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October 13, 2016

Food and Nutrition Security in the light of Climate Change

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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’.

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 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.

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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.

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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 www.cpao.nic.in. 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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Means of mail delivery – Centenary of Indian stamp

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

*Independent journalist based in Chennai. 

 

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