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Viral Hepatitis : Governmental efforts for its Control and Management

Santosh Jain PassiAkanksha Jain* i201772101.png

i201772101.jpgHepatitis  an inflammatory disease of the liver is caused due to viral infection. In 2015, it led to nearly 1.34 million deaths worldwide (almost equivalent to that caused by tuberculosis); most of the viral hepatitis deaths being due to chronic liver disease/primary liver cancer (mortality due to cirrhosis-720,000; hepatocellular carcinoma – 470,000). Over time, mortality due to viral hepatitis is yet on a rise.

Viral  hepatitis – a public health problem,  can be  caused  by  any of  the known  five hepatotropic  viruses, namely –  hepatitis  A, B, C, D and E  which  are  highly divergent  in their structure, epidemiology, mode of transmission, incubation period,  signs/symptoms, diagnosis, prevention and treatment options. 

Globally, 240 million people are living with chronic hepatitis B and 130­150 million with chronic hepatitis C infections. Global hepatitis report (2017) indicates that a large majority of these individualslack access to life­saving screening and treatment; as a result, majority are at risk of chronic liver disease and cancer leading to death. Margaret Chan (DG, WHO) has urged all nations to take necessary steps for eliminating viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030 and free the world from this leading killer. The Sustainable Development Goal 3 – target 3 (SDG 3.3) calls for a specific action to combat viral hepatitis and water-borne/other communicable diseases.

In India, viral hepatitis (A to E) remains a major public health challenge with intermediate  to  high  endemicity  for  Hepatitis  B; an estimated  40  million  individuals are infected and the population prevalence being nearly 3-4%. However, there is a wide geographic variation in its prevalence – being the highest among natives of Andaman and Arunachal Pradesh.

whd_globe_en.jpgWorld Hepatitis Day (28th July) which is celebrated every year, is an opportunity to step up national/international efforts for raising awareness as well as encouraging prevention, diagnosis and treatment of viral hepatitis at global level so as to achieve its elimination by 2030. Elimination of viral hepatitis has now been firmly put on the map. At the 69th World Health Assembly (Geneva), 194 governments adopted WHO’s first Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis (2016-2021) with a goal of eliminating hepatitis B and C in the next 13 years. The community responded by launching ‘NOhep – the first ever global movement to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030. Theme for the year 2017 is ‘Eliminate Hepatitis’.

Despite variations in viral hepatitis antigens, during acute phase of the disease – most of the symptoms are common which include fever, fatigue, anorexia, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain,  chalky-grey stools, joint pain and jaundice. However, the mode of transmission varies; while hepatitis A and E are  transmitted via oral-faecal route, hepatitis B, C and D are transmitted through unsafe blood transfusions or contaminated needles/syringes (particularly among the drug users), sexual-transmission or even mother-to-child transmission. Unlike A, B and C, viral hepatitis D and E are less common.

Hepatitis A virus (HAV) 

Often present in the faeces of infected individuals and is commonly transmitted through contaminated water/food and seldom through unsafe sex (incubation period: 15-50 days). In most cases, the infection is mild and the recovery is not only complete but it also confers long-term immunity. However, sometimes severe infections can be life threatening. The patients need appropriate dietary management and supportive treatment. Individuals residing in unsanitary environmental conditions are most vulnerable to this infection; though, safe and effective vaccines are available for its prevention.

Hepatitis B virus (HBV)

Commonly transmitted through infected blood and semen/ other body fluids, particularly during the transfusion of contaminated blood/ blood products, use of contaminated needles/syringes (esp. in the case of drug users) or sexual contact with an infected person; and sometimes from infected mothers to infants at the time of birth With an incubation period of 45-160 days, this infection accounts for nearly 30% of liver cirrhosis and 40-50% of the liver cancer cases in India. The patients need regular monitoring to assess the progression of liver disease and some may also need antiviral drug treatment. In this case too, safe/effective vaccines are available to prevent the infection.

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) 

Transmitted through infected blood and semen/other body fluids – mode of transmission and treatment options being almost similar to HBV (incubation period: 14-180 days). In 2014, Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences reported an approximately 12 million individuals living with chronic Hepatitis C infection; and that the states of Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Puducherry, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram had a higher prevalence. However as yet, there is no vaccine available to provide protection against this virus.

Majority of the chronic Hepatitis B or C patients are incognizant of the infection; and are, thus, at a serious risk of developing cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Hepatitis D virus (HDV) 

A RNA virus, requires hepatitis B virus for its replication; and therefore, occurs only in HBV infected individuals. Worldwide, nearly 15 million people are chronically co-infected with HDV and HBV; and this dual-infection can be much more serious registering worst outcomes. Mode of transmission is more or less similar to that of HBV except that the vertical transmission from mother-to-child is rather rare. Although, no effective anti-viral treatment is available for HDV, hepatitis B vaccine provides protection against this infection too.

Hepatitis E virus (HEV) 

A small virus with single-stranded RNA genome which is mostly transmitted via contaminated water or food (incubation period: 2-10 weeks). Globally, about 20 million people are infected with HEV which is responsible for nearly 56,600 deaths/year. Though it occurs worldwide, its prevalence is highest in South East Asia. Pregnant women infected with hepatitis E (particularly in the 2nd/3rd trimester), are at an increased risk of acute liver failure, foetal loss and mortality. This infection is more common in immunosuppressed individuals – particularly those with organ transplant or on immunosuppressive drugs. The disease is usually self-limiting but in certain cases, it may lead to acute liver failure. Effective preventive approaches include quality water supply, proper human excreta/waste disposal, food safety and strict adherence to WASH practices. Though China has developed vaccine against HEV, it is yet not available in India/other countries.

India is among the 11 countries carrying nearly 50% of the global burden of chronic hepatitis. Realizing the dangers of hepatitis B in particular, in the year 2004, nearly 1.2 million Indian children were vaccinated with three doses of Hepatitis B under a pilot project. Thereafter, in 2007-08, our government included Hepatitis B vaccination under the expanded Universal Immunization Programme. Further, during the 12th Five Year Plan, GoI launched the National Programme for prevention and control of viral Hepatitis. Further, it instituted the National Viral Hepatitis Surveillance Programme (estimated budget: 30 crore) under the ages of National Centre for Disease Control which aimed at training the manpower/health care functionaries with special emphasis on training of trainers and development of IEC material for the community and the health-care providers.

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While HAV vaccination strategies need to be revisited, India yet needs to prioritise the development/availability of HCV and HEV vaccines.

Despite concerted efforts under Swacch Bharat Abhiyan, safe drinking water and adequate sanitation practices yet need to be accorded a high priority. Observing utmost safety during injection/blood transfusion practices as well as ensuring safety of blood play an important role in the prevention of viral hepatitis. There is a dire need to position a dedicated trained public health functionary for addressing the issues relating to viral hepatitis.

Despite several challenges in the prevention, management and eradication of viral hepatitis in our country, joint coordinated action by all the stakeholders at a common platform and an early initiation of the comprehensive action plan would surely help in achieving our expected targets and making India a viral hepatitis free nation!!

*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

Meeting the unmet need – The World Population Day

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Savita Verma

There are some 7.5 billion people in the world. By 2050, the world population is likely to become nine billion. India, the second most populous country, has some 1.3 billion people and is expected to take the top position by overtaking China by 2050. Amidst increasing numbers, concerns over feeding the population and sustaining the resources are on top of the mind of governments, experts and planners.

It is to address these issues and others related to population that the World Population Day is celebrated on July 11. The Day was first celebrated in 1989 when the world population reached five billion. Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme recommended that 11 July be observed by the international community as World Population Day, to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues. Since then, population trends and matters such as reproductive health, contraception and challenges posed by the increasing population are deliberated upon on this day.

The theme for 2017 World Population Day is “Family Planning: Empowering People, Developing Nations.” This year’s celebrations also coincide with the Family Planning Summit, the second meeting of the Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) initiative, which aims to expand access to voluntary family planning to 120 million additional women by 2020.

The theme this year has special significance since data indicate that some 214 million women in developing countries who want to avoid pregnancy are not using safe and effective family planning methods. Most of these women with an unmet demand for contraceptives live in 69 of the poorest countries. Lack of adequate family planning services jeopardizes women’s health. Women are not able to use these services due to lack of access to information, or services, or support from their partners, or communities.

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Considering its importance in stabilizing population, access to safe, voluntary family planning methods is considered a human right and central to gender equality and women’s empowerment. It is also seen as a key factor in reducing poverty. Investments in making family planning available yield economic gains which further propel development.

India with its large population also has huge unmet need for family planning which government is trying to overcome. Statistics (DLHS III) indicate young population has an unmet need of 20.5 per cent at the national level – 13.3 per cent need for limiting methods and 7.2 per cent for spacing methods. Women between 15 and 19 years have an unmet need of 28.3 per cent and those between 20 and 24 years, have an unmet need of 28.5 per cent.

Between 2001 and 2011 India added 181 million people to the world, slightly less than the entire population of Brazil. Much of India’s population increase has occurred among the poorest socio-economic percentile. India’s huge population and the fact that it is expected to increase further – according to government projections, the population is expected to reach 1.55 billion by 2035 – pose both a challenge and an opportunity. Since more than 60 per cent of this population will be in the younger age bracket, below the age of 40 years, there will be economic gains if this human resource is provided with education and training in skill development. However, providing healthcare services to this pool of youth so that it is healthy and able to contribute to country’s economy may turn out to be a challenge.  In addition, taking care of the geriatric population, which goes up to about 223 million by 2035, will also be a challenge and require preventive, curative and geriatric care.

While providing food to the ever increasing world population is a challenge, the UN has set ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture as the second of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the year 2030. Achieving these objectives will require addressing issues like gender parity, ageing populations, skills development and global warming. According to experts, agriculture sector will have to become more productive by adopting efficient business models and forging public-private partnerships. It will also need to become sustainable by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, water use and waste.

For India, it is imperative that it adopts effective measures to control its population. According to a paper by Ranjit Goswami, IMT, Nagpur in East Asia Forum, the global demand for water in 2050 is projected to be more than 50 per cent of what it was in 2000, and demand for food will double. On average, a thousand tons of water is required to produce one ton of food grains. It is for this reason that international disputes about water have increasingly been replicated among states in India, where the Supreme Court is frequently asked to intervene.

Keeping aside the projections, government data indicates that India’s total fertility rate has declined from 2.6 in 2008 to current 2.3. India is now just 0.2 points away from reaching the replacement level of 2.1.  In fact, 24 states have already achieved replacement level fertility and about 60 per cent of the population resides in states where replacement fertility has been reached or will soon be met including the southern states, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Punjab.

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The government is now accelerating family planning measures. It has identified 146 districts with total fertility rate, the number of children born per woman, of more than three to focus on. These districts are in the seven states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Assam and make 28 per cent of the country’s population.  The health ministry is starting a programme called “Mission Parivar Vikas” in these districts to improve access to family planning services, create awareness and make family planning choices available.

Besides, the government is already running a strategy to push up the age of marriage of girls and delay in first child and spacing in a second child. The couples who adopt this strategy are awarded suitably. Under another programme called Santushti Strategy, Jansankhya Sthirata Kosh has invited private sector gynaecologists and vasectomy surgeons to conduct sterilisation operations in public-private partnership mode. The private hospitals/nursing homes which achieve target are suitably awarded as per strategy.

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*Author is a senior science and health journalist with over 18 years of experience. Now an independent journalist, earlier she had worked with PTI and some other major newspapers.

Views expressed in the article are author’s personal.

बढ़ते कचरे की चुनौती से निपटना

 

i20177607*सुधीरेन्‍दर शर्मा

देश के अधिकतर बड़े और मध्यम शहरों तथा कस्बों में आमतौर पर छोटे पहाड़नुमा अशोधित शहरी कचरे के ढ़ेर नजर आते हैं। किसी भी शहर में आगंतुकों का स्‍वागत कचरे के ढ़ेर से होता हैं और घूरे पर पड़ा कचरा तेजी से बढ़ती समृद्धि को दर्शाता है। इसका परिणाम यह है कि लगभग सभी शहरों में कूड़े के ढ़ेर स्वास्थ्य के लिये गंभीर खतरा बन गए हैं, इनमें वे शहर भी शामिल हैं जो कचरे के निपटान के प्रभावी तरीके विकसित नहीं कर पाये हैं।

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इस समस्या पर नियंत्रण के लिये भारत सरकार ने क्षेत्र-आधारित विकास और शहरी स्तर के स्मार्ट समाधान के माध्यम से जीवन में सुधार के लिए स्वच्छ भारत अभियान (एसबीए) और स्मार्ट सिटी मिशन (एससीएम) शुरू किये हैं। तीन साल की कार्य एजेंडा (2017-18 से 2019-20) तैयार करने में नीति आयोग ने नगरपालिका के ठोस अपशिष्ट (एमएसडब्ल्यू) प्रबंधन की समस्‍या से निपटने के लिये व्यापक ढांचा तैयार किया है।

 

वास्तविकता में बदलाव के साथ विकास की रणनीति से ताल मेल के लिये  नीति आयोग को तीन वर्ष की अवधिNITI_Ayog के भीतर नीतिगत परिवर्तनों को प्रभावित करने के साधन और दृष्टिकोण विकसित करने का कार्य सौंपा गया है। यह अपने तीन वर्ष के एजेंडे के तार्किक निष्कर्ष के लिये सात साल की रणनीति और पंद्रह वर्ष की दूरदर्शिता के साथ कार्य करेगा। स्थिति की विशालता को देखते हुये इस एजेंडे में नगरपालिका के ठोस कचरे के प्रबंधन के लिये तेजी से कार्रवाई करने की आवश्यकता को स्वीकार किया है।

 

7,935 शहरी क्षेत्रों में रहने वाले 377 मिलियन निवासियों के कारण (जनगणना 2011) प्रति दिन 170,000 टन ठोस अपशिष्ट पैदा होता है। इस तथ्य को देखते हुए समयसीमा में कार्य पूरा करने के लिए नीति आयोग ने यह एजेंडा सही समय पर विकसित किया गया है क्योंकि 2030 तक जब शहरों में 590 मिलियन निवासी हो जाने के कारण शहरों की सीमायें समाप्त होने से प्रकृति और शहरी अपशिष्ट का प्रबंधन करना मुश्किल होगा। सामाजिक और आर्थिक वास्तविकताओं के चलते इस समस्‍या का शीघ्र तकनीकी समाधान आवश्‍यक है और नीति आयोग का एजेंडा इस समस्‍या को हल करने का प्रयास है।

इस एजेंडा में सुझाए गए समाधान दो तरह के हैं: बड़ी नगर पालिकाओं के लिए अपशिष्ट पदार्थ से ऊर्जा तैयार करना और छोटे कस्बों तथा अर्ध-शहरी क्षेत्रों के लिए अपशिष्ट का निपटान कर खाद तैयार करने की विधि। इसमें नगरपालिका के ठोस अपशिष्ट साफ करने की प्रक्रिया में तेजी लाने के लिये संयंत्र लगाने के वास्‍ते  सार्वजनिक निजी भागीदारी हेतू भारतीय राष्ट्रीय राजमार्ग प्राधिकरण (एनएचएआई) के समान ही नया वेस्ट टू एनर्जी कॉरपोरेशन ऑफ इंडिया (डब्ल्यूईसीआई) स्थापित करने का सुझाव दिया गया है।

स्‍थापना के बाद यह प्रस्तावित निगम 2019 तक 100 स्मार्ट शहरों में तेजी से अपशिष्ट से ऊर्जा तैयार करने के संयंत्रों में महत्वपूर्ण भूमिका निभाएगा। स्वच्छ भारत अभियान पर गठित मुख्यमंत्रियों के उप-समूह ने पहले ही 2015 की अपनी रिपोर्ट में ऐसे संयंत्रों की स्थापना की सिफारिश की है। इस उच्च तकनीक समाधान को व्यापक रूप से समर्थन मिला है, क्‍योंकि कचरे की मात्रा कम कर 2018 तक 330 मेगावाट और 2019 तक 511 मेगावाट बिजली उत्पन्न होगी।

समाधान का प्रस्ताव करते हुए नीति आयोग ने थर्मल पाइरोलिसिस और प्लाज्मा गैसीकरण प्रौद्योगिकियों के लाभ-लागत अनुपात का भी मूल्यांकन किया है। ये दोनों महंगे विकल्प हैं। गौरतलब है कि नीति आयोग का प्रस्तावित एजेंडा सुझाव देने का है और राज्यों पर निर्भर करता है कि वे इन पर कैसी प्रतिक्रिया देते हैं। लेकिन मुख्यमंत्रियों द्वारा प्रस्तावित विकल्प पर ज्यादातर राज्यों का समर्थन मिलने की संभावना है।

हालांकि तकनीकी और पर्यावरणीय आधार पर देश में कार्यरत मौजूदा अपशिष्ट से ऊर्जा तैयार करने के संयंत्र पर मिली जुली रिपोर्ट हैं। समस्या की जड़ देश में शहरी अपशिष्ट की प्रकृति है जिसमें ऐसे पदार्थों का मिश्रण होता है जो पूरी तरह से दहन के लिए उपयुक्त नहीं होता है। चूंकि शहरी अपशिष्ट का 80 प्रतिशत पदार्थ सड़ा-गला भोजन, रद्दी-कतरन जैसे जैविक पदार्थ होते हैं इसलिए निर्धारित वायु गुणवत्ता मानक पर खरे उतरने में मौजूदा संयंत्र को कठिनाई आती है।

हालांकि मौजूदा अपशिष्ट के निपटान की विधियां बहुत अच्छी नहीं है। शहरी नगर-निगम अपशिष्ट प्रबंधन पर 500 से 1500 रुपये प्रति टन खर्च करती है। इसमें से 60 से 70 प्रतिशत कूड़ा एकत्रित करने में शेष 20 से 30 प्रतिशत एकत्रित कचड़े को घूरे तक ले जाने में खर्च होता है जिसके बाद कचड़े के प्रबंधन और निपटान पर खर्च करने के लिए कुछ भी राशि नहीं बचती है। इसके अलावा शहरी क्षेत्रों को कम कर स्वास्थ्य के लिए हानिकारक कूड़े के मैदान बनाना एक बड़ी चुनौती है।

एजेंडा में अपशिष्ट से बड़े पैमाने पर कम्पोस्ट खाद और बायो गैस उत्पन्न करने के लिए जगह की कमी को भी रेखांकित किया गया है। हालांकि वास्तविकता में कूड़े के कई स्थानों पर बिना दक्षता के कम्पोस्ट तैयार करने की कोशिश की जा रही है। सरकार एक विकल्प के रूप में वनस्पति खाद बनाने की व्यवहार्यता पर दोबारा विचार कर अशिक्षित युवाओं के लिए रोजगार का वैकल्पिक स्रोत पैदा करने के लिए इसे राष्ट्रीय कौशल विकास मिशन में शामिल कर सकती है।

सहमति पर पहुंचने के लिए ये शुरूआती समय है। हालांकि यह स्पष्ट है कि देश में विविध सामाजिक, आर्थिक वास्तविकताओं के लिए एक समान विकल्प नहीं हो सकता । लेकिन इस सामाजिक और पर्यावरणीय समस्या पर समय रहते चर्चा शुरू करने के लिए सरकार को श्रेय दिया जाना चाहिए। देश को स्वच्छ और हरित बनाने के लिए स्वच्छ भारत अभियान के साथ ही नीति आयोग द्वारा प्रस्तावित एजेंडा सही अपशिष्ट प्रबंधन की दिशा में एक कदम है।

 

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* लेखक जल और स्वच्छता के मुद्दे पर स्वतंत्र शोधकर्ता है।

इस लेख में व्यक्त किए गए विचार लेखक के स्वयं के हैं।

Confronting the challenge of mounting waste

Sudhirendar Sharma* i20177607.jpg

Mini-mountains of accumulated untreated urban waste are common sights in most big and medium cities and towns in the country. Waste dumps greet visitors to any city, reflecting the rapidly rising prosperity in each bit of trash at the waste dump.

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With cities having literally failed to develop effective ways to dispose of their waste, the resulting mountains of waste in almost all cities have become a serious health hazard.

The Government of India is seized of this exacerbating problem, more so having embarked on the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA) and the Smarts Cities Mission (SCM) to turn things around by driving growth to improve the quality of life through area-based development and city-level smart solutions. In developing Three-Year Action Agenda (2017-18 to 2019-20), the Niti Aayog has drawn a broader framework for addressing the issue of municipal solid waste (MSW).

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To align the development strategy with the changing reality, the Niti Aayog has been tasked with developing tools and approaches for impacting policy change within the three year period. It will back up its Three Year Agenda with Seven Year Strategy and Fifteen Year Vision for taking the agenda to its logical conclusion. Given the enormity of the situation, the Agenda has recognized the need for speeding up action on managing municipal solid waste.

It is a timely assertion by the Niti Aayog to develop a time-bound agenda, given the fact that 377 million inhabitants (Census 2011) residing in 7,935 urban centers generate 170,000 tons of solid waste per day. Left unresolved, the nature and magnitude of urban waste will be insurmountable by 2030 when the cities will burst at its seams with 590 million inhabitants. The social and economic reality calls for quick-fix technological solution and NITI Aayog’s Agenda seeks to address the issue.

The solution being suggested by the Action Agenda is twin-fold: waste-to-energy incinerators for bigger municipalities and composting method of waste disposal for small towns and semi-urban areas. It further suggests establishing a new Waste to Energy Corporation of India (WECI), akin to the National Highway Authority Of India (NHAI), ‘to speed up the process of cleaning up municipal solid waste’ by developing public-private partnerships to build the plants.

Once established, the proposed corporation would play a key role in fast-tracking waste to energy incineration plants across 100 smart cities by 2019. The Sub-Group of Chief Ministers on Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has already recommended setting up of such plants in its Aug 2015 report. This hi-tech solution finds widespread favor as these plants, while reducing the volume of waste, will generate 330 megawatts of electricity by 2018 and 511 megawatts by 2019.

While proposing incineration as a solution, the Niti Aayog has also assessed the benefit-cost ratio of thermal pyrolysis and plasma gasification technologies. Both of these are costly options. It must be noted that the proposed Niti Aayog Action Agenda is suggestive in nature, and much will depend on how the States respond to it. But given the fact that the incinerator option was proposed by the Chief Ministers, the proposal is likely to find favour with most states.

There are, however, mixed reports on existing waste to energy plants operating in the country on technical and environmental grounds. At the core of the problem is the nature of urban waste in the country, it contain a mix of materials that is unsuitable for efficient incineration. Since 80 per cent of urban waste consists of organic materials such as damp food scraps, the existing plants have found it difficult in meeting prescribed air quality standards.

However, existing waste disposal methods are no better. City municipalities spend between Rs 500-Rs 1500 per ton on waste management. Since 60-70 per cent is spent on waste collection and remaining 20-30 per cent on transporting collected waste to the landfill sites, there is almost nothing that gets spent on treatment and disposal. And to top it all, setting aside shrinking urban spaces for unhealthy dump sites remains a formidable challenge.

The Action Agenda has highlighted the constraints of space in discounting the option of large-scale composting and biogas generation from waste. In reality, however, composting is currently being inefficiently tried at several dumping sites. The government may now consider re-examining the feasibility of composting as an option and converge it with National Skill India Development mission to generate alternate sources of employment for uneducated youth.

These are still early days to arrive at a consensus. However, it is clear that there cannot be one-size-fits-all for diverse socio-economic realities in the country. But the Government must be credited for initiating timely discussions on a pressing social and environmental problem. With Swachh Bharat Abhiyan being the leitmotif to make the country clean and green, the proposed Action Agenda, containing among others a prescription for Waste Management, by the Niti Aayog is a step in the right direction.

*Author is an independent researcher on water and sanitation issues.

GST : Great Instrument to Help Poor Move up the Ladder

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Prakash Chawla

A short and crisp video unveiled by President Shri Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi for the launch of the Goods and Services Tax  in the majestic Central Hall of Parliament  captured the clear objective  behind country’s most important tax reform till date. Unlike what economists and other commentators have been telling us as to how the GST would push the country’s Gross Domestic Product  and make life easier for the trade and industry, the launch film showed  a much broader aspect of the modern taxation that has the country’s people, especially those economically less privileged at its core.

In his inspirational speech at mid-night of June 30, minutes before the roll out, Prime Minister, referred to GST as a life changing instrument for the poor particularly in eastern Uttar Pradesh, other eastern states and the North East.  Even as they are blessed with rich natural resources, these states have not been able to fully exploit the same for their development.

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On face of it, one might ask, how is GST going to be of great benefits to the poor of the country, or is it that the same old “trickle down “ theory is supposed to play a role , via trade and industry. To an extent, it could be so, but the very character of the GST would ensure in realising what the Prime Minister said before the country’s most distinguished audience. The country’s mature polity and cooperative federalism has finally delivered a system, which is people –centric and not necessarily manufacturer centric.

Unlike the excise or other levies, the GST that subsumes seven Central and eight state taxes, is not source or manufacturer based but a destination or consumer centric. In plain and simple language, the states which have more consumers would stand to gain immensely in terms of tax buoyancy that would then be channelled in the welfare schemes for the people and overall economic development of the states. Surely, states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal and North East, which did not have much of a manufacturing base and were losing on revenue would stand to gain while the developed and manufacturing hubs would be compensated at least for five years of the GST launch. More the consumers, higher is the tax collection in a state; though the consumers need to be economically empowered!

The growth impetus to these states which could not keep pace with the states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu or Karnataka in manufacturing, would come from trade which in turn would generate huge resources for ploughing back into development efforts. Such a vibrancy would then lead to interest of investors, both domestic and global, into manufacturing and related service sectors, opening vistas for job creation for millions of people.

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“GST is a system that ends the imbalances in the country’s trade. It also boosts the exports of the country. This system not only provides impetus to already developed states but also provides the opportunity to the backward states to develop. Our states are enriched with natural resources – look at Bihar, eastern UP, West Bengal, the north east, Odisha. They are all brimming with natural resources. When they will get a single tax regime I can see clearly that whatever deficiency is there those will be removed and this art of the country will move ahead. All the states of India will get equal opportunity for development”, the PM put the context right.

Besides, the one nation –one- tax from “Ganga Nagar to Itanagar “ in the words of Shri Modi, would surely make life easier for the industry, trade and common person in different ways, encouraging honest way for the  economic transactions. This is why, the GST has been dubbed as ‘Good and Simple Tax’ that would bring in a new governance culture.

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Both the PM and the President gave full credit to different political parties and governments at the Centre and the states in making the GST a reality. “This is not a Sidhi (realisation) of one government or a party; it is a fruit of common efforts”, the Prime Minister said. The President, who had himself played a pivotal role in the progressive journey of the GST as Finance Minister in the previous government, had some apt words:

“The new era in taxation…. is the result of a broad consensus arrived at between the Centre and States. This consensus took not only time but also effort to build. The effort came from persons across the political spectrum who set aside narrow partisan considerations and put the nation’s interests first. It is a tribute to the maturity and wisdom of India’s democracy”.

One of the principal advantages of the new tax regime would be doing away with the cascading effect resulting from ‘tax on tax’. Through a robust IT infrastructure, the system of input credit ensures that it gets passed and adjusted against the tax liabilities. This would only help the consumers. “The prices of goods and services will come down. In the earlier system, the credit for excise duty, service tax, VAT and other indirect taxes did not get passed to the last vendor. But, in the GST, such credit goes to the supplier at the last stage of the value  chain which then gets transferred  to the consumers,” said noted tax expert Shri  Brij Bhushan.

Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley too has been impressing upon the industry to pass on any gains which accrue following the GST roll out. He hoped that the government may not have to use the powers vested in it through the Anti-Profiteering Authority to ensure that the benefits get passed on to the common citizens.

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While even the President Shri Mukherjee said that there could be disruptions in the initial stage, such a thing would be constructive disruption. Once we are through the teething troubles and initial period of adjustment, GST would prove to be a people-centric, capable of transforming lives.

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*Prakash Chawla is a senior journalist and commentator. He mostly writes on political-economy and global economic issues.

Views expressed in the article are author’s personal.

दबावयुक्त भारी जल रिएक्टर

  यह देश की स्वच्छ ऊर्जा की तत्काल और भविष्य में होने वाली मांग की आपूर्ति करेगा 

i201762301डॉ. श्रीकुमार बनर्जी    

                        700 मेगावाट्स क्षमता के 10 दबावयुक्त भारी जल रिएक्टर (पीएचडव्ल्यूआर) के निर्माण की सरकार की घोषणा स्वदेशी पीएचडब्ल्यूआर तकनीक में विकास को बढ़ावा देगी, जिसक निर्माण विगत चार दशकों के दौरान किया गया है।  मौजूदा छह स्वदेशी पीएचडब्ल्यूआर की कार्यक्षमता विगत पांच सालों में औसतन 80 फीसद तक रही है।

राजस्थान परमाणु रिएक्टर आरएपीएस-5 ने बाद की बढ़ी हुई अवधि में सबसे लम्बे समय 765 दिनों तक अबाधित ऊर्जा आपूर्ति की हैजो वर्ल्ड रिकार्ड में दूसरा मामला है।यह औसत बिजली दरों की तुलना में जलविद्युत ऊर्जा के बाद काफी सस्ती है। सबसे बढ़कर तो यह वास्तविकता है कि इसके सौ फीसद कल-पुज्रे अपने देश में ही बनाये जाते हैं।          

डॉएम.आरश्रीनिवासन ने ‘ हिन्दू’ में लिखे अपने हालिया आलेख (19 मई 2017 को प्रकाशितमें पीएचडब्ल्यूआर केसफलतापूर्वक निर्माण के इतिहास और परमाणु ऊर्जा क्षमता के निर्माण की कम अवधि की कार्यनीति पर बेहतर तरीकेसे प्रकाश डाला है। पीएचडब्ल्यूआर के उद्भव और उसके उत्क्रमित सुरक्षा इंतजामों के बारे में अमेरिकन सोसाइटी ऑफमैकेनिकल इंजीनियर्स की तरफ प्रकाशित जर्नल के अप्रैल 2017 के ‘न्यूक्लियर इंजीनियरिंग एंड रेडियन साइंस’ पर केंद्रित विशेष अंक में धारावाहिक प्रकाशित किया गया है।

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      भारत में पीएचडब्ल्यूआर प्रौद्योगिकी की शुरुआत 1960 के उत्तरार्ध में राजस्थान अटॉमिक पॉवर स्टेशन (आरएपीएस-1) हुई थी। इसकीआधारशिला संयुक्त भारत- कनाडा न्यूक्लियर साझेदारी के तहत रखी गई थी और इसकी डिजाइन (रूपरेखाभी कनाडा में स्थापित डगलस प्वाइंटरिएक्टर जैसी बनाई गई थी। ऐसी पहली इकाई के लिए कनाडा ने संयंत्र के सभी प्रमुख उपकरण मुहैया कराये थेजबकि निर्माणस्थापना औरकार्य पण्रालियों के सुचारु करने की जिम्मेदारी भारत की थी।

दूसरी इकाई (आरएपीएस-2) की स्थापना में आयातित उपकरणों की मात्रा उल्लेखनीय रूपसे कम हो गई और उपकरणों के बड़े कलपुजरे में भारतीय भागीदारी जोर पकड़ती गई। पोखरण में 1974 में किये गए पहले परमाणु परीक्षण के बादतो कनाडा ने पूरी तरह से हाथ खींच लिया और भारतीय इंजीनियरों ने अपने बूते ही निर्माण का काम पूरा किया और स्वदेशी उपकरणों से बने को इनसंयंत्रों को चालू किया। पीएचडब्ल्यूआर की तीसरी इकाई (मद्रास एटमिक पॉवर स्टेशनएमएपीएस-1) के बाद से तो डिजाइन का विकास और इसकाभारतीयकरण इस क्षेत्र में दुनिया भर में हो रहे बदलावों  सुरक्षा के उनके नये मानकों के अनुरूप किया जाने लगा। इकाई की स्थापना में लगने वालेसमय  लागत में कटौती जैसे सुधार किये गए और बेहतर क्षमता के सृजन के लिए कार्यसंचालन की विसनीयता बढ़ाई गई। स्वदेशी मानकों परविकसित पीएचडब्ल्यूआर की 220 मेगावाट्स की पहली दो इकाइयां नरोरा अटॉमिक पॉवर स्टेशन (एनएपीएसमें स्थापित की गई थीं। इस मानकीकृतऔर अनुकूल डिजाइन में कई नई सुरक्षा पद्धतियां शामिल थींजिन्हें 2 गुना 220 मेगावाट्स की क्षमता की सात पांच और युगल- इकाइयों में शामिलकिया गया थाजो काकरापरकैगा और रावटभाटा में स्थापित हुई थीं। आर्थिक मापमान को देखते हुए पीएचडब्ल्यूआर की 540 मेगावाट्स की डिजाइनका विकास किया गया और ऐसी दो इकाइयां तारापुर में स्थापित की गई। इसके आगेअतिरिक्त ऊर्जा बचत का उपयोग करते और लागत सुधारते हुएऔर एनपीसीआईएल ने 540 मेगावाट्स के पीएचडब्ल्यूआर की डिजाइन में बिना किसी भारी बदलाव के उसे 700 मेगावाट्स का किया गया। इस डिजाइन की चार इकाइयां फिलहाल रावतभाटा और कर्करापार में स्थापित की जा रही हैं।

जहां तक निरापद सुरक्षा की चिंता का वाजिब सवाल है तो पीएचडब्ल्यूआर प्रौद्योगिकी अपने में निहित कई सारे सुरक्षा वैशिष्ट्यों के चलते बिल्कुल उपयुक्त है।  पीएचडब्ल्यूआर डिजाइन की सबसे बड़ी खासियत इसमें मोटी भीत्ति वाले प्रेशर ट्यूब का इस्तेमाल किया जाना हैजबकि बड़े दाबवाले रिएक्टर्स में बड़े पात्र का उपयोग किया जाता है। यह दाब के घेराव को बड़ी संख्या में छोटे डायमीटर के प्रेशर ट्यूब में कर देता है।

  परिणामस्वरूपऐसी डिजाइन में दाब के घेराव का दुर्घटनावश तोड़फोड़ प्रेशर वेजल टाइप रिएक्टर की तुलना में बहुत कम नुकसानदायक होगा। पीएचडब्ल्यूआर कामुख्य हिस्सा सिलिंडरा यानी बड़े सिलिंडर के आकार के पात्र और उसके मेहराब में चारों तरफ बड़ी मात्रा में कम तापमान और कम दाब के पानी काघिराव होता है।

  संयंत्र को ठंडा रखने का यह अन्वेषित उपाय किसी आकस्मिकता की प्रक्रिया को विलंबित कर देता है और इस प्रकारऑपरेर्ट्स कोहस्तक्षेप करने तथा सुरक्षा के इंतजाम करने के लिए पर्याप्त समय मिल जाता है।

 ये अंतरर्निहित ताप संचालक (ताप के संचालन और प्रसारण के लिएबनाया गया धातु का संचालक यानी कंडक्टरकी केवल तभी जरूरत पड़ती हैजब अनेक गंभीर दुर्घटना वाले परिदृश्यों में वाष्प उत्पादक के जरियेप्रारम्भिक ताप संचालनया शीत पण्राली बंद होकर अनुपलब्ध हो जाती है।

इसके अलावा,700 मेगावाट्स पीएसडब्ल्यूआर डिजाइन ने मुस्तैद पैसिव डिके हीट रिमूवल सिस्टम के जरिये सुरक्षा बढ़ा दी हैजिसकी क्षमताबिना किसी ऑपरेटर्स की सहायता के नष्ट ताप को हटाने की है।     इसी तरह की प्रौद्योगिकी फुकुशिमा के जैसे हादसे रोकने के लिए तीसरी और इसकेआगे की पीढ़ी के संयंत्रों में अपनाई गई है। 700 मेगावाट्स की भारतीय पीएचडब्ल्यूआर डिजाइन में रिएक्टर से रिसाव को रोकने के लिए स्टील लाइन्डनियंत्रक बनाये गए हैं। और शीतलक के नुकसान होने की स्थिति में होने वाली दुर्घटना और डिजाइन की हद से ज्यादा होने वाले रेडियोधर्मी न्यूक्लाइडको रगड़ कर साफ कर दाब को घटाने के लिए नियंतण्रछिड़काव पण्राली काम में लाई जाती है। 1960 के दशक में पहले चरण के भारतीय परमाणु ऊर्जाकार्यक्रम में पीएचडब्ल्यूआर का चयन करने के मुख्य कारण प्राकृतिक यूरेनियम ऑक्साइड का ईधन के रूप में इस्तेमालऊर्जा उत्पादन में खनिजयूरेनियम का बेहतर उपयोग और पूरी तरह आत्मनिर्भर प्रौद्योगिकी की स्थापना की संभावना तलाशना रहे हैं। भाभा परमाणु अनुंसधान केंद्र में चारदशकों के अथक अनुसंधानडिजाइन  विकास कार्यक्रमों के बाद और परमाणु ऊर्जा सहयोग तथा उनके उद्यम में समान सहयोगी कुछ साझेदारों नेविर्निर्माण और संरचनागत कामों को करने का बीड़ा उठायाजिसने भारत को प्रौद्योगिकी की स्थापना में पूर्ण रूप से सक्षमसमर्थ बनाया। खनिजपदाथरेखननप्रसंस्करण और ईधन का निर्माण  संरचनागत पदार्थउपयोग किये गए परमाणु ईधन का पुनर्ससाधन और रेडियोसक्रिय पदाथरे कास्थिरीकरण यानी समूचे ईधनचक्र में अर्जित निपुणता ने भारत को परमाणु ऊर्जा क्षेत्र में एक खास मुकाम दे दिया है। देश में यूरेनियम के सीमितभंडार की बाध्यता के चलते पहले दौर में परमाणु ऊर्जा में त्वरित संवृद्धि बाधित होती रही थीअब देश में ही संवर्धित यूरेनियम के उत्पादन होने औरकई देशों के साथ असैनिक परमाणु सहयोग संधि के अंतर्गत निर्यातित यूरेनियम की आपूर्ति से वह वृद्धि सुगम हो गई?है। विगत वित्तीय वर्ष के दौरानन्यूक्लीयर फ्यूल कॉम्पलेक्स ने 1500 टन से भी ज्यादा परमाणु ईधन का रिकार्ड उत्पादन किया था और अटॉमिक मिनरल डिविजन फॉर एक्सपलोरेशनने नये यूरेनियम का भंडार पाया था। खोज और अनुसंधान ने भारत में यूरेनियम का कुल भंडारण 200000 टन तक पहुंचा दिया है।

अब भारत परमाणु ऊर्जा क्षमता के क्षेत्र में त्वरित संवृद्धि हासिल करने के लिए पूरी तरह से तैयार है, जो स्वच्छ ऊर्जा की मांग की पूर्ति के लिएआवश्यक है। देश में प्रति व्यक्ति बिजली उपभोग की सीमा (अब 1000 किलोवाट्स) औसत वि का दो तिहाई है। स्पष्ट है कि हमारे लोगों के जीवन स्तरको और बेहतर करने के लिए?वैकल्पिक गैर कार्बन बिजली उत्पादन को बढ़ावा देने की जरूरत है। सौर ऊर्जा और वायु ऊर्जा के क्षेत्र में प्रभावकारीसंवृद्धि ने अन्य क्षेत्रों में उपलब्ध बिजली के उपयोग पर दर्शनीय प्रभाव डाला है। हालांकि इस पर जोर देने की आवश्यकता है कि सौर और वायु जैसेवितरित और अनिरंतर ऊर्जा के स्रेत बेस लोड की मांग की सक्षमता से आपूर्ति नहीं कर सकते। परमाणु ऊर्जा का स्रेत संकेंद्रित, लगातार और विसनीयहै। इसलिए यह सौर और वायु ऊर्जा की समपूरकता के साथ व्यावहारिक तौर पर कॉर्बन का कोई निशान छोड़े, बिजली की समस्त मांगों की पूर्ति करसकता है। अब जबकि बड़े शहरों से बिजली की भारी मांग आ रही है और औद्योगिक परिसर अबाधित और संकेंद्रित ऊर्जा के प्रकार की मांग करते हैं।बिल्कुल इसी तरह वितरित ऊर्जा की भारी मांग हमारे ग्रामीण क्षेत्रों की भी है। इसलिए ऊर्जा के योजनाकार इन तरह-तरह की ऊर्जा आवश्यकताओं कोआपस में मिलाकर एक अपेक्षित समाधान पाने का प्रयास कर रहे हैं।

दूसरा मसला, जिस पर हमें विचार करने की आवश्यकता है कि किस तरह हम तेजी के साथ परमाणु ऊर्जा क्षमता को हासिल कर सकते हैं। इससंदर्भ में कोई भी नौंवें दशक के फ्रांस व अमेरिका के अनुभवों और हाल के वर्षो में चीन को मिले तजुबरे का लाभ उठा सकता है। इन सभी देशों नेकुछ मानकीकृत डिजाइन वाले पथरक्षा या सिलसिलेवार तरीके से की गई परमाणु ऊर्जा संयंत्रों की स्थापना के जरिये बड़ा ही प्रभावकारी विकास हासिलकिया है। ऐसी कार्यनीति में, उद्योग अत्याधुनिक परमाणु पुजरे के प्रतिबद्ध उत्पादन में सक्षम हो सकते हैं और निर्माण कम्पनियां अपनी मानव शक्तिऔर उसके कौशल को प्रभावी तरीके से नियोजित कर सकती हैं। 700 मेगावाट के 10 पीएचडब्ल्यूआर को निकट भविष्य में स्थापित करने का फैसलाउद्योग क्षेत्र को परमाणु ऊर्जा के सिलसिलेवार पुजरे के उत्पादन की चुनौतियों को मंजूर करने के लिए उत्साह से लबरेज कर देगा। परमाणु ऊर्जाउत्पादन की गतिविधियों में फैलाव न केवल आपूर्ति क्षेत्र को व्यापक करेगा बल्कि इसमें सहभागी उद्योगों को भी गुणवत्ता के प्रति जागरूक करेगा। इसतरह वे परमाणु पुजों के निर्यातक भी बन सकते हैं। परमाणु संयंत्र के निर्माण-पूर्व अवधि में कटौती का बिजली की दरों पर जबर्दस्त प्रभाव पड़ेगा।

 जैसा कि डॉ श्रीनिवासन द्वारा उल्लेख किया जाता रहा है कि भारत 900 मेगावाट्स के दाबानुकूलित जल रिएक्ट (पीडब्ल्यूआर) की खुद सेडिजाइन करने की दहलीज पर है। बड़े आकार का दाबानुकूल पात्र बनाने की क्षमता अब अपने देश में ही उपलब्ध है और हमारा खुद का समस्थानिकसंवर्धन संयंत्र संवर्धित यूरेनियम ईधन की मांग के एक भाग को एक दशक के भीतर ही आपूर्ति करने में सक्षम हो जाएगा। यह रूस, फ्रांस औरअमेरिका से निर्यातित होने वाले पीडब्ल्यूआर के अतिरिक्त होगा, जिसका लक्ष्य देश में परमाणु ऊर्जा के विकास को विस्तार देना है। कुंडकुलम में दोऔर 1000 मेगावाट्स के पीडब्ल्यूआर (यूनिट-5 और यूनिट-6 ) के लिए भारत और रूस के बीच हालिया हुआ करार इस योजना की पुष्टि करता है।संचालन में सहुलियत और औसत उच्च क्षमता के कारक ने पीडब्ल्यूआर को परमाणु ऊर्जा तापघरों के बाद दुनिया में सबसे लोकप्रिय बना दिया है किसभी तरह के पॉवर रिएक्टरों का 85 फीसद पीडब्ल्यूआर की तरह के हैं। भारत में पीडब्ल्यूआर और पीएचडब्ल्यूआर को मिला कर संचालित करने केविशेष फायदे होंगे; क्योंकि पहले वाले संयंत्र में इस्तेमाल किये गए ईधन, जो यूरेनियम-235 का एक प्रतिशत से अधिक हिस्सा उपभोग करता है, उसको पुनर्ससाधित किया जा सकता है और उसका पीएचडब्ल्यूआर में ईधन के रूप में क्रमबद्धता में उपयोग किया जा सकता है।  यह विकासमान ऊर्जाचक्र आखिरकार पहले चरण की ऊर्जा पीढ़ी से तीसरे चरण के जगजाहिर कार्यक्रम तक चलता चला आया है।

भारत ने परमाणु ऊर्जा कार्यक्रम के प्रारंभ में जिस संवृत्त ईधन चक्र की योग्यता को अंगीकार किया, उसने न केवल ईधन संसाधन को बहुआयामीकिया बल्कि देश में परमाणु कचरे के रूप में रेडियो-सक्रिय बोझ को नाटकीय तरीके से घटा दिया। इस प्रसंग में परमाणु कचरे से छोटे अक्टेनिड कोअलग करने के सफल विकास, इसको पायलट प्लांट में इस्तेमाल करने के भारत के प्रयासों ने दुनिया का ध्यान अपनी ओर खींचा है। पीएचडब्ल्यूआरके संचालन में व्यवहृत ईधन को पुनर्ससाधित करने में मिले प्लूटोनिम को यूरेनियम से मिलाकर प्रोटोटाइप फास्ट ब्रीडर रिएक्टर (पीएफबीआर)?के कोरके लिए ऑक्साइड ईधन तैयार किया जाता रहा है, जिसने संयंत्र का संचालन प्रारम्भ करने के पहले उसकी तैयारी की गतिविधियों की शुरुआती पहलकी है। भारत के दूसरे चरण के परमाणु ऊर्जा कार्यक्रम में प्रवेश के साथ, जिसमें फास्ट ब्रीडर रिएक्टर्स न केवल स्थापित परमाणु संयंत्रों की क्षमताबढ़ाएंगे बल्कि आणविक पदाथरे को उत्पन्न करेंगे, उर्वर समस्थानिक के जरिये प्लूटोनिम-239 और यूरेनियम-233 को और क्रमश: यूरेनियम-238 औरथोरियम-232 को उत्पन्न करेंगे। विस्तरित कार्य क्षेत्र और पहले चरण के कार्यक्रम का द्रुत क्रियान्वयन देश की ऊर्जा आत्मनिर्भरता के लक्ष्यों परदूरगामी प्रभाव डालेंगे।  यूरेनियम-प्लूटोनिम ईधन चक्र में बहुआयामी पुनर्चकण्रने विखंडनीय सामग्री की आपूर्ति क्षमता में फैक्टर 60 के जरिये औरबढ़ोतरी का अनुमान है। थोरियम के बड़े भंडारण, जो मौजूदा आकलन के मुताबिक यूरेनियम से चार गुना ज्यादा है, के उपयोग से तो भारत स्वच्छपरमाणु ऊर्जा की आपूर्ति कई सदियों तक कर सकता है।

     (लेखक डॉ श्रीकुमार बनर्जी एइसी के पूर्व चेयरमैन और डीएई के पूर्व सेक्रेटरी हैं। वर्तमान               में वह डीएई में होमी भाभा चेयर प्रोफेसर हैं।)

                                                                           ***

 

Dadabhai Naoroji- The man who brought statistics into politics

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Death Centenary of Dadabhai Naoroji, 30th June

Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917) – one of the makers of modern India- passed away on June 30, 1917. His death centenary is an apt occasion to revisit his legacy.

Two features of his long and distinguished career stand out prominently:

  • Sustained advocacy of Indian cause abroad and
  • Use of statistics to shape public discourse.

He was the first Indian to be elected to the House of Commons (1892). He formulated the famous drain-of-wealth theory, which became India’s cornerstone argument against the British rule. In his late years, he was the first to give expression to the demand for Swaraj from platform of Indian National Congress (1906). He served the cause of India’s political emancipation for six decades.

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Born in Bombay (now Mumbai) in a poor Parsi family, he began his career as a teacher of mathematics and natural philosophy at Elphinstone Institute (later Elphinstone College). He was the first Indian to become a full professor. As a member of the Students Literary and Scientific Society formed in the Institute, he acted as a pioneer of women’s education. He was an active member of the Bombay Association (1852), the first association in the western India to consider political issues. Its meetings were held in the hall of the Institute. In 1851, he founded Rast Goftar (Truth Teller), a Gujarati fortnightly with a Persian name. It was a progressive journal educating readers on duties of citizenship.

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In 1855, he resigned from his professorial job; and relocated to Britain to set up a mercantile firm. The company he founded in partnership with Muncherji Hormmusji and Kharshedji Rustamji Cama was the first Indian firm to operate in Britain. Through this commercial venture, Dadabhai had hoped to make Britain confident about Indian entrepreneurship. But having a fastidious sense of ethics, he could not long survive in that commercial environment. In 1859, he opened his own mercantile firm in London viz. Dadabhai Naoroji & Co in partnership with Jamshedji Palanji Kapadia and Pestanji Ratanji Colah. He established it beyond doubt that ethical values and business acumen could co-exist. He wanted Indian businessmen to learn from the methods and devices of their British counterparts.

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But politics was his true calling. In 1867, he founded the East Indian Association. It was a political advocacy group for India having both British and Indians on its membership roll. It was the first political organization with members from different provinces of India. Two young law students viz. W.C. Bonnerji (1844-1906) and Pherozeshah M. Mehta (1845-1915) became his disciples. In their mature years both served as the President of Indian National Congress (estd.1885).

Dadabhai read the paper ‘England’s Duties to India’ before a pre-dominantly British audience at East India Association on May 2, 1867. It was in that paper he accused of Britain siphoning off wealth from India. An extract reads-

In the shape of “home charges” alone there has been a transfer of about 100 millions of pounds sterling, exclusive of interest on public debt, from the wealth of India to that of England since 1829, during the last thirty-six years only. The total territorial charges in India since 1829 have been about 820 millions. Supposing that out of the latter sum only one-eighth represents the sum remitted to England by Europeans in Government service for maintenance of relatives and families, for education of children, for savings made at the time of retiring, the sums expended by them for purchases of English articles for their own consumption, and also sums paid in India for Government stores of English produce and manufacturers- there is then another 100 millions added to the wealth of England”.

Where from he got those statistics in the paper? These were based on Parliamentary Returns of Indian Accounts. He also relied upon the Second Customs Report, 1858. His speeches were tinged with such mathematical data. But he knew that audience could lose patience with figures. But a reader can revisit them as often he/she wants. Thus his essays were laced with heavy statistics. His speeches were lucid.

Dadabhai turned price rise, wages, taxation, tariff, rents, lending rates, agricultural output, industrial production data, import & export figures and currency exchange rates into political talking points. He tried to establish that British rule had led to economic ruination of India. It had steeply increased the poverty. He argued that such a malevolent policy militated against British principles themselves. Therefore, he named his magnum opus ‘Poverty and Un-British Rule in India’ (1901).

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Dadabhai himself was not satisfied with the method of collection of statistics by the provincial governments. In the paper titled ‘Poverty of India’, read before the Bombay Branch of East Indian Association of 1876, he pointed at statistical fallacies and means to improve them. He went into nitty-gritty of acreage, crop production, prices, domestic consumption pattern, imports and exports. It requires a great deal of imagination, thorough collection of figures and meticulous data crunching to establish how British rule was impoverishing India. Dadabahi was actually laying down the path for future leaders. The opinion of a lawmaker with grasp over figures, as much over facts, carries greater credibility.

The other important legacy of Dadabhai was advocacy of India’s cause abroad. He did it through the East Indian Association. He then espoused the Indian cause in the British Parliament. He was the first Indian to be elected to the House of Commons. He represented the Central Finsbury constituency as a candidate of Liberal party between 1892 and 1895.

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He twice served as the President of Indian National Congress (1886 and 1893) besides representing India at International Congress of Social Democrats at Amsterdam in 1905. He permanently returned to India from Britain in 1908 at the ripe age of 83. He passed away in Bombay on June 30, 1917 leaving a weighty bequest of experience and achievements behind.

*The writer is an independent researcher and columnist based in New Delhi. The views expressed herein are his personal.

Role of P C Mahalanobis in Nation Building

National Statistics Day, 29th June

Ajay Kumar Gupta*

In the words of Prof. Mahalanobis “Statistics must have a clearly defined purpose, one aspect of which is scientific advancement and the other human welfare and national development.” And in both the aspects his contribution has been immense.

He is rightly referred to as the chief architect of Indian statistical system as well as father of statistical science in India. What started as a chance encounter with the journal Biometrica, turned into a passion so strong that it not only helped in building a strong statistical community in India but also lead to advancement of many theoretical works in the field.

Prof. Mahalanobis had to face opposition and challenges in his initial endeavours to establish statistics as a mainstream discipline of study and research. However, he persisted in his efforts and witnessed, contributed in no small measure by himself, change in perception of statistics in academic and public circles. We get a glimpse of this in the introductory part of his oft-quoted speech in the 1950 session of Indian Science Congress “Why Statistics?”:

200px-Mahalanobis.jpeg“I discussed with a friend of mine, …..the possibility of having a separate section for Statistics. …. A little later he informed me that there was no chance of my proposal being accepted, and with a smile told me that some of his colleagues had remarked: “If statistics is to have a section, you may as well have a section for astrology”. Evidently, statistics and astrology were bracketed together in the mind of many of our scientists. The forecasting of future events is, of course, a common feature; and the basis was felt to be equally unscientific. A great change has taken place in the climate of scientific and public opinion about statistics.”

Mahalanobis set up the Indian Statistical Institute as a learned society on 17 December 1931, which was registered in April 1932 as a non-profit distributing learned society under the Societies Registration Act. All or nearly all the statistical work done in India during the 1920s and until the mid-1930s was done single-handedly by Mahalanobis.

The early statistical studies included analyses of data on stature of Anglo-Indians, meteorological data, rainfall data, data on soil conditions, etc. Some of the findings of these early studies were of great impact in the control of floods and development of agriculture. His analysis of anthropometric data led to the famous concept in Statistics known as “Mahalanobis Distance‟.

During 1937-45, he introduced several innovative techniques and preferred to call them “experiments in statistical sampling‟. He started his work on sample surveys with estimation of area and yield of jute crop in Bengal in 1937. However, it was not easy for him to get these estimates accepted; controversy between him and the advocates of complete enumeration continued for over a decade. Ultimately he was able to demonstrate that estimates based on sample surveys were often more accurate than those based on complete enumeration, and that sample surveys could yield estimates with small margins of error within a short time and at a smaller cost than complete enumeration.

 

Mahalanobis was always interested in the “promotion of scientific research and fruitful applications of research results to problems of social welfare‟. These applications of Statistics were not only in Agriculture where he pioneered crop cutting experiments, but also in Industry.

Mahalanobis’s contributions to large scale sample surveys are among his most significant and lasting gifts to statistics.  Given the paucity of administrative data, and the possibility of biases creeping in, the strategy Mahalanobis envisaged in his notes to the Nehru cabinet on creating credible data sets were based on representative sample surveys, economist Ashok Rudra writes in his biography of Mahalanobis. To establish the credibility of surveys, he, who was a big proponent of cross-examination of data, invited some of the pioneers of statistics to review the work done at ISI. The first review committee of NSS included such intellectual giants as R.A. Fischer, M.H. Hansen, T. Kitagawa, A. Linder and F. Yates. Their opinion was not entirely uncritical but it noted in its report that in the matter of sample surveys, “those outside India must expect to have more to learn than to teach”.

The three notable contributions to the theory and practice of sample surveys by Mahalanobis are “pilot surveys, optimum survey design and Inter Penetrating Network of sub-samples technique (IPNS)” (cf. Lahiri, 1973). He always advocated Inter penetrating network of sub-samples (IPNS) theory both in conduct of large scale sample surveys as well as in working of Government administration where he did not approve of the fact that it was regulated by principle of authority. Mahalanobis was very much concerned with errors at various stages of data collection and analysis and insisted on cross examination of data. He applied IPNS for assessment and control of errors, especially non-sampling errors, in surveys. His technique of IPNS was appreciated by both the statisticians as well as politicians. The concept of pilot surveys was a forerunner of sequential sampling developed by Abraham Wald, as acknowledged by Wald in his book.

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In addition to introducing these concepts, Mahalanobis raised important and difficult philosophical questions on randomness and representativeness of a sample, which remain relevant and challenging even today. He was elected Chairman of the United Nations Sub-Commission on Statistical Sampling in 1947, and held this post until 1951. His tireless advocacy of the usefulness of sample surveys resulted in the final recommendation of this Sub-commission that sampling methods should be extended to all parts of the world.

Mahalanobis received the Weldon Medal from Oxford University in 1944 and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, London, in 1945, for his fundamental contributions to Statistics, particularly in the area of large-scale sample surveys.

Besides being a reputed academician, Prof. Mahalanobis was a great administrator who stood up for what he believed in. When he was asked by a young colleague as to what was the most important quality for a great administrator he replied, “The capacity to be unpleasant when the occasion called for it.” We get another picture of him in W. Edwards Deming’s remark “He never permitted difference of opinion to impede the advancement of someone with an opposing view.”

One of the first tasks after India gained independence was to reassess the size and nature of the Indian economy and the man chosen to head the mission was statistical genius Prof. Mahalanobis. The committee included eminent scientists like Rao and Gadgil. The result was a voluminous report on National Income. Prof. Mahalanobis’ administrative qualities and the ability to convince people resulted in him playing a leading role in creating a statistical edifice for the country. Although remembered today largely as the architect of India’s five-year plan model, Mahanalobis, as the honorary statistical adviser to the cabinet, had a greater contribution in building a new statistical architecture for the country. He helped establish the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO), the National Sample Survey (NSS) and the Annual Survey of Industries (ASI), all of which were run from ISI in the early years.

Prof. T.J. Rao, recipient of the National Award in Statistics 2016, highlighted the personality and achievements of Prof. Mahalanobis in the following words:

“Such was the man who combined his great intellect and vision with an unlimited capacity for work and brought reputation to the country by his achievements. No one in history could achieve anything great unless he was tough, could act boldly with faith in his convictions, and had the ability to argue….and get things done. Mahalanobis had all these traits in good measure….

……Statistical science was a virgin field and practically unknown in India before the twenties…It needed a pioneer and adventurer like him, with….courage and tenacity to fight all opposition.”

He was a truly visionary leader of his times and the path shown by him has not lost its relevance even today. It has only gained in importance.  With the advancement of study and research on statistics in ISI over the years, Prof. C.R. Rao has very rightly called ISI a mighty monument of Prof. Mahalanobis’ handicraft.

* The Author is Deputy Director General, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Govt. of India.

Swachh Bharat Momentum – Toilets for Pilgrims in Maharashtra

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Like every year, lakhs of people are expected to join the Aashadhi Yatra that begins from the Sant Tukaram Temple at Dehu in Pune District today and culminates on 16th of next month in the temple town of Pandharpur. This Yatra on foot en route 34 km distance is joined by a large number of devotees from other towns and villages on the way.

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The 21 day yatra culminates on ‘Ashadi Ekadashi’ in the Pandharpur considered the Centre of Bhakti movement in Maharashtra. Lakhs of pilgrims throng the famous Vithoba Temple located in this pilgrimage town situated on the banks of the river Chanderbhaga.

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While almost 15 lakh people congregate at Pandharpur on ‘Ashadi Ekadasi’, even on other ‘Ekadashis’ two to three lakh people visit this town and 10 to 15 thousand people every weekend. So actually it is almost round the year that the pilgrims throng Pandharapur and that is why the need for permanent toilets structures become a necessity.

For decades lack of toilets in this small town about 120 kms from Pune led to open defecation by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims creating health hazard.

“ It was impossible to walk without soiling one’s feet because of the open defecation by pilgrims also referred to as ‘wakaris’ who converged on this town” says Sachin Kamble a local journalist.

Many of the devotees who stayed along the river too had no choice but to defecate in the open. The locals were willing to provide accommodation to the pilgrims but would not let them use their toilets.

Shikhare who belongs to this town says ironically while the yatris visited Pandhrapur during yatra, the locals preferred to move out on trips elsewhere because of the unhygienic situation and fear of spread of diseases that was created because of open defecation.

That is no longer the case. Over the last few years, the situation has improved considerably.

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Biggest toilet complex in the world, Pandharpur, Maharahstra 

Today Pandharpur boasts of the biggest toilet complex in the world. Maharahstra government has sanctioned over 100 crore rupees for the project. Permanent structures with 50 toilet seats each are being constructed on the route at several points where pilgrims halt for the night. Till last year the a cluster of eight mega toilet complexes with over 1400 toilet units in the temple’s vicinity had been constructed.

These toilet complexes also have disabled friendly toilets and washrooms where the pilgrims can change their clothes.

Toilet project ‘Nirmal Wari’ was initiated some years back by the state government. Last year 20,000 mobile toilets were deployed during the yatra. But that was not enough so Maharashtra government roped in Sulabh International Social Service Organisation to create more toilet facilities. In all, twenty three toilet complexes are to be constructed and the number of toilets would rise to 2900.

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Shikhare who works at one of these toilet complexes located in the vicinity of the Vitthal Temple, said these toilet complexes have completely changed the scenario in the town. He said that Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has had its impact with many of the people living in nearby slum areas, now coming forward to construct toilets. He says that instead of defecating in the open, more and more people are using the community toilets.

Amul Patil who lives in JJ colony not far from this complex said he would rather pay fifty rupees a month for his family to use the toilets than defecate in the open creating health hazards for himself and others.

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Today Maharashtra is 80 percent Open Defecation Free (ODF) against the national average of 64 percent.

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Speaking at a function to launch ‘Darwaza Bandh’ to promote toilet use and freedom from open defecation across the country’s villages, the state Chief Minister said that Maharashtra is committed to become ODF by March  next year.

It is not just about Maharashtra, being a multi religious society, pilgrimages on foot or otherwise are part and parcel of our socio-cultural life. It is therefore important that such places and the routes to these places should have toilet facilities, prefabricated, temporary or permanent structures, so that the pilgrims are not forced to defecate in open and create health hazards.

It is hoped that with the Government’s commitment towards sanitation and the resounding success of the Swachh Bharat campaign, pilgrims across the country will not have to defecate in open and create health issues for themselves and others.

*Author is a New Delhi based independent Journalist and writes regularly in Newspapers on social sector issues.

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