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Government of India

Budget boost for jobs, skills and collateral-free loans

*Deepak Razdan i2016121702

The Union Budget for 2017-18 has shown the Government’s intent not only to create new work opportunities but to help the enterprising with limited means to set up their small ventures and stand up on their own.

Ninety lakh people are migrating every year in the country in search of work, the latest Economic Survey reveals. The districts which account for 40 per cent of India’s poorest receive only 29 per cent of total funding, says the Survey. The Indian growth story continues but not without flaws.

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Accepting the challenges, the Budget has attempted to strengthen various existing schemes and announced fresh initiatives to help the poor, while indicating long-term policy directions. Focusing on rural India to eliminate poverty and to check distress migration, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) is being reoriented to achieve the goal of doubling farmers’ income. Promising 100 days yearly employment to every rural household, MGNREGS’ allocation has been raised from Rs 38,500 crores in 2016-17 to Rs 48,000 crores in 2017-18.  There will be greater emphasis now on creating assets which improve farm productivity and incomes.

Another major scheme, the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana, which seeks to fund the “unfunded and the underfunded,” last year far exceeded the target of Rs 1.22 lakh crores for loans. The President, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, in his Address to Parliament on 31st January this year, said over Rs 2 lakh crore were provided through 5.6 crores collateral-free loans under this Yojana and to promote small businesses. For 2017-18, the Budget has proposed to double this Scheme’s lending target of 2015-16 and set it at Rs 2.44 lakh crores. Priority will be given to Dalits, Tribals, Backward Classes, Minorities and Women, the Finance Minister, Mr Arun Jaitley, said.

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The Stand Up India scheme was launched by the Government in April 2016 to support Dalit, Tribal and Women entrepreneurs to set up Greenfield enterprises and become job creators. Over 16,000 new enterprises have come up through this scheme in activities, as diverse as food processing, garments, diagnostic centres, etc. For promoting entrepreneurship, the National Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes Hub has been launched with an allocation of Rs 490 crores.

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Skill development, perceived as a major tool to prepare the Indian workforce for paying jobs, is being given a big boost. The Budget has proposed to increase the allocations for Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana- National Rural Livelihood Mission for promotion of skill development and livelihood opportunities for people in rural areas to Rs 4,500 crores in 2017-18. The allocation for Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP) and credit support schemes has been increased more than three times.

Rural areas where jobs disappear because of poor monsoons are being given priority in skill development. As part of imparting new skills to the people in these areas, mason training will be provided to five lakh persons by 2022, with an immediate target of training at least 20,000 persons by 2017- 18.

Sixty-five per cent of India’s population is below 35 years. With the motto of “Harpmkvy Haath ko Hunar” the Government has taken several initiatives to skill the youth and improve their employability. ThePradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendras (PMKK), launched with an outlay of Rs 12,000 crore to train one crore youth over the next four years, have already been promoted in more than 60 districts.  These will be now extended to more than 600 districts across the country.

One hundred India International Skills Centres will be established across the country. These Centres would offer advanced training and also courses in foreign languages. This will help youth seeking job opportunities outside the country.

During 2017-18, the Government will launch the Skill Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion programme (SANKALP) at a cost of Rs 4,000 crores. SANKALP will provide market relevant training to 3.5 crore youth, which has been felt necessary in the fast-changing economic scenario.

The next phase of Skill Strengthening for Industrial Value Enhancement (STRIVE) will also be launched in 2017-18 at a cost of Rs 2,200  crores. STRIVE will focus on improving the quality and market relevance of vocational training provided in ITIs and strengthen the apprenticeship programmes through industry cluster approach. A special scheme for creating employment in the textile sector has already been launched. A package of Rs 6000 crores was announced to boost employment generation and exports. The package is expected to generate over 1.1 crore jobs, mostly for women.  A similar scheme will be implemented for the leather and footwear industries.india_incredible-india-tourism-campaign-10

Tourism is a big employment generator and has a multiplier impact on the economy. Five Special Tourism Zones, anchored on SPVs, will be set up in partnership with the States. Incredible India 2.0 Campaign will be launched across the world.

Medium and Small Enterprises occupy bulk of economic activities and are also instrumental in providing maximum employment to people. However, since they do not get many tax exemptions, they end up paying more taxes as compared to large companies. As per data of financial year 2015-16, as many as 2.85 lakh companies making profit of less than Rs 1 crore pay effective tax rate of 30.26 per cent while 298 companies making profit above Rs 500 crores pay effective tax rate of 25.90 per cent.

To make MSME companies more viable and also to encourage firms to migrate to company format, the Budget proposed to reduce the income tax for smaller companies with annual turnover upto Rs 50 crore to 25 per cent. As per data of Assessment Year 2015-16, there are 6.94 lakh companies filing returns of which 6.67 lakh companies fall in this category and, therefore, percentage-wise 96 per cent of companies will get this benefit of lower taxation. This will make the MSME sector more competitive as compared to large companies.

The Budget allocation for the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Eministry-of-micro-small-medium-enterprisesnterprises was Rs 3465 crore in 2016-17 and it rose to Rs 5463 crore in the revised estimates (RE) of the year. It is further raised to Rs 6482 crore during 2017-18, indicating the trend in giving encouragement to the sector. Similarly, the BE allocation for Employment Generation, Skill and Livelihood for 2016-17 was Rs 12,141 crores and it rose to Rs 14,870 crores in the RE for the year. It is being further raised to Rs 17,273 crores in the 2017-18 Budget.

The process of recruitment to Government jobs has been made simpler and transparent by dispensing with interviews for recruitments to over 34 lakh non-gazetted posts.  The Government will further reduce the cumbersome procedures of recruitment for the citizens, especially those belonging to the poor and unprivileged sections, because of the multiplicity of agencies and examinations. A system of single registration and two tier system of examination is proposed to be introduced. In the North-East, the Government has approved a BPO promotion scheme in the Digital India programme for creation of employment opportunities.

Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas begins with the girl child and women. Mahila Shakti Kephotondras will be set up at village level with an allocation of Rs 500 crores in 14 lakh ICDS Anganwadi Centres. This will provide one stop convergent support services for empowering rural women with opportunities for skill development, employment, digital literacy, health and nutrition.

Schemes for the welfare of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Minorities are given special attention in implementation. The allocation for the welfare of Scheduled Castes has been stepped up from Rs 38,833 crores in BE 2016-17 to Rs 52,393 crores in 2017-18, representing an increase of about 35 per cent. The allocation for Scheduled Tribes has been increased to Rs 31,920 crores and for Minority Affairs to Rs 4,195 crores.

The Government will introduce outcome based monitoring of 22.PNGexpenditure in these sectors by the NITIAayog. The Government is implementing “Nai Roshni” for leadership development of minority women; “Padho Pardesh” provides interest subsidy on educational loans for overseas studies for students belonging to the minorities. For skill development and economic empowerment of minorities, “Seekho Aur Kamao,” “Upgrading Skill and Training in Traditional  Arts/Crafts for Development” (USTTAD) and “Nai Manzil,” a scheme to provide education and skill training to the youth from the minority communities are in operation.

The Government target is ensure that the fruits of growth reach the farmers, the workers, the poor, the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, women youth and other vulnerable sections of the society.

*Deepak Razdan is a senior journalist and presently Editorial
Consultant with The Statesman, New Delhi. Views are his personal.

Set to reap record harvest: Indian farmers provide food and food for thought

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Author:  Prakash Chawla

India would be reaping a record harvest of foodgrains in  2016-17 with pulses being the high point of the country’s achievements in the farm output, providing a food for thought about  how  policy  interventions and reaching out to farmers can motivate them to turn things around from severe shortages to near self-sufficiency.

Receptive as they are to the changing production, consumption and pricing pattern of different crops, aided by real time information made possible through new media, farmers have risen once again to the occasion. They would be producing 271.98 million tonnes of foodgrains in 2016-17, as per the second advance estimates, breaching the previous record of 265.57 million tonnes in 2013-14. Year on year, total foodgrains output would be rising by an impressive 8.1 per cent in 2016-17 over 251.56 million tonnes in the previous year.

If we draw a comparison between the previous best year of 2013-14 and the new record breaking year of 2016-17, farmers picked up positive signals for better returns and the minimum support price fixed by the Central Government and went about increasing area under acreage for pulses. In the last three years, the acreage for pulses went up from 252.18 lakh hectares to 288.58 lakh hectares with yields increasing from 19.78 million tonnes to 22.14 million tonnes. This would be close to the country’s demand for the protein rich lentils, though the consumption is bound to increase as average income of both rural and urban families move up. Surely, this would mean a sustained focus on raising production and achieving self-sufficiency for pulses.

But for now, the situation with regard to pulses prices has improved considerably. Pulses are no more making headlines for sky-rocketing prices which have now moved down to as much as Rs 4200-5500 per quintal in the wholesale mandis.  The retail annual inflation, measured by the Consumer Price Index, for pulses and products was negative 6.62 per cent for January, 2017.  The credit for achieving near self-sufficiency goes to farmers and to some of the effective measures taken by the government.

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The strategy involved achieving higher acreage for  pulses under the rain-fed areas in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, UP and Tamil Nadu. Sufficient rains in 2016 too helped the farmers who were assured of an MSP along with bonus for their produce. As pulses production involves risks against the vagaries of weather, the upgraded crop insurance scheme ‘Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana’ (PMFBY) too motivated the farmers. The estimated government expenditure on the PMFBY for 2016-17 is pegged at Rs 13,240 crore.

One of the high points of the pulses story is the involvement of the North Eastern states in the mission for stepping up production through multi-pronged strategies.  The game plan included rice fallows through cluster demonstration of technologies by the extension machinery of the states and Centre, intercropping with cereals, oilseeds and commercial crops; cultivation of Arhar (Tur) on farm bunds, creation of seed hubs for quality seeds, and distribution of seed mini kits free of cost to farmers. India has been traditionally importing a large of pulses from Mynamar which has similar climatic conditions to the North-Eastern states.

 Besides, the pulses component of the National Food Security Mission  has been extended from 468 to 638 districts of 29 states including all districts of North-Eastern states and hill states like Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand.

Thanks to the record foodgrains production, helped by the weather Gods as well, along with the policy interventions, the Indian agriculture is set to achieve an impressive growth of over four per cent. The impact is being seen widely on the availability and prices of the food products, including vegetables in the market. However, it has to be ensured that a good balance is achieved between a modest level of retail inflation and remunerative prices to the growers. After all, farming as a profession has to remain a priority for the country both for the welfare of the farmers as also for ensuring national food security.

Rice and wheat would also be available in abundant quantity with the harvest set to grow by 4.26 per cent and 4.71 per cent respectively in the current crop year over 2015-16.  For 2016-17 rice production  is expected to reach the highest ever record of  108.86 million tonnes.

On the other hand, wheat output would rise to  96.64 million tonnes in 2016-17, up by 4.71 per cent   over the previous year.

A note-worthy feature of rice and wheat story is that the yield has increased while the acreage dropped in the last three years, pointing towards better farm productivity which, of course, needs to be further supplemented. For rice, the area under cultivation in 2013-14 was 441.36 lakh hectares, giving an output of 106.65 million tonnes. The acreage in 2016-17 dropped to 427.44 lakh hectares, but production is estimated to be going up to 108.86 million tonnes.

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A similar picture has emerged for wheat. The area under cultivation in 2013-14 was 304.73 lakh hectares with an output of 95.85 million tonnes. The comparative figure for 2016-17 is 302.31 lakh hectares, while production is pegged at 96.64 million tonnes. Doubtlessly, the farmers of the country need to be applauded for their efforts. Let’s hope, assisted by several new measures taken by the government, the day is not far when the farmers of our country will be a happy lot. As Prime Minister Modi has said, “Give water to the farmers of this country and see the wonders they can do. Through the Pradhanmantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana, we want to ensure that water reaches every village across the length and breadth of the country.” The Prime Minister has also said that his government has a vision of doubling the farmers’ income by 2022.

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*Prakash Chawla is a senior New Delhi-based journalist writing mostly on political-economic issues. The views expressed in the article are author’s own.    

Towards Double Digit Farm Growth

The idea of incentivizing and building rural infrastructure to fight backwardness

*Dr. R BALASHANKAR  i201722301.jpg

The NDA government’s renewed emphasis on agriculture is a well thought out strategy to finally eradicate poverty and make rural poor an integral part of India’s growth story.  Rather, such spending has proved to be of temporary relief without really changing the ground reality.  It is experience that has prompted the government to initiate schemes meant to build durable rural infrastructure to motivate people adopt agriculture as a viable alternative career option.

This is an interesting departure from the past. The government’s plan is to transform the most backward districts in the country as models of India transforming. In this, the Gujarat experiment in Kutch is proving useful. The focus this time is on the 100 most backward districts in the country of which majority are in three states, Bihar, UP and Madhya Pradesh. These three states together account for seventy of the most backward districts in the whole country. More striking is that not a single most developed district in the country falls in these states. Some believe nothing can be done in the case of backward districts. But they can be made number one, said the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, recently. He was commenting on backwardness and total absence of development in certain regions in the country.

The issue of regional disparity has foxed planners for long. Previous governments have initiated many schemes specially designed for the most backward districts. Perhaps they failed because the focus was more on poverty alleviation and temporary job creation. They did not create rural infrastructure. Nor could they make agriculture profitable in the absence of roads, irrigation and connectivity.

As Chief Minister, before he became Prime Minister, Shri Modi has rebuilt the earthquake ravaged, hopelessly parched Rann of Kutch into a land of promise. Shri Narendra Modi has an unbeaten record of ushering in an era of double digit agricultural growth trajectory in Gujarat between 2003 and 2014, when the national average was languishing at less than two per cent. Shri Modi has also vowed to make the incomes of the Indian farmers double in the next four years. Taking cue from this agrarian success story, in Gujarat, a state which was never considered an agrarian state, because of the vast Saurashtra region which used to witness massive migration, cattle and people every year because of draught, many other states like MP, Chhattisgarh and now Maharashtra have adopted the techniques which were pioneered in Gujarat. This agrarian growth strategy was built on better irrigation, modern farming tools, easy availability of cheaper farm loans, 24-hour electricity and tech savvy marketing of farm produce. In each of these initiatives there is a large volume of innovative planning and hands on implementation. The NDA Government at Centre has been trying to replicate his experience in the entire country.

Soil testing to find the health condition of agricultural land is a major step in the direction of agrarian revolution. Neem coated urea is another. Building check dams, water conservation through ponds and other water conservation methods, raising the ground water level, reducing water wastage by promoting drip irrigation, changing crop pattern studying the soil fertility, water availability and market condition are other ingredients of this approach. Then reaching technology through electrification, computerization of Panchayats, building smoother roads through Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sarak Yojna which will also help marketing and internet connectivity which has been promised to reach every village are the things that will ensure development at the grass roots level.

Never before have so many poor people become bank account holders in India. Under the Jan Dhan Yojna about 30 crore new bank account has been opened. This financial inclusion is at the centre of a dynamic agrarian economy. The government in the financial year has saved Rs 50,000 crore through direct cash transfer scheme. This with free cooking gas connection to 50 million BPL families is changing lives of millions of families. The rural job guarantee scheme has been reworked with highest ever annual allocation and ensuring the availability of farm labour. These will also limit the flight of labour to cities leaving their traditional farm labour.

How can agriculture become profitable?

How can the farmer income double by the turn of this decade?

Will it ensure the end of rural indebtedness and farmer suicides?

Yes, all this is possible if the Prime Minister is able to replicate at the national what he achieved in Gujarat. Shri Modi has put the common man at the pivot of his economic narrative. He has placed great faith in the Indian farmer and brought agriculture to the centre stage of his growth engine.  The new schemes, allocation for agrarian transformation tell this fascinating story. Rs 1.87 lakh crore is the next year allocation for agriculture and allied areas. The thrust areas in this are, MNREGA, availability of easy farm loans and better irrigation. The fund for irrigation corpus and dairy processing increased substantially. Crop insurance under Fasal Bima Yojna, along with agricultural credit yojna has Rs 10 lakh crore which is whopping compared to past records. More credit will incentivize farm investment and propel food processing industrialization. This will ensure durability and better returns for farmers. This could also boost job opportunity in rural India.

Rabi crop sowing has seen an eight per cent rise this season. Reports say the kharif crop this season is going to be a record 297 million tone because of better rain fall.  The building of better panchayat roads, 2000 kms of coastal connectivity roads and 130,000 panchayats getting high speed broadband under BharatNet will certainly improve marketing and remunerative pricing of farm products making agriculture as a profitable career option. Agriculture production is bound to leapfrog as a consequence of all these measures and the goal of food for all and complete eradication of poverty from the face of India in the near future will become a reality once these policy driven, targeted measures are executed.

*The author is a senior Editor, regularly writes on economic issues. 

Marching towards Cashless India

Bharat QR Code , BHIM and many more Apps for digital payment

*PRAKASH CHAWLA  i201722201.jpg

Well before the November 9 demonetisation of high denomination notes, banks in sync with the Reserve Bank of India had been working on development of different technology- based solutions for electronic transfer of money. There were already systems available in the banks through which one could transfer funds from one bank or branch to the other, in a matter of a few hours.

That itself was a good facility replacing quite fast the age-old money transfer through cheques which had to be, first received by the beneficiary, then deposited in the branch, sent for clearing before the funds get transferred in the designated account. It is not that the cheques have gone altogether; but their usage is dropping rapidly.

All these measures were underway even before November 9, but the sense of urgency was a missing link. Besides, different payment networks did not seem to be in perfect coordination while electronic payments for the sale of merchandise and services were restricted to credit or debit cards used either through lap tops or the limited point of sale (POS) machines available with the traders or the service providers. There was no sense of urgency, because there was no tearing necessity.

But the withdrawal of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes, accounting for 85 per cent of the currency value in circulation brought in a sheer necessity for an effective and urgent alternative to cash.

The fact that Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi made a commitment about making Indian society less cash dependent in his drive to clean up the economy from the scourge of black money and corruption, put the entire regulatory, operational and policy- making machinery into top gear with the result that within four months, not one but several e-payment options have been developed, tested and launched. They can all be used through the low cost smart phones. The best thing about these Apps is that they are targeted largely at the excluded strata and would be catalytic in the world’s biggest financial inclusion programme.

After the launch of BHIM – App, the latest is Bharat QR Code which works on the model of Paytm wherein the customer scans the QR code of the merchandise and then transfers the money from his/her wallet.

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The only difference with Bharat QR Code is that just as BHIM, the customers at the merchandise point does not have to create and then draw money from the wallet. The funds are directly transferred from the customer’s account and transferred instantly to that of the merchant or service provider. Unlike credit or debit cards used at the points of sales, there are no charges involved. There is an ease of using App with no cost. As far as the integrity and safety of the system is concerned, the RBI is giving assurance about it.

“Our systems are not only comparable to any system anywhere in the world, our systems also do set standards and good practices for the world to follow. We remain vigilant for ensuring safety and soundness of the payment systems and are committed to customer safety and convenience,” according to Mr. R Gandhi, Deputy Governor of the RBI.

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What makes the Bharat QR Code unique in the world is low cost, interoperability and an excellent collaborative approach by the payment networks like MasterCard, Visa, National Payment Corporation of India and American Express, which are otherwise fierce competitors.  “India is setting yet another standard in the payment arena for others to adopt,” Mr Gandhi said with a sense of pride at the launch of the new App in Mumbai, on February 20, 2017.

There is a lot more that the RBI is embarking upon for making India a less-cash society. Under the Vision-2018, it is working on a multi-pronged strategy for an effective regulation, robust infrastructure, supervision and customer centric payment architecture that meets the strict requirements of cyber security.

The government had constituted a Committee under the Chairmanship of Mr. Ratan Watal, Principal Adviser, NITI Ayog, to suggest measures for encouraging digital payments.  Having examined the regulatory and legislative framework, the Watal Committee recommended that the Payment and Settlement Systems Act 2007 be amended for a better regulatory governance, competition and innovation, consumer protection, open access, data protection and security, and penalties for offences. Accepting these recommendations, the legislative changes have been brought in the Finance Bill of 2017.

On its part, the NPCI which has been giving big cash awards for use of digital transactions, has so far disbursed over Rs 153 crore to nearly 10 lakh consumers and merchants through Lucky Grahak Yojana and Digi Dhan Vyapar Yojana.  These schemes are meant to make digital payments a mass movement. The response through the incentives has been pretty good with Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi emerging as trend-setters. There has been a good response to the initiative from all sections and age groups. The only challenge would be to ensure that the same enthusiasm is retained after the economy is fully remonetised in the next few weeks. The digital drive must reach its logical end.

*Prakash Chawla is a senior New Delhi-based journalist writing mostly on political-economic issues.

NATIONAL HEALTH MISSION

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The National Health Mission is India’s flagship health sector programme to revitalize rural and urban health sectors by providing flexible finances to State Governments. The National Health Mission comprises of 4 components namely the National Rural Health Mission, the National Urban Health Mission, Tertiary Care Programmes and Human Resources for Health and Medical Education.

The National Health Mission represents India’s endeavor to expand the focus of health services beyond Reproductive and Child Health, so as to address the double burden of Communicable and Non-Communicable diseases as also improve the infrastructureNRHM-Himachal-Pradesh-Recruitment-2015.jpg facilities at District and Sub-District Levels. The National Health Mission has synergized learning from the National Rural Health Mission for better implementation of the National Urban Health Mission. The National Health Mission has an allocation of Rs. 26,690 crores for 2017-18 and is one of the largest centrally sponsored schemes of the Government of India.

The National Health Mission (NHM) brought together at National level the two Departments of Health and Family Welfare. The integration resulted in significant synergy in programme implementation and enhancement in Health Sector allocations for revitalizing India’s rural health systems. A similar integration was witnessed at State levels too. Further the NHM brought in revolutionary changes in devolution of central finances to State Health Societies outside the purview of the State Finance Departments. The second major change was the integration of the disease control programmes into the NHM framework.

The NHM brought in considerable innovations into the implementation of Health Sector Programmes in India. These included flexible financing, monitoring of Institutions against Indian Public Health Standards, Capacity Building at the State, District and Panchayat Samiti levels by induction of management specialists into the Programme Management Units and simplified HR management practices for timely recruitment through the State Institutes of Health and Family Welfare. Another significant innovation is the establishment of the National Health Systems Resource Center (NHSRC) to help design and formulate various initiatives. State Health Systems Resource Centers have also been established in some States.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare approves Programme Implementation Plans of the State Health Societies on an annual basis with specific resource allocations under the major heads of RCH Flexi Pool, the NRHM Flexi Pool, the Flexi Pool for Communicable Diseases and the Flexi Pool for Non Communicable Diseases as also for Infrastructure strengthening. There are significant resource allocations for training programmes and capacity building. The State Health Societies have considerable autonomy to re-appropriate resources within the major heads and devolution to District Hospitals, Community Health Centers and Primary Health Centers.

The priority focus of NHM is Reproductive and Child Health services.

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Janani Suraksha Yojana

The successful implementation of Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) and Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) programmes had a significant impact in behavioral changes and

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brought pregnant women in large numbers to public health institutions. The NRHM flexi pool resources were utilized to create adequate infrastructure at public health institutions to cope with the heavy rush of maternity cases. Ambulance services were introduced for transportation of maternity cases to public health institutions and for emergency care. The success story of the 108 ambulance services has been well documented across many States.

The increase in institutional deliveries in High Focus States of NHM had a significant impact on Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) and Under Five Mortality Rate (U5MR). On the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 and 5, the country made substantial progress. In the case of MDG 6, the country was able to meet the target and reverse the prevalence of Tuberculosis, Malaria and HIV. NHM has also performed well by adopting a continuum of care or life cycle approach as demonstrated by improvements in key health indicators.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare added two new programmes to its basket of activities under the National Health Mission. The first is Mission Indradhanush, which has demonstrated good progress in improving immunization coverage by over 5% in the just one year. The second is the Kayakalp initiative launched in 2016 under the NHM to inculcate the practice of hygiene, sanitation, effective waste management and infection control in public health facilities. The competition for awards introduced under Kayakalp has been well received by all the States and significant improvements in sanitation standards are being witnessed.

The NHM created a peoples’ movement for health care. India has deployed nearly 10 lac Accredited Social Health Care (ASHA) workers representing transformational change agents. The ASHA workers act as mobilizers for institutional deliveries, focus on integrated management of neonatal and childhood illness and advise on home based neo-natal care. The NHM has also empowered people through Village Health and Sanitation Committees to formulate village health plans and exercise supervisory oversight of ASHA workers. At the Primary Health Centre (PHC) and Community Health Centre (CHC) level Rogi Kalyan Samitis have been activated to establish systems of oversight over the public health facilities for creating a patient friendly institution.Besides rural areas, the urban slums are now receiving attention with the launch of the National Urban Health Mission.

The National Health Mission represents India’s flagship health sector programme making the Health For All vision a reality. In its innate success lies the future of a healthy India.

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

Combating Non-communicable Diseases

“Every human being is the author of his own health or disease” - Lord Buddha

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Our country is afflicted with the dual burden of disease – non-communicable diseases (NCDs) posing a major public health challenge. On one end are the nutritional deficiencies/infectious diseases associated with poverty, deprivation and poor environmental conditions; while on the other are the NCDs caused due to dietary i201722001.pngexcesses/imbalances and metabolic disturbances.The epidemic of NCDs is mainly attributed to modernisation, urbanisation, sedentary lifestyles and longevity. There is an upsurge in the incidence of overweight/obesity, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes mellitus, cancers, respiratory diseases and mental illnesses. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has highlighted that if “business as usual” continues, globally by 2030, the annual mortality due to NCDs will touch 55 million mark.

As per the WHO report (2015), in India, 60% deaths are caused by NCDs; and that 1 out of 4 Indians are at a risk of dying from one of the NCDs before the age of 70 years. Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO-SEAR has remarked that the NCDs are afflicting younger generations and, thus, hampering socioeconomic development. Due to huge loss of potentially productive years (35-64 y), there is massive economic loss at the household, national and international levels.

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The NCD burden can, however, be reduced immensely through appropriate preventive/curative actions. Healthy dietary practices, increased physical activity, weight management, abstinence from tobacco/substance use and alcohol abuse play an important role in their prevention/management. More than 80% of the CVDs and T2DM; and 33% of the cancers can be averted through lifestyle modifications; nutritionally balanced diet being inevitably important.

For maintaining an ideal body weight, total energy intake and energy expenditure need to be balanced; and the diet should be adequate in protein. There is a close link between quality/quantity of dietary fat and NCDs. A high intake of fat/oil – particularly saturated fat, poses profound risk for CHD, cancer, T2DM and hypertension. Replacing saturated fat with PUFA rich oils can significantly lower the CHD rates. Dietary fat also impacts glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. Consumption of MUFA containing oils (like olive, mustard and groundnut oils) confer numerous health benefits including reduced risk of CHD and lung/oesophageal/breast/colorectal cancer. On the contrary, trans fats elevate CHD risk through undesirable effect on serum lipids.

In the prevention/management of NCDs, increased consumption of vegetables (2-3 servings/day) and fruits (2 servings/day) is imperative for providing adequate amount of dietary fibre, phytochemicals, antioxidants and various vitamins/minerals. Dietary fibre plays an important role through its impact on atherogenic lipoproteins, blood pressure and thrombogenesis. Regular intake of dietary fibre rich foods not only helps in weight management but also in lowering serum lipids, improving glucose metabolism, regulating blood pressure and reducing chronic inflammation of the tissues. Further, probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics improve lipid profile and glycaemic control by selectively supporting the health-promoting gut bacteria. Prebiotics can also prevent colorectal cancer by modifying the composition/activity of colorectal microflora.

Tobacco (in all forms) and alcohol abuse are major risk factors for NCDs particularly chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Physical inactivity is one of the leading contributors to global mortality (~6% deaths) and NCD burden.  Psychosocial factors and emotional stress (depression, anxiety & chronic stress) also contribute significantly to the pathogenesis of NCDs.

In 2012, the World Health Assembly endorsed the important ‘25 by 25 goal’ aimed to reduce NCD mortality by 25% by the year 2025. India is the first in developing specific national targets/indicators for reaching this goal and reducing the number of NCD related premature deaths.

To contain the ever-increasing NCD burden, our government has launched several programmes including National Cancer Control Programme, National Tobacco Control Programme and National Program for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, CVD and Stroke (NPDCS). The major objective of NPDCS is prevention, early detection and control of NCDs; awareness generation on lifestyle changes; and capacity building/strengthening of the existing healthcare systems. For major NCDs, diagnosis/treatment facilities will be provided through NCD Clinics and CCUs in district hospitals/community health centres under NHM.

Before end March 2017 (1st phase), population based screening will be conducted in 100 districts (32 states/UTs); operational screening guidelines for diabetes, hypertension and common cancers have been released. Data will be gathered for counselling the at-risk individuals. Subsequently, chronic obstructive respiratory diseases will be included and the programme will be scaled up.

The Ministry of AYUSH  has constituted an expert panel for preparing yoga protocol and its research organizations (Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences, Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy and Central Council for Research in Unani Medicine) have initiated themDiabetes logo.png integration of Ayurveda, Homoeopathy and Unani with NPDCS. Further, a mobile application – mDiabeteshas been launched to generate awareness, promote compliance and inculcate healthy dietary habits/lifestyle practices among the masses. The Indian NCD Network has been created for networking scientists from varied fields to support NCD related research/training activities.

The current overall health budget (2017-18) has increased from INR 39,879 crore to 48,878 crore (2.27% of the total budget).

It is hoped that adequate resources are provided for generating awareness regarding the adoption of preventive health-seeking behaviours. For primary, secondary and tertiary prevention of NCDs, interventions aimed at lifestyle modifications should emphasise on improvements in dietary practices and physical activity along with cessation of smoking/tobacco consumption, alcohol restriction and appropriate stress management. It is a matter of satisfaction that government is taking various measures to ensure that the people can lead healthier lives coupled with longevity.

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

*Ms Akanksha Jain Ph D Scholar, Amity University, Noida, Uttar Pradesh; Research Officer – Public Health Nutrition Division, LSTech Ventures Ltd, Gurgaon, Haryana, India

Towards Sustainable Futures through Multilingual Education

International Day of Languages Feb 21, 2017

*PANDURANG HEGDE  i201712702.jpg

India is one of unique countries in the world that has the legacy of diversity of languages. The Constitution of India has recognised 22 official languages. Multilingualism is the way of life in India as people in different parts of the country speak more than one language from their birth and learns additional languages during their life time.

Though officially there are 122 languages, Peoples Linguistic Survey of India has identified 780 languages, of which 50 are extinct in past five decades.

The twenty two languages that are recognised  by the Constitution are: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri,Gujarati, Hindi, Kashmiri, Kannada, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdue are included in the Eigth Schedule of the constitution.

Among these three languages, Sanskrit, Tamil and Kannada have been recognised as classical language with special status and recognition by Government of India. The classical languages have written and oral history of more than 1000 years. In comparison to these, English is very young as it has the history of only 300 years.

In addition to these scheduled and classical languages, The Constitution of India has included the clause to protect minority languages as a fundamental right. It states” Any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part of thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same.”

The language policy of India provides guarantee to protect the linguistic minorities. Under the Constitution provision is made for appointment of Special Officer for linguistic minority with the sole responsibilities of safeguarding the interest of language spoken by the minority groups.

During the colonial rule the first linguistic survey was conducted during 1894 to 1928 by George A. Grierson that identified 179 languages and 544 dialects. Due to lack of trained personnel as linguists this survey had many deficiencies.

In the post independence era Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL), based in Mysore was assigned to carry out an in-depth survey of languages. However this is still remains incomplete.

In 1991 the Census of India listed 1576 mother tongues’ with separate grammatical structures and 1796 speech varieties that is classified as other mother tongues’.

Another unique feature of India is the concept of protecting the interest of children to get basic education in their mother tongue. The Constitution provides” it shall be the endeavour of every State and of every local authority within the state to provide adequate facilities for instruction in the mother tongue at the primary stage of education to children belonging to linguistic minority groups”.

Thus, even before the United Nations declared the International Mother Language Day (February 21) the founders of the Indian Constitution gave top priority to teaching in mother tongues’, enabling the child to develop its full potential.

2017 Theme: Towards Sustainable Futures through Multilingual Education

This concept is in total agreement with the 2017 theme of United Nations World Mother Language Day “to develop the potential of multilingual education to be acknowledged in education, administrative systems, cultural expression and cyber space”.

In 1956 reorganisation of states in India was carried out with linguistic boundaries that had its own script. Sardar Vallab Bhai Patel, the then home minister played key role in formation and amalgamation of states based on linguistic attributes.

The language policy of India has been pluralistic, giving priority to the use of mother tongue in administration, education and other fields of mass communication. The Language Bureau of Ministry of Human Resource Development is set up to implement and monitor the language policy.

Supporting the cause of promoting and conserving the language diversity in cyberspace, Union Minister of Electronic and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad cautioned the Internet providers “the language of internet cannot be English and English alone. It must have linkages with the local and local means local languages. I appeal to make local languages available for more internet users”.

He said that the ministry has initiated Technology Development for Indian Languages with the objective of developing information processing tools and techniques to facilitate human machine interaction without language barrier, creating and accessing multilingual knowledge resources.

The Government of India under the vision of digital India has mandated the mobile phones sold from July 2017 should support all Indian languages. This will pave way for bridging the digital divide, empowering one billion people who do not speak English with connectivity in their own languages. This will also enhance the capacity of large number people to be part of e-governance and e- commerce.

Despite these efforts by the central government minority languages are under threat of extinction due to multiple causes. In Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the death of Boa, the last speaker of Bo language is one of those instances that have lead to extinction of Bo language with the history of 70000 years.

In recent years the language diversity is under threat as speakers of diverse languages are becoming rare and major languages are adopted after abandoning the mother tongues. The problem needs to be addressed at societal level, in which the communities have to take part in conservation of language diversity that is part of cultural wealth.

*Author is an independent journalist and columnist based in Karnataka.

India firm to ensure equity on World Social Justice Day

*SHIVAJI SARKAR  i201721701.jpg

‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’, said Martin Luther King. It is not just judicial justice. Judicious society is expected to ensure a just regime across colour, creed, class, caste – any social barrier for an inclusive system so that nobody is excluded.

Exclusion is also against the tenets of social justice. The inclusive society is expected to ensure equal opportunity, fair deal and does not deprive anyone.

This is enshrined in World Day of Social Justice (WDSJ), which the United Nations General Assembly decided to observe on February 20 every year as WDSJ in accordance with the objectives and goals of the world Summit for Social Development. The UN approved the decision on November 26, 2007. The observance of the day started in 2009.

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World Social Justice Day

Observance of WDSJ would support efforts of the international community in poverty eradication, the promotion of full employment and decent work, gender equity and access to social well-being and justice for all.

It is a day that recognizes the need to promote efforts to tackle issues such as poverty, exclusion and unemployment. We find the Narendra Modi government proactively doing many things to rout these social evils out. The most recent is the amendment to Payment of wages Act that ensure payment through cheque or to the bank account. The ostensible reason is stated to be to ensure full payment of promised wages to the workers.

The UN stated that social justice is an underlying principle for peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations. “We uphold the principles of social justice when we promote gender equality or the rights of indigenous peoples and migrants. We advance social justice when we remove barriers that people face because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability”.

The new economics recognizes that the economy is embedded in a society and culture that are embedded in an ecological life-support system, and that the economy can’t grow forever on this finite planet.

Indian society has been striving for ages to ensure equity and justice. Some of the most devoted workers for social justice in the history of India have included Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Swami Raavidas, Swami Vivekananda, MG Ranade, Veer Savarkar, KM Munshi, Mahatma Gandhi, Babasaheb Ambedkar, Tarabai Shinde, Behramji Malabari among others. The resolute force and courage of these reformers along with the ardent support from the people enabled them to take robust actions against injustice.

What Indian government is doing is in accordance with the International Labour Organization (ILO) resolution of 2013 concerning sustainable development, decent work, and green jobs putting forward a policy framework for a just transition. Key policy areas as per ILO are macroenconomic and growth policies, industrial and sectoral policies, enterprise policies, skill development, occupational safety and health, social protection, labour market policies, rights, social dialogue and tripartism.

The Constitution of India accepts the use of social justice in wider sense, which includes both social and economical justice. As former Chief Justice P. B.Gajendragadkar put it, “In this sense social justice holds the aims of equal opportunity to every citizen in the matter of social and economical activities and to prevent inequalities”.

In the Third Committee, 67th UN General Assembly , Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar reaffirmed that India will provide full support to the efforts of the UN, inUN-Women-logo.png particular ‘UN Women’, which has recorded significant achievements in only two years since its establishment and assist the General Assembly in all their efforts to ensure Social Justice. It may be noted here that UN Women is the global champion for gender equality, working to develop and uphold standards and create an environment in which every woman and girl can exercise her human rights and live up to her full potential.

As a measure to facilitate Social justice, India has enacted a comprehensive Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act which recognizes that violence can take various forms, including physical, economic, social and psychological. This act provides a legal tool for women to fight violence within the family – both marital and familial abuse. The law seeks to provide support to women victim of domestic violence in form of shelter, medical help, compensation, maintenance orders, and temporary custody of children.

The MGNREGA is the biggest action for ensuring right to work. The corporate social responsibility in the Companies Act brings a new dimension of sharing profits.

The central government in the union budget announced around 54 per cent of the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry’s budgetary allocation in the year 2016-17, was spent on Scheduled Castes (SC) scholarships benefitting about 60 lakh SC persons and another 53 lakh from OBCs..

“Budget of the ministry has been steadily increasing from Rs 54.52 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 69.08 crore in 2017-18. This is an increase of 6 per cent,” Minister for Social Justice Thavar Chand Gehlot says. He also says the definition of “atrocity” has been widened and amendments were introduced in June 2016 to protect the Scheduled Castes.

“Compensation payable to victims of atrocities has been enhanced and in the previous year 42,541 people were given compensation of Rs 139 crore,” he said.

“The three corporations of the ministry – distributed around Rs 552 crore through digital mode to almost two lakh beneficiaries,” he added.

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3.(NSKFDC)     nskfdcNational Safai Karamcharis Finance Development Corp.;

But the situation in the world is not that bright. The UN’s department of economic affairs says that despite global efforts the popular contention that the rich get richer and poor get poorer appears to be largely based on fact. Moreover, extreme or absolute poverty, experienced by those whose income is barely sufficient for survival, remains widespread.

The time has come to move the developmental discourse beyond the current discussion of outcomes of opportunities and ensure a framework for free environment of opportunities and coherent redistributive policies that would make the global society equitable

* The author is a senior journalist based in Delhi. Regularly writes on Socio-political issues. The views expressed in the article are author’s own. 

 

ISRO Makes History

*DILIP GHOSH

Indian Space Research Organisation, ISRO made history yesterday when its PSLV rocketISRO.gif placed 104 satellites into the space in a single mission. The record for highest number of satellites launched in one go was till then held by Russia. The country’s rocket Dnepr which was a converted ICBM, launched 37 satellites in June 2014. Earlier, the US space agency NASA had launched 29 satellites in a single mission in 2013.

The ISRO used its mightiest rocket this time, the one used in Chandrayaan and Mars Orbiter Missions.

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PSLV –C 37

The 320 ton rocket, PSLV –C 37 carried a 714 kg CARTOSAT -2, two ISRO Nano Satellites INS A and INS B  and 101 foreign satellites of different countries including the US, Israel and UAE together weighing about 700 kg and placed them into polar Sun synchronous orbit about 520 km away from the earth. While the high resolution CARTOSAT-2 will monitor the movements of even one meter long vehicle and goods in our neighborhood, the two nano satellites are for technology demonstration. The images sent by CARTOSAT-2 will also be useful for the country  in coastal land use, road network monitoring, distribution of water and creation of land use maps.

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The successful launch of 104 satellites in one go by an ISRO rocket has been hailed not only by President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi but also by internationally known space experts.

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Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, head of the Nuclear and Space Policy Initiative at the Observer Research Foundation commented a day before the launch of the satellites that it is going to be a big deal. She said, it shows the sophistication of India’s space program. Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor and space specialist at the US Naval War College  thought that it was a mission aimed at what he called “anything that gets you into the records book,  like breaking the Russian satellite launch record.

Ever since ISRO sent 23 satellites  into the space in a single mission in June 2015, the scientists of the space agency were almost confident that they would achieve this majestic feat also. Dr. K. Sivan, Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram explained in response to a query from a newsman a few days back how the satellites were going to be placed into orbit. He said, the every satellite would be separated in a different angle and at a different time from the launch vehicle in order to prevent collision between satellites. Sivan clarified, the satellite that got launched first would move at a relatively faster velocity than the next satellite that was to be launched. Due to different relative velocities, the distance between the satellites would increase continuously but the orbit would be the same, he said.

But, when did the ISRO’s glorious journey begin? India’s Mangalyaan probe which started in November 2013, Asia’s first successful Mars orbiter, in fact, forced the world to take note of this space program. The probe was sent to the Red Planet for only 74 million dollars, less than the 100 million dollars the Hollywood spent making the space thriller “Gravity.” The success gave Mangalyaan its pride of place on India’s new 2,000 rupee note. Ms Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan said, the Mars mission was not just a “sound and light show”. It established India’s credibility as a space power and translated into tangible economic benefits when it came to the big business of satellite launches.

Professor Johnson-Freese says, recognition of the multifaceted benefits from space exploration and space technology dates back to the Apollo program. He said, Asian countries have been following that model and seeking those benefits ever since. To date India has launched 79 satellites from 21 countries, including satellites from big companies like Google and Airbus. According to Government figures, India earned at least 157 million dollars from these launches, he said.

All the three Asian giants, India, China and Japan have now made bold space exploration plans for 2017 and beyond. In the first half of 2018, India plans to launch its second lunar mission — in 2008, it became the fourth country to plant its flag on the moon after the US, Russia and China. The Chandrayaan-2 will orbit, land and send a wheeled rover on the moon to collect lunar rock and soil. India also plans a mission to study the sun. Besides, it proposes mission to Venus and a follow up to its first Mars mission. Last year, India tested a reusable launch vehicle which resembles the US space shuttle.

China, perhaps the most rapidly accelerating space power is planning to test its Tianzhou-1 cargo and resupply spacecraft in April this year. The plan is aimed at maintaining the supply line for the country’s space station that’s expected to be up and running by 2022. Later this year, China will send a probe to the moon that will collect and return with soil sample. By the end of the decade, China says, it will have also become the first country to land on the far side of the moon and also land a rover on Mars. Japan is also not to be lagging behind. It wants to send an unmanned rover on the moon’s surface in the next year itself.

*The Author regularly writes on Science and Technology. 

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