Friday, May 1, 2015

West Bengals district declared first Open Defecation Free district of India

UNICEF India representative David Mcloughlin congratulated the people of the district for achieving the goal.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday declared Nadia as the first Open Defecation Free (ODF) district in the country.
“I feel proud to declare Nadia to be the first ODF district in the country. I congratulate Nadia district for achieving this feat and convey my thanks to World Bank and the UNICEF,” Ms. Banerjee said while speaking at the programme here.
“We had started this on November 19, 2013 and within two years... yes we can... we have reached our goal. We are totally successful,” she said. “I feel proud that the first three districts to be ODF are from West Bengal. We have Nadia, Hooghly and Burdwan and the fourth one is Rajasthan’s Bikaner. So it’s 3:1 ratio... We have bowled out everybody,” the Chief Minister said.
Thanking UNICEF and the World Bank for helping the district achieve this feat, Ms. Banerjee declared April 30 as the “Nirmal Bangla Diwas” to be observed in the years to come.
“Today we take the oath to keep West Bengal clean and build a Nirmal Bangla. I ask everybody to take responsibility for that,” she said. The Chief Minister presented the Nadia district administration, a memento and a painting prepared by her, which was received by the DM.

UNICEF India representative David Mcloughlin congratulated the people of the district for achieving the goal and said, “It’s a commendable job done by you people. It shows that ODF is absolutely achievable. Your achievement will inspire others to make their places ODF.”

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Village School in Bada Lewa village, UP

News on

The application of the 2010 RTE Act leaves much to be desired. But the initiatives at the primary school in Bada Lewa village, Uttar Pradesh, inspires optimism. 

They call it tracking. A group of 12-year-old students of the Primary School in Village Bada Lewa, Hamirpur, walk into their village during school hours, looking for children who are enrolled but have not been coming to school regularly. They will counsel the parents and get the children to attend school regularly and offer support and solutions where required. The word ‘tracking’ is now part of their everyday vocabulary.
On one such tracking mission, Jyoti, Dharam, Gomti and three others have a list of five absentee students whose homes they will visit. They run into seven-year-old Anjali, wearing her school shirt and balancing her younger sister on her hip. Jyoti takes the lead in confronting Anjali’s grandfather who is sitting in the verandah.
“Dadaji, why haven’t you sent Anjali to school today?”
“It is harvesting month. Anjali’s mother is away in the fields. She has to look after her younger sister.”
“Dadaji, Anjali will miss too much in school and then she won’t be able to catch up. Why don’t you handle the baby till the mother returns?”
“I can’t handle the baby.”
“You are our elder, Dadaji,” Jyoti reasons. “Anjali is still a small child. She needs to be regular in school. Please help her to go.”
“Whose child are you?” the old man asks, trying to place Jyoti.
She names her father. She tells him where her home is. One of the boys in the group is patting the buffalo. Eventually the elderly man asks his grandchild to run along to school. He nods approvingly at the children, who seem to be ushering in a new age in the village. The children move on to the next home on their list.
This government-run Primary School in Hamirpur district in Uttar Pradesh is one of the eight per cent of schools in India that comply with most of the norms and standards stipulated in the RTE Act. The RTE Act that came into being on April 1, 2010, casts a legal obligation on the Central and State Governments to implement the fundamental right of children to free and compulsory education. It lays down detailed guidelines for the development of curriculum, training of teachers and pupil-teacher ratios. Furthermore, it emphasises child-centric and child-friendly learning and an environment that is free of fear, trauma and anxiety for children. It has been exactly five years since the RTE Act came into being, and only a fraction of its promise has been fulfilled across the country.
Even that fraction throws up impressive statistics: 110 million children are served meals in the mid-day meal scheme making it the world’s largest school-feeding programme; 199 million children are in schools and studying. A study by the Azim Premji Foundation, quoted in the report released by the RTE Forum recently, shows that in semi-urban and rural areas, the belief that private school education is better than government schools is a myth. This was reflected in the experience of the parents in this village in Hamirpur too.
Gurudayal is the President of the School Management Committee in the Bada Lewa school. This committee comprises parents, teachers, elected members of local government and educationists or NGO workers from the area. They meet once a month to oversee the infrastructure and administrative needs of the school.
Gurudayal contrasts the present scene in the school where children of all castes sit together, as they are served meals, to a decade ago when the Dalit teacher in the school was not even allowed to sit on a chair throughout the day. He reiterates that parents in the village have taken their children out of local private schools and enrolled them in the government school because the quality of education has improved tremendously. “Don’t even ask me about the time when I was studying in this school,” he says. “Times have changed dramatically now.”
Just like the School Management Committee is a voluntary body of adults, all the children of the primary school are members of a Bal Panchayat that meets once a month to discuss their issues. The students who go tracking in the morning are leaders of the Bal Panchayat. Aided by their teachers and trained in workshops conducted by Samarth Foundation, an NGO based in Hamirpur, these children are encouraged to be assertive and proactive about addressing and fulfilling their needs.
Jyoti Devi and Gomti Devi are President and Vice President respectively of the Bal Panchayat. They have travelled to Lucknow to attend workshops organised by Oxfam where they learnt how to set agendas and follow up issues when they conduct meetings. Other posts include Education Minister, Cleanliness Minister and Mid-day Meal Minister. 
The students make a list of infrastructural needs like a broken tap and an open window that needs the panes restored. They reiterate the four rights of children as laid down by the Convention for the Rights of Children and talk about the duties and responsibilities of students in the school.
Spending time in the school and village of Bada Lewa inspires an optimism for the outcomes that are possible when parents, teachers, local authorities, non-government and state agencies come together on a small scale to invest in making quality education a reality for their own children. Almost everyone in Bada Lewa village has a version of the before and ever since RTE norms have been enforced in this primary school.
The nationwide scorecard on implementing the RTE Act leaves much to be desired. Six million children are still out of schools and 75 per cent of them belong to Dalit, tribal and Muslim communities. The most deprived and marginalised communities have received the least benefits. Half the children who enrol in schools still drop out before Std. X.
Deepak Xavier leads the Haq Banta Hai Campaign at Oxfam India that is campaigning for full implementation of the RTE Act along with the RTE Forum. “Education is the greatest equaliser against inequality. By ensuring full implementation of the RTE Act, we can achieve both quality education for all children and a reduction in inequality,” he says.
India is going to be the world’s youngest country by 2020. The Kothari Commission recommended in 1966 that public spending on education needs to be at least six per cent of the GDP in 20 years. Today, nearly after 50 years of accepting this recommendation, public spending on education has been stagnant at three per cent for the last 15 years.
The RTE Act is substantial and well thought out but it needs the will of the state and sustained resources to be implemented to its full potential. The children of Bada Lewa village, tucked away between the Yamuna and Betwa in Bundelkhand, are a fine example of how empowering and well received the benefits of the RTE Act are.
When asked if they are scared of speaking up before their teachers, 12-year-old Dharam Singh, says in a small voice, “Yes, I am.” After a pause, he adds, “But our teacher says, ‘Don’t be scared of me. I have no right to hurt you. I will not hurt you’.”

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Laws by the people, for the people - Kerala Model

In formulating the most effective and inclusive procedures for pre-legislative consultation, the Central government should study and draw inspiration from Kerala’s example

We should all celebrate the recent decision taken by a Cabinet Secretary-led committee which seeks to institutionalise public participation in the law-making process. The decision requires every Central government department to publicise the details of a proposed legislation on the Internet and other media before being introduced in Parliament. Under the decision, draft bills must be accompanied with an explanatory note outlining the essential provisions of the bill and its impact on the environment and lives of affected people. The public must then be given at least 30 days to comment. Following publication, these comments are to be submitted to the relevant parliamentary standing committee examining the bill. Although this is a good start, good practice from Kerala has the potential to significantly strengthen the process.
Reflecting public will
It is uncontroversial that pre-legislative scrutiny enhances democratic governance. It has been done in a number of other countries well accustomed to transparent legislative processes. Common sense dictates that people who are potentially affected by a proposed legislation — whether adversely or favourably — should be able to have a say in the law-making process at an early stage. Appropriate subject matter experts should also have an opportunity to inform and refine draft bills. Especially in a country as diverse as India, transparent and inclusive law-making is more likely to reflect the will of the people.
That said, while India has seen some good examples including the Right to Information Act, often the only forum for inputs for legislation is behind the closed doors of a parliamentary committee. Too often, laws are made in haste to please a particular interest group or as knee-jerk reactions to public outcry, without the balance of competing views. Too often, the impact on the lives of the vulnerable is thrown out of the window.
The Kerala police law model
While the decision to introduce pre-legislative consultation is the first step in the right direction, the procedures to be followed to make this happen require careful thought. The mode of consultation must be made well-known, and the instruments for consultation will have to go beyond the Internet and electronic media. Needless to say, in a country where Internet penetration and literacy rates are low, publicising information through written and electronic means will effectively shut out a large per cent of the population. Effective consultation will require far more — in the way of resources and goodwill.
A robust model of pre-legislative consultation might resemble that carried out by Kerala in relation to police legislation. In 2011, the State government went all out to ensure true public participation in drafting its police law. The draft Bill was first placed on the Kerala police’s website with an email address inviting feedback from the public at large. Some of the suggestions that were received were incorporated into the draft.
At this stage, different groups began lobbying MLAs on the contents of the Bill and its possible impact on people. As a result, when the draft Bill was introduced in the House, many MLAs knew about it and acknowledged that, being a law of such wide public importance, it needed to be referred to a select committee.
Sensibly, from October to November 2011, the 19-member Select Committee, headed by the then Home Minister and comprising MLAs from almost every party, decided to tour the State and hold district-wide town hall meetings. Notices were placed in leading newspapers publicising the committee, its visit and its mandate. In the end, town hall meetings were held in all 14 districts of the State. At least 400-500 people attended every meeting.
The upshot of this process was that the select committee suggested 790 amendments to the original Bill introduced in the House. The Bill was then debated for almost four hours and 240 amendments — many based on the public’s feedback — were accepted and passed. Public consultation ensured that the legislation, while by no means perfect, included many people-friendly provisions related to police service delivery, and responses which are unique only to Kerala’s Police Act.
In formulating the most effective and inclusive procedures for pre-legislative consultation, the Central government should study and draw inspiration from Kerala’s example. Although this decision was limited to the Centre, the principles of pre-legislative scrutiny equally apply to States, which should follow the Centre’s lead.
When the Congress’ National Advisory Council recommended in 2013 that mandatory pre-legislative consultation be introduced for all proposed laws, it said that this would take India from a “representative democracy to a participatory, deliberative democracy.” Now that we have a framework in place, it is time to consider the best ways and means to make public consultation in law-making a tangible reality. Given the current climate of public discontent, now is the time to breathe new life into political engagement with the people.
(Anirudha Nagar is programme officer, Police Reforms, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.)
taken from 

The Better India

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Is Pune On The Way To Be Kachra-Kundi Free City ?

Pune Muncipal Corporation is doing great work in eliminating garbage bins from locations one after another. These dirty way of citizens throwing their waste is being replace by door to door collection on semi-coomercial basis. Garbage will then be transferred into PMC containers and taken to Urali Kanchan / Saswad. PMC has contracted a private company which has set up a segregation/recycling/processing plant there.  Seggregated plastic, complex hydrocarbons, compost, fuel and biogas will be products out of this.

Let us congratulate citizens and politicians of Pune and Urali Kanchan, PMC staff, judiciary, Swach and other NGOs. And wish them and us more success

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Maternal Mortality Rate declines in all states in India

The Karnataka State’s Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR), which has been a cause of concern in the past, has seen a significant fall in the last three years. From 178 per lakh live births in the period between 2007 and 2009, the State’s MMR has come down to 144 in 2012, a decline of 34 percentage points.
Although the State is still behind Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the rate of decline here is the highest in South India. While the rate of decline in Andhra Pradesh 24 percentage points, it has been seven and 15 in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, respectively, in the same period.
The latest Sample Registration Report of the Registrar-General of India that gives the new MMR estimates for the three-year period (2010-2012) was released in New Delhi on December 20.
Maternal deaths are defined as the number of women who die during pregnancy or within 42 days of the termination of pregnancy. The State sees nearly 12 lakh pregnancies every year.
According to the report, the new MMR estimate for the country shows an overall decline from 212 (in 2007-09) to 178 in 2012, resulting in saving lives of around 9,000 mothers per year.
It also shows a declining trend in all States.
M. Madan Gopal, Principal Secretary (Health and Family Welfare), told The Hindu on Wednesday that the decline in MMR means nearly 1,500 mothers were being saved now. “Although the numbers look insignificant, every mother’s life saved is precious,” he said. “If we sustain our efforts and incorporate a few policy changes, we can bring down MMR to less than 100 in the next three years,” he added.
Mr. Madan Gopal said, “The achievement was possible thanks to the integration of Central programmes such as Janani Suraksha Yojana that promotes institutional deliveries, 24 x 7 primary health centres, first referral units with the State’s programmes such as Madilu, Prasuti Araike, 108 Arogya Kavacha. The commitment and dedication of all our field functionaries have played a major role.”
According to the report, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra have achieved the country’s maternal health Millennium Development Goal (MDG) which is 109 per one lakh live births by 2015.
While Kerala’s MMR stands at 66 per one lakh live births, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra’s MMR is 90 and 87, respectively.
The report has stated that India is 69 percentage points away from the MDG target. “Despite such an impressive decline for three periods in a row (2004-2006, 2007-2009 and 2010-2012), India is likely to miss the MDG target,” according to the report.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

'Rice for Oliver Ridley Turtle Consevration Scheme' for fishermen

After a prolonged wait, fishermen families identified under Rice for Oilive Ridley Conservation (ROrC) scheme have become the recipients of Public Distribution Scheme doles in coastal districts like Kendrapara in Odisha.
So far 2200 families who are affected by 7-month-long prohibition on marine fishing for turtle protection measures every year were distributed special eligibility cards for the subsidised rice benefits, according to officials.
Altogether 10,133 fishermen families have been targeted to get PDS coverage to make up their vocation and livelihood loss in Kendrapara, Puri, Ganjam and Bhadrak districts where the turtles arrive for nesting each winter.
The bulk of the affected families are from Kendrapara as the coastal district is home to the restricted sea corridors of Gahirmatha marine sanctuary.
It is a livelihood stakes package for poor fishermen communities to ensure them food security.
Because of prohibition of fishing from November 1 to May 31 each year, the community is adversely affected with depletion of income sources.
Under the scheme, each family will be provided with 25 kg of rice at subsidised rate of Re 1 per kg every month. 2200 families were distributed special cards.
The cards entitle them to get subsidised rice each month from PDS retailers of Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare department, said Additional Fisheries Officer, Paradip, Ranjit Dash.
Of the 10,133 identified beneficiaries, 6,255 families are from Kendrapara district. The rest of the targeted families are from Puri, Ganjam and Bhadrak district.
While 3,959 families have been enumerated for PDS coverage in Mahakalpada block, 2,296 fishermen families are from seaside Rajnagar block, said a senior official.
Aware of loss of livelihood sources following the seven-month-long prohibition on sea-fishing, the government had earlier announced extension of PDS families in favour of affected fishermen families.
The ban had hit hard livelihood stakes of fishermen communities besides other stakeholders.
After prohibition was lifted on May 31, sea fishing got frequently disrupted owing frequent formation of low pressure.