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Collapsing Bridges, Melting Glaciers, and NDHM

We take a look at issues with state infrastructure, glaciers melting in and around J&K, and see how privacy issues play out in the new digital health card plan by the National Digital Health Mission.

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Rural

More Unemployment as The Farming Season Draws to a Close

The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) has revealed the August data for rural employment that reveal India’s rural employment fell by 3.6 million with the count of unemployment rising by 2.8 million. Consequently, the labour force also shrunk by 0.8 million in August.

With sowing at its end, workforce engagement has also lowered, leading to a fall in farming employment by 0.5 million.

Similarly, the demand for MGNREGA work dropped by almost 24% in August as compared to previous months as labourers started returning to cities and took part in sowing. Despite that, around 24.2 million households demanded work under the scheme in August — a number which was 66% more than what it was in August 2019.

For more on this, read the Financial Express report by Samrat Sharma.

Rural credit push from RBI

At a time when GDP growth has contracted by almost 23.9 percent in the June quarter, a rural credit push is expected to boost rural spending. The RBI, thus, has proposed more credit flow to districts with lower priority sector lending (PSL). It has also brought financing schemes for startups under the PSL category of the banking sector. 

Besides, it aims to double the loan limits for health infrastructure and renewable energy to align with the “national priority” of “inclusive development”.

For more info on RBI’s proposal, read this Indian Express report by George Mathew.  

A nonprofit for rural aspirants to get a job

A nonprofit organization has launched a series of webinars and online courses to help aspirants from economically deprived sections of the society to get employment. The team comprises industry leaders from India and the US as well as expert engineers.

Currently, these short term globally certified courses see the presence of 1000 students, mainly from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Telangana. Aspirants will be learning skills linked to e-publishing, tally, nursing, beautician, lab technician, computers, electricians, refrigeration, air conditioning, bakery, and others.

Read this report for more information on the initiative.

India’s postal bank adds 2.48 crore customers per year

The India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) has added 2.48 crore customers, clocking financial transactions worth Rs 30,800 in the last one year, according to India’s Communication and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. Launched on September 1, 2018, a large section of customers were from states such as Bihar (34.4 lakh), Uttar Pradesh (17.7 lakh), and Tamil Nadu (10.11 lakh).

The aim of such a scheme was to provide doorstep banking services to old age pensioners, sick and elderly, and other needy individuals.

Read more on the IPPB story in this Financial Express report by Kiran Rathee.

Collapsing bridges

After the Banka bridge collapse in Bihar, a section of a new bridge built at a cost of Rs 3.7 crore under the Prime Minister’s Rural Road Network Scheme collapsed on Aug. 29. 

The construction of the 150-metre bridge had finished a month before schedule but it hadn’t been inaugurated. The district collector has asked for an inquiry on the matter, saying that due action will be taken against those who are found guilty in the matter.

Read more in this report.

Related: Why Under BJP Rule 189% Steep Increase Of Bridges Collapse Reported

Three-year-old girl raped in UP, accused arrested

A three-year-old girl was found dead in UP’s Lakhimpur Thursday morning. The police said that she was raped and strangled and left in a field. This is the thrid rape case in the state in the past 20 days. 

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The accused has been caught by the police. 

Read more on UP’s worsening law situation in this report in this NDTV report by Alok Pandey.

48,000 to be evicted near NCR railway track

One of the last orders passed by Justice Arun Mishra, who retired from the Supreme Court on September 2, is the eviction of slum dwellers alongside the 140 km length of track in the NCR region. The initial complaint, which was against waste build-up near the tracks, has been concluded in trying to evict 48,000 units of housing. 

There has been no correlation or basis of any kind implying that the jhuggies were responsible for the waste – the only mention of waste (which is the main issue) has been inferred from a Report No.111 submitted by the Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA) for the NCR and the reply filed by the Railways. The EPCA’s report states that  “under the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules 2016 (SWM 2016), Indian Railways is termed as a “generator of waste” and categorised as “bulk waste generator”. The EPCA, therefore, has recommended that the Indian Railways is required to ensure segregation of waste at source.”

Read an exploratory piece on the issue by V. Venkatesan in The Wire.


Environment

Rainfall in Karnataka declining 

Deforestation and climate change have been linked to the weather changing in Karnataka, especially rainfall, as per an assessment by the Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre (KSNDMC). This could lead to droughts and floods occurring more often than they have already become. 

The reduction is prominent in the southwest monsoon in North Interior Karnataka (NIK) and coastal regions. These changes can impact the people of NIK because there is hardly any flowing river in the area during the June-July period. 

Read this report by Mongabay India on the reducing rainfall and its effects

Glaciers melting in J&K could lead to loss of agriculture 

The authors of a study covered all 12,243 glaciers of Jammu and Kashmir that existed per 1947 political borders and calculated the total volume of ice that has melted from these glaciers in a span of 12 years (2000-2012). The glaciers have lost 70 gigatons of ice over a decade which has been alarming. The research reveals that annual discharge of river Jhelum would drop by 50% by the end of 2050, which would then lead to a decrease in agricultural production in Kashmir by more than 50%. Per official figures, Kashmir already faces a 36 percent food grain deficit. 

Capping Bhagjan Oil Well to take two more months 

The well no. 5 at Baghjan in Tinsukia district has been spewing gas uncontrollably since May 27, and it caught fire on June 9, killing two of OIL’s firefighters at the site. Previous attempts to cap the spill failed. Locals are reportedly restless due to delay in getting the compensation promised to them and the company’s inability to douse the fire. They have camped in front of the Deputy Commissioner’s office to protest since the 24th of August. 

Read more in this report.

EIA 2020 to give straight clearances for 239 dams

Per the EIA Draft, about 900 hectares of forest would submerge with the 240 dams proposed for hydroelectric and drinking water purposes across the country. The ecological impact of submerging these forests will remain unassessed. Experts at South Asia Network of Dams, River and People (SANDRP), in collaboration with ATREE (Ashoka Trust for Research In Ecology and the Environment), have explored the same. 

“A list of 239 dams has been identified out of which works at some dams has already started while others are awaiting approval. But with the proposed draft of EIA notification, these approvals would no longer be needed,” Amruta Pradhan, a PhD scholar at ATREE, said. 

Zero-budget natural farming more successful in study 

Researchers at Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy conducted a study in Andhra Pradesh to compare zero-budget natural farming (ZBNF: a farming practice that believes in the natural growth of crops without adding any fertilizers and pesticides or other foreign elements) and non-ZBNF techniques in paddy, groundnut, chilli, cotton and maize farming. 

The study, published earlier this year, was conducted in Andhra Pradesh’s Anantapuramu, Prakasam, Vizianagaram and West Godavari districts during kharif season, ensuring variation in agro-climatic zones, farming techniques, production and social aspects. 

It found maximum benefits of ZBNF in paddy farming, with a saving of 1,400 to 3,500 cubic metres of water per acre per paddy cropping period (one acre equals 0.4 hectares). 

Read more in this report by Down To Earth about the study and what it means for farming.  


Healthcare

COVID-19 cases in India are at an all-time high, making it possible that it could overtake Brazil that’s in second place. As of today, India’s caseload had gone from 30 lakh to 40 lakh in just 13 days, adding 90,632 infections and 1,065 deaths in 24 hours. Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh are the five states which reported the highest number of cases – they account for over 62 per cent of the active cases. 

However, the silver lining is that India’s recovery rate has touched a record high of more than 70,000 patients being discharged in a single day as per the Home Ministry. The states contributing the most to the cases are the ones seeing the most recoveries as well. 

Privacy Issues at NDHM

The National Digital Health Mission draft that was released last month has reignited issues of data privacy in the county. People were also put off by the short time given to respond to the draft, which was then extended on-demand by healthcare professionals. 

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Based on Niti Aayog’s plan for a digital healthcare system called the National Health Stack, people would have their healthcare data and other personal information (like sexual orientation and such) on a health card. The National Digital Health Mission comes under the supervision of the National Health Authority, which was established to implement the Ayushman Bharat programme by Modi. 

The records are to be generated by “health information providers” – hospitals, diagnostic centres, public health programs. Access would require the consent of individuals through “consent managers”.

India does not yet have a data protection law yet, and there is the risk of security fiascos that came after the Aadhar Card or the Arogya Setu recurring.  

Read all about the digitised health cards and privacy issues in Scroll’s report

Increased spending on healthcare

BusinessLine’s webinar on “Does India’s Healthcare Model Need A Tweak Post-COVID?’’ highlighted how India needs to spend more on healthcare. The 15th Finance Commission is revising its recommendations, asking for greater allocation for health both at the Central and State levels as per Srinath Reddy, President of the New Delhi-based Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI).

K Sujatha Rao, former Union health secretary, also discussed this in-depth with Scroll

The focus on COVID and fewer doctors being available has also led to other routine healthcare services taking a hit. Per a report by the Times of India, the number of fully immunised children fell by over 15 lakh from April to June compared to the same months last year. The number of institutional deliveries fell by nearly 13 lakh. The registered number of TB patients undergoing treatment fell to almost half, while people seeking cancer treatment as outpatients fell by over 70%. Up to 61 pregnant women and 877 newborns have died in Meghalaya in the last four months from April for want of admission to hospitals and also due to lack of medical attention 

Startups providing hope to rural India

A report by Forbes India highlights how small startups could be a way to provide rural India with better access to healthcare. Up to 69 percent of India’s total population lives in rural areas. The public health system on paper in these regions is an elaborate structure with multiple levels. In reality, it is another story. 

A report titled Strengthening Public Health Delivery, published by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) on August 17, suggests that the public health system suffers from a shortage of skilled doctors and nurses, auxiliary nursing midwives (ANM), Assisted Social Health Activist (ASHA) and anganwadi workers, along with a lack of equipment and diagnostic tools. Moreover, out of ₹67,112 crore, the Union health budget allocation to the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) in 2020-21 was ₹27,039 crore, a 3 percent reduction from the estimated amount.


.LIFE

A weekly round-up of things we’ve been reading:

Assam: On the edge of disaster · Dalit Camera

Pandemic as a ‘Disaster’: Assessing Indian State Response

93% of Black Lives Matter Protests Have Been Peaceful, New Report Finds

Jim Carrey: Truth, Justice, and a World Without Trump

French reporter who joined police exposes racism and violence

Oliver Cromwell Cox and the Capitalist Sources of Racism

‘Dead’ coral reefs as important as ‘live’ ones, shows a new study

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