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Archives for : Health Care

Vaccine nexus: Whistleblower Bengaluru paediatrician Suspended from IAP post


  1. Dr Vashishtha was suspended as convener of the Advisory Committee on Vaccines and Immunisation Practices
  2. A verbal altercation ensued between Vashishtha and others as he questioned the reason for his suspension

(Representative image)(Representative image)

BENGALURU: Dr Vipin Vashishtha, the paediatrician who blew the lid off the alleged unholy nexus between vaccine manufacturers and doctors recently, approached the Bengaluru police on Friday night against the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) over his suspension from its advisory committee.

In his statement, Dr Vashishtha alleged he was manhandled at the IAP’s ongoing 54th annual conference Pedicon at Palace Grounds here. Vashishtha was suspended on Friday from all memberships, including as convener of the Advisory Committee on Vaccines and Immunisation Practices, at the IAP conference. They were upset that I exposed their wrongdo ings. They were trying to debar me from the general body meeting on Friday. I told them to give me a chance to explain but they did not heed my request, and also manhandled me. I was then forced to approach the police,” Vashishtha told STOI. The High Grounds police, however, said Vashishtha has given a statement but not filed a complaint.

After Vashishtha questioned the reason for his suspension from the All India Pediatric Association, doctors and other IAP members reportedly told him this was not the place for such arguments.”Soon, a verbal altercation ensued between Vashishtha and others,” police said.

“We questioned his colleagues and seniors who said Vashishtha had started shouting and behaved inappropriately at the conference. We then asked him to immediately leave the place,” IAP members told police. Dr Karunakar, chief organizing secretary , Pedicon, confirmed Vashishtha’s suspension from the board. “I don’t want to comment further,” he said.

On December 17 last year, Vashishtha wrote to all 24,000 members of IAP, raising concerns over immunization guidelines being allegedly tweaked to favour certain vaccine manufacturers.

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We are destroying rainforests so quickly they may be gone in 100 years

At current rates of deforestation, rainforests will vanish altogether in a century. Stopping climate change will remain an elusive goal unless poor nations are helped to preserve them

Likouala-aux-Herbes river near in Congo-Brazzaville.
Likouala-aux-Herbes river near in Congo-Brazzaville. The Congo Basin is the world’s second largest tropical forest. Photograph: Hope Productions/Yann Arthus Bertrand / Getty Images/Getty Images

If you want to see the world’s climate changing, fly over a tropical country. Thirty years ago, a wide belt of rainforest circled the earth, covering much of Latin America, south-east Asia and Africa. Today, it is being rapidly replaced by great swathes of palm oil trees and rubber plantations, land cleared for cattle grazing, soya farming, expanding cities, dams and logging.

People have been deforesting the tropics for thousands of years for timber and farming, but now, nothing less than the physical transformation of the Earth is taking place. Every year about 18m hectares of forest – an area the size of England and Wales – is felled. In just 40 years, possibly 1bn hectares, the equivalent of Europe, has gone. Half the world’s rainforests have been razed in a century, and the latest satellite analysis shows that in the last 15 years new hotspots have emerged from Cambodia to Liberia. At current rates, they will vanish altogether in 100 years.

As fast as the trees go, the chance of slowing or reversing climate change becomes slimmer. Tropical deforestation causes carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, to linger in the atmosphere and trap solar radiation. This raises temperatures and leads to climate change: deforestation in Latin America, Asia and Africa can affect rainfall and weather everywhere from the US Midwest, to Europe and China.

The consensus of the world’s atmospheric scientists is that about 12% of all man-made climate emissions – nearly as much as the world’s 1.2bn cars and lorries – now comes from deforestation, mostly in tropical areas. Conserving forests is critical; the carbon locked up in Democratic Republic of the Congo’s 150m hectares of forests are nearly three times the world’s global annual emissions.

Butterfly in the rain forest.
Rainforests are home to more than half of the world’s animals. Photograph: Getty Images

And as the forests come down, the people who live in or around them and depend on them become impoverished. Without the forests, people migrate to cities, or move to richer countries in search of work. The world’s rainforests not only provide food, energy security, incomes and medicinal plants for 300 million people, but are home to the richest wildlife in the world.

So, what to do? The positive news is that all countries formally pledged at the Paris climate summit in December 2015 to reduce emissions and keep global temperature rises to well below 2C; and in so doing they recognised that this would not be possible without stopping or at least reducing tropical deforestation.

The 50 or more developing countries who share the world’s tropical forests all recognised their contribution and promised to crack down on illegal forestry, replant trees and restore degraded forest lands.

Some countries were highly ambitious. China, Brazil, Bolivia and Congo DRC together put forward targets that could protect over 50 million hectares of forest over the next 15 years, an area the size of Spain.

Indonesia, the world’s sixth largest carbon emitter, promised to cut its emissions by 29% by ending illegal deforestation and restoring 12m hectares of forested land. Ecuador said that it planned to restore 500,000 hectares of forest land by 2017 and then increase that amount by 100,000 hectares a year. Honduras committed to plant or restore 1m hectares of forest by 2030.

If countries stick to their pledges and let damaged forests recover, annual global greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by as much as 24 to 30% – an enormous step.

A logging mill in the Amazon Basin, Peru.
A logging mill in the Amazon Basin, Peru. Photograph: Jason Edwards/Getty Images/National Geographic Magazines

The science and economics needed to stem deforestation are in place, but there is one huge caveat: countries with tropical forests are some of the poorest in the world, desperate to develop and use their natural resources to grow their economies. Their pledges to stop or reduce deforestation are mostly conditional on rich countries financially and technically helping them achieve this – and the onus on reducing emissions is on these rich countries which have historically caused most climate change.

Rich countries pledged at Paris to raise $100bn a year to help poor countries reduce their emissions. Some of that money should go to tropical forest protection.

In addition, a new UN-backed mechanism called Redd (reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) has been initiated that involves rich countries paying countries to protect forests and the carbon stored within them. Tropical and sub-tropical countries could receive both public and private funding if they succeed in reducing their emissions from deforestation. But this is deeply controversial as global schemes are prone to corruption, difficult to implement and hard to measure.

If there is money to protect forests, will it go to big companies as subsidy, or lead to evictions of people and human rights abuses?

There must be safeguards, but Germany, Norway and the UK have together promised up to $1bn a year for Redd schemes until 2020. The World Bank plans to contribute a similar amount to work with African countries. A further fund is intended to benefit indigenous and other forest communities which have been the traditional protectors of the forest.

Until Paris, stopping tropical deforestation was at best unlikely and probably impossible. It remains very difficult, but a political and financial mechanism has now been created to incentivise countries, companies and communities to do so at a fraction of the cost of reducing comparable emissions in the US or Europe. Protecting the forests now depends on rich governments not ducking their responsibilities and playing their part.

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Maharashtra – Woman dies after family planning operation, 2 serious #WTFnews

Woman dies after family planning operation, 2 serious
YAWATMAL: A woman died while two others are battling for life after the medical officer (MO) of Belora primary health centre allegedly botched up family planning operations at a camp organized at the village in Pusad tehsil. The MO, Dr Swapnil Satpute, allegedly cut the intestine instead of Fallopian tube while performing the operation.

Medical officer of Pusad Dr Chandrashekhar Bhongade said an inquiry has been ordered and if the concerned doctor is found guilty for dereliction of duty or has committed any lapses while performing the operation, action would be taken against him as per law .

The deceased has been identified as Sharada Kale (26), a resident of Bara village. Vandana Ashok Deokate, a resident of Kumbhari village and Aruna Pradip Chavan, a resident of Kanherwadi village in Pusad tehsil, are admitted to Yavatmal Government Medical College (GMC).

Confirming the incident, Yavatmal GMC dean Dr Ashok Rathod said Kale was brought dead to the hospital on Saturday while condition of one of the two women is critical. The post mortem on Kale was performed on Saturday and the report is awaited.

Dr Satpute operated upon 15 women at the camp organized on Thursday. On Friday, Kale, Deokate and Chawhan were rushed to government hospital in Pusad after their condition started deteriorating. Due to non-availability of proper medical facilities, the doctors there referred them to GMC Yavatmal.

Panic-stricken villagers thronged the PHC but Dr Satpute was found missing. They alleged that the PHC is managed only by a nurse while Dr Satpute mostly remains at Arni. They demanded that the doctor should be booked and arrested immediately. The police station officer of Khandla BS Jadhav and Pusad SDPO rushed to the spot and pacified the villagers.

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India – Have you seen the Nuclear ponds of Jharkhand ?


The Nuclear Ponds Of Jharkhand

Posted by Ankush Vengurlekar i

While cycling solo, I’ve always had the best coincidences. I feel that nature just takes care of me while I surrender myself to its elements, discovering what it has to offer to the lone traveller. This is self-evident when I meet some of the best activists and people who’ve been fighting for the rights of the tribals and those who’ve been wronged by the government’s apathy.

I’m on a 900 km solo cycling expedition through Jharkhand to highlight the plight of tribals because of mining and displacement. My first stop is at Jamshedpur, 115 km from Ranchi in Jharkhand.

It is 7 am, I’m at the hotel entrance in Jamshedpur, and I am greeted by labour on his motorbike. This young, 21-year-old affable activist is Arjun Samat. “Where is your cycle?”, was his first question. When I tell people, I’m on a cycling expedition; they usually expect to see the bike by my side at all times.

I explain that I normally ride the bike to the main town or village. And that, it is at the guesthouse while we visit the community and villages. He takes me to a chowk in Turamdih, about five km from Jamshedpur, where around 10-15 men are sitting with their bikes parked nearby. There’s a discernible tension among the people, and they keep turning to look at the building which reads UCIL (Uranium Corporation of India Limited). Arjun tells me that we will be waiting for some of the men to return from the UCIL office and then discuss at length.

Turamdih is among the more recent of the five Uranium mines that were started by the Uranium Corporation of India Limited, back in 1954 when it initiated India’s first Uranium mining. This is on the Howrah-Mumbai main line and was commissioned in 2003.

Founded in 1967, the UCIL is a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) under the Department of Atomic Energy for uranium mining and processing. The centrally owned Corporation is responsible for the mining and milling of uranium ore in India. Uranium is the main fuel source for running the nuclear power plants that are installed in the country and India presently generates about 2% of its total energy from nuclear sources.

Arjun tells me that the contractual labour at Turamdih are having a dialogue with the UCIL officials to try and negotiate an issue over conducting medical tests for the contractual staff. I express my surprise at the mention of contractual labour at the uranium mine. Isn’t there permanent labour to do these jobs? Isn’t this a highly sensitive commodity? How is it being mined by contractual staff then?

Suku Heramb escaped alive from the nuclear mine accident of May 2016 which killed 3 people in Turamdih.

He smiles, as he did quite often during our time spent together. “One of the most sensitive and important parts of nuclear mining is done by the contractual labour at ₹300 a day. They are not given any medical or health benefits, no protective suits or safety gear. In fact, a few months ago, in May, there was an accident, where a section of the mine collapsed, and two workers lost their lives inside one of the mines. The families seldom receive any compensation for deaths occurring during work”. “So what is the discussion about today?”, I asked. “The company has made medical tests for all contractual daily wage labour compulsory”. “Isn’t that a good thing?”, I asked naively. “It is”, he claimed. “But they want the labour to do the test themselves, the contractor is saying that it wasn’t mentioned in his work order at the beginning and as such, he cannot bear the expenses now. The cost per person is about ₹3500, and that is about 10 days wage for the labor”.

“What happens if the labour is diagnosed with some medical problem due to exposure? Or respiratory disorders? ”, I asked, as my curiosity increased. “That is exactly the dilemma most of them are facing”, said Arjun. “Without a medical certificate, they won’t be able to work, and if the medical certificate throws up some ailment that is most probably caused by exposure to radiation or fine particulate matter, due to working in the mines, the contractor will ask them to leave”.

I asked him whether the displaced villagers who’ve lost their lands are given jobs in the uranium mines. “The mines are situated on land which was originally inhabited by the villagers of this area. After they were displaced due to mining, some of them received jobs. Even for the unskilled jobs, not every working member of the displaced family gets a job. This, in fact, creates disparity within families, where one brother may get a job and the benefits therewith, whereas the other brother has to search for daily wage labour work. This is increasing the rift among families and sprouting economic disparity within the villages. Children of employees go to central schools, get medical access and better employment opportunities, whereas the other members of displaced families are forced to live a wage based life and seldom make progress on the human development indicators of health, nutrition and opportunity.”

We then head over to a tailing pond on Arjun’s motorbike. A tailing pond is where the tailings i.e. uranium mining waste, in the form of a slurry, are stored in an artificially constructed pond. The pond may be lined at the bottom, or not. In this case, the pond isn’t lined, as informed by Arjun. “This is a 64-acre tailing pond and takes the waste of ore processing from the nearby plant. The ore is mined, refined and sent to Hyderabad for further processing. Until recently, the nuclear waste from Hyderabad plant was also being brought and dumped in this tailing pond. But after protests by us activists, UCIL was forced to stop.”

“This radioactive slurry is being stored in the open, doesn’t this pose any health and environmental hazards?”, I ask. Arjun smiles at me and says, “You are not even from here, and you understand this basic fact, but somehow the DAE (Department of Atomic Energy) and BARC (Bhabha Atomic Research Centre) officials don’t acknowledge this fact.”“Has the pond ever overflown?” I shudder at that thought. “Yes, in 2003, it rained a lot continuously. The tailing pond overflowed into the neighbouring farms. It killed all the crops that year. Not only that but some small animals too, died by ingesting that water. The groundwater has been polluted, and the company won’t admit it. However, they have asked the nearby villages to stop using ground water and are instead being told to take water from the multiple water points installed by the company. During summers, the slurry dries up and gets carried by the wind all around the pond, to neighbouring villages.”

A toddler rests in Turamdih village merely a few hundred meters from the nuclear tailing pond.

We visit a village, which is less than 100 meters from the embankment of the tailing pond. An infant is furiously kicking a cat on his charpai, while hen run around pecking at the ground. The mother of this child has just returned from washing clothes and is drying them up on a wire stretched across the verandah. An image which would seem normal, if one chose to ignore the fact that these villagers are clueless that they may be inhaling radioactive dust and drinking water that could possibly be radioactive too, or may be coming in contact with radioactive soil on their farms.

“Think about it for a minute”, he tells me. An army man is made fully aware of the dangers of his work before he is sent to the border, with full arms, ammunition and an entire apparatus ready for his safety. But here, this contract labour is giving their lives for nuclear ore, which is equally a matter of national security. Yet, they are on contract, with no benefits or even basic safety gear. When someone from the army loses their life, they’re declared as martyrs who sacrificed their life for the country. Then why isn’t the same status accorded to these mine workers who are giving their life for the country? These resources are being used for the nation’s safety and development, right? These tribals lose their lands for mining, then get employed as contractual labor, and some even lose their life. Why are they the only ones making all the sacrifices?

The sun sets over the huge pile of debris that has been formed by excavating a new tailing pond in another village. I realise that here in Turamdih, the sun has long set on the future of these village communities, all under the name of national development.

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Bihar – Death post sterilisation

A woman from the Maha Dalit community died following a sterilization operation. The authorities claim it to be cardiac arrest.Compensation announced but yet to be deposited.

बंध्याकरण ऑपरेशन के बाद महिला की मौत


 मामला केनगर के प्राथमिक स्वास्थ्य केंद्र का

केनगर  : प्रखंड के प्राथमिक स्वास्थ्य केंद्र में परिवार नियोजन का ऑपरेशन करायी एक महादलित महिला की मौत हो गयी. घटना मंगलवार देर रात की बतायी जाती है. मृत महिला का नाम विमली देवी (26) बताया जाता है. वह प्रखंड के पोठिया रामपुर पंचायत के प्रसादपुर मुसहरी पीपल टोला निवासी दशन ऋषि की पुत्री थी. मृत महिला की शादी जानकीनगर हरपट्टी निवासी दयानंद ऋषि से हुई थी और विवाह के बाद से ही उसका पति ससुराल में ही बस गया था. विमली का ऑपरेशन सदर अस्पताल से पहुंचे सर्जन डाॅ ए अहमद द्वारा किया गया था. रात्रि सेवा में कार्यरत डाॅक्टर वैदेही ने बताया कि कॉर्डियेक अरेस्ट के कारण महिला की मौत हो गयी. मृतका को एक छह वर्ष की पुत्री एवं दो-दो वर्ष के दो पुत्र हैं. बुधवार अहले सुबह बीडीओ मनीष कुमार सिंह,
प्रभारी चिकित्सा पदाधिकारी डाॅ एससी झा पीएचसी पहुंचे. बीडीओ श्री सिंह ने दुखी परिजनों को ढांढस बंधाया और पंचायत सचिव सुनील कुमार झा से कबीर अंत्येष्टी योजना के तहत तीन हजार रुपये का चेक दिलवाया. साथ ही 20 हजार रुपये पारिवारिक लाभ योजना से अविलंब देने की घोषणा की. इधर प्रभारी डाॅक्टर श्री झा ने बताया कि स्वास्थ्य विभाग की ओर से मृत आश्रित को दो लाख रुपये की सहायता राशि दी जायेगी, जिसे तीनों बच्चों के खाते में जमा कराया जायेगा. शव को एंबुलेंस से प्रसादपुर पहुंचाया गया. मृत महिला की मां राधा देवी व उसके तीनों मासूम बच्चों समेत परिजनों का रो-रो कर बुरा हाल है

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India – Growing up stunted

Stunting, which reflects chronic undernutrition, is very high among tribal children in Madhya Pradesh. They can get nutritive foods from forests, but are denied access

                                                                                At least 155 children with severe
acute malnutrition were admitted
to the Nutrition Rehabilitation
Centre at Karahal block in Sheopur
in September 2016 (Photo: Photographs: Srikant Chaudhary)
At least 155 children with severe acute malnutrition were admitted to the Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre at Karahal block in Sheopur in September 2016 (Photo: Photographs: Srikant Chaudhary)

Shivraj, namesake of the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, lost his one-year-old son Dharmraj in August this year. “His growth was extremely slow, and he was getting sicker and weaker with each passing day,” recalls Shivraj, a resident of Bhairopura village in Sheopur district of Madhya Pradesh. When his condition worsened, Shivraj took him to the healthcare centre at Karahal, the block headquarters, where he was admitted to the Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) that provides care to children with severe acute malnutrition. After spending 14 days at NRC, Dharmraj’s condition improved and he was discharged. But back home, his health deteriorated again. And this time, he could not recover.

Till September this year, Bhairopura village had lost four children to commonly-treatable ailments like fever and diarrhoea. “All of them were malnourished,” says anganwadi worker Manorama Chauhan. Her growth chart of children shows 10 of the 82 children in this village of Saharia tribe are malnourished; six severely malnourished.

In the absence of government data, media reports show that at least 116 children died of malnutrition-related ailments in Sheopur between August and September. The district administration swung into action after the incidents hogged the head- line. Anganwadi workers queued up at NRCs to admit malnourished children. At least 155 children were admitted to Karahal NRC in September. Since the centre had infrastructure for 20, the hospital authorities procured beds on rent and appointed 30 anganwadi workers to take care of the children. Aanganwadi centres were also repaired and whitewashed. When Down To Earth (DTE) visited the anganwadi centre at Sonipura village, it was 11 in the morning. There were toys hanging from the roof, but no sign of children or food.

While the malnutrition deaths in Sheopur have prompted the National Human Rights Commission to issue a notice in the last week of September, asking the state government to provide a detailed report in four weeks, experts say a similar situation prevails in other districts as well.

Consider Shivpuri district. In September this year, Ramdan of Taparpura village in Shivpuri’s Pohari block lost his two-year-old daughter, Sangeeta. “She had always been very thin, but did not have symptoms of any disease,” says Ramdan. “Then one fine day, she fell unconscious after showing signs of diarrhoea, and died before we could take her to hospital.” At least three children have died in Taparpura in the last three months.

The situation is even worse in Ahera village, where three children died in September. What is considered a standard weight of a healthy newborn is the weight of several children completing their first year in this tribal village of Saharias. Chameli’s 11-month-old daughter weighs 3.4 kg. The daughter of her neighbour Rupa is one year old and weighs just 5.5 kg.

Source: National Family Health Survery-4
Source: National Family Health Survery-4

Several reports also highlight the grim picture in the state. According to international non-profit Save The Children, Madhya Pradesh tops the list of malnou rishment in children under the age of six in the country; 74.1 per cent children were anaemic while 60 per cent were malnourished in 2015. The latest fourth National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4), released in January 2016, also underscores high pre-valence of malnutrition in the state. About 42 per cent of under-five children are underweight (low weight for age), 42 per cent stunted (low height for age) and 25.8 per cent wasted (low weight for height), notes the report.

While experts working on the welfare of tribal people are worried about the high under-nutrition among children in the state, they are particularly alarmed about the high cases of stunting.

Dwarfed by stunting

“Stunting indicates that people suffer from chronic hunger,” says Sachin Jain, state advisor to the commissioners of the Supreme Court in the Right to Food Case in Madhya Pradesh. Derek Headey, Senior Research Fellow in the Poverty, Health and Nutrition Division at the International Food Policy Research Institute, Delhi, says stunting measures the cumulative effects of several years of nutritional insults (poor diet and infection), including insults in the prenatal pregnancy period, and after birth.

Besides, while the condition of children who are underweight and wasted can be reversed with good food and care that ensure less infection, such catch-up is not possible for stunted malnourished children. The loss is irreversible after a certain period. A 2014 study published in Pediatrics and International Child Health says stunting begins in utero and continues for the first two years of postnatal life. All possible corrections have to be made in this period.

But such corrections seem ambitious in areas where people do not have enough to eat. Chameli and Rupa of Ahera village, whose daughters weigh just 3.4 kg and 5.5 kg, appear frail and anaemic. When DTE visited them, they had nothing to eat at home and were waiting for their husbands to return with food for that day. The situation was similar in all the tribal villages DTE visited in Sheopur, Shivpuri, Panna and Chhattarpur districts.

Is this indicative of a bigger problem? To understand this, DTE compared the NFHS-4 data with the Statistical Profile Of Sche duled Tribes in India 2013, published by the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA). And the findings are startling. The prevalence of stunting is high in all tribal-dominated areas across the country (see ‘Children of apathy’). Almost half of the children are stunted in Alirajpur, Dhar, Dindori and Jhabua where 50 per cent of the people are tribal. Such high incidences of stunting also suggest that chronic hunger is pervasive in the country’s tribal areas.

Decades of hunger and stunting seem to have altered the stature of tribal people, forever. While the height of an average Indian has increased by 4 centimetres over the last century, that of a tribal person is decreasing. “The height of Paharia adults in Sundarpahari block in Jharkhand’s Godda district has reduced to 149.7 cm from 157.7 cm as recorded in Herbert Riseley’s The People of India, published in 1915,” says Shoumik Banerjee, a social worker who works in Jharkhand. The height of Korwa tribal people in Garwa district has decreased by 5 cm in the past century, he adds.

Stunting also impairs the cognitive functioning of children of pre-school age, shows a study on South African children, published in Child Care Health Division in 2014. Several studies in India have also established this correlation. Small wonder then that stunting has become a major concern worldwide. The World Health Organization aims to reduce the number of under-five stunted children by 40 per cent between 2010 and 2025.

Starved amid plenty

But why are children stunted in a state that has grown at a fast pace in the last few years? Madhya Pradesh’s gross domestic product has registered a growth of 11.1 per cent, one of the highest in the country. Its GDP from agriculture has also grown at 9.7 per cent every year between 2005-06 and 2014-15. Besides, one-fourth of the state is under forest cover, as per the “India State of Forest Report 2013”. And most of the tribal areas are located in and around these forests.

An anganwadi
centre at
village in
district. Most
in the district
providing meals
to children
only after
deaths made
An anganwadi centre at Uparikhori village in Sheopur district. Most anganwadis in the district started providing meals to children only after malnutrition deaths made news

All the villages DTE visited are located inside rich forest areas. Residents of these villages say they have traditionally depended on the forests for food and livelihood. But they are no longer allowed the enter the forest. “Earlier, we used to eat meat frequently,” says Ummed of Taparpura village in Pohari block. “I cannot remember when I had meat last.” His neighbour, 45-year-old Shravan, recalls that when he was young, people in the village used to frequently eat the meat of rabbit, pig and several other wild animals. “Now, it’s not possible,” he says. Shravan had eaten meat 10 months ago and that too of a broiler chicken. Women in Panna village say forest officials arrest people even if they jokingly mention to have had meat. Elderly people in these villages talk of times when a variety of food, from jowar (sorghum), bajra (pearl millet) and sanwa (sawa millet) to leafy vegetables and meat, was a regular part of their platter. All these are a dream now, they say. All they get to eat these days is rice and wheat supplied through the government’s Public Distri bution System (PDS). A 2013 report by MoTA notes that 72 per cent of the tribal women do not get to eat a single fruit in a week.

Yogesh Jain of Jan Sahyog Sansthan, which has been working in Chhattisgarh for the past 20 years, says stunting among the tribal people shows they are not getting enough food. To ensure food and nutritional security of children and mothers, the state has programmes like the midday meal and anganwadi programmes. But these programmes do not provide animal protein, such as milk, egg or meat, Yogesh says. Whatever food people get does not have much nutrition. It looks like the people who formulated the programmes believe that the tribal people in India are not only vegetarians but vegans, he adds.

To make matters worse, most people in the region are trading these benefits for money. Under PDS, a family below the poverty line can avail 30 kg of wheat, 5 kg of rice, 1 kg of sugar, 1 kg of salt and 5 litres of kerosene a month by paying Rs 140. But DTE found that most tribal families have mortgaged their ration cards with the local PDS shop owner. Ummed, who has been suffe ring from tuberculosis for the past two years, mortgaged his land and ration card last year as he needed money for treatment. When DTE visited him, he had nothing to eat at home. Shravan has mortgaged his card as well as that of his son for Rs 7,000. He needed money to marry off his daughter. Ramdan mortgaged his card for Rs 3,000 when Sangeeta started showing signs of diarr hoea. While she died, Ramdan is yet to clear the debt. In Mohanta Khurd village, at least 20 families have mortgaged their ration cards. “This shows acute poverty in the region,” says Sachin. “These villages have traditionally depended on the forests for food, nutrition and medicine. Now that they have been denied access to the forest, it has impacted their lives,” he says.

Speaking to DTE, Minister of Women and Child Welfare, Madhya Pradesh, Archana Chitnis, admits that the situation in these tribal areas is quite grim and it needs serious effort for course correction. The Madhya Pradesh government must act soon before it is too late.

<strong>ABHAY BANG</strong>

`Tribals are more malnourished’

Tribal people must have control over forest resources

A STUDY of which I was a part, published in The Lancet this June says that 51.1 per cent of tribal children under five are stunted. The figure for the non-tribal population of the country is 43.1 per cent. There is no doubt that the tribal population is more malnourished.

Child malnutrition depends on social-economic condition, education, health of mothers and availability of healthcare facility. The scientific advancements made in the past century have not benefitted tribal people. Even the government schemes launched to fight malnutrition are in bad shape. Almost Rs 30,000 crore have been spent on the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), but with no evident benefits.

Children are most susceptible to malnutrition in the first two years after birth, but by the time ICDS comes into play, the child is already malnourished. Food provides minerals, vitamins and protein necessary for a healthy life. For the tribal population, these come from forests. But they are increasingly being denied entry to forests. It is difficult to say if forests can ensure food security round the year, but denying their access to forests certainly does not help.

What the government needs to do is take steps to improve literacy and economic condition of tribal people. Women’s health needs special focus because it will benefit children too. Healthcare facilities in these areas need a huge boost. Tribes must also be allowed control over forest resources.

Bang is the director of Gadchiroli-based non-profit SEARCH, and heads a committee formed by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on the health of tribal people

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Mumbai – ‘Women in slums largely unaware of post-natal care’

“In the study, out of 250 only 19.20 per cent had received post-natal check-up within 42 days of delivery,” a report said.

Written by Priyanka Sahoo |

A homeless woman with her month-old baby at Rangpuri Pahadi slums.A homeless woman with her month-old baby at Rangpuri Pahadi slums.The Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) programme was launched almost two decades ago to reduce the maternal mortality ratio, the infant mortality rate and total fertility rate. However, women in slums remain largely unaware of their own reproductive health as well as the related healthcare services. While the awareness level among such women about the ante-natal care was good, not many were aware about post-natal care, found a study on the awareness and utilisation of RCH among mothers in a slum in Mumbai.

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Of the 250 women surveyed from Shivaji Nagar in M-East ward, only 19.2 per cent women were aware of or had availed of post-natal care – healthcare for women and their babies received for six-eight weeks after birth. As part of post-natal care women are offered advice on breastfeeding and are explained the common and serious health problems in women and their babies after birth.

“In the study, out of 250 only 19.20 per cent had received post-natal check-up within 42 days of delivery,” read the report published in International Journal of Scientific Research. The study was conducted by Dr Rajan Kulkarni, head of the department of community medicine, HBT Medical College and Cooper Municipal General Hospital, Dr Smita Chavhan, Associate Professor of Cooper Municipal Hospital, and Dr Shamal Goregaonkar, medical officer of BMC.

The study also found that more women knew about ante-natal care. “The awareness and utilisation of services in terms of antenatal registration was 92 per cent,” read the study that also found that around 88 per cent women knew about immunisation and utilised the services.

Of the women surveyed, 72 per cent delivered their babies in government hospitals. However, around 55.55 per cent of those delivering at home did so because of they didn’t have manpower to move them to the hospital, found the study.

“Maximum home deliveries (66.67 per cent) were conducted by others which included untrained dai, relatives, neighbours etc,” said the study. However, the study concluded that as education increases, the awareness increases which in turn increases utilisation of available services like ANC registration, institutional delivery, use of family planning methods and immunisation

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India: The Burning City – Jharia

We investigate how an underground fire that has been burning for 100 years has led to one of India’s largest land grabs.


  • India is the third-largest producer of thermal coal after China
  • It is also the world’s third-largest energy consumer after the US and China
  • Around 50 percent of energy requirements in the country are met by coal
  • A significant proportion of that production comes from the Jharia mines

Sources: Coal in India

Underground fires have been burning for more than a century beneath India’s largest coalfield, but in recent decades open-cast mining has brought the flames to the surface with devastating consequences for the local population.

As communities are destroyed and thousands suffer from toxic fumes, what lies behind this human and environmental disaster?

Filmmakers Gautam Singh and Dom Rotheroe went to find out.

The devastating impact of coal mining

After the US and China, India is currently the world’s third-largest energy consumer; a position that is set to consolidate in coming years as economic development, urbanisation, improved electricity access, and an expanding manufacturing base all add to demand.

Right now much of those energy needs – up to two thirds of all electricity generated – are being met by domestically produced coal, of which India has abundant reserves.

A significant proportion of that production comes from the Jharia mines in Jharkhand state in the east of the country, which are also India’s primary source  of coking coal, an essential ingredient in steel production.

But the Jharia coalfields, which cover some 270sq km around the city bearing the same name, also pose a dreadful environmental and health challenge for hundreds of thousands of local inhabitants.

Mining first began here under British rule in the 1890s but didn’t really intensify until the early 20th century.

With that expansion came problems as new shafts were dug and others were hastily closed down as unproductive. In abandoned mines that weren’t decommissioned properly, coal was left to spontaneously combust and underground fires began to spread.

The first blaze was detected in 1916 but by the 1980s more than 70 fires were under way. As these were often far underground they were difficult to suppress and were left to smoulder in the hope they might burn out, but by then India’s increasing need for energy had begun to make itself felt.

In 1973 newly nationalised Bharat Coking Coal Ltd (BCCL),  a subsidiary of state-owned Coal India, started large-scale open cast mining as a more rapid and cost-effective method of extraction.

However, as local activist Ashok Agarwal explains, that’s also when the fires really took hold. “The idea was they’ll get quick coal and they’ll get cheap coal … but there was underground mining already done over here. So there were a lot of galleries – galleries are tunnels which these people make and they extract coal. So the ground of the galleries is always full of small pieces of coal and that catches fire. When you went in for open-cast mining where already underground mining has been done, you opened up the face of the galleries and then there was free flow of air inside and now you’ve got a massive fire.”

A dog looks out as noxious fumes emanate from fissures in the ground in the village of Jina Gora near Jharia, India [Daniel Berehulak /Getty Images]

The consequences were catastrophic. As the fires were exposed to the open air they spread, causing widespread environmental and health problems that have proved immensely difficult to resolve.

Coupled with the ecological damage done by open-cast mining, subsidence has made parts of the Jharia region like a moonscape, pockmarked with deep, smoking ravines from which billowing flames can often be seen.

At night the area is lit up with an eerie burning glow and the path of the advancing fires can be traced along the line of broken, smoking houses they leave in their wake. Every few months another village is snuffed out of existence as houses are hollowed into a smoking shell or gradually disappear into the huge cracks that open in the ground.

As disturbing is that the atmosphere is filled permanently with an acrid haze – evidence of the toxic gases such as carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide that have made Jharia one of the most polluted places in the country and have caused respiratory problems and  other serious diseases for thousands of people.

Dr Masoom Alam, a physician at a local hospital, sees the results every day. “People suffer from TB, wheezing, asbestosis, pneumoconiosis … And apart from these, there are skin allergies and rashes.  Now with this open-cast mining they’re blasting and exploding to extract coal and dust and toxins get widely spread which is having a very big impact, 99 percent of the people living here are affected. Then there are those fires which have their own impact and about which nothing has been done till now. Just imagine the amount of revenue generated by coal here, yet, despite the health hazards, people who live here aren’t given any proper facilities. There has to be some kind of special initiative to safeguard their health.”

Both the government and BCCL have attempted to resolve these problems over the years.

A woman stacks coal into a basket as she and others work to scavenge coal illegally from an open-cast coal mine in the village of near Jharia, India. Villagers in India’s Eastern State of Jharkhand scavenge coal illegally from open-cast coal mines to earn a few dollars a day [Daniel Berehulak /Getty Images]

The company, for example, had made numerous attempts to douse some of the fires by attempting to seal them off and pumping in inert gases, but the operations have been hugely expensive and have had only limited success.

They have also devised compensation and rehousing schemes, managed through a body called the Jharia Rehabilitation and Development Authority, which could eventually involve moving up to 700,000 people out of the affected areas to newly constructed housing elsewhere. But in its first seven years only around 10,000 have been moved and many of those, often taken miles away from where they were earning their livelihood, complain bitterly about the inadequacy of their new accommodation and the absence of basic amenities, be they water and power supplies or jobs, schools and healthcare.

WATCH: India’s Coal Rush

It remains to be seen whether these issues will be overcome and settlements will eventually create their own source of livelihood and commerce, but there are also other groups in the area who have been affected, such as the peasant farmers who owned the land on which new settlements are being built, but who themselves now have nowhere else to go.

Yet as filmmakers Gautam Singh and Dom Rotheroe found when travelling through the area for this film, no one can foresee a time when coal production in the region will cease.

Indeed, the opposite is true. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said he’s keen to see an increase in the number of people being moved out of Jharia because that will make it easier to both douse the underground fires and open up access to further reserves of premium coal and give more Indians access to the energy they need.

But for activist Ashok Agarwal the consequences of that expansion for his fellow inhabitants – many of whom have lived here for generations – with be inescapable.

“Eventually Jharia will die. It is destined to die. The way BCCL is going on, they want to double the production by 2020. In that case more and more mining will be done here and many more villages will have to be shifted. So eventually this place is going to become absolutely desolate.”

Thousands suffer from toxic fumes as a consequence of coal mining in the Jharia coalfields  [Al Jazeera]

Source: Al Jazeera

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Bhopal court issues direct summons to Dow Chemical in 1984 gas leak case

Following allegations of non-cooperation from US Department of Justice, a summon has been issued directly to Dow Chemical to appear in the court

The Bhopal court will send a notice to Amy Wilson, corporate secretary of Dow Chemical Company. Credit: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra / Flicker
The Bhopal court will send a notice to Amy Wilson, corporate secretary of Dow Chemical Company. Credit: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra / Flicker

Chief Judicial Magistrate of Bhopal issued summons to The Dow Chemical Company (TDCC) on Friday (January 13) as part of the proceedings against Dow Chemical to make Union Carbide Corporation, US, its wholly-owned subsidiary, appear in the ongoing criminal case on the disaster of 1984 which killed over 25,000 people.According to Rachna Dhingra of Bhopal Group for Information and Action, whose application led to the order, previous summons sent through the US Department of Justice did not work on the petitioner’s favour as Dhingra alleged that the US Department of Justice did not cooperate with its Indian counterparts.

“We are satisfied that summons to Dow Chemical were sent by the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Bhopal in the Bhopal Gas leak case of 1984 which killed over 25,000 people. These summons would directly go the Dow Chemical instead of the earlier route of reaching out to the accused through the US Department of Justice,” Dhingra told Down To Earth.

As per today’s order, the notice will be sent by the Bhopal Court to Amy Wilson, corporate secretary of Dow Chemical Company. The Dow Chemical Company is expected to appear before the Chief Judicial Magistrate’s Court on February 13, 2017.

After repeated attempts to summon the company through the US Justice Department with notices sent by court as well as Ministry of Home Affairs, on May 15, 2015, the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal launched a petition demanding the Justice Department to stop standing in the way of justice. According to the petitioner, the White House said that asking the US Department of Justice to serve notice on Dow Chemical would be exercising “undue influence”. The petition received over 6,000 signatures in just four days.

Leaders of five organisations of survivors of the Union Carbide disaster, which includes Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogi Sangharsh Morcha, Bhopal Group for Information and Action and Children Against Dow-Carbide in Bhopal today welcomed the decision of the Chief Judicial Magistrate to summon the company through email. The organisations expressed hope that today’s order will clear the path for Union Carbide’s appearance, trial and conviction for causing the world’s worst industrial disaster.–56790

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