change – food security being highly vulnerable to changing climatic patterns.

Food security refers to an ability to access/utilize sufficient quantities of safe and nutritious food; however, the related challenges are afflicting the urban/rural populations in wealthy/poor nations alike. FAO estimates nearly 194.6 million Indians (15.2%) were undernourished during 2014-16.

Climate change – a catalyst of crisis and food/nutrition insecurity


By the end of 21st century, global temperature is predicted to rise by nearly 1.4-5.8˚C leading to a substantial reduction in food production. As per ISRO, the Himalayan glaciers already on retreat (shrinkage during the last 15 years: 3.75 km) may disappear by 2035. Ill effects of climate change include growing deserts and escalation in extreme weather events like droughts, cyclones, floods and droughts. Such situations often pose worst effects on the poorest of the poor (many being farmers) and are, thus, a serious threat to our goal – ending hunger by 2030! Hence, concerted action on climate change is crucial for sustainable development. Ironically, agriculture is also considered amongst the big contributors to climate change. On 2 October 2016, India has ratified the Paris Agreement which aims to combat climate change and limit global temperature rise to well below 2˚C.

To quote, our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi Ji “The world is today worried about climate change, global warming, natural disasters. Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhayay had understood the need for striking the fine balance between human development and the need to preserve natural resources….to be vigilant about the exploitation of natural resources. Human race has only now realised the disastrous impact of our material development on the nature”.

Since a consistent increase in greenhouse gases is the major cause for climate change, it is imperative to ensure the wellbeing of ecosystems by reducing their emissions. In the context of Indian agriculture, key issues of climate change include – vastness of the nation with diverse climatic conditions;  varied cropping/farming systems; excessive monsoon dependency; climate-change  hampering water  availability; small land holdings;  lack of coping mechanisms; poor penetration  of risk management strategies; extreme rainfall events (droughts/floods – esp. in coastal regions); high incidence of pests/diseases; speedy oxidation of carbon-print affecting soil fertility and extinction of biodiversity. Though, India has been successful in achieving self-sufficiency in grain production, it has not been able to address chronic household food insecurity. It is likely that climate change will exacerbate food insecurity, particularly in areas vulnerable to hunger/under-nutrition.

For our country, where a large chunk of our population is poor and nearly half the children are malnourished, ensuring food security is of utmost importance. While access to food is directly/indirectly affected via collateral effects on household/individual incomes, food utilization gets impaired due to poor access to drinking water and its adverse health effects. India is likely to be hit harder by global warming – affecting more than 1.2 billion, particularly those residing in flood/cyclone/drought prone areas. Climate change is a significant ‘hunger­risk multiplier’ which can affect all the dimensions of food/nutrition security – Food availability, accessibility, utilization and stability.


Attaining and sustaining food security is one of the biggest challenges worldwide. Food security plans must emphasise on effective handling of threats, efficient storage/distribution of food along with suitable monitoring/surveillance according priority to corrective actions. Adaptive measures such as modified cropping patterns, innovative technologies and water conservation become rather important, particularly in arid/semi-arid areas. Therefore, necessary efforts should be directed towards carbon sequestration and mitigation of green-house gases. In this regard, there is a dire need for awareness generation and efficient involvement of the public at every step.

Some of the governmental initiatives for ensuring food/nutrition security in India include –Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana, Soil Health Card/Soil Health Management Schemes,Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, Annapurna Scheme,  MGNREGA, National Food Security Act, ICDS and MDMS etc. However, all these programmes need effective implementation, and monitoring to bridge the gaps, particularly for the vulnerable groups. It is rather important to protect and judiciously use our precious natural resources, prevent environmental pollution by adopting eco-friendly approaches, safeguard our forests and avoid food wastage at all levels – from farm-to-plate. Apart from laying more stress on plant foods vs. animal foods, wastages can be avoided by purchasing/cooking only the needed amounts coupled with appropriate storage and judicious use of leftover foods.


At the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit-2015, world leaders were served dishes reformulated from ‘trash’ (vegetable scraps, rejected apples/pears and off-grade vegetables). This is an exemplary utilization of unwanted/would-be-wasted food – highlighting the crucial issue of global food wastage and its harmful effects; otherwise this food would have ended up in landfills, got rotten and emitted methane – a potent greenhouse gas.

There is an urgent need for investing in “climate‑smart food system” that is more resilient to the impact of climate change on food security. Millets – the drought resistant crops, require fewer external inputs, can grow under harsh circumstances and are, therefore, called ‘crops of the future’.


 These nutri-cereals have a rather short sowing-to-harvest period (~65 days) and if stored properly, can be kept for two years and beyond. Unlike paddy (contributing immensely to green-house gases from water-drenched rice fields), millets help in mitigating the climate change by reducing atmospheric CO2; while wheat production (a heat-sensitive crop) is liable to adverse effects. Owing to wide capacity of adaptation, millets can withstand variations in moisture, temperature and soil type including infertile lands. Further, millets contribute to the economic efficiency of farming by providing food and livelihood security to the millions, particularly small/marginal farmers and people in rain fed/remote tribal regions.

Rome Declaration on Nutrition and Framework of Action (Nov, 2014) recognized the need to address the impact of climate change on food/nutrition security – particularly the quantity, quality and diversity in food production; and recommended policies/programmes to establish and strengthen the food supply institutions for enhancing resilience in crisis­prone areas.

Thus, mitigating climate change is a global issue; appropriate adaptation strategies being the immediate solution to ensure livelihood/food security. India needs to sustain its ecosystem for meeting the food/non-food needs of its ever-growing population. Major thrust of the concerned programmes should be on soil conservation, appropriate/judicious use of the natural resources including rainwater harvesting. Raising population awareness regarding adversaries of climate change on crop production is one of the prime-most solution for attaining food/nutrition security.

*Dr Santosh Jain Passi – Public Health Nutrition Consultant; Former Director, Institute of Home Economics, University  of  Delhi

* Ms Akanksha Jain is a Researcher on Public Health and Nutrition issues.

Web Responsive Pensioners’ Service

A step towards empowerment of pensioners by improving Transparency, Responsiveness & Accountability

Author : D.S.MALIK

Web Responsive Pensioners’ Service is a Digital India initiative taken-up by the the Controller General of Accounts which works under the administrative control of the Union Ministry of Finance. This portal was recently launched by the Union Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley last month. The Web Responsive Pensioners’ service has been developed to provide single-point web solution for pensioners to obtain comprehensive information relating to status of the pensions and pension payments. This service will also help in speedy redressal of pensioners’ grievances.


In its constant endeavor to provide better and prompt services to pensioners, Central Pension Accounting Office (CPAO) is providing various services to stake holders viz. Ministries, PAOs, Banks and Pensioners through its Website It has developed a mobile responsive facility for use of pensioners for availing of various services. Pensioners can register on the CPAO website by providing Pension Payment Order (PPO) number and Date of Birth & Date of Retirement/Date of Death. Pensioners can also lodge their grievances online and track status through this portal.

The main features of this service include the facility of Login using any mobile device, facility to view the Complete Pensioner Profile and digital record of Pension & Revision Orders. Apart from this, the service will track the status of Pension Processing Grievance Redressal and its status which can also be received through SMS. The facility will be linked to Jeevan Pramaan, Bhavishya and CPENGRAMS Portals. Moreover, the pensioners will have Dashboards for banks, PAOs and ministries and departments.


Pension Processing Tracking and Grievance Redressal

Pension Processing Status Tracking : Retired and retiring pensioners can track status of their pension cases of both new as well as revision like date of receipt of their cases in CPAO and date sent from CPAO to the Bank. To track the pension status, in respect of retired government employees, PPO numbers, date of birth and date of retirement/date of death are required. For retiring employees, PAN number and date of retirement is required.

Grievance Redressal: Pensioners can lodge their grievances and view/track status of their grievances through this service. In addition, lodging of grievances online on CPAO website, facility to lodge grievance by letter, fax, email, Toll free Number (1800117788) and personal visits and track its status is provided. After receiving a grievance from pensioner; CPAO forwards the same online to the concerned banks and field offices for redressal. Its status is updated on the website for the information of pensioners.

Link to Jeevan Pramaan, Bhavishya and CPENGRAMS Portals: Link to Jeevan Pramaan Portal has been provided on CPAO website to enable pensioners to use facility of Digital Life Certificate (DLC). For retiring employees, a link has been established with Bhavishya Portal of DP&PW to enable them to track status of their pension cases even before the case reaches CPAO. A link to CPENGRAMS (Centralized Pension Grievance Redress and Monitoring System) has also been provided so as to enable pensioners to lodge and track their grievances on CPENGRAMS.

*Author is Addl. DG (M&C) in PIB.

NDMA’s guidelines on Crowd Management & Safety Precautions  

‘Reduce risks this festive season’

It’s that time of the year again. A festive nip in the air warmed up by ‘SALE’ hoardings splattered all over. People are gearing up for the Puja pandal visits, Ram Leelas or the burning of Ravana effigies on Vijayadashami, depending on the part of the country that they are in.

A little mismanagement and these celebrations can turn awry.  The most common fellers include stampedes and fire.

An undercurrent of uncertainty prevails at huge gatherings. A crowd can become a stampede – a man-made disaster – in a moment and can result in casualties. A crowd can give in to baseless rumours or may just follow a herd-like mentality. Once triggered, it is very difficult to contain this fluid mass of people. It is, therefore, important that the organisers of these pandals and Dussehra celebrations take simple precautions to ensure safety.

  • The first step is to regulate traffic in areas surrounding the pandals and Dussehra grounds. For pedestrians, route maps for reaching the venue and emergency exit route should be put up at strategic points. Barricading to ensure the movement of people in a queue is key to control a burgeoning crowd.
  • CCTV cameras to monitor movement and police presence to reduce the risk of snatching and other petty crimes should also be on the organisers’ agenda.
  • Unauthorised parking and makeshift stalls eating into pedestrian space also need to be taken care of.
  • Medical emergencies can occur in claustrophobic spaces. An ambulance and health care professionals on stand-by can save lives in exigencies.

On the part of revellers, familiarising yourself with exit routes, staying calm and following instructions will help prevent stampede-like situations.

  • In case a stampede breaks out, protect your chest by placing your hands like a boxer and keep moving in the direction of the crowd.
  • Stay alert to open spaces and move sideways wherever the crowd gets thinner. Stay away from walls, barricades or bottlenecks such as doorways.
  • Stay on your feet and get up quickly if you fall. If you get injured in the process and can’t get up, use your arms to cover your head and curl up like a fetus so that your exposure area is reduced.

Unplanned and unauthorized electrical wiring at pandals, LPG cylinders at food stalls and crackers hidden in the Ravana effigies pose the danger of a fire breaking out. These instances of fire can be fatal given the dense crowd in the vicinity.

  • Organisers should ensure authorised use of electricity, fire safety extinguishers and other arrangements meeting safety guidelines.
  • A list of neighbourhood hospitals would come in handy. Simple precautions like wearing light, cotton clothes and knowledge of basic tricks like rolling on the ground to douse off fire are a must.

The Government of India is committed to the cause of Disaster Risk Reduction. It is organising the Asian Ministerial Conference in November this year in collaboration with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). The Conference will bring together policymakers and experts from 60 participating nations to arrive at a roadmap to safer, stronger, disaster-resilient Asia.

Each one of us is a stakeholder in the march towards Disaster Risk Reduction. Let’s prevent what we can, be prepared for the uncertain and work together towards a better and safer world.

An ode to India Post

Postal Week Oct. 9 – 15, 2016


Author: S. Balakrishnan

Despite the instant messaging services like whatsapp, SMS and the social networking sites, there is nothing like receiving a personalized, handwritten letter. As India Posts enters its 162nd year, here are some interesting facts about the largest network in the world. World Post Day is celebrated each year on 9 October. The event was declared by the 1969 Universal Postal Congress in Tokyo as a means to mark the anniversary of the Universal Postal Union’s (UPU) creation in 1874.

Postal week.jpg

It sounds unbelievable but world’s first airmail flight took off in India! It was on 18thFebruary 1911 that a private plane took off from Allahabad to deliver mail at Naini, 18 km across the Ganges. A commemorative stamp was issued in 1961 on the occasion of Golden Jubilee of the First Aerial Post.


The credit for issuing Asia’s first postal stamp also goes to India. Such a stamp was issued in Sindh (now in Pakistan) in 1852 and was in use till 1866. This rarest of rare stamp is collectors’ pride. Sir Bartel Frere, the Commissioner of Sindh, introduced paper stamps for his province in 1852. These stamps, known as Scinde Dawk, were round in shape and were issued in three variations. They were withdrawn in October 1854 on the introduction of the regular India Postage Stamps, though their use continued for quite some time.

In 1854, it was decided to issue stamps for the British India and, in the interest of the economy, it was also decided to have them printed in India itself. Accordingly, on 1st October 1854, half anna stamps showing a youthful profile of Queen Victoria were issued. Commemorative stamps were issued in 1954 to mark the centenary of this event.

India half anna 1854 (3).jpg
Half Anna Stamps

The year 1854 was also a landmark year for the country’s postal service on various other counts as well. An all-comprehensive Indian Post Office Act was enacted in that year only. Again, it was in 1854 that rail mail service (RMS) began. The sea mail service from India to Britain and China also commenced in that year.

While 1854 stamps bore the inscription ‘India Postage’, in the same year, this was changed to ‘East India Postage’. In 1882, this was again changed to ‘India Postage’ and continued till November 1962 when a new caption ‘भारत’ ‘INDIA’ was introduced.

The first independence stamps, issued in 1947, were three in number. They depicted the Ashoka Pillar (National Emblem of India), the Indian National Flag and an Aircraft.

The first stamp of independent India shows the new Indian Flag. It was meant for foreign correspondence.

With a total of 1,54,939 post offices (as on 31.03.2015), India Post ranks the world’s largest postal network. The beginning for this was in 1727 when the first post office was opened in Calcutta (now Kolkata). Of these, 1,39,222 (89.96%) are in rural areas.  At the time of independence, there were only 23,344 post offices, mostly in urban areas. On an average, a post office serves 21.22 sq. km. area and a population of 8,354. This varies from 6,193 in rural to 26,198 in urban areas.


The number of post boxes installed is almost five times the number of post offices, i.e., more than five lakhs. As varied is our landscape, there are floating post offices on lakes and rivers also. The number of employees is also an amazing 4.60 lakh (both departmental and Gramin Dak Sevaks).

Now there are 22 postal circles in the country in the range of almost one for each state but also combining small states together or smaller states / UTs with neighbouring states. The 23rd circle, the Army Postal Service Circle, is an exclusive circle for the armed forces.


The annual mail traffic handled by India Post is around 20.48 crore registered mail and a voluminous 540.71 crore unregistered mail; of this, the humble 50 Paise post card alone counts 194.58 crore! Speed Post counts for a traffic of more than 3 crore every month! The total revenue earned in 2014-15 was Rs. 11,635.98 crore. On its part, India Post also strives to preserve its 38 heritage buildings spread across the country.

Like the kings & queens of yore, you can also have a stamp that features you on stamps under ‘My Stamp’ facility. The Gen Z might call this as Selfie Stamps! According to a Postal Department website, ‘My Stamp’ is the brand name for personalized sheets of Postage Stamps of India Post. The personalization is achieved by printing a thumb nail photograph of the customer images and logos of institutions, or images of artwork, heritage buildings, famous tourist places, historical cities, wildlife, other animals and birds etc., alongside the selected Commemorative Postage Stamp.

To face the challenges of modern times and varied service requirements, the post offices are being computerized and equipped with Core Banking Solutions (CBS) to roll out payment banking services also. Post Offices are becoming nerve centres of innumerable activities by providing financial services, including Postal Life Insurance, disbursal of social security pension schemes, MGNREA payments, Direct Benefit Transfers, and retail services.

One of the Missions of India Post is to sustain its position as the largest postal network in the world but at the same time touching the lives of every citizen in the nook & corner of our vast country and to enable as the  last mile connectivity as a Government of India platform.

Means of mail delivery – Centenary of Indian stamp







Letter Box at Ghoom Rly. Station, Darjeeling (Photo by author)
Floating post office on Dal Lake, Kashmir (Courtesy India Post)

*Independent journalist based in Chennai. 


Dignity in Mental Health


Author : Dr Smita N. Deshpande

World Mental Health Day (October 10)  and  World Mental  Health Week (09 October  – 15 October 2016)

The ideal concept of health encompasses physical, mental, social and spiritual health. Physical health without enjoying full mental health, leads to loss of social and spiritual health as well. India has a large population of people affected with mental disorders. At least twenty people per every thousand are thought to be afflicted with major mental illnesses which significantly affect health, productivity and social integration not only of the people themselves but also of their families- since stigma against mental illness is rampant. Childhood mental disorders are another untended chunk. Children with mental retardation, autism, and learning disorders often remain undetected. Suicide is another huge problem although the causes of suicide are multifactorial.


Trained mental health personnel are too few to attend to these problems. The District Mental Health Programme (under National Mental Health Programme), now integrated into the National Rural Health Mission, aims to plug this gap to some extent but the issues relating to manpower and financial shortages are yet to addressed. Contrarily, there is a paucity of jobs in this sector which leads to large scale brain drain.

Nevertheless the Government of India was always aware of the importance of mental health as part of overall health issues. India’s National Mental Health Programme is ambitious in its reach and scope.

World Mental Health Day

Encouraging positive mental health, and not just treat mental illness, has been the aim of the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) since its inception. The WFMH spearheaded the idea of World Mental Health Day on October 10 every year and was formed at the instance of the first Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. George Brock Chisholm, a Canadian psychiatrist.


The driving principle of the WFMH is to ‘promote among all peoples and nations the highest possible level of mental health in its broadest biological, medical, educational, and social aspects’ as cited at their website:  Today through its activities such as World Mental Health Day and Week, the WFMH continues its drive to improve awareness and remove prejudice about mental disorders. India has been a voting delegate of the WFMH since its inception.


The first World Mental Health Day was observed in 1992, as a tool to draw attention to the need for mental health education, awareness and advocacy. Messages for World Mental Health Day indicate the work that still needs to be done for integrating the mentally ill into society. Messages such as ‘Dignity in mental health’ (WMHD 2015) emphasized ensuring the dignity and rights of the mentally ill. The theme for 2014 was “Living with schizophrenia”. Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness which causes significant disability, and frequently leads to stigma, discrimination and deprivation of rights.

In many countries including India, this Day and Week are observed by organising activities centred around focussing on the need for early detection, treatment, inclusion and empowerment of the mentally ill. Since mental illness deeply affects family members as well, they are also contribute in advocacy.

Mental health organizations, professionals, teaching institutions, advocates and mental health personnel undertake several activities to generate awareness about the issues relating to mental health.

This year’s World Mental Health Day message is Dignity in Mental Health: Psychological and Mental Health First Aid for All.


All of us have to face traumatic situations, and many have to face crises – for instance sudden loss of a loved one, failure, sexual or other abuse, rape or accident. Immigration has led to widespread, traumatic displacement of people all over the world. India itself faces a large influx of legal and illegal immigrants displaced due to difficult life circumstances. Many Indians who went abroad for livelihoods are being sent back to an uncertain future.

Anyone facing a crisis event is vulnerable to great emotional disturbance leading to anxiety, depression, increased risk of substance abuse, increased need for care and support, social impairment and psychological distress. People facing such trauma need several different kinds of help from different sectors- police, primary health care, even teachers in schools, neighbours, and social workers in case of child or woman abuse.

In stressful situations, the first priority is of course protecting life and limb through effective first aid. But usually this needs to be supplemented with psychological or psychosocial first aid to ensure early and optimum recovery. What does such first aid comprise of?

Psychological first aid emphasizes support and practical assistance, listening without forcing the person to speak. Assessing the immediate needs and concerns of the person, appropriate social and community based help needs to be provided.


Such empathetic listening and caring comes naturally to many people but others feel uncomfortable while still others may turn away or react negatively. Hence training in psychological first aid, without going into the history of antecedent events, needs to be provided immediately. Psychological first aid must have a large social and ‘reality’ based component as well- for instance ensuring safety, food and security, locating lost relatives, calling upon existing social supports for the person and so on.


The World Health Organization developed a one day training manual for psychological first aid which is widely used. In disasters, it needs to be the first response after saving life. Subsequently it should be supplemented with structured community support, care of the vulnerable population such as those at extremes of age, the disabled and mentally ill. For those with more severe issues, trained mental health care will be necessary.

Psychological first aid should be an essential component of training of disaster health workers, and of those who are often called upon in crises such as the police, firemen, or emergency health care workers. This could prevent escalation of healthcare needs and improve outcome for both survivors and workers in crisis situations.

Let us hope that this year’s World Mental Health Day succeeds in bringing this important training to the fore.

*Author is Professor & Head, Department of Psychiatry & De-addiction Services; Centre of Excellence in Mental Health, PGIMER, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, New Delhi. Also member of Council for National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences.



Author : V. Srinivas

While it is widely acknowledged that AIIMS is India’s apex Medical Sciences University, celebrating its Diamond Jubilee this year, the JOURNEYS OF  AIIMSONIANS who collectively constitute the greatest pool of medical excellence of the Nation, are a fascinating subject of study. For these extra-ordinary men and women who undergo their education at the Institute and serve till retirement at 65, it is a very long journey marked by seriousness of purpose, a deep sense of commitment, willingness to work in complex areas of medical education, patient care and research. The Senior Faculty of AIIMS have, by their mercurial brilliance earned high respect for the Institute and individually attained a leadership role as flag-bearers of excellence both in India and abroad.


The AIIMSONIANS are unique individuals because they have set out to do something significant, work on important problems, have the courage to pursue independenti201610630.jpg thoughts, are high achievers at a young age, have a tremendous drive, are willing to work longer hours than contemporaries with equal ability, have high emotional commitment to their profession and have the capacity to present their achievements to the world. This author asked 5 of them if it was worth it? For they had an option to serve in many other Institutions of the country and abroad, and the common refrain has been that “It was worth it”. The highest national recognitions have been bestowed on several AIIMSONIANS, being with   Dr.  V. Ramalingaswamy felicitated three times with Padma Awards including the Padma Vibhushan.

The AIIMSONIANS toil long hours in operation theaters, clinical work, research Laboratories and Classroom Teaching. Roughly 40 percent of their time is devoted to patient care, 40 percent to research work and 20 percent to teaching.

The Institute provides the flexibility to devote a higher amount of time to any of the trinity of goals of Medical Education, Research and Patient Care to best achieve their end objectives. That AIIMS stands at the apex of the Medical Universities in India for several years now, is a tribute to the exacting standards the AIIMSONIANS have set for themselves.

AIIMS MBBS 1st Batch, 1956


High Achievers at a Young Age

The AIIMSONIANS journey usually begins as an MBBS student at the age of 17 or 18. They are young, intense, scholarly and represent the highest meritocracy. They complete the MBBS in 4 ½ years followed by a year of internship. This period is marked by an attachment with Community Health Center Ballabhgarh and PHC’s Dayalpur/ Chainnsa their first exposure to actual direct patient care after years of didactic and clinical teaching sessions. They hold pleasant memories of the first phase of their lives where they graduated after being intensely competitive. There are several doctors who join AIIMS as Junior Residents, Senior Residents and as Faculty who also become part of AIIMSONIANS.

Prof Balram Airan, Chief of the CT Center, the senior-most AIIMSONIAN currently serving in AIIMS, was part of the team of cardiac surgeons that conducted India’s first heart transplant in 1994. Prof Balram joined the Institute in 1970 aged 18. Prof Vinod Paul, the Head of Department of Pediatrics joined the Institute in 1972 aged 17. Prof Peush Sahni, the Head of Gastro Intestinal Surgery joined the Institute in 1976 aged 18. Prof Nikhil Tandon, the Head of Department of Endocrinology joined the Institute in 1981 aged 17. Prof Sandeep Agarwal, Professor in the Department of Pediatric Surgery joined AIIMS in 1981 aged 18. They came straight from the Schools to the most intense medical institution of India.

They needed support to cope with the transition, which AIIMS provided them. The faculty student relationship was quite open. Students have been the Nerve Center of the Institute Universe. They had a local guardian from faculty to look after them in the initial years AIIMS had became their second home.

The graduation is followed by admission to the MD or MS programs in medical or surgical disciplines and 3 years of work as Junior Residents. There is also an option of a 5 year MCH course. This is followed by selection of a professional discipline for the DM or MCH program. It is only after 11 years of intensive study do the AIIMSONIANS reach the faculty appointment as Assistant Professor. Their choice of selection of disciplines at the MD and MS stage and then at DM/ MCH stage are often based on their areas of interest in which they would like to dedicate their careers. The prevalent view in AIIMS is that surgeons are more doers and physicians are more intellectually curious.

Prof Balram was inspired by Prof Gopinath to take cardiac surgery. Prof Paul was inspired by Prof O.P. Ghai for joining Pediatrics. Prof Peush Sahni inspired by Prof Samiran Nandy joined the GI unit when it started surgical procedures. Prof Nikhil Tandon chose to be a physician instead of a surgeon and endocrinology satiated his curiosity for laboratory work. Prof Sandeep Agarwala chose Pediatric Surgery because of his emotional commitment to pediatrics and surgery.

3.jpg1st Convocation, 1963

Work on Important Problems

High recognition comes from taking huge responsibility. The AIIMSONIANS work amidst a high meritocracy and a strong peer group pressure. Younger colleagues are encouraged to challenge and question. There is the opportunity of establishing state of the art laboratories and pursue research questions. The Physicians pursue largely clinical research, translational research, public health and district based models in collaboration with State Governments, Government of India Institutions like Department of Biotechnology, Indian Council of Medical Research, the International Organizations like the World Health Organization and the UNICEF.

If it is an important Medical Problem, one can be sure that there is an AIIMSONIAN working on it in AIIMS – such is their fierce motivation and emotional commitment to the societal cause. They are highly driven individuals, each one of them, and AIIMS provides them with the academic freedom for their creativity to blossom.

Work Longer Hours than contemporaries

The work hours in AIIMS are far longer than what are seen in most Government Institutions. Genius is 99 percent perspiration and 1 percent inspiration. The AIIMSONIANS are willing to work long hours intelligently and with a seriousness of purpose. There is tremendous emotional commitment and passion to enable AIIMS continue on a path of excellence.

AIIMS represents Indian society, its varying sections, each one of them coming for health care, and each one of them finding a panacea. There is no comparable representative institute in India.

Prof Balram’s passion for long work hours hasn’t come down even after 45 years of joining AIIMS. Prof Peush said he has a passion to return to the Alma matter the enormous amount of learning that he attained in the Institute. Prof Paul said translational research keep him motivated. Prof Nikhil felt there was enough excitement to keep him going at high pace even after 35 years at the AIIMS. Prof Sandeep said his dream is to contribute to pediatric surgical services in India given the chronic shortages.

Presenting their Achievements to the World

An AIIMS faculty attends a minimum of one international seminar outside South Asia and 4 seminars in South Asia. They get 40 days of conference travel to present their work in National and International Fora. AIIMS has a number of collaborations with major global institutes where frequent exchanges and joint research work is pursued. The AIIMSONIANS write papers by the hundreds, address global community in conferences, conduct workshops and head research teams.

Prof Paul has worked with WHO and UNICEF on advocacy for neonatal health. Prof Nikhil has been a part of a complex narrative of global efforts to fight diabetes. Prof Sandeep has represented AIIMS at the World Congress of Pediatric Surgeons, the American Congress of Pediatric Surgeons and the European Congress of Pediatric Surgery. Despite their presence at the global high table of medicine, they are simple men, sharing the empathy of India’s poorest of poor.


An AIIMSONIAN’s journey in AIIMS is roughly 45 years. From student years to retirement, the journey is one of high accomplishment, high visibility and high meritocracy. The traits described above makes them AIIMSONIANS. Their collective positive energy makes AIIMS, India’s apex Medical Sciences University.

*Author is a senior civil servant, an IAS officer of 1989 batch presently serving as Deputy Director Administration, AIIMS New Delhi.

Blog at

Up ↑