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Unemployment, Mining, and a Touting Baba

Today, we look at the changing unemployment rate in India, changes to the Environmental ministry, and Patanjali’s false promises. 

Rural 

Image: Reuters

Dropping unemployment rates

With the lockdown easing up and migrants going back to their villages, the rural unemployment has continued to drop, falling to 7.2% (on 21st June) from 10.9% in the previous week, as per data released by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). 

However, the urban unemployment rate is still at the 11% level, mostly due to the rising infections in Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai causing companies to fire people to save costs. The overall unemployment rate was at 8.48% in the week to 21 June. To put this in perspective, pre-lockdown India’s overall job loss rate was 8.41%.

Workers who have returned home are managing to find work under the MNREGA scheme, which has seen a record number of applications this year.

Lightning strikes

The southwest monsoon hitting India caused severe lightning in the northern and eastern states of India, striking 107 people. Nearly 83 people were killed in Bihar after being struck by lightning, and 24 in Uttar Pradesh state. Dozens more were injured. While lightning strikes are common during the June-September monsoon period. This year however, saw one of the highest daily tolls Bihar had recorded in recent years.

With rising incidents of lightning strikes, there are some concerned individuals who are going online and making videos on how to escape thunderstorms. Common suggestions lie around finding a firm ground and ducking there, with feet touching, One must avoid taking shelter inside structures, trees, and waterbodies as they are more susceptible to thunde strikes.

Snakeoil ‘doctors’

According to an assessment of public and private health, at least two in every three doctors are informal caregivers. This means that they have no qualification in the modern medicine system. The survey was conducted in 1,519 villages across 19 states by researchers from the Centre of Policy Research (CPR).

The study published in the social science and medical journal revealed that even though 75% of villages have at least a single health care provider, and a village on average has three primary healthcare providers, 86% of these are private “doctors” while 68% have had no formal training.

However, it was found that qualifications were not a predictor of quality – the medical knowledge of informal providers in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka was oftentimes higher than that of trained doctors in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.


Environment

Jhelum river in Srinagar, September 26, 2016. Photo: Reuters/Danish Ismail

Kashmir’s mining blocks

Online bidding for mining blocks was initiated in Kashmir, with non-local contractors having taken the majority of the districts where bidding has been completed so far. Due to it being online, many local contractors and businessmen weren’t able to access the system because of the lack of high-speed Internet connectivity. Close to 200 mineral blocks in Jhelum and its tributaries were opened for the mining of sand, boulders, gravel and other river bed material. The department seems to be “more concerned” about revenue generation through this practice, even though there are concerns about the impact on the local environment. 

“Most of us came to know about the tendering process only when it was over. The government knew the local contractors won’t be able to participate in the bidding owing to the Internet blockade, but still, it went ahead with the process. This clearly shows what their intentions were—to deprive us of our only source of livelihood,” said Manzoor Malik, a local contractor from Srinagar told The Wire.

Assam floods and displacement

Days of heavy rain in Assam have led to floods again, with more than 4.62 lakh people being displaced. Two people drowned on Saturday, causing the death toll to go up to 39 since the 22nd of May 22. Operations on the OIL blowout Baghjan 5 well has also been stopped due to the floods. “Working conditions at the site have been considered unsafe for the day and all operations at site have been called off,” the release from the company stated. 

The Russian oil spill is estimated to cost around $1.4 billion to clean up, Greenpeace states. It could take nearly 10 years for the biodiversity to fully return as per the state fishing agency. 

Draft EIA is no good

Draft EIA Notification is an attempt to weaken regulation, silence affected communities

The Draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of 2020, if put into force will replace the EIA Notification of 2006 for all future projects. The EIA process looks over the potential environmental impact and externalities of a proposed project before work begins and judges if work can really be carried out or not. The new draft disables this process to a large extent. Predominantly, the draft allows projects to start off before any judgement is made and then enter a  The most devastating blow to the EIA regime is the creation of an ex-post-facto clearance route — where an EIA clearance was never sought or granted, and the construction of the project took place regardless, the project proponent can enter an assessment procedure, with some minor fines for the violations, and find its sins blessed. Where such ex-post-facto clearances were being granted previously, the courts cracked down on them as illegal. The draft notification also shortens the time for the public to furnish responses on the project. For project-affected people, who are frequently forest dwellers or otherwise do not have access to information and technology, this will make it harder to put forth representations.

Monitoring requirements have been slackened. The draft EIA notification halves the frequency of reporting requirements from every six months to once a year and extends the validity period for approvals in critical sectors such as mining.

The Environmental Ministry’s plan to merge its 10 regional offices and 19 centres of NTCA, Forest Survey of India (FSI), Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) and Central Zoo Authority (CZA) has been questioned. Environment and wildlife activists feel that this move could be a plan to make these sections, which are voices for conversation of the environment, voiceless. 


Health

Coronil for Covid-19 treatment: Didn't advertise it, says ...
Image: Twitter

Patanjali’s shoddy marketing

The ‘yoga-guru’ Baba Ramdev has touted the Coronil drug to treat COVID-19. However, it was approved for treating caught and boosting immunity, and not as a treatment of the coronavirus. Now, the company will charges under two acts — the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, and the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954, if proved guilty of making a false claim

Free dialysis in Chennai

Chennai is all set to open four new dialysis centres in Tiruvottiyur, Injambakkam, Ambattur and Tondiarpet zones of the city within a month. Corporation Commissioner Prakash said that these centres will provide free dialysis under the Chief Minister’s insurance scheme. He also noted that around 35,000 people have already underwent dialysis under this scheme.

Spend more on healthcare: CEO of NITI Aayog

Amitabh Kant, the CEO of NITI Aayog, has said that India must spend 5 percent f its GDP on healthcare. THis, he said, is critical in the long run as the country needs to take care of its citizens. This global seminar on COVID-10 was jointly organized by Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and the Piramal Foundation.

India is not detective enough TB cases, but that’s not such bad news

India missed detection of 3 lakh TB cases in 2019, but this is why it’s good news

According to report released by the Union health ministry, India missed detecting nearly 3 lakh tuberculosis (TB) cases in 2019. However, this is no such bad news as this is the least number of missed cases ever recorded. For comparison, this year was a significant improvement form 2017 where it missed around 10 lakh cases.

Missing the detection process is not the most healthy way to cope with TB. India has had large campaigns against this deadly disease in the past, much like polio. However, if a case goes undetected, the disease may spread in the community.

Fixing India’s healthcare privately

Digitizing everything — from patient data to consultations — could save India’s healthcare and aid towards a more refined approach to it. This is what the backers of Swasth believe. Swasth is packed by big industry names such as Oracto, Policybazaar, and Infosys.

Swasth means health in Hindi, and its members have decided to build new services and create a structure for coordination that can improve the response time in case of emergencies.

Some privacy advocates have raised concerns around how sensitive data such as test results and medical history will be handled by the new system, which is likely to link data to the already controversial Aadhar. 

Adding context to the entire case, Mishi Choudhary, the legal director at the New York-based Software Freedom Law Center added that India needs to modernize the flow of health-care information but this move-fast-and-break-things, by outsourcing the entire health infrastructure to a coterie without any checks and balances, is undemocratic.


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