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Daily Category  (Poverty)

Orunodoi Scheme

Context:

The Assam government has decided to launch the 'Orunodoi' Scheme.

Orunodoi Scheme:

  • It is a cash transfer scheme which will cover over 18 lakh families of the state who will receive 830 rupees per month in their bank accounts.
  • The monthly assistance would support a family to buy medicines worth Rs 400 per month, 50 % subsidy of four kg pulses worth Rs 200, Rs 80 for sugar, and for essential vegetables and fruits worth Rs 150.
  • It is the biggest ever scheme in post-Independence Assam,
  • The scheme would strengthen the role of the women as the money will be deposited in the bank accounts of the women of the families.

Beneficiaries:

  • The number of beneficiaries will increase to about 22 lakh once the BTC districts are also included.
  • The scheme will be rolled out in 29 districts at the moment.
  • The districts under the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts have not been included due to the model code of conduct for the forthcoming Bodo Territorial Council (BTC) polls.

Significance:

  • It is the first of its kind in the country as no other state has such a high coverage of Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme nor matches the amount of cash transfer that is being made.
  • It marks a paradigm shift in the approach to poverty alleviation program, where the government does not decide how money should be spent for the poor.
  • Widow, unmarried or divorced women, and the physically challenged are usually considered a burden in many households but this will ensure that they are not a liability but an asset and their position in the family will improve.
  • It is the first of its kind initiative because the state government has introduced a massive cash transfer program which is very close to the initiative of universal basic income.

Source: The Hindu

National Nutrition Mission

Context:

A report by NITI Aayog has warned that the National Nutrition Mission (Poshan Abhiyaan) must be stepped up in order to meet the targets set by the Centre to reduce stunting, wasting, and anaemia by 2022.

Key findings:

  • India's targets on stunting are conservative as compared to the global target defined by the World Health Assembly (WHA).
  • It is a prevalence rate of 5% of stunting as opposed to India’s goal of reducing stunting levels to 13.3% by 2022.
  • The target of reducing prevalence levels of anaemia among pregnant women from 50.3% in 2016 to 34.4% in 2022 and among adolescent girls from 52.9% in 2016 to 39.66% is also considered to be conservative as compared to the WHA's target of halving prevalence levels.
  • The experts have warned that deepening poverty and hunger may delay achieving the goals defined under the Nutrition Mission.

Recommendations:

  • There is a need to quickly graduate to a POSHAN-plus strategy which apart from continued strengthening the four pillars of the Abhiyaan also requires a renewed focus on other social determinants.
  • The report calls for a need to lay as much emphasis on complementary feeding as it does on breastfeeding, which it points out can help avert 60% of the total stunting cases in India.
  • It also recommends improved “water, sanitation, handwashing with soap and hygienic disposal of children’s stools” as other interventions which could help avert a quarter of the stunting cases.
  • The additional preventive nutrition and health sensitive strategies are required to achieve further reductions in wasting to meet WHA target for India.
  • It notes that the government must implement interventions beyond the health sector and its focus on the distribution of IFA tablets.
  • The strategy must include efforts to improve socio-economic conditions, else India will achieve modest improvements in anaemia among women of reproductive age.

National Nutrition Mission (Poshan Abhiyaan):

  • It is a flagship program of the Ministry of Women and Child Development launched in 2018.
  • It aimed at improving the nutritional status of children from 0-6 years, Adolescent girls, Pregnant women and lactating mothers in a time-bound manner 
  • It aims to reduce:
    • Stunting and wasting by 2% per year (total 6% until 2022) among children and
    • Anaemia by 3% per year (total 9% until 2022) among children, adolescent girls and pregnant women and lactating mothers.

Source: The Hindu

Kala-azar

Context:

A paper published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases by a team from Rajendra Memorial Research Institute of Medical Sciences (ICMR) tells the success story of how they eliminated the Kala-azar (Visceral leishmaniasis) from Vaishali, a district in Bihar where the disease is highly endemic.

Key Highlights:

  • The district's integrated control strategy helped reduce the number of cases from 664 in 2014 to 163 in 2016.
  • The Vaishali district has a population of over 35 lakh and about 22% in the district get affected by VL each year.
  • The integrated programme included mapping of the case distribution, early case detection and chemical-based vector control.
  • The study highlighted that a strong supervision and monitoring system is required under which GIS-based mapping, case data management and spatial visualisation system will be used for the proper implementation of control strategies.

Kala-azar:

  • Visceral leishmaniasis, also known as kala-azar, is characterized by irregular bouts of fever, substantial weight loss, swelling of the spleen and liver, and anaemia.
    • Leishmaniasis is caused by the protozoan Leishmania parasites which are transmitted by the bite of infected female phlebotomine sandflies.
  • There are 3 main forms of leishmaniases i.e. visceral (also known as kala-azar, which is and the most serious form of the disease), cutaneous (the most common), and mucocutaneous.
  • Leishmaniasis is linked to environmental changes such as deforestation, the building of dams, irrigation schemes, and urbanization.

India's position:

  • Under the National Health Mission (NHM), National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme coordinates the kala-azar elimination programme in India.
  • India has already missed the kala-azar elimination target thrice in the last decade.
  • The initial deadline set by the National Health Programme (now NHM) was 2010, which was pushed to 2015 in the 12th Financial Plan Document.
  • The deadline was later extended twice to 2017, and then to 2020.
  • The WHO target to eliminate Kala-Azar was 2017.
  • The target is to reduce the incidence of the disease to less than one case per 10,000 population at the sub-district level.

Source: The Hindu

Saving the underprivileged families from starvation

1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

The COVID-19 pandemic lingers on and as the COVID-19 crisis deepens, the vulnerable sections of the society are exposed and threatened more than ever before.

This editorial discusses the immediate need to put money in the hands of the impoverished to support them during the pandemic by efficient and strict implementation of critical social welfare schemes of the government related to nutrition, food security and healthcare.

2. IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON CHILDREN

2.1 Children as the worst sufferers of COVID-19 pandemic

  • As the COVID-19 crisis deepens, it is flaring up into a humanitarian crisis.
  • Innocent children have been the first and worst victims of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Not only has their childhood been stolen since the pandemic surfaced, even after the pandemic subsides, its aftermath in the form of economic depression would indirectly hurt the development years of children in the next few years to come.

2.2 COVID19 and Child Labour Report

  • This report has been published by combined efforts of UNICEF (United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund) and the ILO (International Labour Organization), two agencies of the United Nations.
  • The report predicts an increase of 40 to 60 million in the number of people facing extreme poverty in this year itself.
  • The report also suggests that due to reduction of job opportunism in the labour market for the parents, the children will be exposed to the high risk of being forced to work in exploitative and hazardous work.

2.3 ‘The Impact of COVID19 on Children’ – UN policy brief

  • The recent policy brief by the United Nation, “The Impact of COVID19 on Children”, forecasts that a dire consequence of the economic recession entailing the COVID-19 crisis would result in “hundreds of thousands of children deaths”.
  • To add to the woes, the report also underlines the possibility of underestimating the number.
  • The brief also underlines that the direct consequence of the preventive lockdown policy due to the COVID-19 crisis has been on the nutritional health of the 368.5 million schoolchildren in 143 countries.
  • Many of the schoolchildren relied on school meals as their daily source of nutrition.
  • Distance learning has been adopted by almost two-thirds of developed countries but the number is only 30% for low-income countries.
  • Scarce and scattered power supply, limited access to high-speed internet and non-affordability of electronic devices are the biggest impediments to distance learning in low-income countries.
  • This directly affects the literacy rates and the future bank of human capital.

3. SITUATION IN INDIA

The situation in India is as bad as the global scenario if not any worse. 

3.1 Lack of awareness

  • Recently a survey conducted by a foundation across 16 states with 7,000 respondents revealed that 62 per cent households had a child at home who was less than six years old.
  • The survey also revealed the lack of knowledge about the virus.
  • A mere 26% knew to stay away from a person exhibiting coronavirus symptoms.
  • Over 50% of the household did not follow the 'wash behaviour' neglecting washing hands before feeding their babies or after cleaning their excreta.
  • This negligence puts the family and children both to the high risk of contracting the virus.
  • Though children are not severely affected by COVID-19 till now, yet even a mild infection can drive the family into financial distress.

3.2 Loss of unemployment

  • The nationwide lockdown in India has had a very devastating effect on the households whose primary source of income comes from labour work, salaries, wages and commission.
  • The monthly unemployment rate shows a very sharp spike at 23.49% in May, against 8.74% in March as per the data from Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE).

3.3 FicusPax Pvt Ltd vs Union of India Case, 12 June 2020

  • In the FicusPax Pvt Ltd Case, the Supreme Court held that no coercive action would be taken against private firms for non-payment of wages during the lockdown.
  • This indicates bleak prospects of improvement of the condition of such households.
  • The SC also added that the employer and employee must negotiate amongst themselves issues regarding payment of wages.
  • This will only lead to more exploitation of such employees by the private firms.
  • Another ill consequence of reduced and restricted sources of income and unemployment is that it will force such households to engage their children in labour.
  • A survey estimates children of 22% of households working at or outside their home
  • In this context, rural households perform bettered than urban households did.

4. FOOD INSECURITY

4.1 Food insecurity during the epidemic

  • Limited household income and availability of ration at home are directly correlated.
  • The unavailability of food will directly impact the health of children.
  • This situation has been worsened by during the lockdown due to inefficient service delivery of take-home rations (THR) and mid-day meals under the Integrated Child Development Schemes.
  • Reports show that only 17 per cent of households were able to access THR.
  • Mass shutting of schools during the lockdown period has deprived 43 per cent of households the mandated mid-day deals.
  • The picture become all gloomier given the fact that presently India has the highest percentage of stunted and wasted children among developing countries.
  • While 37.9% children under the age of 5 are stunted, 20.8 % children under the age of 5 are wasted.
  • This indicates an impoverished and hunger-stricken future for our nation.

4.2 Other distresses

  • During March-April, ‘CHILDLINE 1098’ received 4.6 lakh calls displaying the dire hardships being faced by the children.
  • 30 % of the calls were related to pandemic-induced problems of shortage of food and transport.
  • Other problems included requests related to child labour, trafficking, and child abuse and child marriage.
  • As the economic slowdown deepens and becomes more severe, involuntary poverty will only increase and the number of such distress calls will only volume up.

5. CONCLUSION

  • Before the situation goes beyond control, the marginalised sections of our society need to be protected atany cost.
  • The government and the civil society must join hands to protect underprivileged families and their children from starvation.
  • There is a very pressing and urgent need to make monetary resources available to the impoverished and vulnerable sections of the society.
  • To ensure uninterrupted delivery of food and essential social services the government must tighten the noose on implementation of its initiatives and social welfare schemes.
  • The government’s latest decision to extend the Ayushman Bharat scheme to migrant workers across states is commendable however, a lot of responsibility is left on the shoulders of the primary healthcare system.
  • The civil society can innovate and provide equal access to education to the less privileged.
  • As a social ethics, the general public should show empathy and compassion to our unprivileged brothers and sisters.
  • This is not just a test of government’s efficiency but the whole humanity.

Civil Registration System

Context:

According to a 2018 report on the ‘vital statistics on India based on the Civil Registration System’, Arunachal Pradesh recorded the best sex ratio in the country. The report was published by the Registrar General of India.

Key Highlights:

  • The ratio was determined on the basis of data provided by 30 States and Union Territories.
  • The requisite information from six States namely Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal is not available.
  • The number of registered births increased to 2.33 crore in 2018 from 2.21 crore registered births in 2017.
  • The report highlighted that the level of registration of births has increased to 89.3% in 2018 from 81.3% in 2009.

Performance of States and Union Territories:

  • Arunachal Pradesh recorded 1,084 females born per thousand males, followed by Nagaland (965) Mizoram (964), Kerala (963), and Karnataka (957).
  • The worst was reported in Manipur (757), Lakshadweep (839), Daman & Diu (877), Punjab (896), and Gujarat (896).
  • Delhi recorded a sex ratio of 929, Haryana 914, and Jammu and Kashmir 952.

Civil Registration System:

  • The history of the Civil Registration System (CRS) in India dates back to the middle of the 19th century.
  • In 1886 a Central Births, Deaths, and Marriages Registration Act was promulgated to provide for voluntary registration throughout British India.
  • CRS in India is the unified process of continuous, permanent, compulsory, and universal recording of the vital events (births, deaths, still-births) and characteristics thereof.
  • The data generated through a complete and up-to-date CRS is essential for socio-economic planning.

Source: The Hindu

Step Up for TB 2020

Context:

Step Up for TB 2020 report has been released by the Stop TB Partnership (STBP) and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). It surveys 37 high TB-burden countries and shows that critical medical innovations are reaching far fewer people who urgently need them.

Key Highlights:

  • TB remains the world’s top infectious disease killer, with more than 10 million people falling ill and 1.4 million people dying due to this disease in 2019.
  • The report finds that only 22% of countries surveyed allow TB treatment to be started and followed up at a primary healthcare facility, instead of traveling to a hospital.
  • It found out that 39% of countries do not use a modified all-oral shorter treatment regimen and 28% of countries surveyed still are using injectable medicines when treating children with DR-TB.
  • The report highlighted that 85% of countries surveyed do not use the lifesaving point-of-care urinary TB LAM test for routine diagnosis of TB in people living with HIV, as recommended by WHO.

Recommendations of Step Up for TB 2020:

  • The national treatment programs must prioritize the use of all-oral treatment regimens for people with drug-resistant TB (DR-TB) that no longer include older, toxic drugs that have to be injected and cause serious side effects.
  • The findings of this report can be used to evaluate national policy alignment, including by civil society and communities affected by TB, to determine national, regional, and global priorities.

India's Performance:

  • The report provided that India is still following a very conservative approach regarding the new medicines for drug-resistant TB.
  • Until March 2020, India had nearly 2 lakh MDR-TB patients who were eligible for Bedaquiline but only 10,845 had received it.

Initiatives to eliminate TB:

  • NIKSHAY Poshan Yojana: The government proposed an incentive of Rs.500 per patient per month for the nutritional support of TB-affected patients during the course of the treatment.
  • Elimination of TB by 2025: In 2018, the government launched the TB Free India Campaign and a national strategic plan (NSP) to end TB by 2025.
  • NIKSHAY Portal: The Government of India has introduced a system called NIKSHAY to keep a track of TB patients across the country.
  • TB Harega Desh Jeetega Campaign: In 2019, the government launched the TB Harega Desh Jeetega Campaign with an aim to eliminate tuberculosis from India.

Source: The Hindu

Laadli Scheme

Context:

Delhi government has given information that its Laadli Scheme is reeling under the effect of the Covid lockdown, with a significant slowdown in the number of enrollments in 2020.

Laadli Scheme:

  • It is a scheme launched by the Government of NCT of Delhi in the year 2008.
  • The scheme aims at:
    • enhancing the social status of girl child in the society as well in the family;
    • ensuring proper education to make the girls self-reliant;
    • ensuring her economic security and
    • protecting them from discrimination and deprivation.
  • Under the scheme, financial assistance is sanctioned for beneficiary girls starting at their birth and then at various stages of their education up until the senior secondary level.
  • The new babies who can benefit from the first stage of financial assistance, have to be registered within a year of their birth, and they have to renew it at their schools at various stages of their education journey.
  • Under the scheme, financial aid is provided Rs 11,000 if born in a hospital or Rs 10,000 if born at home, and Rs 5,000 each in further five milestones i.e. Class I, VI, IX, XI, and XII.

Eligibility:

  • The applicant, i.e., the child’s parent must be a bonafide resident of the National Capital Territory of Delhi for at least 3 years preceding the date of birth.
  • The girl child must be born in Delhi.
  • The annual family income of the parents of the child must not be more than Rs 1 Lakh.
  • The Laadli Yojana of Delhi is limited to 2 surviving girls per family.

Impact of COVID-19 on Laadli Scheme:

  • In the first six months for the 2020-2021 cycle, the scheme received 1,094 new enrolments which are well below the number of new enrolments in the 2019-2020 cycle, which was 46,660.
  • During 2020-2021 less than expected number of new registration as well as renewal cases have been received by the Delhi government’s Women and Child Development department.
  • The low enrolments and renewal will impact the future allocation of funds due to poor utilization in the current year which will deprive many underprivileged girls of the much-needed financial assistance under the Laadli Scheme.

Source: The Indian Express

Agriculture's linkages with Nutrition and Hunger

CONTEXT:

Restore agriculture’s broken link with nutrition. That is solution to India’s hidden hunger. 

On October 16, World Food Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi issued a commemorative coin of Rs 75 and dedicated 17 bio-fortified varieties of eight crops to the nation to celebrate the establishment of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) 75 years ago, in 1945.

In 1945, for the first time, nations organised to raise levels of nutrition and improve production and distribution of food and agricultural products.

CHALLENGES/ISSUES:

  1. Even after 75 years (FAO), agriculture policymakers, in setting priorities, mentioning improving human nutrition before improving agricultural production.
  2. Primary objective of agriculture: A primary objective of agriculture is to produce food that provides enough minerals and vitamins that sustain healthy human beings. This is often forgotten in our efforts to improve agricultural productivity and raise farm incomes.
  3. Almost 2 billion women and children in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) are at risk for vitamin A, iron, and zinc deficiencies, leading to more sickness, increased number of deaths and lower cognitive ability.
    • All combining to reduce economic growth significantly. 
    • The highest numbers of women and children suffering from this “hidden hunger” live in South Asia, especially India.
  4. High-quality diet Vs Affordability: The primary underlying cause for mineral and vitamin deficiency is low-quality diet. The poor desire, but cannot afford to purchase sufficient quantities of vegetables, fruits, pulses, and animal products.
    • It contains relatively high amounts of bio-available minerals and vitamins,
    • but its prices have been rising much faster than staples like wheat, rice and corn

SOLUTIONS/STRATEGIES TO TACKLE HUNGER-NUTRITION ISSUES:

  1. How to address the problem of low intake of minerals and vitamins through agriculture?

There are two broad strategies.

  1. Food staples: The first is to improve the densities of minerals and vitamins in the high amounts of food staples that the poor already consume.
  2. Non-staple foods: The second is to increase their consumption of nutritious non-staple foods. This second broad strategy fundamentally depends on raising incomes and lowering the real prices of non-staple foods.
  1. Food staples are not dense on minerals and vitamins, but they do provide a broad range of essential minerals and vitamins — a base which needs to be strengthened by non-staple foods. 
  2. “Bio-fortification”: Within food staples, the objective, then, is to increase densities of nutritious components and decrease the densities of undesirable compounds. One way to do this is through “Bio-fortification”.
    • From that standpoint, Prime Minister Modi’s endorsement of eight bio-fortified crops is commendable.
    • The credit for this also goes to many agri-scientists of India, such as MS Swaminathan, for their long-term vision and perseverance to develop these bio-fortified crops. 
  3. Link bio-fortified staples to food-based welfare programmes: These bio-fortified staples need to be closely linked to India’s food-based welfare programmes including the public distribution system (PDS) the mid-day meal and anganwadis and should become an integral part of the National Nutrition Mission (POSHAN Abhiyan). 
    • This would also help fight the adverse impact of Covid-19 on the nutrition of the country’s vulnerable population.
  4. Enhancing Nutrition through other means: But linking agriculture and nutrition only starts with bio-fortification. We must not stop there. Evidence demonstrates that nitrogenous fertilisers increase the densities of proteins, minerals and vitamins in staple foods.
    •  There are synergies in combining these fertiliser strategies with bio-fortified crops. 
    • Model: “Harvest Zinc” programme in Turkey
  5. Use of Fertilisers: Fertilisers also augment productivity, keeping food prices lower than they would be otherwise. This is well understood in literature, but its impact on human nutrition is not well-quantified yet.
  6. Supply of key foods: Turning now to vegetables, fruits, pulses, animal products — foods already dense in minerals and vitamins — the fundamental strategy should be to increase the supply of key foods that can contribute importantly to nutrient intakes. The supply can be increased cost-effectively through public policy and investments.

CONCLUSION:

Operation Flood:

  • It improved the efficiency of milk production, a highly nutritious and important food in Indian diets.
  • Supply went up sharply and the relative real price went down significantly.
  • Milk consumption increased.
  • Investing in an efficient milk value chain in India was an incredibly “nutrition-smart” agricultural activity that benefitted millions throughout India.
  • A similar push is needed today for fruits and vegetables, and pulses. The current reforms in farm laws offer an opportunity to develop similar value chains for these, as was done in milk.
  • Agricultural policymakers typically focus on increasing productivity and farmers’ incomes. But investing in improved nutrition through agriculture has extremely high economic payoffs.
  • Prime Minister Modi should be complimented for drawing attention to bio-fortified basic staples and linking it to public food programmes.

Source: Indian Express

Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2020

Context:

The Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2020 has been recently released.

Key Highlights:

  • Nearly 690 million people in the world are undernourished; 144 million children suffer from stunting, a sign of chronic under-nutrition, and 47 million children suffer from wasting, also a sign of acute under-nutrition.
  • China and Brazil both scored under five and are considered to have very low levels of hunger.
  • South Africa is ranked 60 with a score of 13.5, indicating moderate levels of hunger.
  • In the serious category, India stands with some of the poorest African nations, as well as its own South Asian neighbors.

India’s performance:

  • India has been ranked 94 on the 2020 Global Hunger Index (GHI), lower than neighbors like Bangladesh and Pakistan. 
  • The number of young children in India who are very short and thin, reflecting severe under-nutrition, puts it alongside the poorest African nations, with some indicators showing actual declines over the last five years.
  • In 2020, India falls in the ‘serious’ category on the Index, with a total score of 27.2 which is a definite improvement from the situation two decades ago, when it scored 38.9 and fell into the ‘alarming’ category. 
  • In terms of overall undernourishment, 14% of India’s population does not get enough calories, an improvement from almost 20% in 2005-07. 
  • Almost 35% of Indian children are stunted which is an improvement from 54.2 % in the early 2000s.
  • 17.3% of Indian children under five are wasted, which is the highest prevalence of child wasting in the world. 

Global Hunger Index (GHI):

  • It is an annual peer-reviewed publication by Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe.
  • Objective: To track hunger at global, regional, and national levels.
  • Indicators: It is based on the following four indicators: 
    • The proportion of undernourished in a population
    • The proportion of children under the age of five suffering from wasting (less weight in proportion to their height)
    • The proportion of children under five suffering from stunting (low height in proportion to their age)
    • The mortality rate of children under five
  • One-third of the score comes from the level of undernourishment in a country, which is the share of the population with insufficient caloric intake and uses Food and Agriculture Organization data. 
  • The other three parameters are based on children under the age of five years.
    • A third of the score comes from the child mortality rate, which often reflects the fatal mix of inadequate nutrition and unhealthy environments.
    • The remaining third of the score is based on child wasting, which is the share of children who have low weight for their height, reflecting acute under-nutrition, and child stunting, which is the share of children who have low height for their age, reflecting chronic under-nutrition.

Source: The Hindu

Health in India Report

Context:

The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation has released the report of a survey titled ‘Health in India’.

  • Objective: To gather basic quantitative information on India’s health sector.

Details:

  • The report contains health information for separate religious communities, including estimates of their susceptibility to ailments.
  • The report is based on information collected through NSS Schedule 25.0 (Household Social Consumption: Health) spread across the country.
  • Data were collected through a sample survey of 1.13 lakh households covering 5.55 lakh persons.

Illness in the religious group:

  • The Zoroastrian community remains the most susceptible to ailments. As per the report, 31.1 % of Zoroastrians reported that they were suffering from an ailment at the time the survey was conducted.
  • This number for other communities is Jains, 11.2 %; Sikhs 11 %; Christians 10.5 %; Muslims 8.1 %; Buddhists 8 %; and Hindus 7.2 %.

Ailment:

  • The survey defines ailment as any deviation from a person’s state of physical and mental well-being.
  • The ‘Proportion of Persons who Responded as Ailing’ in a 15-day period when they were approached by the surveyors, were registered as those suffering from ailments.

Division in terms of sex:

  • The survey shows that women remain more susceptible to suffering from ailments than men. In rural India, 6.1 % of males said that they were suffering from ailments, while 7.6 % of rural women said the same.
  • Around 7.5 % of Indians reported that they were suffering from ailments, as per the survey. The difference in people suffering from ailments in rural and urban India was stark. 

Zoroastrianism:

  • It is one of the world's oldest monotheistic religions and the Parsi community is a follower of it
  • It was founded by the Prophet Zoroaster in ancient Iran around the 6th-7th century.
  • Zoroastrians believe in one God called Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord) who created the world. Their holy scripture is called the Avesta.
  • Nowruz is the Iranian New Year which is celebrated on March 21 in India by the Parsi community.
  • In India, Maharashtra has the highest Parsi population followed by Gujarat.
  • Zoroastrians (Parsis) are among the six religious communities notified as minority communities in India.
    • The other five are Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains.

Source: Indian Express

Reset rural job policies to recognise women’s work

1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

As the Indian economy comes out of the lockdown restrictions while the health implications of the COVID-19 is still looming, the labour market policy should be designed in a way to reverse the gender-differentiated impact the COVID-19 has had on the Indian economy.

This editorial discusses the need to designing and implementation policies to assist women.

2. GREATER IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON WOMEN

2.1 Effect on jobs

  • The adverse economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are adversely huge on women but very little attention is paid on the adverse impacts of the pandemic on women due to paucity of official statistics on women workers.
  • Due to the inadequate and inaccurate data available on women's work, there is also a lack of specific policies and programmes to assist them.
  • A survey conducted by Azim Premji University on 5,000 workers across 12 States, 52% of whom were women workers revealed that the adverse impact of the nationwide lockdown are disproportionately higher on women worker.
  • The survey revealed that while 71% of women rural casual workers lost their jobs during the lockdown, the number stands at 59% for men.
  • Data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) also confirms the above finding. It reveals that job losses in April 2020 were larger for rural women than men when compared to the data for April 2019.

2.2 Effect on health and nutrition

  • As the nationwide lockdown significantly lowered employment in agriculture and allied activities and halted non-agricultural employment completely, the burden of care on women mounted up.
  • All the members of the family were at home during the lockdown. Men out of jobs or working from home, children out of schools, the chores of cooking, cleaning, childcare and elderly care became more onerous.
  • Managing the increased amount of household work that too during a crisis when provisioning has to be done at reduced levels of income and tight budgets will surely have significant long-term effects on the physical and mental health of women.
  • High levels of malnutrition among rural women is most likely going to worsen as rural families survive on reduced food intake.

3. PRE COVID-19 SITUATION

  • For a thorough examination of COVID-19 impact on women workers, we analyse the situation before the pandemic.
  • 25% of adult rural women were counted as “workers” in official data for the year 2017-18 in the national labour force surveys.
  • However, the situation changes drastically when we examine the data from time-use survey.
  • A time-use survey collects information on all activities undertaken during a fixed time period (usually 24 hours).
  • Presently, there are no official time-use survey data available.
  • Although, the National Statistical Office conducted a time-use survey in 2019  but the results are not available.
  • This editorial uses time-use survey from a village in Karnataka.

4. FEATURES OF RURAL WOMEN WORKFORCE

4.1 Crisis of regular employment

  • Rural women face a crisis of regular employment.
  • It suggests that women not reported as 'workers' in official surveys are so because of lack of employment opportunities and not due to “withdrawal” from the labour force.
  • The crisis of regular employment has definitely intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic and the nationwide lockdown.

4.2 Participation by women from all sections

  • Several independent surveys have revealed that women from almost all sections of the peasantry participate in paid work outside the home barring some regional exceptions.
  • Therefore while considering 'potential workforce' women from a majority of rural household should be taken into account and not just women from sections of rural labour or manual worker households.

4.3 More participation by older women

  • Relatively younger and more educated women often do not seek work because they aim at finding work in skilled non-agricultural sectors while older women are more likely to work as manual labour.

4.4 Rising wage gaps

  • Another crucial finding is that wages for the same work for women are rarely equal to wages for men, barring some exceptions.
  • The gap between the wages is highest for non-agricultural works, which is the new and expanding source of employment.

4.5 Exceedingly high work hours

  • A women's workday in rural India is significantly higher.
  • When all forms of work are included viz. economic activity and care work (which includes household chores as cooking, cleaning, childcare, elderly care) the total work hours for women is exceedingly long.
  • Surveys reveal that total work hours for women (in economic activity and care) ranges from 61 to 88 hours in the lean season and up to as high as 91 hours (or 13 hours a day) in the peak season. All women have at least a 60-hour workweek.

5. EFFECT OF THE LCOKDOWN ON JOBS

5.1 Effect on jobs in agriculture sector

  • Various surveys have shown that during the lockdown period no agricultural activity was undertaken during the lean months of March to May in large parts of the country where rain-fed agriculture is prevalent.
  • In parts of India where irrigated agriculture has significant presence there were some harvest operations (such as for rabi wheat in northern India) but these activities were largely mechanised.
  • In yet other harvest operations like that of vegetables there was a low tendency to involve hired labour out of the fear of infection and a majority of households relied on family labour.
  • Hence, summing up even as agricultural activity continued during the lockdown period, employment avenues for women were severely restricted.
  • Similar was the case for agriculture-allied activities like animal rearing, fisheries and floriculture. Both income as well as employment in agriculture-allied activities were adversely affected by the lockdown.
  • Village studies show that women are inevitably a part of the labour process in case the family owns animals whether milch cattle or chickens or goats.
  • During the lockdown, demand for milk fell by at least 25% due to closing up of hotels, restaurants and eateries as well as fear of infection by households.
  • Incomes from the sale of milk to dairy cooperatives fell down for women throughout the nation.
  • In the fisheries sector as well women could not process or sell fish and fish products as fishermen could not go to sea due to the lockdown.

5.2 Effect on jobs in Non-agricultural sector

  • Jobs in non-agricultural sector too halted completely as construction sites, brick kilns, petty stores and eateries, local factories and other firm were completely shut down in the lockdown period.
  • Studies have shown that women have accounted for more than half of workers in public works. But there was a dearth of employment available through the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS).
  • Therefore, in the first month of lockdown there was a total collapse of non-agricultural employment for women although there was a big increase in demand for NREGS employment.
  • Government schemes most importantly those in health and education sectors have been one of the new sources of employment for women in the last few years like women working as Anganwadi workers or mid-day meal cooks.
  • During the pandemic, Accredited Social Health Activists or ASHAs, 90% of whom are women, have become frontline health workers, although they are not recognised as “workers” or paid a regular wage.

6. WAY AHEAD

  • First and foremost we need to redefine the contours of rural labour market by including the contribution of women as the country emerges from the lockdown.
  • For the immediate and short run provisioning of employment for women, the NREGS can be expanded with special focus on women.
  • A medium to long provisioning of women-specific employment can be done by generating more employment in skilled occupations and in businesses and new enterprises.
  • Women have already been playing a significant role in health care at the grass-root level and therefore in the proposed expansion of health infrastructure in the country, they must be given recognition as 'workers' and should be duly compensated.
  • The announcement of rural infrastructure expansion by Finance Minister is a laudable step but at the same time, safe and easy transport for women from their homes to workplaces needs to be ensured.
  • As the lockdown is slowly opening up, the children and elderly remain at home. The burden of care for them rests on the shoulders of women.
  • In addition, men have seen to have a higher likelihood to contract COVID-19 infection than women do which in turn increases the burden on women to earn the family bread.
  • Given these facts, we also need to reduce the drudgery of care work for women like delivering healthy meals for schoolchildren, elderly and the sick can significantly reduce the burden of home cooking.

7. CONCLUSION

Women should be seen as equal partners in rural workforce and in transforming the rural economy.

To achieve this we need to accurately capture workforce data on women and use it to design and implement policies specific to women.

Smothering the housing rights of the urban poor

CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

A three Judge bench of Supreme Court directed State authorities to remove the thousands of slum dwellings along the railway tracks in the national capital within a period of three months.

ALL ABOUT THE CASE

  • An affidavit was filed by additional Divisional Railway Manager at DRM Office of Northern Railway about the presence of jhuggies’ in Delhi along the 140 km route length of track in the region of NCT of Delhi.
  • This is the region where the railway tracks take off in different directions and also include a ring connecting the takeoff of all these routes
  • About 70 km route length of track is affected by large jhuggie jhopri’ clusters existing in close vicinity of tracks.
  • These clusters have about 48,000 numbers of jhuggies in the region adjacent to railway tracks.
  • Earlier a report was filed by the Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA), in which it sought direction to Railways to present a time-bound plan for solid waste management in the northern region, starting with Delhi and its vicinity.

SC VERDICT:

  • Made comprehensive plan for removal of jhuggies be made and executed in a phased manner.
  • Remove the jhuggi jhopri clusters in the railway safety zone within a period of three months.
  • No Court shall grant any stay with respect to removal of the encroachments and in case any such interim order is granted ‘that shall not be effective’.
  • No interference, political or otherwise, should be there
  • The action taken should be reported to the Court within a period of one month.

A FLAWED ORDER

  • The orders for the demolition of the informal settlements of poor urban residents have raised serious legal questions.
  • The order has been criticized for ignoring the principles of natural justice, judicial precedents on the right to shelter, and state policies governing evictions.

Violation of Natural Justice:

  • The decision of the demolition of slums (jhuggi jhopris) has been taken by the apex court without even hearing the affected party, the jhuggi dwellers. It is the violation of principles of natural justice and due process.
  • The verdict was passed in the long-running case, M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India & Ors., regarding pollution in Delhi and was also in response to a report by Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority for the National Capital Region on the piling up of garbage along railway tracks.
  • It is important to note that the case or the report do not concerns itself with the legality of informal settlements and still the Court made an unconvincing connection between the piling of garbage and the presence of slums and gave an eviction order without giving the residents a fair hearing.

Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN)

  • It is an independent organization based in New Delhi, India, works for the recognition, defence, promotion, and realization of the human rights to adequate housing and land, which involve gaining a safe and secure place for all individuals and communities, especially marginalized communities, to live in peace and dignity.
  • It is registered as an Indian charitable trust works on research, education, and advocacy related to housing and land rights.

Right to livelihood and shelter

  • The following two cases proved that why the present order of the Supreme Court is opposite to its long-standing jurisprudence on the right to livelihood and shelter upheld in various judgments:
    • Olga Tellis & Ors vs. Bombay Municipal Corporation & Ors (1985): In this landmark decision which concerns pavement-dwellers, a five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court stated that the right to life also includes the ‘right to livelihood’ and that no eviction shall take place without notice and hearing those affected.
    • Chameli Singh vs. State Of U.P. (1995): In this case Supreme Court recognized the ‘right to shelter’ as a component of the right to life under Article 21 and freedom of movement under Article 19(1)(e).

Policies and case laws on slum eviction and rehabilitation

  • Sudama Singh & Others vs Government Of Delhi & Anr. (2010): High Court of Delhi held that prior to any eviction, a survey must be conducted and those evicted should have a right to “meaningful engagement” with the relocation plans.
    • The procedure laid down in this judgment formed the basis for the Delhi Slum and JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy, 2015.
  • Ajay Maken & Ors. vs Union Of India & Ors. (2019): This case was about the demolition of Shakur Basti on railway land. Here Delhi High Court invoked the idea of the ‘Right to the City’ to uphold the housing rights of slum dwellers.
  • This case led to the framing of a Draft Protocol for the 2015 Policy on how meaningful engagement with residents should be conducted. However, neither the case laws nor the state policies were referred to by the Court.
  • So, the Court also failed to consider the policies and case laws on slum eviction and rehabilitation in Delhi.

Ignoring Humanitarian Moral grounds

  • Supreme Court’s order of removing lakhs of people and making them homeless came amid the health and economic emergency is callous and unconscionable.
  • The pandemic has already makes urban informal livelihoods more vulnerable. It is the reason UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing has called on member-states to declare an end to forced evictions.
  • As per a report of the Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN), over 20,000 people were displaced in 45 incidents of forced evictions in March and July, when India was under lockdown.
  • Over the last three years, over five lakh people have been evicted, most often for various “city beautification” projects.

HOUSING IS A RIGHT, NOT A COMMODITY

  • Housing is the basis of stability and security for an individual or family. It is the centre of social, emotional and sometimes economic lives.
  • Increasingly viewed as a commodity, housing is most importantly a human right. Under international law, to be adequately housed means having secure tenure not having to worry about being evicted or having ones home or lands taken away.
  • In its most recent report to the UN Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur explores the financialization of housing and its detrimental impact on human rights, in particular, the right to housing.
  • The Special Rapporteur called for governments to ensure markets serve housing needs rather than investment priorities, and reminds states that they are first and foremost accountable to human rights.

CONCLUSION

The courts are admitting Public Interest Litigation (PIL), relying on reports of court-appointed committees and ignoring the specific issues. These are ignoring the specific issues and without even hearing the affected populations ordering the demolition of slums. This represents a dangerous turn of PIL jurisprudence whereby its procedural relaxations are used to deny principles of natural justice to the most marginalised groups. The promise of the right to housing offered by Sudama Singh and Ajay Maken is now being undone by an insidious and legally dubious order that pre-empts other courts from giving orders to stop the eviction. However, residents need to employ a combination of political and legal strategies to protect their housing rights and ensure that no eviction or rehabilitation is conducted without their prior informed consent.

Source: The Hindu

Paddy Stubble Utilization

Context:

The Punjab Energy Development Agency (PEDA) along with the science and the technology department creating alternatives for paddy stubble utilization. 

Research by PEDA:

  • PEDA working towards the promotion and development of renewable energy for the past three decades. The following researches have been done:

Biomass power plants:

  • PEDA has set up 11 biomass power plants where 97.50 megawatts of power is generated. In these plants, 8.80 lakh metric tonnes of paddy stubble, which is less than 5 % of the total 20 million tonnes paddy stubble generated in Punjab, is used annually to generate power.
    • Most of these plants are 4-18 MW and are consuming 36,000 to 1,62,000 metric tonnes stubble annually.
  • Two more biomass power projects with 14 MW capacity are under execution and will be commissioned from June 2021. These will also require 1.26 lakh metric tonnes paddy stubble per annum.
  • These projects are environmentally friendly due to relatively lower CO2 and particulate emissions and displace fossil fuels such as coal.

Bio CNG:

  • Eight projects of Bio CNG are under execution. These will need around 3-lakh metric tonnes of paddy stubble annually.
  • India’s largest Bio CNG project, which will produce 8,000 m cube biogas per day (equivalent to 33.23 tonnes of Bio CNG per day) is under execution at Lehragaga tehsil in Sangrur district.
    • The project is expected to be commissioned by March 2021.

Bioethanol Project:

  • A Bioethanol project of 100 kilolitres is being set up at Talwandi Sabo in Bathinda. This will require 2 lakh metric tonnes of paddy stubble annually.
  • Bioethanol can be used to run vehicles after blending with diesel and petrol.

Benefits of a paddy straw-based industry:

  • Farmers can benefit hugely if they can sell paddy stubble to the industry instead of burning it and there are also environmental benefits.
  • Fertile soil will be saved from burning in which a huge amount of organic matter also gets burnt.
  • Educated unemployed youth in rural Punjab where such projects will be set up can get big job opportunities.

Suggestions:

  • The current usage of stubble in these plants is very small compared to the generation of stubble. Punjab needs varieties of the stubble-based industry here where more and more stubble is required.
  • Apart from businessmen and NRIs the youth, particularly engineers, graduates in science and technology can start such projects under the ‘start-up’ concept, which will create entrepreneurship among them.
  • Joint efforts are required from the state, Centre, and industries, including public and private participation, to convert all of Punjab’s stubble into farmers’ income.
  • There are around 13,000 villages in Punjab and stubble-based projects can be set up at these villages to manage stubble.

Punjab Energy Development Agency (PEDA):

  • PEDA was formed in 1991 as a state nodal agency for the promotion and development of renewable energy projects and energy conservation programmes in Punjab.
  • It is registered as a Society under the Societies Act of 1860.

Source: Indian Express

Five Star Villages Scheme

Context:

The Department of Posts has launched a scheme called Five Star Villages.

Objective: To ensure universal coverage of flagship postal schemes in rural areas of the country.

About the Scheme:

  • The scheme seeks to bridge the gaps in public awareness and reach of postal products and services, especially in interior villages.
  • Under the scheme, all postal products and services will be made available and marketed and publicized at the village level
  • Branch offices will function as a one-stop-shop to cater to all post-office-related needs of villagers.
  • The schemes covered under the Five Star scheme include:
    • Savings Bank accounts, Recurrent Deposit Accounts, NSC / KVP certificates,
    • Sukanya Samridhi Accounts/ PPF Accounts,
    • Funded Post Office Savings Account linked India Post Payments Bank Accounts,
    • Postal Life Insurance Policy/Rural Postal Life Insurance Policy and
    • Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana Account / Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana Account.
  • If a village attains universal coverage for four schemes from the above list, then that village gets four-star status;
  • If a village completes three schemes, then that village gets three-star status and so on.

Coverage:

  • The scheme is being launched on a pilot basis in Maharashtra; based on the experience here, it will be implemented nation-wide.