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Richer states, poor performance, in reducing malnutrition
January 1, 1970

We normally assume that malnutrition is a disease of the poorer states, which the richer states are in the process of curing. It now transpires that malnutrition among women and child undernourishment, two essential markers of human development, are rampant in richer states as well. States with high per capita incomes such as Gujarat and Haryana have performed poorly in transforming the growth they have experienced into the well-being of women and children. For instance, the fourth highest prevalence rate of underweighted children is in Gujarat (47.4%), according to a close scrutiny of the National Family Health Survey-III among children below 3 years. The state also has the third highest prevalence of the rate of stunted growth among children of the same age group. Haryana (35.9%) too has confronted a relatively higher prevalence of stunted growth among infants. In contrast, states like Kerala (21.1%), Manipur (24.7%), Punjab (27.0%) and Tripura...

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Information delayed is Information denied
January 1, 1970

Rajasthan’s Chief Information Commissioner, Mr. MD Kaurani, had to beat a hasty retreat when he came to face the information seekers at a packed social audit event at the auditorium of the Humanities Department of Rajasthan University in Jaipur on Monday. The hall was packed to capacity with people who had gathered there to voice their grievances in the presence of the Commissioner.   The biggest complaint of the information seekers, who had filed their petitions against non-compliance by the government babus was that the Commission has not been serious about its duties. The charge against him: short working hours of his office. It turned out that the Information Commissioner’s office is enjoying extraordinarily brief working hours despite a huge pile of petitions and complaints. A suggestion paper prepared by Suchana Ka Aadhikar Manch said that the Commission should work from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. instead of current practice of working...

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Sad demise of YSR a blow to rural development
January 1, 1970

The tragic demise of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy is a blow to the rights approach to development in India. YSR, as the medical doctor-turned-CM was popularly known, was a pioneer of at least one hundred path breaking rural schemes such as the NREGS and old age pensions that were offered to the poor not as dole but as a matter of right. For records, the first pilot of the new avatar of the NREGS was conducted in Anantpur, one of the state’s poorest and most backward districts, before it was introduced in 200 districts in 2005 and then extended countrywide two years later. It was his election winning two-rupees-a-kilo rice scheme which later entered the Congress manifesto everywhere and eventually became the model for distribution of food grains under the proposed Right to Food scheme. His rural health scheme for the BPL families, Arogyam, which allows...

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DEBATE: Is NREGS II a product of a complacent UPA II?
January 1, 1970

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is confident that the NREGS is his best bet to offset the drought but many grassroots activists are unsure of the scheme’s effectiveness, especially after some recent amendments. While the drought has spread to 246 districts, a heated debate rages on the poor peoples’ entitlements versus rural asset formation, even though in theory the two positions appear complementary. 14 organisations throughout the country are up in arms against the manner in which the UPA government has been rushing through the restructuring of the NREGS, which they say is against the spirit of the law and to the detriment of Dalits and the poor. Notable among the civil society activists opposing the amendments are Aruna Roy of the MKSS, poverty economist Jean Dreze, Dunu Roy of the Sanjha Manch, Arundhati Dhuru of the NAPM, Annie Raja of the National Federation of Indian Women.   So far the NREGS work...

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IS RIGHT TO FOOD BILL FACING DILUTION?
January 1, 1970

  Civil Society activists and assorted rural experts are anxious that soon-to-be-launched Right to Food Bill might slip from its ambitious goal of nutrition security for all to a trite tokenism. The main worry is that cumulative effect of all the clauses, sub-clauses and small print must not stop short of making food available everywhere at all times so that no citizen sleeps hungry. The worry is on many counts. The first and foremost is that the amount of food grains presently given to the BPL families and under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) must not be reduced from 35 kg at slightly higher prices (at Rs 4.15/- per kg for wheat and Rs 5.65/- per kg for rice for the BPL and Rs 2/- and Rs 3/- per kg under AAY) to 25 kg at Rs 3/- per kg. This is particularly so because rural incomes are falling, unemployment rising...

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