Friday, November 30, 2012


In current context of sustainable development concern is mounting over an ever growing list of environmental issues across rural India. By tradition, Indian society and culture values personal hygiene but gives little importance to clean and healthy community environment. Human excreta is regarded as the most hated object and anything connected to latrine is considered so defiling that one is supposed to take a bath immediately after coming out of the toilet and before going in to kitchen due to psychological and religious taboos. Sanitation is, therefore , regarded as a matter of individual initiative and not a collective obligation of the community and under this socio-cultural background, environmental sanitation has sadly been given the lowest priority.

For a healthy living we all require a healthy environment and sanitation is regarded to be one of the core components of the same. As far as the concept only with the various methods and technologies of safe disposal of human excreta, the Central Rural Sanitation Programme of India has updated and upgraded the perception of sanitation by incorporation the components like liquid and solid waste disposal , food hygiene, personal hygiene in the context of health improvement, school and home sanitation, and safe water and garbage disposal . In short , sanitation is being considered as a comprehensive initiative for a healthy environment with in a community with the top priority of separation excreta with its host of biological pathogens, from contact with human beings as well as plant and animal life.

Now coming to the environmental concern of a rural nation like India where about 70% of its people live in the villages- these days the question of improving the sanitation in villages in gaining much attention of both the people and the government as inadequate sanitation always puts an adverse effect on the environment; without a clean, safe toilet close to home people are forced to live in an unhealthy and unpleasant environment. One gram of faeces can contain ten million viruses, one million bacteria, one thousand cyst parasites and about a hundred worm eggs – so the danger of disease is massive and when any waste is exposed and clean water and hygiene education are limited, all people in the community are vulnerable to illness caused by faeces. On the other hand if we look into statistics then it shows that every year around 1.8 million children mostly from rural areas, die of diseases such as cholera , typhoid and dysentery caused by unclean water and poor sanitation’ in this regard rural women and girl are the most disadvantaged section as in absence of a well-built toilet at home , they often have to wait till dark for going to the field for open defecation which make them vulnerable to illness as well as sometimes to sexual-assault. Moreover sickness due to insanitary condition takes children away from school and adults away from earning an income .Medical expenses make massive demands on the limited incomes of the rural poor.

Rural Environment:

The deteriorating rural environment is not only creating problem for rural population but also emerging as a threat to urban India, since rural India is the key provider of agricultural and other indigenous products being consumed being by the big cities.

Rural lifestyles have close links with nature and its resources. Thus the environmental problems that manifest in rural areas of the country are largely due to over-use or misuse of resources mostly because of sheer poverty, ignorance and lack of alternatives. The denudation of vegetative cover due to expansion of agricultural activities , indiscriminate collection for firewood and the overgrazing by cattle and other livestock and consequent soil erosion are good examples of the impoverishment of environmental resources. Rural communities are generally resource conscious and the amount of the waste generated in villages is , therefore, much less than in urban centers. Also the nature and composition of waste is different in villages from that of cities. Most of the waste generated in villages is from individual households, whereas in urban areas, commercial establishments and institutions are also an important source of waste in village households is much higher than that in the cities. This is mainly because of different life styles, consumption patterns, food habits, etc. Traditionally, the village communities never considered anything as waste and had well-managed waste management system which allowed for maximum recycling and reuse of waste. However , with increase in population , the qualities of waste have increased several fold , where as the resources available for its management such as land availability for composting of organic waste- have diminished over time. These wastes are therefore, now dumped in the open and are managed unscientifically, leading to problems of environmental sanitation in rural India.

Realizing the adverse impact of sanitation on environmental as well as for recognizing and encouraging the efforts of Panchayati Raj Institution under Total sanitation Campaign, Nirmal Gram Puraskar (NGP) was initiates by the Government on October 2, 2003. A’Nirmal Gram’ signifies an ‘open defecation free’ village with all houses, schools and anganwadis having sanitary toilets besides awareness amongst communities about the importance of maintaining personal and community hygiene, good sanitation and clean environment. But when we look into the very recent statistics, we notice that out of 2.5 lakh gram panchayats of this country, only 25,000 have received ‘Nirmal Gram’ status- which signifies that only 10 percent of Indian villages have full sanitation coverage.

Sanitation coverage

Taking into account the difference research finding and survey-result on total sanitation campaign, it can be suggested that increasing sanitation coverage in rural areas would require more clarity of the issue and understanding of the rural sensibilities . Building toilers is just one half of the battle; the other half is to make people use them. Merely building latrines. It must be combined with hygiene education which is designed to encourage changes in people ‘s personal behavioural pattern and outlook as well as to block the faecal-oral transmission route and reduce the spreads of diseases. This is the high time for the social scientist to look at society’s collective blindness towards the practice of open defection and the reluctance to change. Despite the high rate of urbanization- the rural population is still characterized by ignorance and poverty, and the attitudes of these people are mainly influences by age-old cultural beliefs and values. So to protect rural environment on sustainable manner through proper environmental sanitation , rural people need to change their attitudes and beliefs toward the whole issue. Lastly it may be concluded that though concern is mounting over an ever growing list of environmental issues across the nation but compared to urban India, we can still find a much better , safer and cleaner environment across the villages of this country, where one can at least breathe contentedly in fresh air.


Why certain zones are prone to railway accidents?

A paper published this year in Physica A, a reputed international journal, has in a very scientific way identified the reasons behind the 11 railway accidents involving express trains in 2010 . Aside from clearly establishing the well-known cause — the disproportionate increase in railway traffic compared with infrastructure — it has also identified zones that are insufficient to handle the congestion and reasons for this.

The authors have identified two main reasons for the 2010 accidents. First, railway traffic has grown disproportionately to railway infrastructure, particularly railroads and routes. Second, there are serious flaws in the scheduling of trains on some routes. So much so that the Railway system would not be able to handle the traffic on certain routes if all trains were to run as per schedule. Hence, the Railways resort to making trains wait at signals, leading to long delays in trains’ run-time. This is alarming, as the system intentionally introduces the possibility of human error and/or system failure leading to accidents.

The 11 accidents were due to derailments or collisions between express trains or some sort of failure of the railway system itself. Incidentally, eight of the 11 accidents took place in a zone which they call the Indo Gangetic Plain (IGP) — a north-eastern belt. This is no coincidence, as the statistical analysis by the authors clearly identifies the reason.

They find that the Indo-Gangetic Plain hosts some of the most traffic-intensive segments of rail routes — seven out of the 20 that they consider high-traffic. Comparing data gathered from 1992 to 2010 from “trains at a glance,” they conclude that this is because the infrastructure such as railway lines and tracks have not grown over the years, whereas the number of trains has increased manifold. They identify the most risk-prone ‘trunk segment’ as the Delhi-Tundla-Kanpur one and identify the Vishakhapatnam-Vijayawada trunk segment from the southern zone as the “safe standard” based on the empirical evidence that it has not had any accident so far.

How sound is the rationale behind keeping the south zone route as a safe standard? Is it not better to keep an absolute value on safety? In an email to The Hindu, Niloy Ganguly noted: “It will definitely be better to use an absolute standard, but we do not know of any such standard for IR….

Note that there have been derailments/collisions even in South India in 2012. Hence, some segments in South India also seem to be nearing the risky zone. This means that the condition of IGP is even worse than what we had estimated in our paper (since the safe standard itself is no longer very safe).”

Another parameter is the headway, or time lapse between two trains as they cross the same point. The possibility of two trains coming dangerously close to one another increases as the headway reduces. They found two segments clearly coming out as risk-prone segments — the Delhi-Kanpur segment and the Ahmedabad-Surat segment. The Vishakhapatnam-Vijayawada segment has a much higher headway and is therefore safer, relatively speaking. Of the two lower headway segments, the Ahmedabad-Surat segment has trains with low headway running throughout the day, whereas in the case of the Delhi-Kanpur segment, trains get bunched up in the early hours.

Runtime delays of trains on these segments were also studied. While 20 per cent of the trains on the Delhi-Kanpur segment were delayed by more than one hour, only about three per cent of the trains on the Vishakhapatnam-Vijayawada segment were delayed to that extent. The delays reflect the high degree of congestion and frequent waiting of trains at the signals, and hence a possibility of an accident.

They also analysed traffic congestion at a fine-grained level by undertaking a simulation of the traffic flow according to the IR schedule. The authors modelled the “block system” followed by Indian railways.

A railway track is divided into block sections (of about 4-8 km) such that when one train is occupying a block, no other train is allowed to enter that block on the same track. Signals or stations at the end of the block control the traffic.

From the simulation, it became apparent that there would be more than two or three trains in one block quite frequently in the Indo-Gangetic Plain if all trains were to run as per schedule and not stopped by signals.

Now, while some blocks have three tracks, most of the IR blocks have only two tracks and so can accommodate at most two trains. So this indicates that the infrastructure is not sufficient to handle the traffic and this is only being managed by stopping trains and delaying them beyond the scheduled time.

Source: The HINDU

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Environment is the most important agenda of the international community due to its far reaching consequences on the survival of human being and other forms of biodiversity on the earth. Climate change is the most important indicator of environment degradation. Climate change is occurring due to increase in the level of green house gases (GHG).

In green house gases, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases are the main contributors. GHG emissions have had a significant impact on the climate , particularly in recent times, with the global-average surface temperature rising studies have revealed that the warming of the planet is closely linked with the build-up in the atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and some other green house gases (GHG).

China is the major contributor of green house gases with 19.5 percent followed by USA (19.2%), India (5.3%), Russia (5.1%), Japan(3.6%) and Germany (2.6%). Climate change affects many natural and human system. According to the Inter Governmental Panel on Climate change (IPCC), the three main causes of the increase in green house gases observed over than past 250 years have been fossil fuels, land use, and agriculture. The increase I greenhouse gases from the late nineteenth century to the present time has resulted in global warming of 1 to 3 °C to the planet . The warming for the next 20years is projected to be about 0.2°C per decade.

Studies indicates that global warming increases the risk for species extinction, especially in bio diverse ecosystems, because extreme weather conditions like hurricanes, draughts and torrential downpours become more frequent. Flora and fauna become extinct at a rate 100-1000 times higher than normal. Climate change is one of the main causes of species depletion. According to a recent study of Stockholm Environment Institute, greenhouse gases can inflicting cost of nearly $2 trillion annually in damage to the oceans by 2100. The estimate is based on the assumption that climate-altering carbon emission continue their upward spiral without a pause. This study indicates that warmer seas will lead to greater acidification and oxygen loss, hitting fisheries and coral reefs. Rising sea levels and storms will boost the risk of flood damage, especially around the coastlines of Africa and Asia.

Warmest Decade

According to the UN weather agency (World Meteorological Organisation), climate change has accelerated in the past decade (2001 to 2010) and it was the warmest decade on record since records began in 1850. This period was marked by extreme levels of rain or snowfall, leading to significant flooding on all continents, while drought affected part of East Africa and North America. The global land and sea surface temperatures estimates at 0.46 degrees Celsius above the long term average of 14.0c. The UN weather agency noted that the world is warming because of human activities and this is resulting in far – reaching and potentially irreversible impacts on our Earth, atmosphere and oceans. According to a government statement in the parliament , there is 1.29 millimeter rise in sea level along the Indian coastline.

Impact on Agriculture:

Climate change will adversely affect agriculture globally. This will have serious impact on food security all over the world. All the studies indicate adverse effect on our food grain production. Changes in production patterns will occur due to higher temperatures and changing precipitation patterns. Agricultural productivity will also be affected due to increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Leading international agencies like Inter-Governmental panel on climate change (2007) and Universal Ecological Fund (2011) have indicated affected of climate change on agriculture, globally. According to these reports, there will be 14 per cent deficit in global wheat production, 11 percent in rice and 9 per cent in maize by 2020.

Research finding coming from different parts of the world indicate that climate change is causing the early ripening of grapes. These finding are based on the harvesting data of last 64 years. Scientists attribute the fruit’s ripening to climate warming and a decline in soil water content, based on a comparison of decades of vineyard records.

There are no conclusive studies in India on the prospective impact of climate change on the agriculture sector including livestock and fisheries. Much of the country’s understanding comes from global data provide by the Inter governmental panel on climate change , the World Meteorological Organization and other world bodies.

However, there are some examples which indicate the adverse effects of climate on crop production. According to report of the Central Government in the Parliament , the productivity of staple grain wheat could decline by up to 18 percent by 2020 due to adverse impact of climate change. The yield of major food crop rice might also fall by up to 6 per cent by 2020. These finding are based on the research conducted under Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)’s Network project on climate change (NPCC). The report further indicates that the productivity of kharif maize and sorghum could also be affected by climate change. In 2002, drought affected food production by 10 percent ; the cold wave in January 2003 hit cultivation of mustard, mango, guava, papaya, brinjal, tomato and potato. High rainfall in 1998 and 2005 affected kharif and late kharif and late kharif onion crops, resulting in price hike. There is urgent need for research to assess the impact of changing climate on agriculture. But , the research should be driven solely by the international agenda the research should clearly focus on the specific region and crops. There is pressing need for honest location-specific research in partnership with small and marginal farmers to assess over a period of time the impact of climate change. Instead of being driven by the needs of farmers.

Adaptation plan:

Scientists are working world over to develop adaptive plants for food , drought and salty conditions of soil and the work has begun to pay off. Recent tests on farms in Bangladesh shown that a new line of rice containing the flood-resistant gene can live under water for two weeks. The period of 7 to 10days is very crucial in case of floods that destroy the crop of paddy in thousands of hectares every year.

The problem of flooding is predicated to worsen as climate change brings more intense rainfall there. These findings are crucial because 70 per cent of the world’s poor live in Asia particularly in south Asia where rice is the staple. Corn is another staple that is going to be affected due to more dry spells or droughts anticipated with the climate change . Recent tests in south Africa Indicate that drought resistant maize plants. Created by breeding, produced 30 to 50 per cent more corn than traditional varieties under arid conditions.

To mitigate the impact of climate change, he Government of India has launched the National Action plan on climate change in 2008. The Central Government has announced its intent to reduce the emission intensity by 20 to 25 percent between 2005 and 2020, thus making a major contribution to mitigating climate change . This commitment is based on GHG Emission profile which is based on five independent studies . The government has also formed an expert Group on Low Carbon Strategy for inclusive Growth under the planning Commission t develop a roadmap for Low-carbon development. The government has also launched the Indian Network for climate change Assessment (INCCA), in October 2009, as a network – based programme with board objectives of measuring ,, modeling and monitoring the change. It bring together over 120 institutions and over 220 scientists from across the country. The fight in the 12th Five-year plan (2012-2017) with the government intending to plough in almost 2 lakh crore Rupees through various mission.

Source: Kurushketra

Monday, November 26, 2012


Agriculture is the backbone of Indian economy and food security is the major concern. India needs a second green revolution and it is possible only through the transfer of technologies from lab to land. Knowledge transfer to the agriculture sector with necessary inputs is most important. The country has a widespread telecom network which could be put to effective use for delivering knowledge and information to the farming community . The Indian agricultural extension system is the largest extension system in the world facing acute shortage of manpower and one extension worker is taking care of one thousand farmers which is impossible task to reach the each and every farmer. The Department of Agriculture and cooperation (DAC) launched Kisan call centers as centrally sponsored scheme under the Union Ministry of Agriculture in January 21, 2004 across the country to deliver extension service to the farming community. The purpose of these call centers is to respond to issues raised by farmers, instantly, in the local language. There are call centers for every state which are expected to handle the queries from any part of the country. Queries related to agriculture and allied sectors are being addressed through these call centers.

Operations Mechanism Of Call Centres

A Kisan call centre consists of a complex of telecommunication infrastructure, computer support and human resources organized to manage effectively and efficiently the queries raised by farmers instantly in the local language. Mainly, subject Matter Specialists (SMSs) using telephone and computer, interact with farmers to understand the problem and answer the queries at a call centre.
This is functional area within an organization like Research Stations, ATICs, KVKs, Agricultural Colleges or an out sourced where separate facilities exist solely to answer inbound calls or make outbound telephone calla, to resolve the queries of pending calls. Usually it refers to a sophisticated voice operations center that provides a full range of inbound or outbound call handling services including customers support, direct assistance, multi-lingual customer support and other services.

This is a new dimension Agriculture Extension Management, which takes account of, and makes full use of on-going information and communication revolution, by optimally utilizing the communication bandwidth to serve the farming community in remotest areas of the country by connecting them to best of the agricultural scientific community. This is an important value multiplier for the existing extension mechanisms, which find it otherwise difficult ( in terms of infrastructure and finances) to reach their desired clientele . This will enable establishment of close linkages and seamless communication mechanism among the key stake holders in the extension system namely- Agricultural Scientists, Extension Functionaries, Farmers and Marketing Agencies.

Monitoring And Review Of Kisan Call Centers

For successful functioning of kisan call centers, there is a need to monitor and review the various activities of the KCC by the Nodal institution on regular basis. The Nodal Institution on regular basis. The Nodal Institution responsible for documenting the daily activities of the kisan call center at various levels on farmer’s queries and their resolution, availability of subject Matter Specialists, call dropouts and their transfer to level – III and response to the farmers within 72 hours. The Nodal Institution will also organize fortnightly meeting with the Head of Departments of Response centers for first 6 months to ensure the proper identification and placement and changes if necessary of Level-II functionaries and resolution of the quarries shared with Subject Matter Specialists and their documentation. Subsequently , these meeting will be held every month in Response Centers on rotation.

Documentation and Reporting

The Nodal Institution is responsible for documentation and reporting . All the proceedings of the kisan call center will be documented by each of the Nodal Institution and shared with other kisan call centers for preparing a database on crop/ enterprise-wise and also to prepare frequently Asked Question (FAQs).
The Indian Agricultural extension system is the largest extension system in the world facing acute shortage of manpower and one extension worker is taking care of one thousand farmers which is impossible task to reach the each and every farmer.



The seven contiguous land-locked states of North-Eastern Religion of India, commonly called ‘Seven Sisters” consisting Arunachal Pradesh , Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura present a paradoxical picture of being ‘poor’ in the midst of ‘plenty’. This is one of the richest regions of India in terms of biodiversity and natural resources. The region has rich and diverse aquatic resources in different topographical and climatic conditions in the plains of the Brahmaputra and Barak valleys in Assam, plains of Tripura, upland plain lands of the Imphal valley in Manipur to the predominantly hilly regions of Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh with elevations ranging from 200-7089 m above mean sea level (MSL). The annual rainfall in the region exceeds 2,000 mm and more than 60% of the area is covered by forest. The soil are mostly acidic in nature, having ph in the range 4.5-5.0.

Fish have long been an important food item for the inhabitants of the region. Fish as been associated with the life of the people of northeast India from time immemorial. Not only it provides nutritious food, but also forms an unbreakable relationship with the culture, region, and traditions of the region. With almost 100% of population being fish eaters, except in Assam (90%) supply and demand.

A detail account of available fisheries and aquaculture resources and the fish production obtained in different states of the NE region , as in 2008-09 to that, the per capita availabilility of fish in the region was estimated to be around 6075 kg, which was lower than the national availability of 9.00 kg . World Health Organisation pegged 11 kg fish per year as minimum nutritionally required fish protein for human being . None of these states were able to meet this requirement except Tripura (10.94 kg). To meet the demand of the people, the region is importing fish to the tune of 38,340 tons per annum in addition to some unaccounted import from the neighbouring countries of Bangladesh and Myanmar. Brahmaputra and Barak rivers along with their tributaries and basins for resources of unparalleled magnitude and account for over 50% of the potential water resources in the country. The region is enrich with many freshwater species of fish and is also considered to be one of the hot spots of freshwater fish biodiversity in the world.

It can be concluded that the region is blessed with plenty of aquatic resources in a form of river, pond/ mini- barrage, reservoir, and wetlands. Resource under pond/ mini barrage is also continuously on rise, especially since 2008-09, on account of implementation of MGNREGA(e.g. in Tripura this resource has increased to 24, 094 has by 2011-12). The total fish production in different states, during 2008-09 was much less as compared to the production potential (4.88 lakh ton) of available resources (excluding rivers), even with modest targets of productivity with expected increase in resource (pond/mini barrage) and average productivity in recent years (2009-2012), fish production potential of the region can be expected to be even much higher. This indicates that the fisheries and aquaculture resources are underutilized and have potential to fulfil the nutritional requirement of fish eating populace of the region (4.78 lakh ton)
If one under takes fish culture and allied activities in a form of enterprise, based on proven scientific knowledge latest technology package, together with proper planning, then it can be the most profitable venture particularly in North-East Region where marketing of these produce is not a problem. Moreover, the much talked about economic development of NE region points to the needs for fisheries & aquaculture development as an important constituent of economic activity .

Industrial development has it own limitations in all the states of the region, except Assam, due to inherent communication problems. Thus development of agriculture and allied is the sole option in this region for its much required economic development as well as for fulfilling the local need. Agriculture alone cannot bear the burden of providing food for all and gainful employment to the rural population. It is estimated that 40-60% of the work force in agriculture are not profitably employed and above 70% of the population in this region is below 34 years of age. If suitable employment opportunities are not provided to this predominantly rural population, it is bound to result in urban migration with problematic consequences.

The present man- land ratio ( cultivable area ) in this region is less than 1:0.1 ha which is bound to deteriorate further with increase in population and very little scope for increase in the cultivable area for agriculture. Any significant increase in the cultivable area cannot be expected as it would mean reduction in forest coverage which is already alarmingly low than desirable (<47% presently against>60% required environmentally) . Thus , scope for horizontal expansion in agriculture is very limited. Vertical expansion has also its own limitations due to soil type and climate conditions of the region. As such, diversification of efforts , by tapping other available resources of the region, is a must. With high rate of precipitation and valley gradient of 15-20 cm per km, extensive floodplains and water logged areas are available, forming a very good fishery & aquaculture resource. Fisheries & aquaculture has also got an edge over other allied agricultural activities in terms of economic returns and nutritional value. Development of fisheries sector can also go a long way in solving the problem of gainful additional employment opportunities to region explicitly points out to the need for this sector’s development, both for dietary need and economic development.

The available statistics of trained manpower in fisheries sector , during post-independent era, suggest that the North Eastern states have received proportionately better representation in various fishery related centrally sponsored training programmes, compared to other states of the country. Presently the region has two fishery colleges (Assam & Tripura) with majority of their seats for the states of the region , producing good number of B.F. Sc. & M.F. Sc. On a regular basis , in addition to those from other Fishery college of the country and central Institute of Fisheries Education, Mumbai. Evidently , therefore , there is no dearth of trained manpower in the states of region.

The required approach to realize the available potential and bring in the possible “ BLUE REVOLUTION” in this region would required an authentic database, comprehensive planning , policy and technological support, proper implementation (with due importance to the sector and allocation of adequate financial resources) and strict monitoring. Tripura is a good example where such efforts, made in the recent, have yielded desired results. This states is now surplus in fish seed production (15kg per capita availability of fish from local production during 2011-12).

To be precise the approach for much needed development of fishery sector in NE region should be to give due importance to the sector and efficient effective management of the available resources (physical & human). The main problem of present under potential performance of this sector in this region appears to be more a management crisis than resource crisis of any form. Potential does exist to bring in the much needed “ BLUE REVOLUTION”, not only to increase the fish availabilility but also to accelerate the pace of economic growth of the region. This only requires a planned concerted effort of all concerned.



“If we lose biodiversity , we will lose jobs, food , medicines, and our livelihood will be under threat. Unless the decline is halted ,the negative impact on daily lives will grow exponentially”, says Braulio Souza Dias, Executive Secretary, convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

From the common man to the big corporate, the future of our growth depends on conserving the variety and richness of biodiversity. Already large fishery areas in the north-west Atlantic have collapsed under the impact of loss of marine biodiversity and climate change, he states. With alarm bells already ringing loud and clear, the CBD is all set to bring to the discussion table issues such as halting the depletion of biodiversity, resource mobilization, firming up bio-safety protocols and getting stakeholder like industry to do their bit, at the upcoming global summit in Hyderabad for which it is all decked up.

Balancing Approach Needed

In the background of financial crisis in many countries, the CBD faces a tough task to move ahead especially as member-nations need to set targets and allocate funds. The 1-day jamboree, started on October 1 and is witnessing the participation of 20 heads of nations and over a hundred environment and forest ministers. A total of 10,000 international delegates are taking part in the 11th Conference of Parties (CoP 11)

Two Objectives

The summit will see a forward movement on the Cartagena Protocol on Bio-Safety (adopted in 2000). Especially updating of regulatory guidelines on LMOs(living modified Organisms). The seconds major focus will be carrying forward the October 2010 Nagoya (Japan) agreement on a decade (2010-2020) strategy to achieve global biodiversity targets. Issues such as reviding national strategies and setting realistic targets will come up, he told in a telephonic interview to one of a leading newspaper from Canada.

India’s role & Other details:

India is among the mega biodiverse countries. T is rich both in traditional knowledge and diverse flora and fauna. The country has made good progress in nature conservation. It has had a national biodiversity authority for over 10 years. However , a number of species face the threat of extinction ,including tiger and big vultures, Dias said.

The major drivers of biodiversity loss like demand for food and water, pollution, global warming impact are on the rise in countries like India and many developing countries.

In December 2011 at a meeting in Tokyo, a global platform for business and biodiversity was formed japan, Canada, the Netherlands from the developed countries and Brazil and south Africa from the developing world are active. India is not yet a member, but the world looks forward to industries from the country to play a more proactive role.

The Objective of this group is to raise awareness about each business, how it impacts bio diversity and the need to integrate policies and biodiversity into its plans.
MNCs have started to become more responsive now. Earlier it was ‘green washing’ or lip service. All that is changing as realization dawn that is changing as realization dawns that business will thrive only if we safeguard biodiversity. The CBD started engaging the private sector six years ago.

There will be several for a where the private sector and governments will exchange views. Here is need to have voluntary commitments from industry, as also partnership between private sector and governments to evolve sustainable development models. Similarly, access to credit, regulation, and certification, reporting on social and environmental responsibilities of companies will be discussed.

One of the useful fallouts of the summit held every four year is that the host country assumes Presidency for the following two years. It will be interesting to see the issues that India will bring forward.

India already having shown its intention by ratifying the supplementary protocol, we have to see what measures the nation takes from the Convention in its ecological jurisprudence. For that we will have to wait with deep seated breath as the real position of the nation as far as its environmental concern goes, calls for a deeper introspection.

About the Protocol

The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international treaty governing the movements of living modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from modern biotechnology from one country to another . It was adopted on 29 January 2000 as a supplementary agreement to the convention on Biological Diversity and entered into force on 11 September 2003.

India to Ratify Nagoya Supplementary Protocol

Union minister of Environmental and forest jayanthi Natrajan at the meet in the national Capital appealed to countries that have signed the Nagoya- Kuala Lumpur supplementary protocol to Cartagena protocol to “Fast track” the ratification. Addressing the opening session of the sixth meeting of the conference of the Parties Serving as the meeting of the Parties (CoP_MoP 6) to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB) from October 1 to 5, that got initiated in the capital the Minister reassured the international delegates that India was committed to the covenant and had already initiated the process of ratification. The Nagoya- Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol dealt with liability and redress on damage resulting from living Modified Organisms (LMOs).



The UN conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), also known as Rio + 20 Conference was held in Rio de Janerio Brazil on June 20-22. This conference as it is held 20 years after the first earth Summit, which was held in 1992 in Rio de Janerio city of Brazil . The Earth Summit 1992 adopted’Agenda-21’, which became global framework for promoting sustainable development in subsequent years. The Agenda -21, so called because it provides a frame work for sustainable development in 21st century. It recommended the establishment of an institutional mechanism for effective follow-up to the Rio – conference as well as to enhance international effort for realizing its mandate. It also recommended to rationalize the inter-governmental decision-making capacity for the integration of environmental and development issues ad to examine the progress in the implementation of Agenda 21 at national , regional and international tends , Keeping this in view the UN General Assembly created in 1992 the UN Commission on sustainable Development as a functional commission of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The mandate of the commission was to review progress in the implementation of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. The Rio Summit 1992 was followed by the world Summit on sustainable development, which was held in 2002 in Johannesburg(South Africa) its purpose was to give further impetus to sustainable development programme at global level. It adopted Johannesburg Declaration and a Johannesburg plan of implementation.

IT was in this backdrop that the Rio+ 20 was in this backdrop that the Rio +20 was held in june 2012 at Rio de Janeirom with the following objectives:

1.Securing renewed political commitment for sustainable development.
2.Assessing the progress made since Rio Conference and remain gaps in implementation of the outcomes.
3.Addressing new and emerging challenges .

The Rio + 20 Conference pursued the two main themes:

1.Green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication;
2.Institutional framework for sustainable development.

Rio + 20 Zero Draft (Outcome Document) :

The final outcome document of Rio+20, also known as zero draft is the result of a series of preparatory meeting , organized by various countries for last few months to facilitates greater understanding and promote consensus building on the key issues involved in the two themes. In addition, five regional Preparatory meeting have also been held under the ages of ECOSOC. India has also shown keen interest in the preparatory process and organized Delhi Ministerial Dialogue in October 2011 which focused on the Green Economy and Inclusive Growth. Forty-one countries and a multilateral organizations participated in this Dialogue process.

The final outcome Document of Rio + 20 is titled as the future we want and is divided into five broad sections which are discussed below:

1.Preamble / Stage Setting

With an objective of eradication of poverty and hunger and economic stability and growth that benefit all, the leaders renewed their determination to pursue the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication . They Further reaffirmed their resolve t strengthen the institution framework for sustainable development.

2.Renewing Political Commitment

This includes four points:

A.The leaders affirmed their commitment to advance progress in the implementation of the Rio Declaration on Environment, 1992, Agenda 21m the programme for further implementation of Agenda 21, the Johannesburg, Declaration on Sustainable Development and the plan of implementation of the World Summit on sustainable Development , The Barbados plan of Action and Mauritius Strategy for implementation. They also recognised the need to reinforce Sustainable Development globally through our collective and national efforts in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and the principle of sovereign right of states over their natural resources .

B.The leaders laid emphasis on the progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major on Sustainable Development and addressing new and emerging challenges. Though there has been some progress and change since 1992 Rio Summit , Yet there have also been setbacks because of Multiple inter-related crises-financial, economic and volatile energy and food prices. New and emerging challenges include the further intensification of earlier problems calling for more urgent responses. The leader were deeply concerned that around 1.4 billion people still live in extreme poverty and one-fifth of world population is undernourished . Unsustainable development has increased the stress on earth’s limited resources and on the carrying capacity f the eco-systems.

C.Engaging Major Groups

They realized that a fundamental prerequisite for the achievement of sustainable development is the broad public participation in decision-making . Sustainable development requires major groups-women, children’s and youth , indigenous people , non-governmental organizations, local authorities, workers and trade unions, business and industry, scientific and technological community and farmers to play a meaningful role at all levels. They found it important to enable all members of civil society to be actively engaged in sustainable development by incorporating their specific knowledge and practical know-how into national and local policy-making .

D.Framework for Action

They expressed commitment to improve express commitment to improve governance and capacity at all level global, regional, national and local to promote coherence across institutions. They called for a global policy framework requiring all listed and large private companies to consider sustainability issues and to integrate sustainability information within the reporting cycle.

3.Green Economy in the Context of sustainable Development and poverty Eradication
This section of final outcome includes three parts:

A.Framing the context of green Economy, challenges and opportunities

The leaders were convinced that a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication should contribute to key goals-in particular the priorities of poverty eradication, food security sound water management , universal access to modern energy sources, sustainable cities, management of oceans and improving resilience and disaster preparedness as well as public health, human resource development and sustained inclusive and equitable growth that generates employment , including for youth thus , they viewed green economy as a means to achieve sustainable development , which must remain our overarching goal. They noted that the transformation to a green economy should be an opportunity to all countries and threat to none. Therefore, international efforts should be made to build a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

B. Tool kits and Experimental Sharing

The leaders laid emphasis on the fact that the countries, which are at the primary stage of building green economy may learn from each other experiences. They recognized that a mix of policy options include , inter alia, regulatory, economic and fiscal instruments, investment in green infrastructures, financial incentives, subsidy reform sustainable public procurement, information disclosure and voluntary partnerships. They supported the creation of an international knowledge-sharing platform to facilitate countries and implementation.

C.Framework for Action

Under the frame work for action realization the goal of green economy , the leaders recognised the value of having a set of differentiated strategies, tailored to the needs of different countries and different sectors. Each country is also required to develop her own green economies strategies through a transparent process of multi-stakeholder consultation. They demanded that the UN, in cooperation with other international of organisation should support develop their green economy strategies. They also encouraged business and industry to develop green economy road maps for their respective sectors with concrete goals and benchmark for progress.

4. Institutional Framework for sustainable Development

Evolving and appropriate framework for sustainable development has been one of the major theme of RIO + 20 conference. The conference recommended the following measures in this respect:

a.Strengthening the Three Pillars

The leaders recognised the need to strengthen and internet the three pillars of sustainable development at local, national and global level, which is critical for advancing sustainable development. The implementation of Agenda 21 should be consistent with the principles of universality , democracy, transparency, cost effectiveness and account ability keeping in mind the Rio principles, in particular common but differentiated responsibility. It also recommended enforcing coherence among agencies, funds and programmes of the UN system, including the international financial and trade institutions.

b.Central Role of G.A.ECOSOC CSD, SDC

The final outcome document affirmed the Central role of UN General Assembly as the highest policy-making body and call for it to further integrate sustainable development as the key element of the overarching framework for un activities.
The affirmed the role of Economic and Social (ECOSOC) as the central mechanism for the coordination of UN system and its specialized agencies, Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) as the highest Commission for Sustainable Development under the UN system and the Sustainable Development Council (SDC) as the authoritative high level body for consideration of matter related to interaction of three dimensions of sustainable development.

c.UNEP, Specialised Agencies on Environment Proposal, IFIs, United Nations Operational Activities at country level.

They agreed to strengthen the United Nations Environment programme to fulfil its mandate by establishing universal membership in its governing council and call for significantly increasing its financial base to deepen policy coordination and enhance means of implementation. Similarly, they laid emphasis on strengthening international financial institutions and operational activities of UN at country level.

d.Regional , National and Local

In this respect they affirmed that overarching sustainable development strategies should be incorporated in National development plan as key instrument for the implementation of sustainable development commitment at regional, national and sub-regional mechanisms, including the Regional Commissions, in providing the Sustainable Development through capacity-building , exchange of information and experiences and providing expertise.

5.Frame work of Action and Follow up

In order to achieve the goal of sustainable development , the document identified certain priority areas like food security, water , energy, cities, green jobs oceans and seas , climate change, forest, maintains, and so on. The document also discussed about the financial means to implement the recommen-dations.
The five aspects of Rio + 20 final outcome documents denote that the world community has taken serious note of the need of Sustain able Development in 21st century, which has emerged as the key global issue to our times.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Diminishing fishery harvests, wild fish food-safety issues, environmental concerns , increased fish consumption and the increasing market share of organic food have combined to focus attention on “ organic aquaculture”. Consumer demand may well drive the organic production of finfish, shellfish and other aquatic species into the mainstream during the next decade.

Problems of aquaculture today

1.The use of wild fish for farmed fish feed is a waste of protein resources because it takes about 3 ton of wild caught fish and other marine life to produce 1 ton of carnivorous fish such as Salmon. This practice depletes fishers of small wild oceanic fish.
2.Chemical and antibiotic usage, which is inherent to industrial aquaculture production and waste dispersal, pollute the surrounding marine environment.

Aquaculture in the country has faces setbacks in the last few years and organic aquaculture would be the right course for the industry at present . It is an attempt to mitigate the aforementioned problems with industrial aquaculture. This practice would entail raising aquatic food in a humane manner that is sustainable and dosen’t pollute the environment . The United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) is working on drafting organic aquaculture standards. The Specific standards The USDA choosed will determine wheather or not organic aquaculture will become a viable alternative to environmentally degrading practices of industrial aquaculture . The Code of conduct for responsible Fisherie(CCRF), unanimously adopted in 1995, has been a key reference point for FAO members and beyond.

Principle of Organic Aquaculture

Absence of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in stocks and feed prime material.

Limitation of stocking density

Origin of vegetal feed and fertilizer from certified organic agriculture, no artificial feed ingredients

No use of inorganic fertilizers

No use of synthetic pesticided and herbicided

Restriction on energy consumption (e.g . Regarding aeration )

Preference for natural medicines

Intensive monitoring of environmental impact, protection of surrounding ecosystem and integration of natural plant communities in farm management

Processing according to organic principles

Black tiger shrimp : India, Vietnam , Bangladesh
Vennami Shrimp : Ecuador, peru
Freshwater Shrmp : USA, Bangladesh
Tilapia : China , Israel , Brazil,Honduras
Pangasius catfish : Vietnam
Carps : East and Southern Europe
Trout and sea bream : Eastern, Western and Southern Europe: Europe
Cod : East and southern Europe
Atlantic Salmon : U.K., Ireland, Chile
Mussels : New Zealand

Organic Aquaculture in India

India’s Farmers are still practicing organic methods, passed down for millennia. Organic fertilizer and natural pest control are the only tools available to most of these farmers, who have always lacked the financial resources to explore chemical solutions. But these farmers, whose produce is as organic as they come, cannot afford to pay the fees required to gain official certification. The Indian Central Government set up National Institute of Organic Farming in October 2003 in Madhya Pradesh. The purpose of this institute is to formulate rules , regulations and certification of organic farm products in conformity with international standards. As the international community adopts standard for organic agriculture , the challenges faced by farmers in the USA versus farmers in India in order to adapt are very different indeed . The danger is that the well- intentioned global move towards organic standards will make small organic farmers in countries like India, who have been never done anything but organic farming , no longer able to sell their crops.

The world’s first organic aquaculture harvest of the large fresh water prawn , scampi was made the backwaters of kerala on November 1, 2007. This Unique project is being implemented with the assistance of the Marine products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) in collaboration with the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), Switzerland, Extensive use of chemicals and pesticides in conventional food production technology has been compelling health conscious people of developed countries to explore and support organic farming methods in agriculture and aquaculture. The Indian project for organic black tiger and scampi was initiated to pursue the huge market potential of selling aquaculture product in the European markets. The Indian Organic Aquaculture Project was first initiated in January 2007 in the maritime States of Andra Pradesh and Kerala with technical consultancy from M/s Blue you. Certification is mandatory for selling organic products across the world and Naturland of Germany has been chosen as the certifying agency and Indocert in Kerala is the inspection body for the project.

India is one of the richest in terms of shrimp and fish resources in the world and there is a huge demand for organic aqua products is European and America countries. All the big super markets, coop (Switzerland) Aimare (Austria), and Bristall Bay (USA) are searching for organic product supplier throughout the world.

Research and Development:

Aquatic species, both animal and plant; ecological situation and locations; and various production systems, both marine and freshwater ; are now under scrutiny in order to determine adaptability to organic production systems. Concern about the production and handling requirements that organic standards would impose and the overarching environmental impacts that organic systems attempt to address has pointed research and development efforts in some new directions. Current research activities with important implications for the organic aquaculture industry include: alternative feeds, especially protein source from grain and oilseed plants; culture of low –trophic aquatic species; disease management and use of natural and alternative medicines; polyculture and multi-species systems; self-filtering system ; techniques for expanded recovery of fishery by –catch and waste for use in organic systems; implications of using closed containment systems; environmentally sound effluent management systems; and consumer studies related to food (preferences and purchasing habits.

Source: Yojana

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


The disintegration of soviet Union and the end of cold war is a milestone in the international relations. It led to a marked change in the foreign policy priorities and alignment of nations. India too imported a sense of realism and new directions in her foreign policy to adjust her foreign relations policy to adjust her foreign relations in the changing global context. One of these new directions was India’s look East Policy announced in 1991, which laid emphasis on the development of close economic engagement with the countries of South_ East Asia and East Asia. While the first phase (1991-2001) of this policy focused on the development of close economic ties with the ASEAN member states of South-East, Asia, the second phase (2001-till now) focused on the strategic partnership with the countries of South-East Asia as well as East Asia.

South Korea or the Republic of Korea is located in East Asia and has achieved remarkable economic progress in last 20 years. It was counted as one of the Asian tigers ( economically fast developing countries) during 1990s. Strategically, it is closely linked with the defence umbrella of USA since the hey-day of cold war. It emerge as a separate nation after the end of Korea war (1950-53). The other half of the Korea War known as North Korea has been a communism state under the close ties of china and soviet Union during the cold war. Due to the politics of cold war , India could not develop close relations with those East Asian countries which were under the ambit of USA. How ever the end of cold war changed all equations among nations.

The end of cold war gave a new opportunity to India to develop close partnership with South Korea. The deep cultural ties between the two facilitated this partnership. A 13th century historical book, the Heritage History of Three Kingdom narrates that a princess of Indian city Ayodhya came to Korea in 48 AD and married Korea King Kim Suro. The royal dynasty is a famous political family of Korea and many of the present day politicians derive their lineage from his dynasty. Indian religion Buddhism has deep roots in south Korea. Both countries have similar colonial experience.

While India was under the British rule for long time, Korea was under Japanese imperialism till the end of Second World War.
After the end of war the civil war broke out between the northern and southern parts of korea , which is known as Korea war. In 1953, Korea was partitioned into two parts- North Korea and South Korea.
India’s cultural ambassador Gurudev Rabindra Nath Tagore visited Korea in 1929 and wished a bright future for Korea.

High Level Exchanges

After the end of cold war, both countries started exchange of high level visits In this series Indian Prime Minister Narsimha Rao visited South Korea in 1993, Which marks the beginning of close partnership between the two countries is the post cold war era . During this visit , both countries signed three agreements:

1. Agreement on cooperation in the field of tourism.

2. Cooperation agreement on science and technology

3. Cultural cooperation agreement . In return visit south Korean president visited India in 1996 which resulted in signing of three important agreements in the fields of promotion to investment, cultural cooperation and the establishment of India-Korea joint commission. However , the Asian Financial crisis of 1997 halted the further progress of economic ties between the two countries.

In February 1997. South Korean Prime Minister visited India and inaugurated Engineering Fair in New Delhi, in which South Korean firms made a major presence . In 2004 , South Korean President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam visited South Korea in 2006. A major achievement of this visit was the establishment of a joint working group to finalise the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) . Finally the CEPA was signed on August 7, 2009 and came into force on January 1, 2010. The CEPA has facilitated he rapid progress of economic and commercial relations between the two countries. Under this agreement both countries would abolish import duty on 85-90 percent goods within a period of 10 years. The investment and services are also covered under CEPA.

India too gave due importance to her relations with South Korea . South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak was invited as the Chief Guest in the Republic Day function in January 2010. As a result of these high level exchanges, the trade , investment defence, technical cooperation, and cultural cooperation between the two countries have increased in last decade. The trade between the two countries has increased from $ 1.4 billion in 1997 to $ 17 billion in 2011. South Korean Companies have made considerable investment in India.

Both countries have agreed to cooperate in some defence and security issues like the protection of Sea lines of communication, and Cooperation between the coastguards of two countries.

Both countries have made considerable progress in the field of cultural and technological cooperation . Both are making cooperative effort in the fields of space science, automobiles, communication etc. Both countries have signed a comprehensive cultural cooperation agreement in 2010.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to South Korea, March 25, 2012

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan singh visit South Korea on March 25 , 2012 and discussed important issues of bilateral and multilateral nature with the President Lee Myung-Bak. Both countries have signed a joint statement which is subtitled as ‘ developing the strategic partnership’. It should be noted that the two countries elevated their relations to the level of strategic partnership in 2010 during President Lee’s visit to India in January 2010.

During this visit of March 2012, the two countries decided to deepen the strategic partnership. The following points of the joint statement cover separate focus.

1.Strengthening Political and Security Cooperation

Both leaders appreciated the role of Indo-Rok joint commission. Its 7th meeting shall be held in New Delhi in 2012 itself . The joint commission is co-chaired by the Foreign Ministers of the two countries . Both leaders under lined the importance of the ongoing foreign policy and security dialogue at the secretary level. Both countries desired to strengthen cooperation in the fields of defence and security particularly in the field of maritime safety and security both bilaterally and in association with other countries of the region. Both decided to continue high level exchange between the defence establishments of two countries, undertake activities as mutually agreed for deepening bilateral defence relation and to explore the possibility of joint ventures in research in development and manufacturer of military equipment , in changing through the transfer of technology and co-production.

2.Expanding Economic and Trade Cooperation

Both leaders express satisfaction, that the bilateral trade has increased 70 percent in two years since the entry of CEPA into force. The bilateral trade has reached to $ 20 billion marks in 2011. Both leader have set a target of $ 40 billion by the year 2015 . Both countries would explore constructive and forward looking ways to facilitate greater market access to each other’s product and services. Indian Prime Minister invited the investment from South Korean firms to the $ 1 billion infrastructure development plan of India, 1912-1917. Both decided to explore the possibility of joint investment in third countries.

3.Enhancing Science and Technology Cooperation

Both leaders welcomed the upgrading of the joint committee on science and technology to the ministerial level as a foundation for the $ 10 billion joint R&D fund is actually being utilized for joint research projects and other science and technology related programmes. Both leaders pledged to enhance cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space as envisages in the MoU on cooperation between the space organizations of the two countries . Both leaders also expressed satisfied at the conclusion of a bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement in July 2011.

4.Promoting Culture, Education and people to people Exchanges.

The two leaders appreciated the successful organization of reciprocal year long cultural festivals in both countries during 2011. Both decided to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations in befitting manner in 2013. South Korea leader appreciated the opening of Indian cultural centre in seoul in july 2011 and declared that a Korean Cultural Center will be opened in India in near future. Both agreed to encourage exchange between the educational Institutions.
Both agreed to encourage media and parliamentary exchanges and to promote people tp people exchange .

5.Furthering Cooperation in the International Arena

The last major point In the joint statement is the desire of the two countries to enhance cooperation on various global issues and challenges. Both pleaded for the greater role of G-20 to subside the ongoing global financial crisis. It should be noted that both countries are the active members of G-200, which is grouping of 20 leading economies of the world. Both leaders also recognized the need for comprehensive UN reform including Security Council expansion to make it more representative and effective. Both leaders felt the need to maintain peace and stability in Korean peninsula including its denuclearization. It was a hint towards the ongoing programme of North Korea. Both leaders expressed the desire to end the menace of terrorism, privacy with the help of international cooperation. Both expressed concern over the proliferation of weapons of mars destruction and challenge of nuclear terrorism . The two leaders agreed to expand cooperation and coordination between their courtiers, within the framework of East Asia Summit , which they acknowledged should continue to remain as ASEN led, open transparent and inclusive structure. These two leader also welcomed the commencement of a trilateral India-Pok –Japan Dialogue among the think tanks of three countries, the first of which will be held in 2012.

The foregoing analysis of strategic partnership between India and short period of one decade, the relationship between the two countries has moved to the level of strategic partnership. The multifaceted relations between the two countries have become deep and closer in the field of trade, investment , defence culture and science and technology. The regional and global strategic combinations also favour the deepening of strategic partnership between the two countries. South Korean brand names have earned Much promise in Indian Markets.


Women, work and a winning combination

An incredible story of empowerment has been unfolding in the wake of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) programme in the State of Kerala. This is the story of how a socially engineered convergence of the scheme with panchayati raj institutions and the State sponsored community network of poor women is transforming the lives and capabilities of the poor across the State.

Kerala is unique in the country for the extent of women’s participation in the MGNREGS. The proportion of women person days is 93 per cent, which is the highest rate of participation of women in the programme in the country. The highest difference in the average casual wage labour rate for men and women is also to be found in Kerala (Rs.107.3). This difference along with a low female work participation rate of 15.3, speaks volumes about both the socio-economic status and the marginalisation of the woman labourer in the workforce.

Kudumbashree is a vast community network of women sponsored by the State government and located within local self governments of the State. It has over two lakh neighbourhood groups of women federated into ward level Area Development Societies (ADS) and panchayat/municipal level Community Development Societies (CDS). Unlike federated structures of self-help groups (SHG) in the other States, in Kerala, the CDS was embedded in the grama panchayat and expected to work in unison with it in furthering the agenda for development and empowerment. An executive decision was taken by the State government to have all “mates” for the programme from among the ADS of Kudumbashree. Over one lakh women mates were trained, who then proceeded to identify work opportunities, mobilise groups for work, prepare estimates in consultation with the overseer or engineer, supervise work and provide amenities at the worksite, prepare and submit muster rolls, and handle emergencies at work.

Most are housewives

A good proportion of the women who sought work under MGNREGS in Kerala were not agricultural or casual labourers but housewives who were not in the labour market to begin with. What prompted these women to come out and undertake work that they did not know, which involved a level of physical exertion that they were unfamiliar with and which ran the risk of disapprobation from their families? A commonly heard refrain was that this was work “for the government,” which gave it an aura of respectability that private manual work did not carry. Second was the power of the collective i.e., the involvement of the network in nearly every activity of MGNREGS, from awareness on its rights dimensions to the conduct of social audit, and the presence of a mate who was identified with as “one of us.”

Profiling done in one grama panchayat, Aryanad, showed that all the male workers were either senior citizens who had been pushed out of the job market on account of age, or were physically or mentally disabled persons, who were unable to enter the regular job market. An interesting dynamic of intergenerational skill transfer and social security was to be found at the worksite. The workers confided that many of the senior members of the group were unable to complete the eight hours of arduous manual work, and their shortfall was being compensated by the more able-bodied persons in the group. But the elders had knowledge and skills that were lacking in the younger generation, and were able to guide its members about techniques and traditions. Numerous cases have been documented where earnings were donated to help a fellow worker tide over a health emergency or domestic crisis.

Much of the work taken up under MGNREGS had to do with land and water conservation and watershed management. The works brought the women recognition and visibility. The women learnt how to dig foundations, set up bio-fences, deweed rivers and lakes, and do gully plugging and bunding for soil conservation. They learnt how to build bunds and trenches, work with geo-textiles, dig/construct drinking water wells and rainwater harvesting structures; they also learnt the basics of garden and plantation work. The mates were especially proud of their ability to size projects up, gauge the number of person days required and prepare estimates for the work. All these were new skills, and soon they found themselves being sought after by landowners to work on their properties and being offered wages to the tune of Rs.250 to Rs.350 for private work. This interest in the skilled woman labourer has led to the creation of another instrument — the women’s labour collective. Across the State in various panchayats, the workers of MGNREGS have been coming together to form labour groups that take on agricultural work and work on homesteads and plantations. The inexperienced housewife has been transmuting into skilled labour of high value in the market.

Women and agriculture

One of the most outstanding contributions of MGNREGS is the role the programme has played in bringing women into agriculture in the State. The Kudumbashree mission had just begun to aggressively promote collective farming by women when the MGNREGS programme took off in the State. Panchayats had to take the lead in identifying fallow land and convince landowners to allow women groups to take up cultivation on their lands. The sheer effort of convergence made this intervention get off the block very slowly, until one panchayat in Kozhikode, Perambra, took it upon itself to clear a clogged public canal running through the heart of a lifeless padasekharam that had not seen cultivation in over 25 years, and organised Kudumbashree workers to undertake land development of the adjoining fields that were later leased out to the women for paddy cultivation. In one stroke, fallow land —146 acres — in the panchayat was brought under paddy cultivation. All the cultivators were first-timers; all women. Today the State boasts of collective farming groups in nearly all the panchayats. With control over means of production and support from the krishi bhavan and the panchayat, for these women, the transition from MGNREGS labourer to farmer cultivator has been a natural evolution.

An impact that has implications for SHG federations under the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM) everywhere, has been the consequences of the structural integration of the community organisation with the MGNREGS programme. Providing the ADS with a seminal role in the implementation of MGNREGS has led to a strengthening of the intermediate tier of the three-tier federation, which has in turn increased the reach and access of poor women to the community leadership. By locating the mate within the ADS, the MGNREGS programme immediately infused energy into the system, and the community leadership quotient went up overnight from a few thousands to a few lakhs. Repeated drumming of the programme’s rights perspective has sensitised the CDS leadership to questions of citizenship and women’s agency. It has empowered them to negotiate local power spaces. The new peoples’ and technical skills have served the women well in their quest for political significance, as their showing in the recent panchayat polls indicate.

This is not to say that challenges do not exist. Questions raised over the nature of assets generated, and over the underutilisation of labour, continue to be valid. Incidents of wrongdoing by the mate have been noticed, and many a time mates have had to be replaced. Inclusion of the most marginalised sections in many places remains unresolved. Very often an inquiry into causes of corruption points to extraneous influences forcing the hand of the mate and the worker. There have been quite a few cases where the CDS itself took suo moto cognisance of malpractice on the part of the mate and forced her to repay money that had been wrongfully obtained.

Where would Kudumbashree be without MGNREGS? It is difficult to say, but that the present social visibility and self confidence of the network owe a great deal to the programme is irrefutable. There are lessons to be learnt about the opportunities for panchayati raj institutions to bring strategic convergences into the programme, and the opportunities for community organisations to strive for organisational empowerment through participation in governance — lessons that could have far-reaching implications for improving the quality of life of the poor, transforming agriculture and the labour market, and ushering in a new dialogue of women’s empowerment that quickens the movement of women from second class citizens to full citizenship.

Source: The HINDU

Friday, November 2, 2012

Mental health legislation must be more therapeutic, humane

There are many issues which generate a lot of heat and dust among the stakeholders of mental health and illness. They include psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, social workers, the media, non-governmental organisations, government and, most importantly, patients, their family members and caregivers.

Why is legislation required for mental illness?

On the one hand the proponents of holistic health argue for clubbing mental health with physical health so that the stigma is avoided. On the other, social activists do battle for a separate and unique law exclusively for psychiatric disorders; lest they are marginalised and made outcastes.

The fact is that legislation does help in implementing health services provided by the state. The political promises and executive actions function better. Guidelines can be established by the law which would be binding on policy-makers. It would enable funding, accountability and availability of the services to the needy.

Mental health services:

The history of mental health services in India is linked to the history of mental hospitals in the country. Initially, lunatic asylums were meant for European soldiers who were insane. All these asylums were run on the jail model with similar rules being in force. Due to overwhelming criticism about these hospitals, a more humanistic approach evolved, with mental hospitals replacing asylums. The number of mental hospitals has gone up to 45 from 31 in 1947.

The recent shift of providing mental health services from a specialised hospital to a general hospital setting has its advantages. The very model of sickness has turned towards a biological model from one with psychological and social roots. However, the more important and urgent challenge is in ensuring how soon mental health services reach the community. The ambitious National Mental Health Programme (NMHP) has been a failure if not a non-starter.

The Mental Health Act, 1987:

The MHA 1987 is in itself a great effort forward, replacing the century-old Indian Lunacy Act 1912 which was in force for 80 years. The Mental Health Act, drafted by the Indian Psychiatric Society in 1950 received the assent of the President in 1987 but was implemented from April 1993 only. Though the Act is conceptually far ahead of its predecessor, the drawbacks are so many that it needed a revision in less than 20 years. On the positive side, the act presents a more humane approach; clear guidelines were enumerated for admitting various categories of the mentally ill, a proper method of establishing State and Central mental health authorities was made and discharges simplified. However the Act lacked the direction in providing simpler mental health services at the community level. The role of the family, which is so essential in management, is completely ignored. The boundaries between rehabilitation centres and mental health centres are very blurred, leading to a lot of confusion.

What needs to be changed:

The State and Central mental health authorities need to be given both administrative and financial powers. The Act exempts government hospitals in stipulating norms which is absolutely unfair. Does it mean that the government can run the organisation with no staff and infrastructure? It may not surprise many that a few government hospitals have well-trained doctors, nurses and psychologists. Why should a general nursing home be asked to get a separate licence if it were to admit patients with any mental illness? If an individual with a head injury develops abnormal behaviour, should the hospital transfer such a patient to a nursing home where there are no facilities to deal with head injuries at all but has the licence to admit patients? No word is written about rehab programmes nor is any direction envisaged.

New Mental Health Care Bill:

The Mental Health Care Bill 2011 is likely to get parliamentary approval sooner than later. The significant step in the Bill is the exemption of attempted suicide from prosecution, which is welcome. But the Bill takes a retrograde step in legislation of a particular method of treatment. The electro convulsive treatment (ECT) for children and without anaesthesia is barred, much against scientific and logical thinking. Such things are best left to the experts. Surprisingly the Bill also restricts the period of treatment which should again be a professional case-by-case decision.

Source: The HINDU

FSLRC: Umbrella Regulator for the Financial sector

As with other sectors, government intends to bring uniformity in the regulatory regime and has been seriously intending to come up with an umbrella regulation for the financial domain.
In this regard, the approach paper of the Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission (FSLRC) has proposed a new direction for financial regulation in India.

Why Umbrella Regulator?

While on one hand, half the Indian population still does not have access to finance, on the other, regulations have restricted the growth of financial services. In a country growing t such a rapid pace that the GDP doubles every 8 to 10 years, the needs of people and firms are constantly changing. In recent years, various government committees have pointed to the need for policy change. But it was found that the required changes could not be made under the existing, mostly outdated, financial laws. This prompted a review of the financial legislative framework.

FSLRC – What is it?

The FSLRC was given the job of reviewing, simplifying and modernizing the legislation that affects financial markets in India. It was asked to prepare legislation in tune with the present-day needs of finance. The commission has recently released an approach paper available on its website (http:/ The paper discusses its strategy and philosophy. News reports about the commission have focused on the FSLRC recommendations for India’s financial regulatory architecture.

But this is only one of the many aspects of Indian finance that the commission was mandated to review. In its proposed recommendations, it has endorsed a transition to a modern regulatory architecture recommended by previous government reports such as the Raghuram Rajan and the Percy Mistry committee reports. These reports had described the problems in the Indian financial sector arising from regulatory cracks and overlaps. The modern approach to financial regulation allows greater innovation. It emphasizes the objectives of regulation. Regulation is needed when markets fail. The approach emphasizes that the objective of regulation is to protect consumers. This can be achieved by creating a system in which it is difficult to indulge in unfair practices or sell consumers products that are unsuitable for their specific needs. Unlike in goods and services, where there may only be small lag between payment and delivery, the lags in finance are long and often contingent on a state of nature. If consumer protection is the objective of the regulator, it must be empowered with instruments to ensure it. It should not be tasked with other objectives or with doing things “in the public interest”. It cannot prevent innovation as long as the financial firm selling the servicer is not engaged in practices which violate these objectives.

FSLRC-Its Objectives:

Future, the regulator must not prevent the failure of financial firms completely. Firms that are prone to take very high risks or are very weak should fail. However, firm failure must be happen at minimum cost to consumers and none to the tax payer. The owner should lose money. The FSLRC approach paper discusses the creation of a new resolution agency for handling firm failure through mergers, acquisition or a close down before the financial firm goes bankrupt. The approach paper discusses a consumer protection law which would lay out principles on the basis of which regulators would write regulation. These laws would not contain detailed regulations, which would be only written by the regulator. These laws will be separate from the regulatory agencies that enforce them. A law, such as a consumer protection or micro prudential law, can be enforced by a number of agencies, each in their sector. A single financial redressal agency would hear complaints for all sectors

Regulators in this approach will be given independence under the law. At the same time, they will be accountable. Accountability will be ensured through clearly defined objectives, avoiding conflicting objectives, a well laid out rule making process and an appeals mechanism (There would be newly created non-sectoral financial sector appellate tribunal). In this entire context the Govt also forwarded the approach paper to a panel headed by a retired judge so that the whole thing can be looked at in a more insightful manner. The panel came out with its report that seconded the thought presented in the approach paper.

As the Indian economy grows bigger, its need for finance increased. Households and firms often do not have access to the former financial sector. Until now, the approach in the formal regulated financial sector has been to give explicit permissions for some products or markets. The rest of the financial products and markets are banned. This approach has restricted innovation in financial markets. The FSLRC approach should bring about a change to the pace of innovation. At least this is what we can safely assume seeing the deftness of the approach paper and the same is being authenticated by the judicial panel. With similar moves happening in the higher education sector it becomes necessary that the domain which requires a unified and comprehensive regulation should be dealt with that way to enable a rhythmic amplification of benefits.

Source: Chronicle