Monday, July 30, 2007

'Use of ORS' in diarrhoea needs push in MP

Bhopal, July 29: Sharda, a three year old girl lost her life just few days back in a village in Sehore, about 40 kilometers away from Bhopal, capital city of the state of Madhya Pradesh. She was suffering with acute diarrhoea, and died of dehydration. She is not the only an isolated case, thousands of children die due to dehydration in diarrhoea in Madhya Pradesh and may be millions in India. Bhopal recently lost four lives due to cholera. Oral Rehydration salt solution can save many like Sharda. Every year on July 29: we observe ORS Day with aim to promote the use of Oral Rehydration salt and to educate the people about its use.

Oral Rehydration Salt is a dry mixture of powder containing Sodium Chloride, Trisodium Citrate dehydrate, Potassium Chloride and anhydrous glucose. It is used for prevention and treatment of dehydration due to diarrhoea including maintenance therapy. Acute diarrhoeal diseases are among the leading causes of mortality in infants and young children in India. In most cases, death is caused by dehydration. Dehydration from diarrhoea can be prevented by giving extra fluids at home, or it can be treated simply, effectively, and cheaply in all age-groups and in all but the most severe cases by giving patients by mouth an adequate glucose-electrolyte solution called Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) solution. Oral Rehydration Therapy was first researched in the 1940s but it was twenty years later before the idea was developed by research institutions in Bangladesh and India for the management of severe cholera. It was adopted in 1978 as primary tool to fight diarrhoea and since then has saved million of deaths of children, but still there is grave need to promotes its use and enhance its access.

National family Health Survey III reveals that in the developing State like Madhya Pradesh only 28.6 % children with diarrhoea in last two weeks had received the ORS. Madhya Pradesh has the highest infant mortality rate in India. 76 children die out of the thousand born within the first year of their life; diarrhoea is one of the contributors to the same. State also has high incidence of malnutrition among children especially under three years of age, when malnourished child suffers with diarrhoea it aggravates the situation and increase chances of his or her mortality.

It is an indication that there is an urgent need to expand awareness among communities on its importance, its use and enhance its accessibility for communities not only on ORS day but throughout the year. Though officially State has many stocking points of ORS like Anganwadi centre's, sub health centre's and primary health care centre's but more important is its accessibility at time when it is needed and knowledge its right usage by the communities and parents of the children when they need the most. Department of Health & Family Welfare, Government of Madhya Pradesh's medium term strategy document states that diarrhoeal disease episodes per year is 760 per one lakh population and it projects that by year 2015 it will increase to 880 episodes per lakh.

This means that we not only need to expand usage of this inexpensive and readily available intervention in the state which can help reduce death and suffering from dehydration caused by diarrhoea. It will also help to reduce number of days of hospitalization, length of treatment and costly intravenous treatment. The tragedy is that inspite of the medical fraternity and many of us working in social sector know about its advantage as life saviour for children. Experience, research has validated the same and it was hailed by the prestigious British Journal, the Lancet as "...potentially the most important medical advance of the century..." children still die for want of this simple intervention. May be we need to go beyond our present efforts and need to rework out strategies and bridge the existing gap between information and knowledge and action by communities at ground or else we will continue to let children die...

by anil gulati

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Performance of Backward Classes and Minorities Finance Corporation "abysmally low" -- CAG report

Re -

The performance of Madhya Pradesh Pichhra Varg Tatha Alpsankhyak Vitta Evam Vikas Nigam (State Backward Classes and Minorities Finance and Development Corporation) failed to touch its targets during the five year period 2001-2006.

This has been highlighted by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) in its report tabled in the State Assembly today. The CAG report says that the achievement of targets by Madhya Pradesh Pichhra Varg Tatha Alpsankhyak Vitta Evam Vikas Nigam during the period in question was "abysmally low" in respect of all the schemes implemented by the Company.
The CAG has pointed out that delay in sending utilisation certificates to financing agencies resulted in avoidable interest payment of Rs.5.11 crore. Though the Company has been extending financial assistance for over 12 years for the economic upliftment of targeted population, no survey of beneficiaries has been conducted to formulate a base for covering all the beneficiaries in a phase manner.

Loans of Rs.6.04 crore and Government share of project cost (Rs.4.45 crore) meant for disbursement to beneficiaries were diverted for repayment of instalments due to NBCFDC and NMDFC resulting in denial of assistance to needy beneficiaries. Improper maintenance of records coupled with absence of internal audit, facilitated misappropriation of cash in five districts. Inspite of misappropriations, the Company has not taken any corrective/punitive action.

Biosphere reserves of MP

The term "Biosphere" was coined by Russian scientist Vladimir Vernadsky in the 1929. It is the part of the earth, including air, land, surface rocks, and water, within which life occurs, and which biotic processes in turn alter or transform. It is also known as the life zone of the Earth and includes all living organisms, including man, and all organic matter that has not yet decomposed.

The biosphere can be divided into distinct ecosystems that represent the interactions between a group of organisms forming a trophic pyramid and the environment or habitat in which they live. Scientifically speaking biosphere is the global ecological system integrating all living beings and their relationships, including their interaction with the elements of the lithosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere. In simple terms Biosphere Reserves are areas of terrestrial and coastal ecosystems. They are devoted to conserving biological diversity, promoting research and monitoring as well as seeking to provide models of sustainable development in the service of human kind.

There are fourteen biosphere reserves in India covering more than 55000 square km. area. spread from Kashmir to Kanyakumari to Andaman & Nicobar islands and from Kutch to Meghalaya and Andaman & Nicobar islands. The biosphere reserves in India, which are on the world network of Biosphere Reserves, are Sundarbans, Gulf of Mannar, Nilgiri and Nanda Devi. In Madhya Pradesh, there are two Biosphere Reserves namely Pachmarhi and Achanakmar-Amarkantak, but yet not on world network.

Government of India’s Ministry of Environment and Forest provides financial assistance to the respective State governments for conservation of landscape and biological diversity and cultural heritage. Support is also provided for research, monitoring, education and information exchange.

The Pachmari Bioreserve
The Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve is a conservation area in the Satpura Range of Madhya Pradesh state, India. It was created on March 3, 1999 by the Indian Government, and covers parts of Hoshangabad, Betul, and Chhindwara districts.The Biosphere reserve's total area is 4926.28 km². It includes three wildlife conservation units, the Bori Sanctuary (518.00 km²), Satpura National Park (524.37 km²), and Pachmarhi Sanctuary (461.37 km²). Satpura National Park is designated as the core zone, and the remaining area of 4501.91 km², including the Bori and Pachmarhi sanctuaries, constitutes the buffer zone.The reserve is mostly covered in forest, part of the Eastern highlands moist deciduous forests ecoregion. It is an important transition zone between the forests of western and eastern India; the forests are dominated by Teak (Tectona grandis), but include the westernmost groves of Sal (Shorea robusta), which is the dominant tree of eastern India's forests. Large mammal species include tiger, leopard, wild boar, muntjac deer, gaur (Bos gaurus), chital deer (Axis axis), sambar (Cervus unicolor), and Rhesus Macaques.

Achanakmar-Amarkantak biosphere
The total area of the this bioreserve is 3,835.51 sq. km. It covers parts of Anuppur and Dindori districts of Madhya Pradesh and parts of Bilaspur district of Chhattisgarh State. Out of the total area, an area of 1,224.98 sq. km falls in Madhya Pradesh and the remaining area of 2,610.53 sq. km falls in Chhattisgarh state. The entire area of 551.55 sq. km of Achanakmar Sanctuary falling in Chhattisgarh State will form the core zone and remaining area of 3, 283.96 sq. km surrounding the core zone will form the buffer zone. The Amarkantak Biosphere Reserve is rich in biodiversity because of the favorable climate and edaphic factors that abound in the area. The area provides an ideal habitat for wild animals.

feature contributed by anil

Friday, July 27, 2007

Madhya Pradesh nowhere near reaching key development goals

S Sharma, IANS
The authors of the Triple 7 report said the picture in the field of primary education was equally bleak, due to lack of trained teachers and of basic facilities such as drinking water and toilets in the schools.

Madhya Pradesh is nowhere near reaching the UN Millennium Development Goals - by the 2015 deadline, if a mid-term evaluation report prepared by voluntary groups is anything to go by.And this in a state where a world record 3.3 million people across 42 districts took part in a government-sponsored 'Stand Up Against Poverty' campaign in October to achieve the MDGs - reducing poverty, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and ensuring environmental sustainability.Now voluntary groups in the state have prepared what they call the 'Triple 7 Report' - after a mid-term evaluation of how far the state is from achieving the MDGs.

The report says Madhya Pradesh - where 4.5 million families live below the poverty line - has been found wanting on all fronts.'Malnutrition is a problem that has always been brushed under the carpet by politicians but the dire conditions in Madhya Pradesh now definitely call for some mandated moves', says Sachin Jain of Vikas Samvad, one of the groups behind the report.In Madhya Pradesh 82.6 percent of all children under the age of three are anaemic, according to the government's own recent National Family Health Survey - III. The corresponding figure for 1998-99, when NFHS II was carried out, was a low 54 percent.Sixty percent of all children under the age of three in the state are underweight, 51 percent are stunted and 20 percent are wasted, says the Triple 7 report.

Data collected during the state government's recent growth monitoring drive and Bal Sanjeevni Abhiyaan shows that 80,000 children are suffering from most severe malnutrition and are on the verge of death, the authors of the report say.According to NFHS III, only 22.4 percent of the children below the age of two have full immunisation coverage.The Triple 7 report says only 23 percent of the children are registered in Anganwadis -.In a state where 24 women die in childbirth every day, the maternal mortality rate is 379 per 100,000 live births - third highest in the country.The infant mortality rate - which counts children who die before the first birthday - stands at 76 per 1,000 live births.'Though the state has introduced many schemes to help combat maternal and infant deaths, they are not yielding the desired results due to bureaucratic hassles and corruption,' say activists responsible for the Triple 7 report.The activists refer to a recent report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India that benefits of the schemes do not reach 52-62 percent of the children and 46-59 percent of the pregnant and lactating mothers.And it is not as if private healthcare is stepping into the breach. The activists point out that expenditure on health has declined from 5.1 percent of total expenditure in 2000-01 to 3.4 percent in 2004-05.This is a state where 38 percent of the rural population do not have access to safe drinking water.

Madhya Pradesh accounts for 40 percent falciparum malaria cases in the country.The authors of the Triple 7 report said the picture in the field of primary education was equally bleak, due to lack of trained teachers and of basic facilities such as drinking water and toilets in the schools.The authorities also had to address issues such as the distance to the nearest school, midday meals and scholarships, the activists added.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bhopal lab confirms bird flu in Manipur farm

The Bhopal-based High Security Animal Disease Laboratory (HSADL) has confirmed the presence of avian influenza in samples of poultry that were sent for testing from a farm in village Chingmeirong in Manipur.

The Centre has announced culling of poultry in two districts of Manipur following the death of a chicken in a small unit in Chingmeirong village in East Imphal district. “As many as 132 birds died in a period of six days from July 7. Seven out of the eight samples forwarded to the High Security Animal Disease Laboratory (HSADL), Bhopal, and the National Institute of Virology, Pune, showed signs of the highly pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) (H5),” said a health ministry official.

“The disease is localised and limited to backyard units. Though there are no reports of unusual mortality or sickness in any neighbouring state, we will continue culling of poultry birds (commercial and backyard) within the five km radius. Around 1.5 lakh birds will be culled in Imphal West and Imphal East districts. It can take at least 10 days,” said an agriculture ministry official. Compensation would be paid to the owners of the poultry farms, he added.

As a precaution, the remaining birds in the infected unit were killed and the unit was fully sanitised, the official said. Though the reasons for the outbreak of the flu were not known, the officials did not rule out the possibility of infections from migratory birds.

Health officials said prophylactic cover (Tamiflu) had been provided to 21 people from three houses and nine veterinary employees exposed to the infected poultry.

Initial supplies of personal protective equipment and Oseltamivir have been rushed to the state. Though no human cases have been detected so far, a team of experts comprising microbiologists and epidemiologists has been sent to Manipur.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Exhorbitant parking rates at railways stations of Bhopal

If you happen to receive someone or leave someone at railway station and had to park one’s car at Habibganj or Bhopal railway station in capital city of the state of Madhya Pradesh you end up paying Rupees ten as the parking rate. Interestingly elsewhere in Bhopal it is Rupees two, while at Railway Stations of Bhopal and Habibganj have differential rate, Why? Probably no one has answer. Also if you come twice in a day you may have to pay twice.

When you pay two rupees at any other place in Bhopal someone helps you to park and take out your vehicle but at Habibganj and Bhopal Railway Station, no one helps.

Worst is the time when important train departs or come, if you came bit earlier before the train’s departure or arrival, you will find difficult to take out your car as people had parked wherever they find space and no one manages the space. And there is no one from the parking contractor who helps, then why does one pay this price? Parking is paid for a service rendered for construction, maintenance of the space and manages to park vehicles in a systematic manner so as to ease the traffic flow.

In addition to exorbitant charges parking contractors here exploit young boys, by hiring them, against law and they are paid low salaries and are expected to do menial jobs in addition to cutting receipts and collecting money.

But who cares not many, parking at Bhopal tends to be a money spinning machine to benefit few.

Manual Scavenging exists in 21st century

CNN IBN picked up on its focus on this week's an issue which is the most degrading practice of 21st century in India - a practice that deprives thousands of their fundamental right to live with dignity.

The story covered in media is of Bhuri who with her broom and a basket, every morning she makes her way to the upper caste houses in her village - Gohad in Madhya Pradesh. Her job is to clean toilets, pick other people's excreta. Bhuri is a manual scavenger. She has been scavenging for last 10 years soon after she got married. Bhuri says, "I used to hate the foul smell, I used to vomit after a while I got used to it. Now it's not a problem."

Molded into submission Bhuri has responsibilities - the four children and a husband who barely makes enough money to keep the home fires burning.

"My husband gambles and drinks. I go to work and he just drinks. Sometimes I have to beg for food to feed my children, " Bhuri adds.

The Valmikis of Madhya Pradesh, the Bhangis of Gujarat, Pakhis in Andhra and the Sikkaliars of Tamil Nadu are all manual scavengers. Their daily job is to pick up other people's excreta from dry toilets using brooms and baskets. This is not something they choose to do but something they're born into - because they are at the very bottom of the caste pyramid.

Ladkunwar, who was working as a scavenger says, "I had to do it because women in the family did it. My mother-in-law forced me into it. Cleaning dry toilets and manually removing human waste is a violation of human rights and dignity and a punishable offence. The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act of 1993 says - offenders can face a jail term of up to one year or fined Rs 2000. But 15 years on, the ground reality is that this law is far from being implemented.

Valmikis don't have too many options. If they wish to take up another occupation, it is not allowed. Born into a Valmiki family you can only become a sweeper or a scavenger.

Even a minute in this overpowering stench seems too long but thousands across the country have been doing this every morning for years now. These women go through the worse possible form of caste oppression. Even in the 21st century, caste hierarchy and untouchability prevent them from rising to any other job. 'There's no other work for Valmikis in this village because we're untouchable. Who will give us a respectable job?" Ladkunwar questions.

Shame comes with very little money these scavengers scrape a meager Rs 10 to Rs 20 per month from every house they clean. Come afternoon and they go back to the same houses this time scavenging for food.

More than 50 such women in Gohad go to work with brooms and baskets every morning. They're all from Dalit sub castes. They all got married into scavenging families. And the job came as a legacy - passed on from the mother-in-law to the daughter-in-law.
Ladkunwar, who was working as a scavenger says, "I had to do it because women in the family did it. My mother-in-law forced me into it."

Valmikis don't have too many options. If they wish to take up another occupation, it is not allowed. Born into a Valmiki family you can only become a sweeper or a scavenger.
Even a minute in this overpowering stench seems too long but thousands across the country have been doing this every morning for years now. These women go through the worse possible form of caste oppression. Even in the 21st century, caste hierarchy and untouchability prevent them from rising to any other job.

"There's no other work for Valmikis in this village because we're untouchable. Who will give us a respectable job?" Ladkunwar questions.

Shame comes with very little money these scavengers scrape a meager Rs 10 to Rs 20 per month from every house they clean. Come afternoon and they go back to the same houses this time scavenging for food.

Bismillah, a resident of Gohad, believes in God and in the caste-system. Picking up human waste is the domain of the downtrodden. Ironically, till some time back, Bismillah was herself discriminated against - for belonging to the minority community.
Bismillah says, "Who will clean? If the sweeper gets better work then who will do this work?"

Article 15 of the Constitution of India talks of every citizen's fundamental right to equality. It says, "No person shall be discriminated on the basis of caste, colour, language etc. Every person shall have equal access to public places."

But manual scavengers in every part of the country are still outcasts.

In Kishangarh in Chhattarpur district, even the village barber refuses to oblige Valmikis because they just cannot be touched. Valmikis travel to the nearest town - 15 to 20 kilometers away - to get a simple haircut. Santosh Kumar Singh who is a barber says, "Valmikis stay within their limits and don't come to us."

The village hand pump is also out of bounds. Mehtars or Valmikis are not allowed to draw water or enter the house of God. Hotels and teashops keep separate utensils for the untouchables. Ladkunwar is still caught in the grind. She gave up scavenging two years ago but the she is yet to be freed of the taint. Ladkunwar says, "They don't give us drinking water, cut our hair or iron our clothes. They don't even allow us to stand in their compound.""

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Supreme Court firm on Anganwadi issue

Published at

All Anganwadi Centres to be fully functional

BHOPAL July 21: On the basis of projections given to the Supreme Court by the Madhya Pradesh Government, all the Anganwadis in the State, over 60,000 of them, should now be fully functional. In April 2001, People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL, Rajasthan) had filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court seeking legal enforcement of the right to food. The basic argument is that the right to food is an implication of the fundamental "right to life" enshrined in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Following on this, Apex Court hearings on various aspects of the right to food have been held at regular intervals. This "public interest litigation" (PIL) is far from over, and it may take years before the Highest Court in the country pronounces its final "judgement". But many "interim orders" have already been passed. The Supreme Court bench in its interim order pronounced by Dr. Justice Arijit Pasayat has said that the backlog with regard to the setting up of Anganwadis has to be cleared immediately and the (Anganwadi) centres which have been sanctioned up to September, 2006 shall be made operational and functional by July 15, 200 7 in the case of all States except the State of U.P. where the last date is fixed to be July 31, 2007.

Those centres which have been sanctioned up to January, 2007 shall be made functional by September 30, 2007. It is made clear that if there is any non-observance, of the time period fixed, would be seriously viewed. Affidavits shall be filed by July 20, August 10 and October 10, 2007 by the States in respect of the date lines fixed indicating the action taken, says the Supreme Court order.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Bird Flu Alert in Manipur after death of fowls

Statesman News Service

IMPHAL : The unusual death of 132 fowls recently in a private poultry farm here has alarmed Manipur’s veterinary department. It is on alert following reports of the deadly avian flu virus in neighbouring Myanmar and Bangladesh. The department has swung into action, taking precautionary measures. The farm owner and his family members have been administered Tamiflu vaccine. The department has, however, said there is no need to be alarmed. The department today contacted a veterinary doctor in Pune with samples of anal and nasal swabs taken from the infected fowls for laboratory testing. Two doctors are in New Delhi en route to a high security animal disease laboratory in Bhopal. The joint commissioner of the Union agriculture ministry in charge of livestock health, Mr AB Negi, said here that an additional 1,000 pieces of N 95 personal protection equipment kit are arriving today. Mr Negi said until the report arrives from Bhopal, nothing can be concluded. All precautionary measures are being taken to prevent an avian flu outbreak, even if the report turns out to be positive, he said.

The flu has hit more than 16 districts in Bangladesh. The porous border is worrying Manipur’s officials. Mr Negi expressed satisfaction with the measures being taken up by the state veterinary and animal husbandry department. Dr Th Dorendro, director, veterinary department, said 12 fowls that survived the flu have been culled and their blood samples taken for testing. He said field staff are monitoring the area for unusual death of fowls within the 15-km radius of the affected farm. So far, the incident seems to be isolated case. After the outbreak of avian influenza in Bangladesh earlier this year, the Manipur chief secretary on 12 April alerted six departments, including home and health. State, district and sub-divisional level monitoring cells were proposed to be set up

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Adverse Child Sex Ratio in Shivpuri, a Cause for Concern

This story is online on a recently launched website as the week's exclusive.

BHOPAL July 16: A recent survey shows that the child sex ratio is massively adverse in Shivpuri, a district headquarter in Gwalior Division with a population of 1.10 lakh. The 2001 Census reported the child sex ratio of 904 girls per 1000 boys in the age group 0-6 at Shivpuri. A recent survey conducted in this district headquarter by the district administration shows that there has been a fall of 58 points and now the town has a child sex ratio of 846 girls per 1000 boys. The Government of India had issued directives to keep a monthly tab on the child sex ratio to keep a check on the alarming drop in the number of girls as reported by the 2001 Census. The Registrar-General of India has also asked its State offices to prepare a monthly report of the births to monitor the sex ratio. The adverse child sex ratio in Shivpuri is indicative of female infanticide and shows that foeticide is being practiced.

The recent behavior of society could be judged by comparing the sex ratio at birth and the overall child sex ratio. The small sample surveys in Shivpuri have reported low sex ratio even at birth. On the basis of these surveys, conducted in Government hospitals and private nursing homes, it has been found that Shivpuri has a birth sex ratio of 942 to 955 girls per 1000 boys. The 2001 Census showed that there were 22744 children in the age group 0-6 in Shivpuri. Of these 11944 were boys and 10800 girls. A recent door-to door survey showed that there were 20498 children in Shivpuri town in the 0-6 age group. Of these 11103 were boys and 9395 girls. The adverse child sex ratio in Shivpuri is indicative of a shift from son preference to daughter discrimination and it is important to note that the epicenter of the problem is the urban affluent society and not the SC/ST, other backward classes and the weaker sections.

Of the 531 births recorded in private hospitals at Shivpuri in the last one year period, 297 were boys and 234 girls. This gives a sex ratio at birth to 787 girls per 1000 boys born in private hospitals. In sharp contrast, of the 6088 births recorded in district hospitals, 3156 were boys and 2932 girls. In the case of government hospitals, where mostly the weaker sections go due to various incentives and low delivery cost, the sex ratio at birth went up to 929 girls per 1000 boys. Taking a closer look at this malaise, the obvious conclusion is that there should be effective enforcement of Pre-conception pre-natal diagnostic techniques (regulation and prevention of misuse) Act (PCPNDT). The enforcement authorities should also guard against the trend "to misuse" certain provisions of the "liberal" Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 (MTP). There has to be a correlation between PCPNDT and MTP. While safe and legal abortion is the right of women there is need for having a relook at MTP which allows medical termination of pregnancy due to various reasons, including "failure of contraceptive devices". In Shivpuri and elsewhere in the State and country, there are many private hospitals registered under the PCPNDT Act but not under MTP. Many of these hospitals have ultra-sound facilities and could be involved in termination of pregnancy.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Madhya Pradesh assembly begins tommorrow

Voting for the July 19 presidential election will be a highlight of the monsoon session of the Madhya Pradesh assembly that begins here tomorrow. The House will meet for 11 sittings during the 17-day session, assembly sources said.

Two bills, including the Indian Penal Code (Madhya Pradesh Amendment) Bill of 2007, will be tabled during the session, they said. Polling for the presidential election will be held on Thursday, and 229 legislators, including the speaker and a nominated member, are expected to exercise their franchise, the sources said.

While the ruling BJP has 168 members, the main opposition Congress has 40, the Samajwadi Party seven, Gondwana Ganatantra Party three, BSP and Rashtriya Samanata Dal two each, and the NCP, CPM, JD-U have one member each. Each vote will carry an effective value of 131 in the electoral college, the sources said.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Between floods and drought

Published in The Hindu, July 15, 2007

Bharat Dogra

An oppressive socio-economic system, deteriorating environment, fickle weather patterns and wrong priorities on the part of the government together ensure an endless cycle of disasters for the people of Bundelkhand.

Providing relief to the parched land and distressed people of Bundelkhand region is becoming a matter of high priority because in recent years many hunger deaths and farmers’ suicides have been reported and distress conditions appear to be peak ing during this summer.

Bundelkhand’s mythology and history are full of inspiring stories. Its temples, tanks and other traditional water sources serve as reminders of the days when people felt inspired to create great works of art as well as utility. The reality of today, however, is very grim.

Spread over about 69,000 sq. km. in seven districts of Uttar Pradesh (Chitrakut, Banda, Jhansi, Jalaun, Hamirpur, Mahoba and Lalitpur) and six districts of Madhya Pradesh (Chhatarpur, Tikamgarh, Damoh, Sagar, Datia and Panna), Bundelkhand has been appearing in the news mostly for wrong reasons. Acute drought and distress including starvation deaths involving particularly the Sahariya community, numerous cases of acute exploitation and land grabbing from Kol tribals, and the killings and abductions by dacoit gangs.

Acute distress
However during the last three years, even such distressing news has been overshadowed by reports about suicides of small farmers and other weaker sections as well as hunger deaths. In Barokhar village of Banda district, hunger and economic distress became so acute in the family of Ameena that she committed suicide after taking the life of her daughter. In Palra village of the same district, Lalu hanged himself after he was denied a BPL (concessional) ration card despite living in acute poverty. Chunbud, a worker of Semariya village in Chitrakut district, went to the extent of digging his own grave as he was unsure of his family being able to arrange for his funeral. He then committed suicide by flinging himself in front of a train.

Padui village is an example of the extent to which people have been driven to a state of hopelessness. As many as eight suicides related to poverty and debt have taken place in this village. Pushpinder Singh, co-ordinator of Gram Swaraj Prahri, a social organisation, says, “This village’s problems started with the disruption of canal water supply. When irrigation was available, people had got used to fertilizer and tractors. But this costly technology later led to the indebtedness of many farmers.”

Sitaram Raidas (45 years) of Nivaich village, Sadar tehsil, Banda district, learnt that his antyodaya card had been cancelled even though he remains extremely poor. On the same night he had a heart attack and died . The next morning villagers collected donations for his funeral. The villagers say his name had been entered for employment guarantee scheme but he did not get a job card and he had no work for 20 days. His sons Chunnu (14 years) and Vanshgopal (16 years) are away working as migrant workers.

In the dalit basti of Panchampur village, most of the houses are locked up as people have been forced to migrate. Over a dozen other families have been reduced to begging. This tragic situation has been caused by a combination of an oppressive socio-economic system, rapidly deteriorating environment and the adverse weather conditions of recent years.
In recent decades a small number of rich and influential families have managed to corner a major share of the earnings from the forests and mines. Of course, a significant part of the loot is shared with politicians and officials, but in many parts of Bundelkhand, a part of the booty also goes regularly to dacoit gangs. Senior politicians attend social celebrations in the families of leading dacoits, and of course seek their “blessings” to win elections in return for offering them protection. In the case of agricultural land too, some of the richest families have been regularly grabbing the land of the weaker sections.

Need for humane policy
From the perspective of poverty alleviation, it is important to plan an agricultural development strategy which makes it possible for more food to be grown on the fields of small and poor farmers. Efforts to maintain an adequate level of farm productivity should be linked to land reforms which make available more land to the landless and marginal peasants. Farm technology should be in tune with the low resource base of the most farmers and their inability to make big investments particularly in increasingly uncertain weather conditions. The tendency for equating agricultural progress with the spread of crop varieties which respond better to higher doses of chemical fertilizers should be given up. On the other hand, the potential for obtaining good yields using local resources such as compost, neem or other plant-based pesticides should be explored as much as possible. The growing market for organically grown farm produce should be tapped to obtain good returns for farmers.

This area has several vulnerable groups such as the Kol tribals, Sahariya tribals, Kabutras, Bansors, Bedni and Saperas. A special effort needs to be made to strengthen their rights and improve their socio-economic position.

The presence of granite in Bundelkhand makes it difficult to rely on groundwater in most places. Keeping in view the limited supply of ground water that could be obtained, handpumps and tubewells were either not successful or caused a rapid drying up of ordinary wells used by other people, mostly poorer people.

As forests disappeared, the possibilities of rainwater being conserved below the ground decreased and as traditional tanks were neglected, the possibilities of surface conservation also decreased. This is how water scarcity became acute in many villages despite the increased spending on water schemes. Neglected tradition

Bundelkhand has a rich tradition of constructing tanks in a highly skilled way. Unfortunately, many of these have been badly depleted or damaged due to encroachment and lack of maintenance. Many dam projects in recent decades have proved to be a failure. So there is an urgent need for the proper maintenance and repair (including clearing encroachments) of all existing tanks which can still be salvaged. This should be done with the involvement of the local people as a people’s movement. Similarly, new sites should be selected for the construction of new tanks wherever possible. The maintenance of tanks used to be a part of the culture of these villages. An attempt to revive this should be made.

Recently the government has made available lots of funds for the Ken-Betwa river link scheme while the repair and maintenance of many invaluable tanks is neglected. This project involves two rivers, the Ken and the Betwa, both of which arise in Madhya Pradesh.
The Ken-Betwa project consists mainly of a new dam and a 250 km canal to link the two rivers, transferring water from Ken to Betwa. However, people in the Ken river areas as well as independent experts question the main assumption on which this project is based — the existence of surplus water in Ken.

Wrong estimate
The government says that displacement will be limited but people point out that already estimates of people to be displaced are rising much above earlier estimates and all direct and indirect displacement due to the dam and the link-canal should be included to get a realistic estimate. A part of the Panna tiger reserve and a larger forest zone will also be submerged by this project.

Local people also argue that problems relating to many previously constructed projects on these rivers should be tackled first. Gaya Prasad Gopal, a senior social activist of this area, was closely involved in the relief work for two massive floods caused by the sudden release of water from dams. He cannot forget the destruction caused by these floods. “We should first try to correct the existing system so that such tragedies are not repeated in future.”Not the solution
At a “Water Parliament” of Bundelkhand region, many speakers, including social/ environment activists and independent experts, expressed concern that this project can worsen the water scarcity in some areas and floods/ water logging in other areas. A resolution passed said that lakhs of people in both Ken and Betwa river areas will be exposed to unprecedented tragic consequences as a result of this project. This resolution then called upon the Government of India to abandon this project.

It is tragic that massive funds are sanctioned all too readily for projects of dubious merit while smaller demands for highly useful repair and maintenance of tanks are neglected. Clearly there is a need for correcting priorities, or else the cycle of floods and droughts may worsen.Survival at stake

A recent survey of four blocks of the Bundelkhand region of U.P. by Action Aid and partner organisations confirmed threats to food security and even survival of several villages.
In Naraini and Mankipur blocks only five per cent had access to nutritionally balanced food, while in Madhogarh and Rampura blocks, it was 10 to 15 per cent. These levels of malnutrition reflect the situation in a bad year like the current one.

In Madhogarh, and Rampura blocks and in Manikpur block about 25 per cent of the families can’t afford to fill their stomachs even with nutritionally poor diet like roti-chatni or roti-namak while in Naraini block the percentage of hungry people was even higher.

Indebtness of most rural households is increasing at a fast pace. This include indebtedness to banks as well as private moneylenders. In some villages people said that all families are indebted. Many families receive bank notices for recovery of loan, while some have even been locked up in tehsil jails in highly distressing and humiliating conditions.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Madhya Pradesh :Gloomy picture of State: Targets of development

Editorial, Central Chronicle, July 11, 2007

Now, it appears that Madhya Pradesh would not be able to achieve the development target of the millenium. An NGO Vikas Samvad's public report indicates the same. According to this report, achievements on eight issues of development in state were found below mark. At a meeting of the United Nations on September 8, 2000, the issues with which the common man is involved were aimed to be achieved by 2015. India has also been included in this mission. It does not seem that issues like poverty, starvation, diseases, illiteracy, women empowerment, child death rate, mortality rate, health and environment would be controlled by 2015. After a lapse of more than seven years when the targets were set by United Nations there is not much qualitative difference visible in the country. The situation in the State is also not very good. The state government is spending Rs 128.60 per month per head on food. But 38 per cent population is Below Poverty Line. The number of child labourers in the state is more than 10 lakh. There is no woman teacher in 33.75 per cent schools in the state. The state which has more than 6 crore population comprise 20 per cent tribals who are most hit by malnutrition. In every 5 minute an infant dies. Mortality rate even today is 7700 per annum. One mother dies in each hour. There is call to face HIV/AIDS and malaria like deadly diseases. The state has 2201 HIV positive cases till date. Due to increasing nitrate in ground water, the number of fluorosis hit patients is increasing. As per report of the UN, the figures actually pertain to Madhya Pradesh. In fact, considering the efforts and funds to achieve the targets, this situation is disapponting. It seems that work has not been done as per directives issued by the body. At the same time the planned schemes, to face these problems, could not reach the real beneficiaries. There is need to pay special attention to the tribal community. The government should prepare special work plan to achieve targets set for 2015 so that development may become real.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Rain fury in MP: Rail, road traffic hit; Army help sought

Bhopal, July 07: Heavy rains continued to pound Madhya Pradesh today, disrupting train and road traffic and throwing life out of gear as swollen rivers and rain water submerged many areas in nearly a dozen districts. The flood-like situation was reviewed by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan who directed officials to ensure proper relief and rehabilitation to the people affected by incessant rains, which claimed three lives since yesterday.

Train services on New Delhi-Chennai route were disrupted following track-blockade due to landslides caused by rains near Betul, officials said, adding trains were diverted via Itarsi and Nagpur as a massive operation was launched to clear the tracks for restoration of normal traffic. Vehicular movements on many roads, including national highways, were paralysed due to breaches at several places caused by continuous rains and overflowing rivers and rivulets, while a part of the 57-km-long newly constructed railway tracks in Khandwa district was submerged, they said.

Badly hit were districts like Khandwa, Rajgarh, Khargone, Harda, Betul, Dhar, Ujjain, Chhindwara, Hoshangabad, Balaghat and Guna. Road link between the state capital and Indore was snapped due to overflowing waters from two rivers near Astha and Sonkachch. In Khandwa, over 600 families were marooned due to backwaters from Indira Sagar dam in Choti Chagaon and Chagaon Makan villages, Sub-Divisional Magistrate Prakash Vyas said, adding residents of eight villages have been asked to move to safe places.

Army assistance was sought for carrying out relief and rehabilitation work in Harda district, where 20 villages were submerged by flood water, Revenue Minister Kamal Patel, who toured the affected areas, told reporters at Betul. Helicopters were also sought for distribution of food packets and relief materials in the flood-hit areas, he said.

Over 400 families were affected as rain water inundated low-lying areas in Khandwa city. Road links with Indore, Khargone, Harda, Harsud and Burhanpur were cut off, leaving a large number of people stranded at several places. Notwithstanding rain water flooding newly erected rail tracks near Talwadia Khirkia, railways officials claimed it did not affect traffic though trains moved at a slow pace. They also denied submergence of tracks by backwaters of Indira Sagar dam.

In Rajgarh district, about 5,000 flood-hit people were shifted to relief camps at Biaora, while 500 houses were damaged in the area where over 12 villages faced submergence, Sub-Divisional Magistrate R N Kushwaja said. Chambal river was in spate in Ujjain division, inundating vast areas including crucial roads in Nagda, Khachrod, Mahidpur, Badnagar and Makshi, while low-lying areas on the bank of Kshipra river in Ujjain city got submerged. Nine relief camps were opened for the affected people. The swollen Tapti river was flowing three feet above a bridge at Athner in Betul, while Machna river flooded parts of the national highway connecting Bhopal and Nagpur at Shahpur paralysing vehicular movement.

High alert sounded in four Rajasthan districts

Jodhpur, July 8 (PTI): Hundreds of people from four districts in Rajasthan were evacuated to safer places and a high alert was sounded in the region after the water level in the Luni river rose dangerously, officials said today.

The water level in Luni river rose following the collapse of protection wall of Jaswant Sagar Pichyak dam in Pichyak village last night, Regional Flood Control Room of the Water Resources Department said.

High alert have been sounded in Jodhpur, Pali, Barmer and Jalore districts and the Army and Air Force have been asked to be prepared for any eventuality, officials said.
The 150 feet long protection wall of the 118-year-old dam in Pichyak village, around 70 kilometers away from Jodhpur city, collapsed causing a rise of four to ten feet in the water level of the river, they said.

The dam had been overflowing after 28 years due to a heavy downpour on July 4, they said, adding a further rise in the water level is expected till evening.

However, the water discharge from the collapsed wall has reduced as compared to the discharge of 7000 cusec per hour last afternoon, they said.

The administration has evacuated people from the low-lying areas on the river bank and people in 10 villages near Sojat in Pali, 68 in Barmer and 28 villages near Sanchore in Jalore district have been advised to go to higher places, said Kiran Soni Gupta, Divisional Commissioner of Jodhpur.

The leakage in the dam was spotted on Friday evening. Ten army divers were air dropped into the dam, but force of water prevented them from repairing the protection wall, which collapsed completely.

Heavy rains paralyse normal life in MP

Bhopal, July 07: Heavy downpour battered several areas in Madhya Pradesh today paralysing normal life as swollen rivers and rain water inundated parts of Rajgarh and Khandwa districts, official sources said. Incessant rains, triggered by low pressure over Jharkhand, submerged about six colonies in Biaora area of Rajgarh district where gushing water from the swollen Ajnar river threw normal life out of gear, officials in the flood- control cell said. Though no casualty was reported, around 300 families were trapped due to floods in Biaora and arrangements were made to shift them to safe places and to start relief work, they said. Two relief camps were opened for providing shelter to the affected families from Hathikhana, Bhanwarganj and Indore naka sub-divisional magistrate R N Kushwaha said adding arrangements for providing food and medicines to the flood-hit were made. Ten persons took shelter atop a tree in Ghura village flooded by water from Ajnar river and steps were being taken to rescue them with the help of a motor boat, he said. In Khandwa district, low lying areas of Chamarwadi, Ramnagar and Gulshan Nagar were inundated due to heavy rains, prompting authorities to shift around 3000 people to relief camp, deputy collector Anurag Saxena said. Road links with Indore, Khargone, Harda, Harsud and Burhanpur were snapped due to flooding while Indore-Amaravati highway was closed to traffic, he said. Passengers of Delhi-Chennai GT express train had a narrow escape due to timely detection of landslide caused by heavy rains in Betul district, they said.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Dam-affected villagers await justice in MP

Rubina Khan Shapoo, Thursday, July 5, 2007 (Bhopal)

In Madhya Pradesh, people affected by two major hydro electrical projects on Narmada river - Indira Sagar and Omekareshwar project have been on strike for almost a month.And on the 28th day of the dharna by 5000 villagers and an indefinite fast by two activists, the minister concerned agreed to meet them.During the four-hour-long meeting, issues such as proper implementation of rehabilitation policies and inclusion of thousands who have not yet found a place in the government's list of displaced persons were discussed.The government now plans to form a task force and hold camps at different villages for an on-the-spot assessment of grievances and their quick redressal.The authorities, their representatives can sit there on the spot so that the villagers don't have to come to Bhopal, the government can go to villages and solve their problems,'' said Nagender Singh, Narmada Valley Development Minister.The two projects are complete but nearly 12,000 people of 280 villages in Khandwa, Harda and Dewas are still struggling for lack of proper rehabilitation measures.While the government claims that the rehabilitation process is complete, the High Court in May this year remarked that the government rehabilitation plan had not quite been followed.The Minister agreed that there have been major irregularities in implementing the rehabilitation policies and that that the affected people are not wrong in demanding their legal rights.But the question is how long do these people have to continue struggling for something that is right?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Rains lash Madhya Pradesh, Floods in Khandwa

Life was thrown out of gear as rains lashed several parts of Madhya Pradesh today with water from swollen rivers inundating a few villages, destroying huts and blocking roads in Khandwa district, official sources said. Water level in rivers and rivulets rose menacingly in Khandwa district which recorded rainfall of 185 mm in last 24 hours, Met department said.

Around 60 families were vacated from banks of Aamna river and lodged in temporary camps at different schools, sources said adding water from the river caused damage to several huts in Chamarwadi area. People in low-lying areas like Ram Nagar were stranded for couple of hours due to flooding, before help arrived. No casualties were reported as people from low-lying areas were shifted to relief camps, officials said. Roads connecting Khandwa and Khargone, Burhanpur and Sanawad were blocked as small bridges were swept away, they said.

Khargone recorded a maximum rainfall of 244 mm since yesterday, while Betul recorded 170 mm, Chhindwara 91.2 mm, Dhar 87.8 mm, Indore 27.6 mm, Ujjain 23 mm and Bhopal recorded 15.2 mm, met sources said. Rains and thunder showers were expected in most places in Indore, Bhopal and Hoshangabad districts, they said adding some places in Gwalior, Chhindwara, Ujjain and Jabalpur divisions will also experience rainfall in next 24 hours. Bureau Report