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Good afternoon. We’re back after a mini-hiatus – work got hectic, and along with one of us falling ill, it has been a rocky start to October. No bother, we’re back now and aim to get more regular with our posting, along with slowly coming out with the commissioned articles we’ve got so far. We hope you like all that we have planned!
Today’s newsletter looks into a boost to rural economy, the banning of seven hazardous chemicals through the Stockholm Convention by the Union Cabinet, health workers in their quest to get the money they deserve, and more.
Boost to rural economy: 4,741 get Rs 3.77-crore Covid special relief
As many as 4,741 people were provided ₹3.77 crores as special relief assistance under the Tamil Nadu Rural Rejuvenation Scheme in Coimbatore district. The assistance would help bridge the supply chain gaps in rural enterprises during the lockdown, District Rural Development Agency officials said. The project is being implemented in 3,994 village panchayats in 120 blocks of 30 districts.
Rural India accounts for a fifth of India’s infections
The share of rural districts in India’s total coronavirus cases rose to 19.8% on Friday, as the country inched closer to 7 million infections, according to a report. Although a majority of the infections are still in urban areas, the share of the rural centres has shot up from 15.9% on August 7. The number of cases in rural districts is rising.
CPI-ML rally in Punjab seeks relief for rural women in debt
The CPI(M) (Liberation) on Thursday took out an ‘Aurat Karza Mukti Rally’ in Punjab’s Patiala to demand loan waiver for women in rural areas facing debt burden. A large number of women are reeling under the debts of private microfinance companies that levy hefty interest, the party said. The loans are given to self-help groups of women that comprise around 20 women.
Property cards for rural India
The PMO launched the physical distribution of property cards under the ‘Survey of Villages and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas’ (SVAMITVA) scheme on Sunday and called it a ‘historic move’ set to transform rural India.
This launch will enable nearly one lakh property holders to download their property cards through SMS on their mobile phones and pave the way for villagers to use the property as a financial asset for taking loans and other financial benefits.
According to the PMO, 763 villages across six states are beneficiaries of this scheme
A digital governance service in Gujarat
In a move to further digitisation, the Gujarat government has announced the connection of all state gram panchayats, which are about 14,000, with the Digital Seva Setu programme. All government services will be provided online at the village level by 2021. The programme is in line with the Centre’s flagship Digital India programme.
Under the ‘Digital Seva Setu’ program, public welfare services will be made available in all the 14,000-gram panchayats in Gujarat by connecting village panchayats through an optical fibre network.
Gujarat gram panchayats to go digital by 2021; 2,792 join ‘Digital Seva Setu’ in phase I
The Gujarat government on October 8, 2020, launched phase 1 of the ‘Digital Seva Setu’ programme for the rural areas. Under this, 3500 village panchayats in the state have been connected by 100 Mbps optical fibre network, it will further facilitate the online availability of public services.
Goa provides tap water to all households
Goa has become the first state in the country to provide 100 per cent tap water connections in rural areas covering 2.30 lakh households, the Jal Shakti Ministry said on Friday. The government’s Jal Jeevan Mission aims to provide piped water to all rural households by 2024.
CEA proposes relaxing air pollution control deadline for thermal power plants
The Central Electricity Authority (CEA) has proposed that coal-fired power plants install air pollution control equipment in phases, with immediate installation required only in areas with high levels of sulphur dioxide (SO2), a by-product of the burning of fossil fuels. Other thermal power plants located in areas where S02 levels are under control, can defer the installation of such equipment, CEA said.
India is already three years behind in implementing emission standards notified in 2015 by the environment ministry and which were supposed to take force in 2017.
India generated over 18,000 tonnes COVID-19 waste since June
India generated 18,006 tonnes of COVID-19 biomedical waste in the last four months, with Maharashtra contributing the maximum (3,587 tonnes) to it, according to a Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data.
Around 5,500 tonnes of COVID-19 waste was generated across the country in September – the maximum for a month so far.
Eight Indian beaches get ‘Blue Flag’ certification
Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar on Sunday said that India has received the Blue Flag certification for all its eight beaches recommended by the government. The certification is a global recognition of India’s conservation and sustainable development efforts, he added. It is based on 33 stringent criteria under four major heads — environmental education and information, bathing water quality, environmental management and conservation, and safety and services at the beaches.
Despite drop in emissions, India still the world’s highest sulphur dioxide producer
For the first time in four years India’s sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions recorded a significant decline of approximately 6% in 2019 compared to 2018, the steepest drop in four years, according to a report from Greenpeace India and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).
However, India continues to occupy the top spot among emitters for the fifth consecutive year.
In 2019, India emitted 21% of global anthropogenic (human-made) SO2 emissions — or about 5,953 kilotons a year — nearly double that of the second-ranked global emitter, Russia, at 3,362 kt/year. China occupied the third position at 2,156 kt per annum.
Union Cabinet approves ratification of Stockholm Convention, bans 7 hazardous chemicals
The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved ratification of the Stockholm Convention by banning seven hazardous chemicals that are harmful to health and environment. The seven banned chemicals are listed as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) under the Convention. “India is giving out a positive message to the world that we’re also active in this area and we don’t tolerate health and environmental hazards,” the Environment Minister said.
IIT Madras develops sustainable anti-bacterial, biodegradable food wrapper
The IIR Madras on Monday said that its researchers have developed a sustainable anti-microbial wrapping material that can prevent packaged food contamination by bacteria as well as reduced the plastic waste generated by the environment when disposing of the wrappers.
According to researchers, the biodegradable food wrapper has an in-build anti-bacterial compound and is safe for consumption.
So far, per the Union health ministry, India’s trajectory of daily COVID cases has been seeing a downward trend over the last five weeks, compared to daily average figures from the week starting September 9. The ministry also pointed to the declining number of active cases. After a month, on October 9, active cases fell below the 900,000-mark and have steadily decreased. The number of recoveries also continues to be high, giving more people hope.
For more COVID health-related and other non-COVID updates, this report by Al Jazeera has you sorted.
Researchers at Australia’s National Science Agency have found that COVID tends to survive in screens and flat surfaces for around twenty-eight days, while the flu virus can only survive for eleven days. While the test was conducted in clinical settings (without UV rays and a relatively low temperature of 22 celsius), it still highlights the fact that disinfecting and cleaning phone screens and other exposed surfaces are essential.
The much-awaited vaccine against COVID could be expected by early next year and from more than one manufacturer, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan stated earlier this week. Currently, four vaccines are in advanced stages of pre-clinical trials in India. There is also the anticipation of a limited supply in the beginning, and talk about ‘emergency use authorisation’ (EUA) of COVID vaccines are “being deliberated.”
Guidelines on co-infections and seasonal diseases
The government has also issued guidelines on prevention and treatment of co-infections of COVID with other seasonal diseases like dengue, malaria, seasonal influenza, and chikungunya, observed every year during this time. The guidelines emphasise that while each of these infections are distinct, cross-reactions (resulting in false-positive/false-negative results) cannot be ruled out. There is also a list of tests that are required for each infection so as to rule out the presence of COVID.
Healthcare workers continue on quest for wages
Moving on to non-COVID related news, the Resident Doctors Association of North Delhi Municipal Corporation-run Kasturba Hospital have decided to go on strike from Wednesday for a week due to non-payment of salaries and have also threatened to resign if their salaries are not disbursed. Earlier, another civic body-run Hindu Rao Hospital withdrew from work when the administration failed to release their salaries on time. Read about the politics at play here.
Additionally, in Karnataka, the government last week banned protests or any form of disobedience by health workers across the state. A notification was issued by the government stating that disobeying or refusing to work entrusted by a superior officer in connection with Covid duty would attract penal provisions under the Karnataka State Civil Services (Prevention of Strikes) Act, 1966 (Karnataka Act No 30 of 1966). This comes after various organisations and ASHA workers protested demanding higher wages, better PPE, and the like. You can read more about it here.
India health expenditure some of the lowest in the world: Oxfam
The Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index 2020 by Oxfam has found that India set aside just 4% of its GDP for spending on health, which is just above a quarter of the recommended spending, and one-third of what the second poorest country in the world, Burundi, spent. The report saw that only 26 of the 158 countries surveyed were spending the recommended 15% of their budgets on health. The trend of low spending is consistent across South Asia.
Social media offers a helping hand with mental health
Facebook and Twitter have pitched in with their efforts for dealing with mental health awareness. Facebook has launched a “Covid-19 Information Centre and Emotional Health” ahead of Mental Health Day, which provides people with access to tips and information from leading experts on these issues, as per Ajay Mohan, Managing Director and Vice-President of Facebook India. By extension, Instagram has also engaged with the same by announcing tie-ups with organisations to foster the dialogue on their platform as well. Twitter had also earlier announced that it has tied up with White Swan Foundation, Love Live Laugh Foundation and Fortis, who have curated lists of resources for people to access about mental health.
A weekly list of things we read and were fascinated by
- How one school teacher’s efforts has helped girls from rural Bihar make it big in sports
- In the battle to save the environment, their weapon of choice is innovation
- Is wildfire preparedness reporting a waste of time?
- India: extreme inequality in numbers
- Half a million sharks could be killed for Covid-19 vaccine, says NGO | Living
- WHO chief says herd immunity approach to pandemic ‘unethical’
- Genetic impact of African slave trade revealed in DNA study
- How Human Y Chromosomes Replaced Those of Neanderthals in a Quiet Genetic Takeover
That’s it for this week. We’ll get back to posting on Mondays from the next week onwards. Until then, stay safe.