Sunday, September 30, 2007

Gen Next MPs take first hand look

WADA: "Not bad, I could eat this," said Jay Panda, Biju Janata Dal MP from Orissa, sampling a spoonful of the lapshi (porridge). "Does it need some more jaggery?" NCP MP from Maharashtra Supriya Sule asked Sachin Pilot, Congress MP from Rajasthan, as 30 pairs of eyes watched them with unabashed curiosity.

On the second leg of their field visits to study malnutrition, four of the country’s youngest MPs — BJP MP from Bihar Shahnawaz Hussain soon joined them — and all members of the Citizens’ Alliance Against Malnutrition visited three anganwadis in Thane’s district’s tribal area of Wada and found cause for both concern and hope.

The group will tour badly-hit districts in states governed by both United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and opposition parties so as to stay true to their intention of the programme staying apolitical. "We are not here on a fault-finding mission. We are here to observe the best practices in each states, identify loopholes and then make our recommendations to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh," Pilot said.

Despite the fact that news of the impending visit had long reached the first two villages, the loopholes were definitely visible. At the anganwadi at Nandgaon, anganwadi sevika Kavita Patil had maintained neat and up-to-date records of the ages and weights of the 87 children in the age group of 0-6 month by month. But, when paediatrician Samir Dalwai — who was accompanying the group — asked Patil to bring in a child so that he could verify the figures, the cracks in the system were exposed.

When Dalwai sat two-year-old Hrithik Marle in the weighing harness and suspended it from the hook attached to a scale, it showed he weighed 9.5 kg; the records maintained he was 11.5 kg. So Was Patil fudging the figures? It turned out that the floor-scales that Patil was using were wrongly calibrated and she was reminded that, according to Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) norms, she should have been using the hook-scale.

The positives were just as glaring for the MPs. At Dabcheri, anganwadi sevika Shobha Gadak explained in clear terms to the MPs how she determined if a child was malnourished, showing them the ages and weights that she had plotted neatly on a graph. "Anganwadi sevikas get all the flak when something goes wrong. But they get none of the credit even though they are the most important links in the chain," said Sule.

The extent of malnutrition in Wada was significantly lower than that in Madhya Pradesh where the team last went, grade-I and grade-II (mild and moderate) malnutrition were rampant in these tribal villages, just two hours from Thane. At Dabcheri, 48 of the 114 children registered with the anganwadi had grade-I malnutrition and 43 grade-II.

Interestingly, all three anganwadis visited listed only one child as having grade-III malnutrition and, in all three, the child could not be located.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

MP Govt sets up School for Good Governance

Madhya Pradesh government has set up a School for Good Governance and Policy Analysis here to review state policies and its effect on a target group.

"The school will function as an autonomous institution and will be run by the governing body headed by Chief Minister," an official release said on Wednesday.

An executive body will be formed for execution of routine works of the school.

The decision to establish the school was taken by the state Cabinet in June this year, which had fixed Rs five crore as the non-plan limit for 2007-08 for its establishment.

The state government has appointed H P Dixit as the Director General of the school, the release said.

The school will function as a `think tank' in the field of good governance in international and domestic context and will analyse problems regarding governance. It will also prepare an action plan and assist in implementation of the same.

Its works also include compilation and expansion of outstanding activities and skills and `e-governance' programmes, apart from suggestions on reforms in the existing administrative arrangements.

A high-power committee headed by the Chief Secretary will be constituted to finalise the outline and structure, besides sanction of necessary staff for the school. The committee shall be authorised to take final decision in this regard, the release added.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Medical services get affected as junior doctors strike in MP

Madhya Pradesh : Health services were crippled today in hospitals linked to government medical colleges across Madhya Pradesh as junior doctors went on an indefinite strike to protest MCI's reported move to "de-recognise" postgraduate seats due to inadequate infrastructure and teaching staff.

Members of the Junior Doctors Association (JDA) of medical colleges in Bhopal, Gwalior, Jabalpur, Rewa and Gwalior have been on strike for the last couple of days, while their counterparts in Indore joined the protest to seek the upgrading of facilities to meet the Medical Council of India (MCI)'s norms.

"JDAs across the state have gone on an indefinite strike," state JDA spokesman Anand Rai said.

The MCI's website claims it has "de-recognised" 154 seats in postgraduate courses in the state's five government medical colleges due to lack of infrastructure and adequate faculty, he claimed. The MCI has also recommended to the centre to withhold admissions to these seats as the state government has failed to upgrade facilities despite several reminders and warnings.

The MCI has also cut down the number of seats in several postgraduate diploma courses, thereby compounding the plight of MBBS graduates preparing for entrance examinations, Rai claimed.

Despite several pleas to the state government, effective steps have not been taken to meet MCI's norms in medical colleges, thus compromising the careers of students, he alleged.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Honey may help prevent ageing

LONDON: A new study has found that honey could be used to combat the effects of ageing, including memory decline and anxiety.

Studies conducted on mice found that those on diets including honey had better spatial memory and were less anxious. Lynne Chepulis and Nicola Starkey of the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand, raised rats on diets containing either ten per cent honey, eight per cent sucrose or no sugar at all for 12 months.

The rats were two months old at the start of the trial, and were assessed every three months using tests designed to measure anxiety and spatial memory. The results showed that honey-fed rats spent almost twice as much time in the open sections of an 'assessment maze', which the researchers say suggests that they were less anxious.

They were also more likely to spend time in new sections of a Y-shaped maze, suggesting that they knew where they had been before and had better spatial memory. "Diets sweetened with honey may be beneficial in decreasing anxiety and improving memory during ageing," stated Starkey.

The researchers propose that honey may boost memory due to its antioxidant properties, which help to prevent free radicals damaging cells in the body.The findings were presented at the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour meeting at Newcastle University.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Indian paints : hazardous

After plastic and PVC toys it’s household paint samples picked up from Delhi and Mumbai markets that have now tested positive for presence of high levels of heavy metal.

The study “A Brush with Toxics: An Investigation on Lead in Household Paints in India” was released here on Wednesday by non-government organisation Toxics Link. It claims to have detected dangerously high levels of lead in household paint samples. The research is said to be one of the most comprehensive on the issue both in terms of sample size and the range of paint type. Besides being tested in an Indian laboratory, the samples were also tested at a laboratory in New York.

The tests show alarming levels of lead in enamel paints (with a gloss finish) and this holds true for most of the paints available in the market. Of the 31 enamel paint sample analysed for lead concentration, 83.87 per cent had more than 600 parts per million (PPM) of lead and only 19.1 per cent had less than 600 PPM presence of the heavy metal. The result also indicated that most enamel paint samples had lead concentration ranging from 2 per cent to 14 per cent,” said the author of the study Abhay Kumar.

“The idea behind this research was to determine the total concentration of lead in decorative paints of all types including plastic, enamel and exterior intend for residential use. Although lead as a source of health hazard has been studied in soil, atmosphere and toys, very few studies have been done on paints in India,” said director of Toxics Link Ravi Agarwal.

The Bureau of Indian Standards has slated 1,000 PPM as the benchmark for acceptable levels of lead in paints, which is not only voluntary but also optional as a part of Ecomark labelling. Therefore, a manufacturer is not bound by law to provide safe household paints, even if they pose serious health risks.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

New studies and upcoming laws on mobile phones !

Mobiles use could be risky in ICU's

A recent Dutch study said that electronic Gizmos like mobile phones, personal digital assistants and pagers may put a patient’s life at risk if they are used inside operation rooms and intensive care units. This means that taking a cellphone close to life support equipment is dangerous because the signal can switch off ventilators and disrupt pacemakers. The research was undertaken by University of Amsterdam and published in the medical journal Critical Care. They recorded 50 incidents of electromagnetic interference from cellphone use in hospitals, 75 per cent of them classified as hazardous.

But mobile phones are not allowed inside the intensive care unit in many hospitals. One explaination could be that doctors need to be on call all the time and in all these years, no untoward incident has been reported.

Karnataka planning to bans use of mobiles under-16's

Two years after schools and colleges in Karnataka imposed a ban on use of cell phones, the coalition government has decided to prohibit these gadgets among children below 16 years, citing adverse health effects. An official notification of the ban will be announced in the next couple days, according to Minister for Primary and Secondary Education Basavaraj Horatti and Minister for Health and Family Welfare R Ashok said while talking to media. Their two ministries will write a joint letter to the Law Department for advice on a foolproof method to implement the ban. The ministries will also seek the department’s opinion on whether such a ban will be legal, the ministers told reporters here.

The state government’s decision, however, has come two years after educational institutions decided to restrict the use of mobile phones. These institutions took the decision in 2005 soon after New Delhi banned mobile phones in schools in the aftermath of an multimedia messaging service (MMS) clip of a sexual act between minor students was sent out to mobile phones and later posted on an online auction site. All engineering and medical colleges too have implemented the ban in order to prevent misuse of cell phones during practicals and examinations.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Dengue cases increase in MP

A total of 24 cases of dengue have been confirmed in Madhya Pradesh, out of the blood samples sent to the Indian Institute of Virology (IIV) Pune for the test of dengue fever came out on Tuesday, with 12 more cases found positive for dengue. Thus, the tally of dengue cases in the state has gone up to 24. After Jabalpur, Hoshangabad, Narsinghpur, Sehore and Chhindawara, Damoh have joined this list.

Of these 12 new cases as per official statement to media,nine are from Jabalpur, two from Narsinghpur and one from Damoh. 10 more samples collected from across the city have been sent for the same investigation.

Meanwhile village Bhador, Aaron block of the Guna district of the state has reported three deaths due to diarrhea, whereas 40 people have been affected.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Orissa fisherman has 5000 poems to credit

Published in Kalinga Times, Orissa.Byline Manoj Kar

An untaught fisherman in this coastal Orissa town has taken everybody by surprise by his brilliant composition of lyrics and poems.
Everyday 55-year-old Purnananda Dalai used to sell fish in the daily market in the heart of this town. But after the daybreak, the fish seller embarks on the role of an amateur writer. Very few in the literary circles are aware of creative traits of the untaught man. But the fish trader has gone unto to compile over 5000 poems, which are quite subjective, deep-felt and passionate in nature.

"He is semi literate. I am quite surprised to go through his well-written verses. He may be an amateur writer. But his creative skills that thoroughly depict social message merit recognition," remarked noted litterateur Basudev Das.

"His writings are witty, thought-provoking laced with humour. His recent composition on President Pratibha Patil and political turmoil over US nuclear deal is remarkable," Das noted. "I was deprived of formal schooling. I learnt to read and write at home. I was drawn towards writing about a decade back. It was instinctive. I was an avid reader of literature section of Oriya newspapers. Later I developed fascination towards writing," Dalai said.

"I have made it a habit to write anything on the world on a daily basis. I write and rewrite. In a week's time, I complete full-fledged composition of at least one poem."I am thinking in terms of publishing the manuscripts. But monetary constraint has been a hurdle," he concluded.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Eight cases of Dengue reported in Madhya Pradesh, India

Health alert

Six cases of dengue have been detected in Jabalpur district of Madhya Pradesh. Barella area of Jabalpur district in the Central Indian state had reported 19 deaths till early September in twenty five days. Hundreds of patients had complained of vomiting, diarrhea, and frequent bowel movements and fever. It was suspected that it was due to some water borne infections. But later on a team of National Institute of Virology (NIV) Pune had visited Jabalpur four days ago and had collected13 blood samples out of which 8 have been tested positive of dengue. The team has collected 70 more samples and would be testing them for the same. Officials deny any death cases. Out of the eight tested positive of dengue six are from Jabalpur and rest one each from Narsinghpur and Hoshangabad. Last year in October Madhya Pradesh had reported seven more cases of dengue fever, though officials had denied any deaths but media sources had reported three deaths in the state.

Dengue is acute fever caused by virus and which spreads by the bite of an infected mosquito Aedes aegypti. The mosquito gets the virus by biting the infected persons, but there is no way to tell that if mosquito is carrying dengue and mosquitoes which spread dengue live and breed in and around houses. Dengue occurs in two forms i.e. Dengue Fever and Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever. Dengue fever is marked by the onset of sudden high fever, severe headache and pain behind the eyes, muscles and joints. Dengue Haemorrhagic fever (DHF) is a more severe form, in which bleeding and sometimes shock occurs – leading to death. It is most serious in children. Since it is spread by mosquito and the mosquito breds in and around houses as precaution, experts say that do not allow water to remain collected in and around houses like coolers, drums, buckets etc. All stored water containers should be kept covered all the time, and discard solid waste and objects where water collects, e.g. bottles, tins, tyres, etc. As per WHO web site Dengue is of the most important resurgent tropical infectious diseases and is one of the most important emerging diseases affecting nearly half of the world’s population. It is estimated that there are between 50 and 100 million cases of dengue fever and about 500,000 cases of Dengue haemorrhagic fever that require hospitalization each year.

Friday, September 07, 2007

World Bank report points at corruption

NEW DELHI: The World Bank’s internal anti-corruption unit has alleged widespread corruption, including “witness statements” that kickbacks were paid to Ministers and officials of the Union Health Ministry, in its multi-million-dollar projects to reduce maternal and infant mortality.

The report, prepared in late 2005, said that projects worth $2 billion were “beset with corruption or were at risk.” This had led to the bank suspending healthcare loans worth over $1 billion, as first reported by a website's newspaper - the suspension was lifted after strong lobbying by New Delhi which is the Bank’s largest borrower but the report remained under wraps.

Now obtained by a website's, the report is not only embarrassing for the government and the bank - whose procurement and anti-corruption policies are under cloud - it also raises questions over another key sponsor of the Reproductive and Child Health programme, the British Government, through its Department for International Development.

The report acquires significance since the bank is expected, in a fortnight, to submit a detailed review of key health-sector projects it has funded in India. The main findings of the report, submitted by the bank’s Department of Institutional Integrity (also known as INT) in late 2005:

* Among the projects where evidence of corruption was found: $165-million Malaria Control Project (now succeeded by a ‘Vector Borne Disease Control Project’); $90.7-million Orissa Health Systems Development Project, $110-million Uttar Pradesh Health Systems Development Project and the Tuberculosis Control Project.

* Routine kickbacks paid to government officials, including officials at the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare; “oral testimony” by witnesses of kickbacks to Ministers.

* PSUs appointed as procurement agencies, Kerala-based Hindustan Latex and HSCC Limited, sought bribes (three to 15 percent of contract value), sold competitors’ bid information, punished companies that were not corrupt and even routed companies’ bribes to ministry officials.

* Bidders colluded to win the majority of contracts among themselves at significantly above-market prices - for example, 62 percent more than market price was paid for Folic acid tablets.

* Procurement controls were evaded and performance certificates falsified.

* Quality of drugs were sub-standard and quantities less than required; syringes and hypodermics were sourced from unlicenced Chinese suppliers.

Link to the original story provided

11 die in stampede near Jabalpur

JABALPUR: At least 11 people, including five women, were killed and more than 20 injured, three of them critically, in a stampede at a congregation in village Bharra, some 30 km from Jabalpur.

The stampede took place at Surgeon Baba's ashram in the village, who claims to have healing power that cures eye diseases. About 5,000 people visited the healing session on Thursday. He uses herbs for curing the ailments.

The critically injured persons were rushed to a hospital, while the rest are being treated at a primary health centre.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Death toll in Orissa by Cholera goes further up

The death toll from an outbreak of cholera in eastern India has jumped by over 50 percent in two days and many more people are being treated for the disease. Though official figure stands at 115 while Action Aid's an Internatonal NGO working in Orissa puts the figures at 250. The disease had mostly spread in tribal-dominated districts of Koraput, Rayagada and Kalahandi. The state government has announced compensation of Rs 10,000 to the families of the dead.

The health control room in Bhubaneswar has been set up to monitor the outbreak of the disease said over 6,000 people were being treated for cholera and dysentery.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Heila community: Dreaming for a life with dignity

Free Press
Adhir Kumar Saxena


Living a life with dignity is one of the fundamental rights of every Indian national. Indian Constitution, UN Charter and even Human Rights Commissions have time and again reiterated commitments towards them. Human Scavenging has a blanket ban in India but the sorrowful state of affairs and indifferent state governments have left the Heila and Walmiki communities still engaged in disposal of human feces (scavenging). The act is shear slavery, as these communities work on petty amounts of Rs 20 per month, cleaning human wastes. They are `untouchables', and higher castes would not allow them in religious places, share food with them or even invite them on festivities. They clean human excreta, remove dead animals (carcass) from public places and act a vulture in keeping the ecological balance.

A hutment of 54 families from the Heila community (a sub-caste in Minority Muslims) engaged in human scavenging finds a very poor settlement at Tarana (Tehsil under Ujjain district). Yes, human scavenging really exists in this Tehsil and Zubeda (56 years) carries human waste on her head every morning. In return she get Rs 10 per house in a month. She has under her Jagiri, a total of 75 houses. Her daughter-in-law also helps her nowadays. Her daughters would not do the inhuman work but once they are married, they will also be engaged in the same scavenging (a pre condition for marriage in the community). Zubeda get stale Chapatis also some times, but then, in exchange she will not be given her wages.

Tarana Tehsil has a small Muhalla of these untouchables who will not get any support from either government agencies or other communities. Their children have to take their own utensils to school if they want mid-day meals otherwise they would not be served. They have a separate sitting place in schools and they are virtually secluded, and could not move out of the Muhalla. Mohammed Mansoor, himself from the community claims that normally it is believed that untouchability is obsolete in Muslim community, but we are not allowed to participate in Rozaftar. Upper caste Muslims do not allow us close to them and we could not enter their houses.

Forced to work, these scavengers are pressed into duties to remove dead animal bodies, serve women post delivery, but no payment is made. Untouchability is still prevalent in Bapu's country, shattering his dreams of a free India. Unfortunately, the Nagar Palika ( a government entity) itself employs scavengers for removing dead animals found in streets. Despite relentless efforts of these under privileged engaged in inhuman occupation, they are not allowed to shift to any other profession.
No other community comes to their aid and they sell their Jagiri (cluster of houses where they are engaged in human scavenging for generations together) in times of need.

Adding pain to agony, these scavengers are still gratified to their petty pay masters for giving them livelihood. These scavengers have been working in these houses for ages now and call them their Jagiri (property). This Jagiri is sold or given on lease by the owner scavenger in times of need. There is no excess to other occupations, as the upper castes do not give them jobs. These scavengers come under Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and thus government job opportunities are very limited.

Parents refuse to accept girl baby till after DNA test

An innocent life has been caught in gender crossfire. It took two months for a two-month-old baby girl in Madhya Pradesh to be accepted by her parents.The baby was disowned by her own parents at birth. They had abandoned the baby at the Khandwa hospital, alleging that the administration swapped her for a male child born on the same day. Finally the matter was resolved after a DNA test, following which a legal notice was issued compelling the parents to finally accept the child. The hospital has now decided to slap a case against the parents for tarnishing their name.

The mother of the baby was allegedly forced by her mother-in-law to dispose off the girl. She now claims it's the hospital's fault.

MP to provide insurance cover to 15,440 fishermen

The Hindu, Staff Correspondent, Madhya Pradesh
A sum of Rs.75,000 would be given in the event of accidental death or permanent disability

Fishermen’s children would also receive a scholarship of Rs.100 per month

BHOPAL: The Madhya Pradesh Fisheries Department has fixed a target of providing insurance cover to 15,440 fishermen under the Janshree Bima Yojna (Janshree group insurance scheme) during the current financial year. State Fisheries Minister Moti Kashyap said here on Friday that in the first phase about 7,000 fishermen have already been insured under this scheme.

He said fishermen across Madhya Pradesh have been brought under the Janshree Bima Yojna. The idea behind the scheme is to provide social security. A sum of Rs.75,000 would be given in the event of accidental death or permanent disability to a fisherman covered under this scheme. In the event of natural death, the amount to be given under the scheme would be Rs.30,000.

Fishermen’s children (maximum two in number), studying in Class IX to XII, would also receive a scholarship of Rs. 100 per month under this scheme. The Janshree Bima Yojana is a Central scheme targeted at the urban and rural poor who live below the poverty line or on the margin. It is backed by the Central Social Security Fund and administered by the Life Insurance Corporation of India. The premium for the insurance cover would be Rs.200 per year. Of this, Rs.100 would be shared equally by the individual and the State Government.

Cholera, diarrhoea epidemic claims 171 lives in Orissa

The Hindu

More people hospitalised, disease spreads to many new areas

KASHIPUR (Orissa): As the death toll due to the outbreak of diarrhoea and cholera epidemic in the State rose to 171 on Friday and the disease spread to new areas, the authorities were found struggling to cope with the situation.

That the government was underplaying the epidemic became clear during a visit to some government hospitals and affected villages in the tribal-dominated Kashipur block of Rayagada district.

While many people suffering from diarrhoea were admitted to the Tikiri primary health centre in Kashipur on Friday, the death toll rose to 66 in the block.

The PHC never had electricity and there was no doctor for nearly one year till the cholera deaths were reported from a majority of the villages under the 20 gram panchayats in Kashipur. Electricity was provided and a doctor was posted at the health centre only after people of Kucheipadar organised a road block agitation on August 22.

Meanwhile, fresh cases were reported from Podagada area under the Dasmantpur block of Koraput district. Four students of Podagada girls’school were admitted to the local primary health centre. While the official death toll increased to 73 in the block on Friday, the death toll in the district rose to 78.

Kashipur and Dasmantpur blocks have been badly hit by the epidemic, while 27 deaths have been reported from the Thuamul Rampur block of neighbouring Kalahandi district so far.

The unofficial reports, however, indicated that the death toll in the three districts had increased to 297, with 180 deaths in Kashipur, 90 in Dasmantpur and 27 in Thuamul Rampur.

The Opposition Congress on Thursday claimed that they had already prepared a list of 350 persons who had fallen victim to diarrhoea and cholera.

The casualty could be more than 500, senior leaders of the party claimed.

Lok Shakti Abhiyan, an organisation working in the backward KBK region, has also claimed that at least 300 people had died in the districts of Rayagada, Koraput and Kalahandi so far.

President of the Abhiyan Prafulla Samantara blamed the government for neglecting the health sector in the rural areas.

Meanwhile, stray cases of diarrhoea were reported in distant Mayurbhanj district.