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Inspired by health for all motto, built by workers: Shaheed Hospital of Chhattisgarh

04 Oct 2022

Hospital

At a time when the trend of trying to maximize profits has led to so many serious distortions in the health sector, the need for at least some efforts which have been consistently providing rationality based, low cost medical care with a special emphasis on trying to reach out to workers and peasants and to all weaker sections of society has increased further.

The Shaheed Hospital in Dalli Rajhara (Chattisgarh) region provides one such highly inspiring example. It is, moreover, a very rare example of a hospital which was actually created, built, expanded by workers, using their own hard labor and meager savings (with some help from other well-wishers). It has been a tremendous effort to maintain the continuity of this hospital’s work during the last four decades.

The Shaheed Hospital also provides a very inspiring example of many deeply committed doctors, nurses, medical and other workers who have been serving the hospital with the deepest commitment over the years.

In particular one must mention Dr. Saibal Jana who has been with the hospital since its birth and still continues to lead this inspiring effort, braving many difficulties and adversities.

Going back about four decades, the late seventies and early eighties were a period of great awakening and hope in the mining township of Dalli Rajhara. The iron ore miners, particularly contract workers, had been successfully resisting highly exploitative practices including very low wages.

Under the inspiring leadership of the legendary trade union leader Shankar Guha Niyogi and his close colleagues, the workers had followed this success with many constructive programs with the understanding of combining struggles with many-sided constructive work (sangharsh va nirman).

This included a very effective campaign against liquor addiction, education and vocational training, cultural programmes and above all a strong health program of workers and peasants.

By then the trade union had spread to some other mining areas as well and what is more, had established a strong organizational base in the rural areas under the banner of Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (CMM). This and the main trade union called the Chattisgarh Mines Shramik Sangh (CMSS) became the main hub of asserting the rights of workers and peasants in this region.

I was fortunate to be a part of these times of hope as a visiting reporter and journalist. However my first visit to the area was in more difficult circumstances, as a member of a human rights team, when a big protest movement was going on and Niyogi Ji had been arrested. Later I also got permission to meet Niyogi Ji in jail.

So phases of repression and the resulting protests were always coming in and the constructive work had to be continued in the middle of this. Niyogi Ji once told with a sigh -- we have so many ideas about experimental constructive work with great potential but the day to day problems which are always being created for our union leaves us very less time for this.

Despite this, constructive work like workers giving up liquor on a large scale and in a very determined way was a big success. Around the same time as visitors we started seeing patients coming in significant numbers to a dispensary operating then from a garage. Doctors like Vinayak Sen, Ashish Kundu and Saibal Jana had started reaching here to start a healthcare program, and a health committee of workers had been formed.

At the time of disasters like Latur earthquake and Bhopal gas leak, the hospital sent its volunteers for helping

The arrangement in garage was only a temporary one, we learnt, the workers plan to soon build their own hospital! This was great news which enthused many visitors, but they had their doubts too. A hospital, its building and equipment cost a lot of money too; how can the workers arrange all this.

But soon the workers by their strong determination were soon turning this into a reality. As many as 1000 workers would gather at the time of construction and with their disciplined and dedicated voluntary work would complete in a single day work that may otherwise drag on for an extended period.

During subsequent visits visitors saw the inauguration of the new hospital building in 1983, additions to it, various equipment and new facilities being added, an ambulance being purchased, the number of beds being increased.

Each of these improvements and additions was a quiet celebration of the aspirations of the workers and peasants, most of them from tribal communities and other weaker sections who had suffered much due to earlier denial of proper medical care and some had even lost family members due to this.

The hospital got its name Shaheed (martyr) from the memory of those comrades who had been killed in the course of an early struggle; they would surely rest in peace that an institution created in their name has saved so many precious human lives.
Even at an early stage the hospital and the union took steps to take health campaigns to wider rural areas and improve water and sanitation in the area. At the time of disasters like the Latur earthquake and the Bhopal Gas Leak disaster, the hospital sent its volunteers for helping.

Young doctors and health personnel keen to work with similar ideals came here to gain experience and inspiration. The hospital became a center recognized widely for providing very good training to nurses. It contributed to and also made made effective use of various government health programs.

As the hospital completes nearly 4 decades of its tremendously useful and inspiring efforts, There are many, many friends and beneficiaries who wish for the further success of this effort, with more doctors and others coming forward to help.

*Honorary convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include ‘Planet in Peril’, ‘A Day in 2071’ and ‘Man over Machine'

Courtesy: https://www.counterview.net

Inspired by health for all motto, built by workers: Shaheed Hospital of Chhattisgarh

Hospital

At a time when the trend of trying to maximize profits has led to so many serious distortions in the health sector, the need for at least some efforts which have been consistently providing rationality based, low cost medical care with a special emphasis on trying to reach out to workers and peasants and to all weaker sections of society has increased further.

The Shaheed Hospital in Dalli Rajhara (Chattisgarh) region provides one such highly inspiring example. It is, moreover, a very rare example of a hospital which was actually created, built, expanded by workers, using their own hard labor and meager savings (with some help from other well-wishers). It has been a tremendous effort to maintain the continuity of this hospital’s work during the last four decades.

The Shaheed Hospital also provides a very inspiring example of many deeply committed doctors, nurses, medical and other workers who have been serving the hospital with the deepest commitment over the years.

In particular one must mention Dr. Saibal Jana who has been with the hospital since its birth and still continues to lead this inspiring effort, braving many difficulties and adversities.

Going back about four decades, the late seventies and early eighties were a period of great awakening and hope in the mining township of Dalli Rajhara. The iron ore miners, particularly contract workers, had been successfully resisting highly exploitative practices including very low wages.

Under the inspiring leadership of the legendary trade union leader Shankar Guha Niyogi and his close colleagues, the workers had followed this success with many constructive programs with the understanding of combining struggles with many-sided constructive work (sangharsh va nirman).

This included a very effective campaign against liquor addiction, education and vocational training, cultural programmes and above all a strong health program of workers and peasants.

By then the trade union had spread to some other mining areas as well and what is more, had established a strong organizational base in the rural areas under the banner of Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (CMM). This and the main trade union called the Chattisgarh Mines Shramik Sangh (CMSS) became the main hub of asserting the rights of workers and peasants in this region.

I was fortunate to be a part of these times of hope as a visiting reporter and journalist. However my first visit to the area was in more difficult circumstances, as a member of a human rights team, when a big protest movement was going on and Niyogi Ji had been arrested. Later I also got permission to meet Niyogi Ji in jail.

So phases of repression and the resulting protests were always coming in and the constructive work had to be continued in the middle of this. Niyogi Ji once told with a sigh -- we have so many ideas about experimental constructive work with great potential but the day to day problems which are always being created for our union leaves us very less time for this.

Despite this, constructive work like workers giving up liquor on a large scale and in a very determined way was a big success. Around the same time as visitors we started seeing patients coming in significant numbers to a dispensary operating then from a garage. Doctors like Vinayak Sen, Ashish Kundu and Saibal Jana had started reaching here to start a healthcare program, and a health committee of workers had been formed.

At the time of disasters like Latur earthquake and Bhopal gas leak, the hospital sent its volunteers for helping

The arrangement in garage was only a temporary one, we learnt, the workers plan to soon build their own hospital! This was great news which enthused many visitors, but they had their doubts too. A hospital, its building and equipment cost a lot of money too; how can the workers arrange all this.

But soon the workers by their strong determination were soon turning this into a reality. As many as 1000 workers would gather at the time of construction and with their disciplined and dedicated voluntary work would complete in a single day work that may otherwise drag on for an extended period.

During subsequent visits visitors saw the inauguration of the new hospital building in 1983, additions to it, various equipment and new facilities being added, an ambulance being purchased, the number of beds being increased.

Each of these improvements and additions was a quiet celebration of the aspirations of the workers and peasants, most of them from tribal communities and other weaker sections who had suffered much due to earlier denial of proper medical care and some had even lost family members due to this.

The hospital got its name Shaheed (martyr) from the memory of those comrades who had been killed in the course of an early struggle; they would surely rest in peace that an institution created in their name has saved so many precious human lives.
Even at an early stage the hospital and the union took steps to take health campaigns to wider rural areas and improve water and sanitation in the area. At the time of disasters like the Latur earthquake and the Bhopal Gas Leak disaster, the hospital sent its volunteers for helping.

Young doctors and health personnel keen to work with similar ideals came here to gain experience and inspiration. The hospital became a center recognized widely for providing very good training to nurses. It contributed to and also made made effective use of various government health programs.

As the hospital completes nearly 4 decades of its tremendously useful and inspiring efforts, There are many, many friends and beneficiaries who wish for the further success of this effort, with more doctors and others coming forward to help.

*Honorary convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include ‘Planet in Peril’, ‘A Day in 2071’ and ‘Man over Machine'

Courtesy: https://www.counterview.net

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UP: Yet Again, Children in Faizabad School Served Rice With Salt in Mid-Day Meal

Teachers of the school claimed they had not received the conversion cost under PM Poshan for the past six months.

30 Sep 2022

mid day mealRepresentational use only. Image Courtesy: Flickr
 

Lucknow: In yet another shocker from Uttar Pradesh, students of a government primary school in Faizabad, now Ayodhya district of Uttar Pradesh, are being served salt and rice under the mid-day meal scheme.

Recall that last September, the Narendra Modi government had renamed the mid-day meal (MDM) scheme as ‘PM Poshan’. The aim was to focus more on a child’s nutritional levels rather than just providing a meal. However, the situation doesn't seem to have improved in a year.

As the primary school in Pandey Ka Purva of Bikapur block is close to a village, several students collect their lunch and go home during lunch break. That’s how some parents got to know about boiled rice-salt being served in mid-day meals. Several parents protested against the school, after which  officials from the education department were asked to investigate the whole matter and conduct surprise inspections from time to time.

As per the menu of the mid-day meal scheme prescribed by the UP government, children are supposed to be provided rice, pulses and green vegetables. Milk and fruits are also included in the meal chart on certain days. 

Payal, a student at the school told NewsClick: "This was not the first time we had salt with rice in our lunch due to lack of vegetables or dal."

Santosh, a daily wage labourer, whose two children are enrolled in the same primary school, told NewsClick: "Since the school is five minutes walking distance from our village, most of the children bring the lunch served in school home and they go back after lunch. We were upset after seeing our children having rice without vegetables, instead only salt was served. We had complained earlier to the principal but she turned a deaf ear.

After video of this travesty went viral on social media, the  district authorities called it ‘a serious lapse’ and initiated an inquiry into the incident. The school principal has been suspended.

Ayodhya District Magistrate Nitish Kumar, however, blamed the school management. "As per the orders by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, the menu of mid-day meals across the districts is fixed. They are also given fruits and milk on some days. But these incidents happen due to the lapse of principal and supervisory staff,” Kumar told NewsClick.

"We have suspended the principal Ekta Yadav and  assistant teacher Gayatri Devi and an investigation has been launched in the matter. It is true that the students got just plain rice and were forced to eat that with salt for lack of vegetables. This is a serious lapse,” he added.

This is not the first time that children in Ayodhya’s primary school have got this kind of meal that they were entitled to. And it is unlikely that the Ayodhya school is the only one in Uttar Pradesh where this has happened.

Three weeks ago, children were reportedly served plain rice under the mid-day meal in Deoria district. Several children have complained that they were not even getting the “sub-standard meals” for months.

In 2019, the Uttar Pradesh government booked a journalist for exposing corruption in the mid-day meal scheme after he came across students being served roti and salt in Mirzapur district.

Ironically, the Uttar Pradesh police booked the journalist, alleging that he was “hatching a conspiracy to defame the government.” Later, he was cleared by the UP police.

However, teachers claimed that the MDM scheme launched to provide nutritious food to the students studying in the government primary school was running on credit. Teachers are saving their jobs by buying vegetables, pulses, oil, spices, milk, fruits etc. from their own pockets as they have not received the conversion cost since the past six months.

NewsClick has earlier written on the crisis, the teachers and , principal have been facing in Uttar Pradesh due to lack of funds.

NewsClick also spoke with multiple rasoiya (cooks) in different districts to understand the ground reality of the MDM scheme. All of them alleged that they were not getting vegetables and pulses to cook. "We have been getting Rs 1,000 per month, less than what a daily wage labourer gets, and all the blame comes on us when food quality is found bad or salt-rice is served. We have not received our monthly honorarium for the past six-seven months, but who cares?"

It may be mentioned that the Central government has not made an increment in the conversion cost under the National Programme of Mid-Day Meals in Schools (NP-MDMS) since 2020. The revised rate of the cooking cost for the primary stage (class 1 to 5) is Rs 4.97 per child, and Rs 7.45 for upper primary (class 6 to 8), which was revised in 2018. 

In the past two and half years, not a single penny has been hiked even though the inflation rate has increased significantly. The cost of the items used in mid-day meals has increased from two-fold to three-fold.

"It doesn’t matter if you change the scheme’s name to PM Poshan from MDM, because until you don't increase the conversion cost and ensure timely payment, how long we will arrange for food from our own pocket,"  a teacher told NewsClick.

According to the government data disclosed in the Lok Sabha on November 25, 2019, Uttar Pradesh recorded the highest number of corruption cases in the midday meal scheme. Out of the total 52 complaints filed in the past three years, 14 were from UP with Bihar inching closer with 11 complaints.

Courtesy: Newsclick

UP: Yet Again, Children in Faizabad School Served Rice With Salt in Mid-Day Meal

Teachers of the school claimed they had not received the conversion cost under PM Poshan for the past six months.

mid day mealRepresentational use only. Image Courtesy: Flickr
 

Lucknow: In yet another shocker from Uttar Pradesh, students of a government primary school in Faizabad, now Ayodhya district of Uttar Pradesh, are being served salt and rice under the mid-day meal scheme.

Recall that last September, the Narendra Modi government had renamed the mid-day meal (MDM) scheme as ‘PM Poshan’. The aim was to focus more on a child’s nutritional levels rather than just providing a meal. However, the situation doesn't seem to have improved in a year.

As the primary school in Pandey Ka Purva of Bikapur block is close to a village, several students collect their lunch and go home during lunch break. That’s how some parents got to know about boiled rice-salt being served in mid-day meals. Several parents protested against the school, after which  officials from the education department were asked to investigate the whole matter and conduct surprise inspections from time to time.

As per the menu of the mid-day meal scheme prescribed by the UP government, children are supposed to be provided rice, pulses and green vegetables. Milk and fruits are also included in the meal chart on certain days. 

Payal, a student at the school told NewsClick: "This was not the first time we had salt with rice in our lunch due to lack of vegetables or dal."

Santosh, a daily wage labourer, whose two children are enrolled in the same primary school, told NewsClick: "Since the school is five minutes walking distance from our village, most of the children bring the lunch served in school home and they go back after lunch. We were upset after seeing our children having rice without vegetables, instead only salt was served. We had complained earlier to the principal but she turned a deaf ear.

After video of this travesty went viral on social media, the  district authorities called it ‘a serious lapse’ and initiated an inquiry into the incident. The school principal has been suspended.

Ayodhya District Magistrate Nitish Kumar, however, blamed the school management. "As per the orders by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, the menu of mid-day meals across the districts is fixed. They are also given fruits and milk on some days. But these incidents happen due to the lapse of principal and supervisory staff,” Kumar told NewsClick.

"We have suspended the principal Ekta Yadav and  assistant teacher Gayatri Devi and an investigation has been launched in the matter. It is true that the students got just plain rice and were forced to eat that with salt for lack of vegetables. This is a serious lapse,” he added.

This is not the first time that children in Ayodhya’s primary school have got this kind of meal that they were entitled to. And it is unlikely that the Ayodhya school is the only one in Uttar Pradesh where this has happened.

Three weeks ago, children were reportedly served plain rice under the mid-day meal in Deoria district. Several children have complained that they were not even getting the “sub-standard meals” for months.

In 2019, the Uttar Pradesh government booked a journalist for exposing corruption in the mid-day meal scheme after he came across students being served roti and salt in Mirzapur district.

Ironically, the Uttar Pradesh police booked the journalist, alleging that he was “hatching a conspiracy to defame the government.” Later, he was cleared by the UP police.

However, teachers claimed that the MDM scheme launched to provide nutritious food to the students studying in the government primary school was running on credit. Teachers are saving their jobs by buying vegetables, pulses, oil, spices, milk, fruits etc. from their own pockets as they have not received the conversion cost since the past six months.

NewsClick has earlier written on the crisis, the teachers and , principal have been facing in Uttar Pradesh due to lack of funds.

NewsClick also spoke with multiple rasoiya (cooks) in different districts to understand the ground reality of the MDM scheme. All of them alleged that they were not getting vegetables and pulses to cook. "We have been getting Rs 1,000 per month, less than what a daily wage labourer gets, and all the blame comes on us when food quality is found bad or salt-rice is served. We have not received our monthly honorarium for the past six-seven months, but who cares?"

It may be mentioned that the Central government has not made an increment in the conversion cost under the National Programme of Mid-Day Meals in Schools (NP-MDMS) since 2020. The revised rate of the cooking cost for the primary stage (class 1 to 5) is Rs 4.97 per child, and Rs 7.45 for upper primary (class 6 to 8), which was revised in 2018. 

In the past two and half years, not a single penny has been hiked even though the inflation rate has increased significantly. The cost of the items used in mid-day meals has increased from two-fold to three-fold.

"It doesn’t matter if you change the scheme’s name to PM Poshan from MDM, because until you don't increase the conversion cost and ensure timely payment, how long we will arrange for food from our own pocket,"  a teacher told NewsClick.

According to the government data disclosed in the Lok Sabha on November 25, 2019, Uttar Pradesh recorded the highest number of corruption cases in the midday meal scheme. Out of the total 52 complaints filed in the past three years, 14 were from UP with Bihar inching closer with 11 complaints.

Courtesy: Newsclick

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Mid-day meal-related food poisoning cases at 6 year peak: CAG

An audit by CAG  blame poor infrastructure, insufficient inspections, irregular licensing and limited reporting

27 Sep 2022

Mid-day mealRepresentation Image | Courtesy: The Mint

The Hindu reports that as schools re-opened and students returned to the classroom -two years after the pandemic -- serious cases of food poisoning due to the consumption of mid-day meals have resurfaced, and even grown. In the last 90 days alone as many as 120  students suffered from food poisoning across schools in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar.

Last year, in 2022, 979 victims of food poisoning were reported in schools across India, the highest in the last six years. The number declined during the pandemic years as schools were closed. Chart 1 shows the number of food poisoning cases due to the consumption of mid-day meals at schools between 2009 and 2022 (till September 14).

chart1
Chart 1: Courtesy / The Hindu
 

In the last 13 years, data suggest that at least 9,646 such cases of food poisoning were reported. This figure is a conservative estimate based on data from the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme and news reports. As high as  12% of such victims became ill after consuming mid-day meals in which lizards, rats, snakes and cockroaches were found. Chart 2 shows the number of such victims between 2009 and 2022. 

Chart2
Chart 2: Courtesy / The Hindu


Most of the food poisoning cases by consumption of mid-day meals were recorded in Karnataka (1,524), Odisha (1,327), Telangana (1,092), Bihar (950) and Andhra Pradesh (794). Map 3 shows the State-wise split.

map3
Map 3: Courtesy / The Hindu


Bihar has some shocking instances. In Madhubani district of Bihar, 223 students complained of abdominal pain and giddiness after consuming mid-day meals in 2015. In 2016, 247 students fell ill after eating khichdi as their mid-day meal at a Zila Parishad school in a village in Palghar district, Maharashtra. In Belgaum district of Karnataka, 221 students complained of abdominal pain and nausea after consuming Upma as a part of their mid-day meal in 2017. 

Map 4 shows 232 such incidents of food poisoning due to consumption of mid-day meals in schools between 2009 and 2022. 

map4
Map 4: Courtesy / The Hindu

Over the past decade, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India has audited several States and thereafter  cited many reasons that could lead to low standards of mid-day meal preparation such as poor infrastructure, insufficient inspections, irregular licensing, limited reporting and absence of feedback mechanisms.

Three years back, in 2019, in Madhya Pradesh, the CAG found that the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India did not notify doctors to report food poisoning cases. Worse still, the  Food Safety Commissioner did not have information relating to food poisoning cases that occurred during the 2014-19 period. The CAG found that one such missed instance involved 110 food poisoning cases that occurred in August 2014, in a school in the Hoshangabad district. As data were not collected, action was not taken against Food Business Operators (FBOs) responsible for preparing the meal.

Before that, in 2015-16, in Madhya Pradesh, the CAG found that around 14,500 schools did not have a kitchen shed for preparing mid-day meals. In 2016, in Arunachal Pradesh, 40% of the schools did not have a shed. In Chhattisgarh, a CAG survey between FY11 and FY15 found that the mid-day meal was cooked in open areas in unhygienic conditions in 8,932 schools.

The entire issue of quality of food supplied tot he state mid-day meal schemes, those who are contracted through tenders in public schools run by the municipal corporations and the Zilla Parishads has been one fraught with non-transparency and absence of accountability. Standard procedures and requirem, like for instance the one that required food delivered from centralised kitchens to schools should have a minimum temperature of 65°C when it is served, are often not met. In 2018, during a field visit of schools in Valsad district in Gujarat, the CAG observed that the food served by the NGOs was not hot and none of the schools the CAG had visited had the facility to check the temperature. In five districts of the State, the CAG also found that there was over 80% shortfall in inspections of schools carried out by Deputy Collectors due to a shortage of staff.

In another audit conducted in 2014, in Jharkhand, the CAG found that a grievance redressal mechanism was absent in many schools and so, reports about children falling sick were not addressed and rectified.In 2017, in Himachal Pradesh, the CAG found that license and registration certificates were given to 97% and 100% of FBOs, respectively, without inspecting their premises.

 

Related

UP: Mid-day Meal Workers Not Paid Honorarium For 5 Months, Forced to Borrow for Daily Needs           

Why does the Karnataka government not want children to eat eggs at mid day meals?

 

Mid-day meal-related food poisoning cases at 6 year peak: CAG

An audit by CAG  blame poor infrastructure, insufficient inspections, irregular licensing and limited reporting

Mid-day mealRepresentation Image | Courtesy: The Mint

The Hindu reports that as schools re-opened and students returned to the classroom -two years after the pandemic -- serious cases of food poisoning due to the consumption of mid-day meals have resurfaced, and even grown. In the last 90 days alone as many as 120  students suffered from food poisoning across schools in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar.

Last year, in 2022, 979 victims of food poisoning were reported in schools across India, the highest in the last six years. The number declined during the pandemic years as schools were closed. Chart 1 shows the number of food poisoning cases due to the consumption of mid-day meals at schools between 2009 and 2022 (till September 14).

chart1
Chart 1: Courtesy / The Hindu
 

In the last 13 years, data suggest that at least 9,646 such cases of food poisoning were reported. This figure is a conservative estimate based on data from the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme and news reports. As high as  12% of such victims became ill after consuming mid-day meals in which lizards, rats, snakes and cockroaches were found. Chart 2 shows the number of such victims between 2009 and 2022. 

Chart2
Chart 2: Courtesy / The Hindu


Most of the food poisoning cases by consumption of mid-day meals were recorded in Karnataka (1,524), Odisha (1,327), Telangana (1,092), Bihar (950) and Andhra Pradesh (794). Map 3 shows the State-wise split.

map3
Map 3: Courtesy / The Hindu


Bihar has some shocking instances. In Madhubani district of Bihar, 223 students complained of abdominal pain and giddiness after consuming mid-day meals in 2015. In 2016, 247 students fell ill after eating khichdi as their mid-day meal at a Zila Parishad school in a village in Palghar district, Maharashtra. In Belgaum district of Karnataka, 221 students complained of abdominal pain and nausea after consuming Upma as a part of their mid-day meal in 2017. 

Map 4 shows 232 such incidents of food poisoning due to consumption of mid-day meals in schools between 2009 and 2022. 

map4
Map 4: Courtesy / The Hindu

Over the past decade, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India has audited several States and thereafter  cited many reasons that could lead to low standards of mid-day meal preparation such as poor infrastructure, insufficient inspections, irregular licensing, limited reporting and absence of feedback mechanisms.

Three years back, in 2019, in Madhya Pradesh, the CAG found that the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India did not notify doctors to report food poisoning cases. Worse still, the  Food Safety Commissioner did not have information relating to food poisoning cases that occurred during the 2014-19 period. The CAG found that one such missed instance involved 110 food poisoning cases that occurred in August 2014, in a school in the Hoshangabad district. As data were not collected, action was not taken against Food Business Operators (FBOs) responsible for preparing the meal.

Before that, in 2015-16, in Madhya Pradesh, the CAG found that around 14,500 schools did not have a kitchen shed for preparing mid-day meals. In 2016, in Arunachal Pradesh, 40% of the schools did not have a shed. In Chhattisgarh, a CAG survey between FY11 and FY15 found that the mid-day meal was cooked in open areas in unhygienic conditions in 8,932 schools.

The entire issue of quality of food supplied tot he state mid-day meal schemes, those who are contracted through tenders in public schools run by the municipal corporations and the Zilla Parishads has been one fraught with non-transparency and absence of accountability. Standard procedures and requirem, like for instance the one that required food delivered from centralised kitchens to schools should have a minimum temperature of 65°C when it is served, are often not met. In 2018, during a field visit of schools in Valsad district in Gujarat, the CAG observed that the food served by the NGOs was not hot and none of the schools the CAG had visited had the facility to check the temperature. In five districts of the State, the CAG also found that there was over 80% shortfall in inspections of schools carried out by Deputy Collectors due to a shortage of staff.

In another audit conducted in 2014, in Jharkhand, the CAG found that a grievance redressal mechanism was absent in many schools and so, reports about children falling sick were not addressed and rectified.In 2017, in Himachal Pradesh, the CAG found that license and registration certificates were given to 97% and 100% of FBOs, respectively, without inspecting their premises.

 

Related

UP: Mid-day Meal Workers Not Paid Honorarium For 5 Months, Forced to Borrow for Daily Needs           

Why does the Karnataka government not want children to eat eggs at mid day meals?

 

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MP: Malnourished Child’s Video Goes Viral Amidst Row Over Alleged Fraud in Nutrition Scheme

Opposition demands CM’s resignation over alleged fraud in THR nutrition & distribution scheme; govt report says nearly 10 lakh children malnourished in state.

16 Sep 2022

 Malnourished

Bhopal: A week after being admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (ICU), Somvati Mawasi, an eight-year-old malnourished tribal girl of Chitrakoot town of Madhya Pradesh's Satna district,  has gained 600 grams of weight. She weighed a meagre seven kg when she was initially taken to the hospital.

She was diagnosed with acute malnourishment and juvenile diabetes, rare in children. According to her doctors, she is 15 kg underweight for her age and her blood sugar level has dropped to 110 which was around 700- seven times higher than the normal for children of her age.

When the doctors inquired about her family, Somvati's aunt Seema, a daily-wage labourer explained, “her father abandoned her mother when she was pregnant. Her mother also abandoned her when she was three-year-old and went away with someone else."

Since then she has been looked after by maternal aunt Seema and grandfather Kaku, a daily-wage labourer. Both failed to look after her as they leave home early morning in search of work while she remained alone at home.

She was also admitted to the Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) twice in 2019 and 2020 for 14-days each after she was spotted by a local Anganwadi worker. But she was discharged irrespective of her deteriorating health conditions as per the laid down rules, said a health officer adding that she should have been enrolled on Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) as she was eligible for it.

"The health workers failed to spot her diabetic problem which was the main reason for her deteriorating health even though she was admitted to NRC twice," the officer of the Women and Child Development Department told NewsClick.

"We are giving her insulin for a week as she is showing a sign of improvement," he said. "We are also planning to rehabilitate her as she can't be sent back to her aunt and grandfather who are living in destitute," he added.

The District administration took up the call after a video of Somvati, a resident of Surangi Tola area of Chitrakoot town, created a buzz on social media which was noticed by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and he took cognisance of it.

Her video came at a time when the opposition Congress has been demanding CM Chouhan’s resignation over the alleged fraud of over 110 crore in the Take Home Ration (THR) nutrition and distribution scheme between 2018 to 2021. THR is given to kids between six months and three years of age, out-of-school adolescent girls and pregnant and lactating women.

Satna, home to over 6,000 malnourished children, is among the eight districts of Madhya Pradesh where the THR nutrition and distribution scheme was underway and a 36-page government audit detected massive fraud in it.

A fortnight before Somvati was spotted, nine-year-old Sunaina Mawasi, another severely malnourished tribal girl from the Maihar area of Satna district died in the hospital. The girl was admitted thrice to NRC but did not recover. Yet, the health officials claim that she died of a respiratory disorder.

The leaked report of the Madhya Pradesh Accountant General office shows huge discrepancies in the THR component of the supplementary nutrition programme under ICDS run by the Women and Child Development Department- a department headed by CM Chouhan since March 2020. But the state government denies any such fraud citing an incomplete report.

Taking action over the issue, the Satna district administration terminated the services of the local Anganwadi worker and suspended her supervisor. Besides, the Child Development Project Officer of ICDS in the concerned area has been suspended by the Rewa divisional commissioner on the recommendation of the Satna district collector.  

Despite repeated attempts, Satna District collector, Anurag Verma and Chief Medical Health officer 10.32 Lakh Severely Malnourished Kids in MP

In a reply to the question of malnourishment among kids in the assembly in March 2022, the State government said that there are 10.32 lakh malnourished children and of them, 6.30 lakh are severely malnourished.

Replying to the question of BJP MLA Chaitanya Kashyap, the Chief Minister, who holds the Women and Child Development Department portfolio, replied in the assembly. The State has a total of over 65 lakh children between the age group of 0-5 years. Of them, 10.32 lakh are malnourished and close to 6.30 lakh children are put in the severely malnourished category. 

Chouhan affirmed that the situation of malnutrition has improved in districts and added that the state government is making efforts to eradicate malnutrition under various schemes including Atal Bihari Vajpayee Bal Arogya and Poshan Mission.

NFHS -5

Every third kid aged under 0-5 years in Madhya Pradesh is stunted or too short for their age, according to the fifth round of the National Family and Health Survey (NFHS-5) released by the ministry of health and family welfare this year.

The survey found that 36% of children under the age of five years are stunted, indicating that they have been undernourished for some time. The survey also pointed out that children’s nutritional status in Madhya Pradesh hasn't changed much by all measures since the previous NFHS-4. Lack of complementary feeding to kids aged above six months is the cause behind inadequate diet causing under-nutrition.

Commenting on it, Amulya Nidhi of Jan Swasth Abhiyan told NewsClick, "corruption is a major reason for prevailing malnourishment in the state. Madhya Pradesh has over 6 lakh, malnourished kids, in 2012 and it's the same even after a year."

Emphasising tackling corruption in children's budget, he pointed out, "Decline in health indicators in various reports suggests that the policies and money government spent to eradicate malnourishment is eating up by corruption. We have seen massive irregularity in the Take Home Ration scheme, this is the tip of the iceberg."

Madhya Pradesh government has set up 313 NRCs in all blocks in rural areas in the state which is the highest in the country for taking care of these kids.

Courtesy: Newsclick

MP: Malnourished Child’s Video Goes Viral Amidst Row Over Alleged Fraud in Nutrition Scheme

Opposition demands CM’s resignation over alleged fraud in THR nutrition & distribution scheme; govt report says nearly 10 lakh children malnourished in state.

 Malnourished

Bhopal: A week after being admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (ICU), Somvati Mawasi, an eight-year-old malnourished tribal girl of Chitrakoot town of Madhya Pradesh's Satna district,  has gained 600 grams of weight. She weighed a meagre seven kg when she was initially taken to the hospital.

She was diagnosed with acute malnourishment and juvenile diabetes, rare in children. According to her doctors, she is 15 kg underweight for her age and her blood sugar level has dropped to 110 which was around 700- seven times higher than the normal for children of her age.

When the doctors inquired about her family, Somvati's aunt Seema, a daily-wage labourer explained, “her father abandoned her mother when she was pregnant. Her mother also abandoned her when she was three-year-old and went away with someone else."

Since then she has been looked after by maternal aunt Seema and grandfather Kaku, a daily-wage labourer. Both failed to look after her as they leave home early morning in search of work while she remained alone at home.

She was also admitted to the Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) twice in 2019 and 2020 for 14-days each after she was spotted by a local Anganwadi worker. But she was discharged irrespective of her deteriorating health conditions as per the laid down rules, said a health officer adding that she should have been enrolled on Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) as she was eligible for it.

"The health workers failed to spot her diabetic problem which was the main reason for her deteriorating health even though she was admitted to NRC twice," the officer of the Women and Child Development Department told NewsClick.

"We are giving her insulin for a week as she is showing a sign of improvement," he said. "We are also planning to rehabilitate her as she can't be sent back to her aunt and grandfather who are living in destitute," he added.

The District administration took up the call after a video of Somvati, a resident of Surangi Tola area of Chitrakoot town, created a buzz on social media which was noticed by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and he took cognisance of it.

Her video came at a time when the opposition Congress has been demanding CM Chouhan’s resignation over the alleged fraud of over 110 crore in the Take Home Ration (THR) nutrition and distribution scheme between 2018 to 2021. THR is given to kids between six months and three years of age, out-of-school adolescent girls and pregnant and lactating women.

Satna, home to over 6,000 malnourished children, is among the eight districts of Madhya Pradesh where the THR nutrition and distribution scheme was underway and a 36-page government audit detected massive fraud in it.

A fortnight before Somvati was spotted, nine-year-old Sunaina Mawasi, another severely malnourished tribal girl from the Maihar area of Satna district died in the hospital. The girl was admitted thrice to NRC but did not recover. Yet, the health officials claim that she died of a respiratory disorder.

The leaked report of the Madhya Pradesh Accountant General office shows huge discrepancies in the THR component of the supplementary nutrition programme under ICDS run by the Women and Child Development Department- a department headed by CM Chouhan since March 2020. But the state government denies any such fraud citing an incomplete report.

Taking action over the issue, the Satna district administration terminated the services of the local Anganwadi worker and suspended her supervisor. Besides, the Child Development Project Officer of ICDS in the concerned area has been suspended by the Rewa divisional commissioner on the recommendation of the Satna district collector.  

Despite repeated attempts, Satna District collector, Anurag Verma and Chief Medical Health officer 10.32 Lakh Severely Malnourished Kids in MP

In a reply to the question of malnourishment among kids in the assembly in March 2022, the State government said that there are 10.32 lakh malnourished children and of them, 6.30 lakh are severely malnourished.

Replying to the question of BJP MLA Chaitanya Kashyap, the Chief Minister, who holds the Women and Child Development Department portfolio, replied in the assembly. The State has a total of over 65 lakh children between the age group of 0-5 years. Of them, 10.32 lakh are malnourished and close to 6.30 lakh children are put in the severely malnourished category. 

Chouhan affirmed that the situation of malnutrition has improved in districts and added that the state government is making efforts to eradicate malnutrition under various schemes including Atal Bihari Vajpayee Bal Arogya and Poshan Mission.

NFHS -5

Every third kid aged under 0-5 years in Madhya Pradesh is stunted or too short for their age, according to the fifth round of the National Family and Health Survey (NFHS-5) released by the ministry of health and family welfare this year.

The survey found that 36% of children under the age of five years are stunted, indicating that they have been undernourished for some time. The survey also pointed out that children’s nutritional status in Madhya Pradesh hasn't changed much by all measures since the previous NFHS-4. Lack of complementary feeding to kids aged above six months is the cause behind inadequate diet causing under-nutrition.

Commenting on it, Amulya Nidhi of Jan Swasth Abhiyan told NewsClick, "corruption is a major reason for prevailing malnourishment in the state. Madhya Pradesh has over 6 lakh, malnourished kids, in 2012 and it's the same even after a year."

Emphasising tackling corruption in children's budget, he pointed out, "Decline in health indicators in various reports suggests that the policies and money government spent to eradicate malnourishment is eating up by corruption. We have seen massive irregularity in the Take Home Ration scheme, this is the tip of the iceberg."

Madhya Pradesh government has set up 313 NRCs in all blocks in rural areas in the state which is the highest in the country for taking care of these kids.

Courtesy: Newsclick

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When Forest Rights meets Right to Education

23 Aug 2022

Right to Education

With the horrors of the deadly virus still in the air, this would appear to be like a remarkable fairy tale in the post-Covid pandemic scenario, almost like a dream come true, almost like the Sound of Music multiplied many times over. It is quite unbelievable, but true.

Across the dense forests and zigzag hilly terrain, full of water bodies, rivers and lakes, interspersed with sloping meadows, land turned into jhoom (burnt land,  shifting cultivation) and allowed to discover its own bio-diversity untouched by human intervention for years, and lush green paddy fields, a dream is truly and slowly coming true. The dream of Ajendra and his wife Madhavi Reang. And, surprisingly, even during the pandemic and lockdown, the dream flowered.

Next to the green density of the Chittagong Hill Tract across the Bangladesh border, in the Karbook subdivision of Tripura, are several scattered and distant villages inhabited by the Reang community. Soft-spoken, gentle and beautiful, these hard working communities lack basic infrastructure – not an unusual phenomenon in distant tribal locations across the mountains, plains and forests inhabited by the tribals in various parts of India – from Abhujmarh in Chhattisgarh to Niyamgiri in Western Orissa. In the Northeast, particularly, invisibilized by mainstream India and its media, the communities live far away and undisturbed, but often without any amenities: roads, health centres and hospitals, schools and colleges, and drinking water.

In the region bordering the Chittagong Hill Tract, the 50,000 odd tribals of the Reang community lack especially one important thing: education for their children. For their children to be educated is a deep and internalized longing that cuts across caste, communities, religions, geographies and inherited histories in most parts of India. Everyone wants good education and health systems for their children and their communities.

That is why the dream is flourishing and unfolding every day in village Shimbhua, at the St Thomas School and hostel, run by Ajendra and Madhabi, his wife. In a context where there are literally no teachers in most schools, and where children have to walk for miles in the dense forest to reach their schools and return home, both of them have set up a school which is becoming a role model.

There are 300 students in their school, 200 of them hostelers. So who are these kids?

These are mostly toddlers, little ones, barely three years or less, girls and boys, and some kids older than them. The little ones are helped by the older ones– for instance if they wet their pants, or need to go to the toilet. The girls live in separate quarters, cleaning and sprucing up the place, still active despite the heat.  It is a hot afternoon, so the boys have had their meals and are now resting, on the ground, on the beds, two in one, deep asleep, in their separate hostel. The kids play football, cricket and other games. Many of them were enjoying a break at the empty bus stop near the school, laughing, screaming and playing. They waved with joy when they saw us.

The question is why and how have their parents, who live in distant tribal settlements in the forest, often with no transportation, chosen to trust the couple and left their little ones in their care? And how does this confident couple manage so many kids next to their house?  And how do so many kids live in harmony and peace, without missing the comfort of their own homes and their parents and siblings?

In a context whereby most schools do not even have teachers or in a context when secondary education is all but absent in many tribal hamlets in the north of Tripura, this school in the south, close to the border of Bangladesh, is becoming a landmark in primary and secondary education.

There are 13 teachers in the school, both male and female, and all of them are young, confident and committed. A young woman teacher came out of the girls hostel, shook our hands and welcomed us, speaking English. The other teachers joined in the discussion on the problems and difficulties facing the people, and how the Forest Rights Act and the Gram Sabha have been missing in this area, though people still own community and individual lands in the forest, mostly for jhoom cultivation.

Madhabi studied in Rudrapur in Uttarakhand, though she could not  complete her graduation. There is a Reang community there, so she could travel all the way there for higher education. Now, she is a full-time and dedicated teacher in the school, also taking care of the hostel and the meals with the cooks.  One of the cooks is differently abled, but fully involved in the discussion.

Says Ajendra, “I have a dream. We are working to introduce studies up to Class 10. Three students might actually go to college one of these days. These little ones are our life here – we take care of them like their parents. Their parents and community trust us. You see, the lack of education is so stark and parents really want to get their children educated. That is why we have created a hostel as well for girls and boys.”

Around 100 students are day-scholars, while 200 students live in the hostel. Many of their parents visit them almost every week on two-wheelers or auto rickshaws. They bring fruits and food which is collectively shared. Ajendra is a well-off farmer, and owns a car, one of the very few in the area. The day-scholars pay Rs 300 per month, while those in the hostel pay Rs 1200 per month, which includes fees.

“We are committed to bringing in high quality education. If you have suggestions for alternative curriculum, or reference material, please do tell us,” said a teacher, when it was suggested that perhaps they could look into the innovative and imaginative methods used by the NGO, Pratham, to sharpen the minds of the children, to expand their imagination and knowledge systems about daily life and meaningful associations, and to make them more confident in learning the ways of their own indigenous community and the outside world, recognizing objects and their social meanings, while celebrating the world of story-telling and mathematics alike.

So what do they do if there are kids who are too naughty? “Well,” said Ajendra, “three kids did not let us sleep. They would scream at the top of their voice. So we took some advice from our elders. We rubbed a little salt below their teeth when they would scream. That would make them quiet.”

Indeed, the communities here are gearing up to fight a protracted and peaceful struggle for their inherited forest rights in the face of official and unilateral announcements by the authorities that they cannot cultivate or use ‘forest department land’, including for jhoom cultivation. This land, which is essentially their traditional community land for hundreds of years, is precious to them, and they love and protect the forests.

Hence, this school is an eye-opener. It only proves that a new generation of tribal children are getting ready to inherit their history, culture and civilization. And their forests, fully equipped with new knowledge systems and skills.

Amit Sengupta is Executive Editor, Hardnews and a columnist, currently based in Kolkata

Courtesy: https://countercurrents.org

When Forest Rights meets Right to Education

Right to Education

With the horrors of the deadly virus still in the air, this would appear to be like a remarkable fairy tale in the post-Covid pandemic scenario, almost like a dream come true, almost like the Sound of Music multiplied many times over. It is quite unbelievable, but true.

Across the dense forests and zigzag hilly terrain, full of water bodies, rivers and lakes, interspersed with sloping meadows, land turned into jhoom (burnt land,  shifting cultivation) and allowed to discover its own bio-diversity untouched by human intervention for years, and lush green paddy fields, a dream is truly and slowly coming true. The dream of Ajendra and his wife Madhavi Reang. And, surprisingly, even during the pandemic and lockdown, the dream flowered.

Next to the green density of the Chittagong Hill Tract across the Bangladesh border, in the Karbook subdivision of Tripura, are several scattered and distant villages inhabited by the Reang community. Soft-spoken, gentle and beautiful, these hard working communities lack basic infrastructure – not an unusual phenomenon in distant tribal locations across the mountains, plains and forests inhabited by the tribals in various parts of India – from Abhujmarh in Chhattisgarh to Niyamgiri in Western Orissa. In the Northeast, particularly, invisibilized by mainstream India and its media, the communities live far away and undisturbed, but often without any amenities: roads, health centres and hospitals, schools and colleges, and drinking water.

In the region bordering the Chittagong Hill Tract, the 50,000 odd tribals of the Reang community lack especially one important thing: education for their children. For their children to be educated is a deep and internalized longing that cuts across caste, communities, religions, geographies and inherited histories in most parts of India. Everyone wants good education and health systems for their children and their communities.

That is why the dream is flourishing and unfolding every day in village Shimbhua, at the St Thomas School and hostel, run by Ajendra and Madhabi, his wife. In a context where there are literally no teachers in most schools, and where children have to walk for miles in the dense forest to reach their schools and return home, both of them have set up a school which is becoming a role model.

There are 300 students in their school, 200 of them hostelers. So who are these kids?

These are mostly toddlers, little ones, barely three years or less, girls and boys, and some kids older than them. The little ones are helped by the older ones– for instance if they wet their pants, or need to go to the toilet. The girls live in separate quarters, cleaning and sprucing up the place, still active despite the heat.  It is a hot afternoon, so the boys have had their meals and are now resting, on the ground, on the beds, two in one, deep asleep, in their separate hostel. The kids play football, cricket and other games. Many of them were enjoying a break at the empty bus stop near the school, laughing, screaming and playing. They waved with joy when they saw us.

The question is why and how have their parents, who live in distant tribal settlements in the forest, often with no transportation, chosen to trust the couple and left their little ones in their care? And how does this confident couple manage so many kids next to their house?  And how do so many kids live in harmony and peace, without missing the comfort of their own homes and their parents and siblings?

In a context whereby most schools do not even have teachers or in a context when secondary education is all but absent in many tribal hamlets in the north of Tripura, this school in the south, close to the border of Bangladesh, is becoming a landmark in primary and secondary education.

There are 13 teachers in the school, both male and female, and all of them are young, confident and committed. A young woman teacher came out of the girls hostel, shook our hands and welcomed us, speaking English. The other teachers joined in the discussion on the problems and difficulties facing the people, and how the Forest Rights Act and the Gram Sabha have been missing in this area, though people still own community and individual lands in the forest, mostly for jhoom cultivation.

Madhabi studied in Rudrapur in Uttarakhand, though she could not  complete her graduation. There is a Reang community there, so she could travel all the way there for higher education. Now, she is a full-time and dedicated teacher in the school, also taking care of the hostel and the meals with the cooks.  One of the cooks is differently abled, but fully involved in the discussion.

Says Ajendra, “I have a dream. We are working to introduce studies up to Class 10. Three students might actually go to college one of these days. These little ones are our life here – we take care of them like their parents. Their parents and community trust us. You see, the lack of education is so stark and parents really want to get their children educated. That is why we have created a hostel as well for girls and boys.”

Around 100 students are day-scholars, while 200 students live in the hostel. Many of their parents visit them almost every week on two-wheelers or auto rickshaws. They bring fruits and food which is collectively shared. Ajendra is a well-off farmer, and owns a car, one of the very few in the area. The day-scholars pay Rs 300 per month, while those in the hostel pay Rs 1200 per month, which includes fees.

“We are committed to bringing in high quality education. If you have suggestions for alternative curriculum, or reference material, please do tell us,” said a teacher, when it was suggested that perhaps they could look into the innovative and imaginative methods used by the NGO, Pratham, to sharpen the minds of the children, to expand their imagination and knowledge systems about daily life and meaningful associations, and to make them more confident in learning the ways of their own indigenous community and the outside world, recognizing objects and their social meanings, while celebrating the world of story-telling and mathematics alike.

So what do they do if there are kids who are too naughty? “Well,” said Ajendra, “three kids did not let us sleep. They would scream at the top of their voice. So we took some advice from our elders. We rubbed a little salt below their teeth when they would scream. That would make them quiet.”

Indeed, the communities here are gearing up to fight a protracted and peaceful struggle for their inherited forest rights in the face of official and unilateral announcements by the authorities that they cannot cultivate or use ‘forest department land’, including for jhoom cultivation. This land, which is essentially their traditional community land for hundreds of years, is precious to them, and they love and protect the forests.

Hence, this school is an eye-opener. It only proves that a new generation of tribal children are getting ready to inherit their history, culture and civilization. And their forests, fully equipped with new knowledge systems and skills.

Amit Sengupta is Executive Editor, Hardnews and a columnist, currently based in Kolkata

Courtesy: https://countercurrents.org

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Over a Month, People With HIV Continue Protest at NACO’s Office Alleging ARV Drug Shortage

Officials assure fresh supply, as protesters say non-availability of drugs for the next few weeks could lead to serious complications.

20 Aug 2022

ANI
HIV patients protest outside the National AIDS Control Organization's office in Delhi claiming a shortage of antiretroviral drugs. Image Courtesy: ANI Twitter
 

New Delhi: Protest by a group of HIV-positive people alleging shortage of certain antiretroviral (ARV) drugs continues for almost a month, officials from the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) held a meeting with them and assured fresh supply of medicines.

The officials on Thursday claimed that fresh supplies were being expedited and airlifted to priority locations. However, the protestors said they will continue the dharna until "all HIV patients in India start receiving one month of medicines."

They have been alleging complete unavailability of certain drugs, including those for children living with HIV, and random shifting to another class of drugs for most of the patients.

They say non-availability of drugs for the next few weeks could lead to serious complications.

Official sources said the officers have been in constant touch with the protestors from the day they launched the dharna at NACO's Chanderlok office premises.

In the beginning, discussions were held with division heads of NACO and subsequently escalated to the next level-the director of NACO.

Particular efforts have been made to ensure safety of the protestors in terms of making available drinking water, electricity and basic amenities at the NACO office premises, a source said.

"In today's meeting, the NACO director assured two representatives of significant improvements in the ARV fresh supplies that are being expedited and airlifted to priority locations.

"While the representatives acknowledged these improvements in stock availability and dispensation for one month, especially in Delhi and many other states, they continued to raise anecdotal issues of 'stock-out' of ARVs in few states as well as lay instances of patients not receiving drugs," an official source said.

A protestor told PTI on Thursday, "We are protesting since July 21. Due to heat and outside food, people have started falling ill. We were here on August 15 like prisoners. Entire India was celebrating Independence Day but we were here. The building and the toilets were locked. We had to walk down to the ground floor for basic facilities. One thing that keeps us on our toes is the need of our brothers and sisters in the community.

"Today, we held a meeting with NACO officials and they assured us that every patient in Delhi has started receiving one month of ART. We were asked to call off the protest but we were firm and our response was very clear that we will continue our protest till all HIV patients in India start receiving one month of medicines," he added.

NACO Additional Secretary and Director General Alok Saxena said the organisation will continue to hear voices of the community and that it believes in the culture of working in partnership with them to design and implement strategies outlined under the National AIDS Control Programme.

He urged the representatives to end the dharna, especially since their demand for ARV drug dispensation for at least one month at a time is met with. Also, he said, since NACO is a government office, protests during weekends will be non-productive.

He also appealed to the representatives to repose their faith in the system, end the protest and vacate the NACO premises, sources said.

"The focus has been on non-confrontational cooperative partnership. Community representatives are always included in meetings of technical resource groups and other consultations of NACO, prior to any major policy or programmatic decision," the official source said.

"The director said once the protestors lift the dharna, NACO and People Living With HIV (PLHIV) networks can jointly evolve timelines so that the entire machinery is responsive and work is done to everyone's satisfaction in a time-bound manner.

"Also, according to past practice, key members of the network volunteering to help in streamlining the systems to ensure seamless delivery of ARVs to PLHIV could come to NACO office and engage with officers," the source said.

The dharna, however, is yet to be called off, he said.

Health ministry officials had earlier said there was enough stock of all ARV drugs at the state level and fresh supply orders for procurement of the next lot of several drugs had been placed.

Individual ART centres may have this issue at times, but the medicines are immediately relocated from nearby centres, they had said.

The government had recently told Lok Sabha that there is adequate stock of ARV medicines for around 95 per cent of people living with HIV in India.

Courtesy: Newsclick

Over a Month, People With HIV Continue Protest at NACO’s Office Alleging ARV Drug Shortage

Officials assure fresh supply, as protesters say non-availability of drugs for the next few weeks could lead to serious complications.

ANI
HIV patients protest outside the National AIDS Control Organization's office in Delhi claiming a shortage of antiretroviral drugs. Image Courtesy: ANI Twitter
 

New Delhi: Protest by a group of HIV-positive people alleging shortage of certain antiretroviral (ARV) drugs continues for almost a month, officials from the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) held a meeting with them and assured fresh supply of medicines.

The officials on Thursday claimed that fresh supplies were being expedited and airlifted to priority locations. However, the protestors said they will continue the dharna until "all HIV patients in India start receiving one month of medicines."

They have been alleging complete unavailability of certain drugs, including those for children living with HIV, and random shifting to another class of drugs for most of the patients.

They say non-availability of drugs for the next few weeks could lead to serious complications.

Official sources said the officers have been in constant touch with the protestors from the day they launched the dharna at NACO's Chanderlok office premises.

In the beginning, discussions were held with division heads of NACO and subsequently escalated to the next level-the director of NACO.

Particular efforts have been made to ensure safety of the protestors in terms of making available drinking water, electricity and basic amenities at the NACO office premises, a source said.

"In today's meeting, the NACO director assured two representatives of significant improvements in the ARV fresh supplies that are being expedited and airlifted to priority locations.

"While the representatives acknowledged these improvements in stock availability and dispensation for one month, especially in Delhi and many other states, they continued to raise anecdotal issues of 'stock-out' of ARVs in few states as well as lay instances of patients not receiving drugs," an official source said.

A protestor told PTI on Thursday, "We are protesting since July 21. Due to heat and outside food, people have started falling ill. We were here on August 15 like prisoners. Entire India was celebrating Independence Day but we were here. The building and the toilets were locked. We had to walk down to the ground floor for basic facilities. One thing that keeps us on our toes is the need of our brothers and sisters in the community.

"Today, we held a meeting with NACO officials and they assured us that every patient in Delhi has started receiving one month of ART. We were asked to call off the protest but we were firm and our response was very clear that we will continue our protest till all HIV patients in India start receiving one month of medicines," he added.

NACO Additional Secretary and Director General Alok Saxena said the organisation will continue to hear voices of the community and that it believes in the culture of working in partnership with them to design and implement strategies outlined under the National AIDS Control Programme.

He urged the representatives to end the dharna, especially since their demand for ARV drug dispensation for at least one month at a time is met with. Also, he said, since NACO is a government office, protests during weekends will be non-productive.

He also appealed to the representatives to repose their faith in the system, end the protest and vacate the NACO premises, sources said.

"The focus has been on non-confrontational cooperative partnership. Community representatives are always included in meetings of technical resource groups and other consultations of NACO, prior to any major policy or programmatic decision," the official source said.

"The director said once the protestors lift the dharna, NACO and People Living With HIV (PLHIV) networks can jointly evolve timelines so that the entire machinery is responsive and work is done to everyone's satisfaction in a time-bound manner.

"Also, according to past practice, key members of the network volunteering to help in streamlining the systems to ensure seamless delivery of ARVs to PLHIV could come to NACO office and engage with officers," the source said.

The dharna, however, is yet to be called off, he said.

Health ministry officials had earlier said there was enough stock of all ARV drugs at the state level and fresh supply orders for procurement of the next lot of several drugs had been placed.

Individual ART centres may have this issue at times, but the medicines are immediately relocated from nearby centres, they had said.

The government had recently told Lok Sabha that there is adequate stock of ARV medicines for around 95 per cent of people living with HIV in India.

Courtesy: Newsclick

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Two Starvation Deaths in Fortnight Rattles West Bengal

Confusion caused due to overlapping ration schemes and unemployment appear to be direct causes behind the starvation deaths.

18 Aug 2022

Starvation deaths

Kolkata: Two tragic starvation deaths in the previous fortnight during the 76th independence day celebrations have rattled the state. Both the two deaths were reported from backward regions of West Bengal - one from Bhulabheda of West Medinipur district and the other from Kranti block of Malbazar in Jalpaiguri district.

The first incident involves the death of Sanjay Sardar died on August 3 due to malnutrition as he was left without food for days. The family has been in dire straits after he contracted tuberculosis in the month of June and Sanjay, a daily wage earner, could not go to work.

Though on paper there are schemes like Laxmi Bhandar and other schemes; however Sanjay didn't have the required Scheduled Caste (SC) certificate, resulting in his family not receiving the stipulated Rs 1,000.

Based on a report by a Bengali news daily, a team from the Right to Food and Work Campaign visited Bhulabheda recently and surveyed the condition of people living there. In the fact finding report it is stated that the death of the daily wage earner should be seen in the context of the food crisis that has set in the area. Sanjay’s family admitted to the fact-finding team that getting even one square meal for a day was difficult for them. Moreover as the family didn't have Aadhar card linkage with their ration card, they did not get the stipulated Rajya Khadya Suraksha Yojana (RKSY 2) ration which is monthly 1 kg of rice and 1 kg of wheat.

Sanjay Sardar was a migrant labourer who lost his job during the first lockdown, according to the report. After coming home in March 2020 he did not get any work in the village. Sometimes, he got paid as a farmhand but that was extremely irregular. While the family needed an Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) ration card, the government instead gave them a RKSY 2 ration card which is meant for relatively better-off persons. It should be noted that in AAY scheme, a family gets 35 kgs of rice and wheat and cereals.

The second starvation death occurred in a closed tea garden where a tea garden worker, Dinesh Orao, lost his life on August 13 due to malnutrition as he was left without food for months.

The name of the tea garden is Raj Project Garden. As the tea garden owner, Dharmendra Thakur arbitrarily closed the plantation on July 10, Orao’s family had been starving for months.

“The owner of the garden is singularly responsible for this death,” family members of the deceased told reporters.

It may be recalled that in the Malbazar area, a number of tea gardens including Nageshwari tea estate, Bagrakote tea estate, Kilkote tea estate and many other tea estates are closed, and this has resulted in widespread hunger among tea garden workers in the area.

Courtesy: Newsclick

Two Starvation Deaths in Fortnight Rattles West Bengal

Confusion caused due to overlapping ration schemes and unemployment appear to be direct causes behind the starvation deaths.

Starvation deaths

Kolkata: Two tragic starvation deaths in the previous fortnight during the 76th independence day celebrations have rattled the state. Both the two deaths were reported from backward regions of West Bengal - one from Bhulabheda of West Medinipur district and the other from Kranti block of Malbazar in Jalpaiguri district.

The first incident involves the death of Sanjay Sardar died on August 3 due to malnutrition as he was left without food for days. The family has been in dire straits after he contracted tuberculosis in the month of June and Sanjay, a daily wage earner, could not go to work.

Though on paper there are schemes like Laxmi Bhandar and other schemes; however Sanjay didn't have the required Scheduled Caste (SC) certificate, resulting in his family not receiving the stipulated Rs 1,000.

Based on a report by a Bengali news daily, a team from the Right to Food and Work Campaign visited Bhulabheda recently and surveyed the condition of people living there. In the fact finding report it is stated that the death of the daily wage earner should be seen in the context of the food crisis that has set in the area. Sanjay’s family admitted to the fact-finding team that getting even one square meal for a day was difficult for them. Moreover as the family didn't have Aadhar card linkage with their ration card, they did not get the stipulated Rajya Khadya Suraksha Yojana (RKSY 2) ration which is monthly 1 kg of rice and 1 kg of wheat.

Sanjay Sardar was a migrant labourer who lost his job during the first lockdown, according to the report. After coming home in March 2020 he did not get any work in the village. Sometimes, he got paid as a farmhand but that was extremely irregular. While the family needed an Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) ration card, the government instead gave them a RKSY 2 ration card which is meant for relatively better-off persons. It should be noted that in AAY scheme, a family gets 35 kgs of rice and wheat and cereals.

The second starvation death occurred in a closed tea garden where a tea garden worker, Dinesh Orao, lost his life on August 13 due to malnutrition as he was left without food for months.

The name of the tea garden is Raj Project Garden. As the tea garden owner, Dharmendra Thakur arbitrarily closed the plantation on July 10, Orao’s family had been starving for months.

“The owner of the garden is singularly responsible for this death,” family members of the deceased told reporters.

It may be recalled that in the Malbazar area, a number of tea gardens including Nageshwari tea estate, Bagrakote tea estate, Kilkote tea estate and many other tea estates are closed, and this has resulted in widespread hunger among tea garden workers in the area.

Courtesy: Newsclick

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Climate Change May Increase Mortality Rate by 6 Times Due to Excess Heat: Lancet Study

The study said rise in night heat events will nearly double by 2090, from 20.4 degrees Celsius to 39.7 degrees Celsius across 28 cities from East Asia, increasing the burden of disease due to sleep disruption.

10 Aug 2022

climate change
Image: Newsclick

Beijing: Climate change may increase the mortality rate due to excessive heat six times by the end of the century, according to a modelling study published in The Lancet Planetary Health journal.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina, US noted that ambient heat during the night may interrupt the normal physiology of sleep.

Less sleep can then lead to immune system damage and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, chronic illnesses, inflammation and mental health conditions, they said.

The study found that the average intensity of hot night events will nearly double by 2090, from 20.4 degrees Celsius to 39.7 degrees Celsius across 28 cities from East Asia, increasing the burden of disease due to excessive heat that disrupts normal sleep.

The findings show that the burden of mortality could be significantly higher than estimated by average daily temperature increase.

The results suggest that warming from climate change could have a troubling impact, even under restrictions from the Paris Climate Agreement that aims to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.

"The risks of increasing temperature at night were frequently neglected," said study co-author Yuqiang Zhang, a climate scientist at the University of North Carolina.

"However, in our study, we found that the occurrences of hot night excess (HNE) are projected to occur more rapidly than the daily mean temperature changes," Zhang said.

The study shows that the frequency and mean intensity of hot nights would increase more than 30% and 60% by the 2100s, respectively, compared with less than 20% increase for the daily mean temperature.

 The researchers estimated the mortality due to excess heat in 28 cities in China, South Korea and Japan between 1980 and 2015 and applied it to two climate change modelling scenarios that aligned with carbon-reduction scenarios adapted by the respective national governments.

The team was able to estimate that between 2016 and 2100, the risk of death from excessively hot nights would increase nearly by six-fold.  This prediction is much higher than the mortality risk from daily average warming suggested by climate change models.

"From our study, we highlight that in assessing the disease burden due to non-optimum temperature, governments and local policymakers should consider the extra health impacts of the disproportional intra-day temperature variations," said Haidong Kan, a professor at Fudan University in China.

"A more complete health risk assessment of future climate change can help policymakers for better resource allocation and priority setting," said Kan, the corresponding author of the study.

The researchers also found that regional differences in temperature accounted for many of the variances in night time temperature, and areas with the lowest average temperature were projected to have the largest warming potential.

 "To combat the health risk raised by the temperature increases from climate change, we should design efficient ways to help people adapt," said Zhang.

"Locally, heat during the night should be taken into account when designing the future heat wave warning system, especially for vulnerable populations and low-income communities who may not be able to afford the additional expense of air conditioning," the scientist said.

The researchers said stronger mitigation strategies, including global collaborations, should be considered to reduce future impacts of warming.

Courtesy: Newsclick

Climate Change May Increase Mortality Rate by 6 Times Due to Excess Heat: Lancet Study

The study said rise in night heat events will nearly double by 2090, from 20.4 degrees Celsius to 39.7 degrees Celsius across 28 cities from East Asia, increasing the burden of disease due to sleep disruption.

climate change
Image: Newsclick

Beijing: Climate change may increase the mortality rate due to excessive heat six times by the end of the century, according to a modelling study published in The Lancet Planetary Health journal.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina, US noted that ambient heat during the night may interrupt the normal physiology of sleep.

Less sleep can then lead to immune system damage and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, chronic illnesses, inflammation and mental health conditions, they said.

The study found that the average intensity of hot night events will nearly double by 2090, from 20.4 degrees Celsius to 39.7 degrees Celsius across 28 cities from East Asia, increasing the burden of disease due to excessive heat that disrupts normal sleep.

The findings show that the burden of mortality could be significantly higher than estimated by average daily temperature increase.

The results suggest that warming from climate change could have a troubling impact, even under restrictions from the Paris Climate Agreement that aims to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.

"The risks of increasing temperature at night were frequently neglected," said study co-author Yuqiang Zhang, a climate scientist at the University of North Carolina.

"However, in our study, we found that the occurrences of hot night excess (HNE) are projected to occur more rapidly than the daily mean temperature changes," Zhang said.

The study shows that the frequency and mean intensity of hot nights would increase more than 30% and 60% by the 2100s, respectively, compared with less than 20% increase for the daily mean temperature.

 The researchers estimated the mortality due to excess heat in 28 cities in China, South Korea and Japan between 1980 and 2015 and applied it to two climate change modelling scenarios that aligned with carbon-reduction scenarios adapted by the respective national governments.

The team was able to estimate that between 2016 and 2100, the risk of death from excessively hot nights would increase nearly by six-fold.  This prediction is much higher than the mortality risk from daily average warming suggested by climate change models.

"From our study, we highlight that in assessing the disease burden due to non-optimum temperature, governments and local policymakers should consider the extra health impacts of the disproportional intra-day temperature variations," said Haidong Kan, a professor at Fudan University in China.

"A more complete health risk assessment of future climate change can help policymakers for better resource allocation and priority setting," said Kan, the corresponding author of the study.

The researchers also found that regional differences in temperature accounted for many of the variances in night time temperature, and areas with the lowest average temperature were projected to have the largest warming potential.

 "To combat the health risk raised by the temperature increases from climate change, we should design efficient ways to help people adapt," said Zhang.

"Locally, heat during the night should be taken into account when designing the future heat wave warning system, especially for vulnerable populations and low-income communities who may not be able to afford the additional expense of air conditioning," the scientist said.

The researchers said stronger mitigation strategies, including global collaborations, should be considered to reduce future impacts of warming.

Courtesy: Newsclick

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UP: Long lines for funerals return in Varanasi ghats

Local newspaper report Covid-like atmosphere at crematoriums with multiple bodies on the pyre at once

17 Jun 2022

Funerals
Image Courtesy:amarujala.com

The horror of excess deaths returns in the Ghats of Varanasi. As the heat in cremation grounds rises, the plague of long lines, insufficient facilities and simultaneously burning pyres return, reports Amar Ujala.

On June 15, 2022, Amar Ujala, a widely circulating Hindi newspaper reported, in an exclusive report on how the Mokshanagari Kashi crematorium once again reports long lines of families waiting to carry out the last rites of their kin. After the surge of Covid-19 cases last year, the area reported around 40-50 deaths at the crematoriums. Since last week, these numbers have increased to 120 deaths.

People wait for four hours to bid their deceased goodbye while the officials call more people to carry out cremations. Amar Ujala reported that due to lack of platform(s) and construction work at Manikarnika shrine, space for cremation is falling short. Since last week, it has reported 100 to 120 deaths. From June 13 till June 14 night, over 135 cremations took place at Manikarnika Ghat.

Funerals

One person told the newspaper that he travelled from Patna with his grandfather’s body. Further, as in times of Covid-19 surge, the demand for wood has also doubled. As many as 12 bodies are burnt simultaneously on lower platforms and 10 bodies are burnt on upper platforms.

Overall, people from districts of Purvanchal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh all visit the Kashi region for last rites. Part of this reason may be because locals are reluctant to allow the bodies to be buried in villages, on private land. In Ishwarpur village, Amar Ujala said that there was a dispute on Tuesday morning over the burial of an old man on private land. The SDM Pindra and the police pacified villagers by assuring them the son would bury the body away from the public. Similarly, a retired doctor from the Health department CMS also faced flak from villagers for trying to bury his 85-year-old deceased mother Surjakali in private land. While officials again had to intervene to settle the matter, the shocking fact is that these deaths are – once again – not reflected in government figures.

On June 9, India reported 7,240 active Covid-19 cases. This was the first time since March 1 that the daily number of active cases exceeded the 7,000 mark. In the month of June, over 39,400 fresh cases have been reported in India. For this reason, Maharashtra, Kerala, Delhi and Karnataka were put on high alert.

Accordingly, the four regions have reported around 1,000 (Delhi) to over 4,000 (Maharashtra) infections with Karnataka reporting around 800 deaths.  Maharashtra reported three deaths, Kerala reported eight deaths, Karnataka reported one death and Delhi reported two deaths by June 17. However Uttar Pradesh, despite reporting 20,83,072 cases with an increase of 413 cases has not reported any deaths.

On Friday, Indian Express also reported how Covid-19 cases in Uttar Pradesh increased by 413 cases on Thursday over the last 24 hours with Varanasi reporting 14 new cases. Still, there were no reports over the number of deaths.

Earlier in 2021, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) published a report on the death figures in Varanasi. The survey in parts of Varanasi, Ghazipur, Jaunpur and Chandauli showed how the Ghats were inundated with bodies and lack of supplies during the second wave of Covid-19. Families failed to report deaths in rural areas and many people were unaware of the precautions necessary against Covid-19. Data suggested that areas in eastern UP especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi had 60 percent excess deaths during the pandemic relative to 2019.

As per CJP’s report, surveyed areas had 55-60 percent more deaths from January 2020 to August 2021 than expected in this period. Subsequent coverage of the region also showed how people were struggling to access hospitals even for regular virals or infections.

The state government was accused of manipulating Covid-related data to create the impression that the healthcare system was effective. Now, this report by Amar Ujala comes after the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) estimates of a whopping 47.4 lakh excess deaths in India. This number is nearly 10 times the country’s official Covid-19 reported deaths between 2020 and 2021.

With cases once again on the rise, people are being once again urged – at least by the four state governments on alert – to follow Covid-protocols and exercise social distancing.

Related:

In 2021, COVID Deaths Surged in Stunning Fashion in Eastern UP, Investigation Finds
47.4 lakh excess deaths in India: WHO
India ranks high in cumulative excess Covid-deaths: Lancet report
UP: 1,621 people on polling duty dead, but gov't recognises only 3! 

 

UP: Long lines for funerals return in Varanasi ghats

Local newspaper report Covid-like atmosphere at crematoriums with multiple bodies on the pyre at once

Funerals
Image Courtesy:amarujala.com

The horror of excess deaths returns in the Ghats of Varanasi. As the heat in cremation grounds rises, the plague of long lines, insufficient facilities and simultaneously burning pyres return, reports Amar Ujala.

On June 15, 2022, Amar Ujala, a widely circulating Hindi newspaper reported, in an exclusive report on how the Mokshanagari Kashi crematorium once again reports long lines of families waiting to carry out the last rites of their kin. After the surge of Covid-19 cases last year, the area reported around 40-50 deaths at the crematoriums. Since last week, these numbers have increased to 120 deaths.

People wait for four hours to bid their deceased goodbye while the officials call more people to carry out cremations. Amar Ujala reported that due to lack of platform(s) and construction work at Manikarnika shrine, space for cremation is falling short. Since last week, it has reported 100 to 120 deaths. From June 13 till June 14 night, over 135 cremations took place at Manikarnika Ghat.

Funerals

One person told the newspaper that he travelled from Patna with his grandfather’s body. Further, as in times of Covid-19 surge, the demand for wood has also doubled. As many as 12 bodies are burnt simultaneously on lower platforms and 10 bodies are burnt on upper platforms.

Overall, people from districts of Purvanchal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh all visit the Kashi region for last rites. Part of this reason may be because locals are reluctant to allow the bodies to be buried in villages, on private land. In Ishwarpur village, Amar Ujala said that there was a dispute on Tuesday morning over the burial of an old man on private land. The SDM Pindra and the police pacified villagers by assuring them the son would bury the body away from the public. Similarly, a retired doctor from the Health department CMS also faced flak from villagers for trying to bury his 85-year-old deceased mother Surjakali in private land. While officials again had to intervene to settle the matter, the shocking fact is that these deaths are – once again – not reflected in government figures.

On June 9, India reported 7,240 active Covid-19 cases. This was the first time since March 1 that the daily number of active cases exceeded the 7,000 mark. In the month of June, over 39,400 fresh cases have been reported in India. For this reason, Maharashtra, Kerala, Delhi and Karnataka were put on high alert.

Accordingly, the four regions have reported around 1,000 (Delhi) to over 4,000 (Maharashtra) infections with Karnataka reporting around 800 deaths.  Maharashtra reported three deaths, Kerala reported eight deaths, Karnataka reported one death and Delhi reported two deaths by June 17. However Uttar Pradesh, despite reporting 20,83,072 cases with an increase of 413 cases has not reported any deaths.

On Friday, Indian Express also reported how Covid-19 cases in Uttar Pradesh increased by 413 cases on Thursday over the last 24 hours with Varanasi reporting 14 new cases. Still, there were no reports over the number of deaths.

Earlier in 2021, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) published a report on the death figures in Varanasi. The survey in parts of Varanasi, Ghazipur, Jaunpur and Chandauli showed how the Ghats were inundated with bodies and lack of supplies during the second wave of Covid-19. Families failed to report deaths in rural areas and many people were unaware of the precautions necessary against Covid-19. Data suggested that areas in eastern UP especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi had 60 percent excess deaths during the pandemic relative to 2019.

As per CJP’s report, surveyed areas had 55-60 percent more deaths from January 2020 to August 2021 than expected in this period. Subsequent coverage of the region also showed how people were struggling to access hospitals even for regular virals or infections.

The state government was accused of manipulating Covid-related data to create the impression that the healthcare system was effective. Now, this report by Amar Ujala comes after the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) estimates of a whopping 47.4 lakh excess deaths in India. This number is nearly 10 times the country’s official Covid-19 reported deaths between 2020 and 2021.

With cases once again on the rise, people are being once again urged – at least by the four state governments on alert – to follow Covid-protocols and exercise social distancing.

Related:

In 2021, COVID Deaths Surged in Stunning Fashion in Eastern UP, Investigation Finds
47.4 lakh excess deaths in India: WHO
India ranks high in cumulative excess Covid-deaths: Lancet report
UP: 1,621 people on polling duty dead, but gov't recognises only 3! 

 

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Don’t make mentally disabled person travel for assessment test: Madras HC to TN gov’t

HC also suggest that the government consider exempting those suffering from other disabilities also from appearing in person to obtain disability certificates

06 Jun 2022

Madras High Court

On May 12, 2022, the Madras High Court’s single-judge bench of Justice G.R. Swaminathan, took a compassionate view of challenges faced by mentally challenged people in a verdict highlighting the right to live with dignity of mentally disabled persons in a case of T.R. Ramanathan v/s. State of Tamil Nadu & Anr. [Writ Petition No. 12540 of 2022].  

The Court held, “It is clinically appropriate that assessment for issuing such certificates is done at their homes. I therefore hold that persons suffering from mental retardation or mental illness are entitled to have the assessment done at the place where they reside.”

The Court further held, “Authorities shall not insist that a person suffering from mental retardation/ mental illness should be physically present in the premises of the certifying institution. But this need not stop the Government from going into the issue and issuing a standard protocol to cover cases of those who are suffering from other disabilities, particularly, motor related physical disabilities.”

Brief Background of the case

The Petitioner in this case is on the verge of turning ninety and has a 61-year-old who suffers from mental disability. This son can neither speak nor express himself, nor move about freely. He also has severe anxiety disorder.

A certificate dated February 29, 1992 was issued by a Dr. Shanti Chandramohan, Assistant Physician Government General Hospital, Madras Medical College stating that the son suffers from a permanent mentally disorder. This was not noted by the Institute of Mental Health, Kilpauk.

The Petitioner became a widower a few months ago, and his son-in-law also died a few years ago. He is entitled as pensioner since November 1992. The Petitioner’s son will be entitled to receive the benefits of this family pension after his death. To avail the said benefit, an entry will have to be made in the petitioner's pension book. For that, a disability certificate must be obtained.

The Petitioner's daughter approached the Institute of Mental Health at Kilpauk for obtaining such certificate. The Institute insisted that the disabled man be brought for assessment. Left with no other option, on April 26, 2022, the son was taken to the Institute of Mental Health, Kilpauk in an ambulance. A group of paramedical staff literally bundled him into the vehicle. He was assessed and it was noted that he was mentally retarded. But this was deemed insufficient for issuance of certificate.

It was again insisted that he should be brought to the premises of the second respondent for conducting few more tests. Since he was traumatised by what happened on April 26, 2022, he developed severe anxiety and became paranoid and whenever anybody entered his home, he held on to the bars of the window. Even though the Petitioner's daughter informed the concerned officials that it was not possible to bring him for further assessment, the personnel attached to the second respondent Institute declined to pay heed to the same. That led to filing of the present Writ Petition.

Court’s Observation and Judgment

The Court had observed, “Article 41 of the Constitution of India mandates that the State shall, within the limits of its economic capacity and development, make effective provision for securing the right to public assistance in cases of sickness and disablement and in other cases of undeserved want. In Jacob M.Puthuparambil and Ors.Vs. Kerala Water Authority (1991) 1 SCC 28, the Hon'ble Supreme Court held that the Court should interpret a given statute so as to advance Article 41.”

The Court further observed that in view of the decision of the Supreme Court in Sambhavana Vs. University of Delhi (2013) 14 SCC 781, it can be observed that the state has a special obligation to design a special approach depending upon the special needs of the concerned category of disabled.

The Court also observed, “The Government of Tamil Nadu has introduced a laudable scheme “Illam Thedi Kalvi” (Education at doorsteps). This model can very well be applied to the case on hand.”

The Court further observed, “The disabled persons who are obviously entitled to rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India are entitled to obtain a certificate under Section 58 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 without any hassle or difficulty. The international conventions as well as the statutes governing their rights speak of barrier free access to rights and services. Without obtaining the certificate mentioned above, the disabled will be denied access to certain fundamental rights and facilities. Consequently, they cannot lead a quality life.”

The Court further observed, “The assessment process must be as simple as possible. It must not cause any difficulty or trauma or even the least burden to the individual concerned. I take judicial notice of the fact that bringing such persons to a congested place like the Government Hospital would trigger considerable stress and anxiety to them. One does not know what can trigger panic and anxiety.”

The Court upon above observations held, “It is clinically appropriate that assessment for issuing such certificates is done at their homes. I therefore hold that persons suffering from mental retardation or mental illness are entitled to have the assessment done at the place where they reside.”

The in this case held, “In this case, the assessment of the petitioner's son was already done in the premises of the second respondent Institute. The entries enclosed in the typed set of papers indicate that the petitioner's son had already been noted as suffering from mental retardation. Insisting that he should be produced again reeks of arbitrariness.”

The Court allowed the Writ Petition and made directions regarding the issuance of certificate, “I therefore direct the second respondent to issue a certificate certifying that the petitioner's son is suffering from permanent disability ie., mental retardation.”

The Court also suggested that the state government could even issue a standard protocol to cover cases of those who are suffering from other disabilities, particularly, motor related physical disabilities.

The Court while concluding the Judgment held, “When community certificates are received at doorstep, can the State not apply the same model in the case of persons with disability also? The bureaucracy of the Indian State is described as its steel frame. It must be malleable enough to reach out and address the needs of the last person.”

Laws protecting rights of disabled people

Article 14 of the Constitution of India guarantees that State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of laws.

Chapter V of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 sets out rights of persons with mental illness. Section 18(5)(d) of the Act states that the appropriate Government shall ensure that no person with mental illness (including children and older persons) shall be required to travel long distances to access mental health services and such services shall be available close to a place where a person with mental illness resides.

Section 10 of the National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act, 1999 states that one of the objects of the Trust shall be to facilitate the realization of equal opportunities, protection of rights and full participation of persons with disability and to do any other act which is incidental to the aforesaid object.

Section 3(1) of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 states that appropriate Government shall ensure that the persons with disabilities enjoy the right to equality, life with dignity and respect for his or her integrity equally with others.

India is a party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2006. Article 18 of the said Convention expects the States parties to ensure that the persons with disabilities are not deprived on the basis of disability of their ability to obtain, possess and utilize documentation of identification.

Declaration on the Rights of Mentally Retarded Persons, 1971 proclaims the necessity of protecting the rights and welfare of the physically and mentally disadvantaged.

Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons, 1975 also affirms the rights of disabled persons to services which enable them to develop their capabilities and skills to the maximum and will hasten the process of their social integration or reintegration.

The entire Judgment may be read here: 

 

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Don’t make mentally disabled person travel for assessment test: Madras HC to TN gov’t

HC also suggest that the government consider exempting those suffering from other disabilities also from appearing in person to obtain disability certificates

Madras High Court

On May 12, 2022, the Madras High Court’s single-judge bench of Justice G.R. Swaminathan, took a compassionate view of challenges faced by mentally challenged people in a verdict highlighting the right to live with dignity of mentally disabled persons in a case of T.R. Ramanathan v/s. State of Tamil Nadu & Anr. [Writ Petition No. 12540 of 2022].  

The Court held, “It is clinically appropriate that assessment for issuing such certificates is done at their homes. I therefore hold that persons suffering from mental retardation or mental illness are entitled to have the assessment done at the place where they reside.”

The Court further held, “Authorities shall not insist that a person suffering from mental retardation/ mental illness should be physically present in the premises of the certifying institution. But this need not stop the Government from going into the issue and issuing a standard protocol to cover cases of those who are suffering from other disabilities, particularly, motor related physical disabilities.”

Brief Background of the case

The Petitioner in this case is on the verge of turning ninety and has a 61-year-old who suffers from mental disability. This son can neither speak nor express himself, nor move about freely. He also has severe anxiety disorder.

A certificate dated February 29, 1992 was issued by a Dr. Shanti Chandramohan, Assistant Physician Government General Hospital, Madras Medical College stating that the son suffers from a permanent mentally disorder. This was not noted by the Institute of Mental Health, Kilpauk.

The Petitioner became a widower a few months ago, and his son-in-law also died a few years ago. He is entitled as pensioner since November 1992. The Petitioner’s son will be entitled to receive the benefits of this family pension after his death. To avail the said benefit, an entry will have to be made in the petitioner's pension book. For that, a disability certificate must be obtained.

The Petitioner's daughter approached the Institute of Mental Health at Kilpauk for obtaining such certificate. The Institute insisted that the disabled man be brought for assessment. Left with no other option, on April 26, 2022, the son was taken to the Institute of Mental Health, Kilpauk in an ambulance. A group of paramedical staff literally bundled him into the vehicle. He was assessed and it was noted that he was mentally retarded. But this was deemed insufficient for issuance of certificate.

It was again insisted that he should be brought to the premises of the second respondent for conducting few more tests. Since he was traumatised by what happened on April 26, 2022, he developed severe anxiety and became paranoid and whenever anybody entered his home, he held on to the bars of the window. Even though the Petitioner's daughter informed the concerned officials that it was not possible to bring him for further assessment, the personnel attached to the second respondent Institute declined to pay heed to the same. That led to filing of the present Writ Petition.

Court’s Observation and Judgment

The Court had observed, “Article 41 of the Constitution of India mandates that the State shall, within the limits of its economic capacity and development, make effective provision for securing the right to public assistance in cases of sickness and disablement and in other cases of undeserved want. In Jacob M.Puthuparambil and Ors.Vs. Kerala Water Authority (1991) 1 SCC 28, the Hon'ble Supreme Court held that the Court should interpret a given statute so as to advance Article 41.”

The Court further observed that in view of the decision of the Supreme Court in Sambhavana Vs. University of Delhi (2013) 14 SCC 781, it can be observed that the state has a special obligation to design a special approach depending upon the special needs of the concerned category of disabled.

The Court also observed, “The Government of Tamil Nadu has introduced a laudable scheme “Illam Thedi Kalvi” (Education at doorsteps). This model can very well be applied to the case on hand.”

The Court further observed, “The disabled persons who are obviously entitled to rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India are entitled to obtain a certificate under Section 58 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 without any hassle or difficulty. The international conventions as well as the statutes governing their rights speak of barrier free access to rights and services. Without obtaining the certificate mentioned above, the disabled will be denied access to certain fundamental rights and facilities. Consequently, they cannot lead a quality life.”

The Court further observed, “The assessment process must be as simple as possible. It must not cause any difficulty or trauma or even the least burden to the individual concerned. I take judicial notice of the fact that bringing such persons to a congested place like the Government Hospital would trigger considerable stress and anxiety to them. One does not know what can trigger panic and anxiety.”

The Court upon above observations held, “It is clinically appropriate that assessment for issuing such certificates is done at their homes. I therefore hold that persons suffering from mental retardation or mental illness are entitled to have the assessment done at the place where they reside.”

The in this case held, “In this case, the assessment of the petitioner's son was already done in the premises of the second respondent Institute. The entries enclosed in the typed set of papers indicate that the petitioner's son had already been noted as suffering from mental retardation. Insisting that he should be produced again reeks of arbitrariness.”

The Court allowed the Writ Petition and made directions regarding the issuance of certificate, “I therefore direct the second respondent to issue a certificate certifying that the petitioner's son is suffering from permanent disability ie., mental retardation.”

The Court also suggested that the state government could even issue a standard protocol to cover cases of those who are suffering from other disabilities, particularly, motor related physical disabilities.

The Court while concluding the Judgment held, “When community certificates are received at doorstep, can the State not apply the same model in the case of persons with disability also? The bureaucracy of the Indian State is described as its steel frame. It must be malleable enough to reach out and address the needs of the last person.”

Laws protecting rights of disabled people

Article 14 of the Constitution of India guarantees that State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of laws.

Chapter V of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 sets out rights of persons with mental illness. Section 18(5)(d) of the Act states that the appropriate Government shall ensure that no person with mental illness (including children and older persons) shall be required to travel long distances to access mental health services and such services shall be available close to a place where a person with mental illness resides.

Section 10 of the National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act, 1999 states that one of the objects of the Trust shall be to facilitate the realization of equal opportunities, protection of rights and full participation of persons with disability and to do any other act which is incidental to the aforesaid object.

Section 3(1) of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 states that appropriate Government shall ensure that the persons with disabilities enjoy the right to equality, life with dignity and respect for his or her integrity equally with others.

India is a party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2006. Article 18 of the said Convention expects the States parties to ensure that the persons with disabilities are not deprived on the basis of disability of their ability to obtain, possess and utilize documentation of identification.

Declaration on the Rights of Mentally Retarded Persons, 1971 proclaims the necessity of protecting the rights and welfare of the physically and mentally disadvantaged.

Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons, 1975 also affirms the rights of disabled persons to services which enable them to develop their capabilities and skills to the maximum and will hasten the process of their social integration or reintegration.

The entire Judgment may be read here: 

 

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