Archives  >  2019  >  November  >  22nd

The Misery of Indian Mothers

1. What’s the story?

According to a horrifying new study, Indian states are utterly failing to help their mothers — with rural India, especially Uttar Pradesh, suffering the most. “Pregnant and nursing women in rural India have poor health, lack nutritious food, get little rest and are not getting the benefits of a new government scheme.”

Tell me more.

A new and widely publicized study has found that Indian states are “severely neglecting the health of pregnant and lactating rural women, and Uttar Pradesh is the poorest performer.”

In addition, the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana — a Government scheme intended to help expectant mothers — has been quite poorly implemented across many states, with only 23% of eligible women managing to receive the intended benefits. 

“Nutritious food – a basic requirement for maternal health – was a struggle for most of the women interviewed in the … survey. Just 31% of the nursing women said they had eaten more nutritious food than usual during their pregnancy. In Uttar Pradesh, this figure fell to barely 12%.

Under the National Food Security Act of 2013, pregnant and lactating women are supposed to be given cooked meals at their local anganwadis or creches, along with iron or folic acid tablets and other food supplements. In Uttar Pradesh, however, researches found the state of anganwadis to be dismal. All the surveyed anganwadis in the state were closed during the school holidays, with no food being cooked for pregnant women or young children.”

In other alarming news, lack of adequate nutrition also means insufficient weight gain and resultant complications during pregnancy. In Uttar Pradesh, less than 60% of all the women surveyed reported gaining any weight during gestation.

Himachal Pradesh, on the other hand, seemed to have fared surprisingly well — with “women benefiting from better living conditions, better public services and higher education levels. Odisha fared well too, with women additionally benefiting from the state-level Mamata scheme that has been fairly well implemented.”

Public health care centres are supposed to deliver babies for free, but the survey has revealed that families end up spending thousands of rupees for deliveries — money that may be a month’s salary for many poor families. 

So, what now?

Why has the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) found it so hard to reach its intended recipients? One reason, according to experts, is the complicated application process. Each pregnant woman has to fill in a 23-page long form to receive her payments in instalments — an ordeal that is hard and often impossible for a large number of barely literate women in rural India. 

One hopes that the Government will soon make the process smoother and make sure more people get the benefits that they are eligible for.

Keep your eyes on this space. We’ll keep you updated.

2. Where else should I be keeping my eyes on?

Banaras Hindu University, that’s where. In a bizarre act of defiance and narrow-mindedness, a large number of students have been protesting the appointment of a Muslim scholar in the Literature Department of the Sanskrit Vidya Dharm Vigyan. Despite fervent opposition from many quarters, the protest shows no sign of dying down soon.

“”We will not end our agitation till Firoze Khan is removed,” said almost every student Firstpost spoke to from the Sanskrit Vidya Dharm Vigyan (SVDV) Faculty of Banaras Hindu University (BHU). The ongoing student agitation against the appointment of Professor Firoze Khan to the Literature Department of the Sanskrit Vidya Dharm Vigyan entered 15th day on Thursday. Since, classes have been suspended at the university as the administration tried to negotiate with the students to discontinue their protests. Earlier in the day, the administration opened the locks of the SVDV Faculty, amid refusal from students to attend classes.

One of the leaders representing the protesting students, Shubham Tiwari, told Firstpost that there is no question of withdrawing the protest calls unless their demands are met. “Firoze Khan should be transferred out of our department, we will not bow down to any pressure till then,” he said. The main contention of the protesting students is that Khan cannot teach them Sanatana Dharma, as he is a Muslim, said Tiwari. “He is free to teach Sanskrit language, for which there is a separate department under the Arts Faulty. But this position is not for him.”

The BHU administration has released a statement clarifying that the appointment of Khan was made as per qualifications required by SVDV and are in keeping with the prescribed guidelines of UGC.”

3. What more?

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is in the news again. In the past couple of years, hundreds of thousands of Assamese citizens have had to prove their Indian citizenship. Even though the NRC has been temporarily put on hold by the Assam Government since Wednesday, many other states, including West Bengal, may adopt it in the future.

“Can you prove you are an Indian citizen under the rules of Assam’s NRC process? Take this dystopic quiz, and find out.” 

4. Anything else?

Israel has again plunged into political disarray after its Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was indicted on corruption charges on Thursday. This latest development has only managed to heighten the uncertainty over political leadership in a nation that has already had two inconclusive elections over the last year. 

“The decision announced by attorney general Avichai Mandelbli was the first of its kind against a serving Israeli prime minister and represented Netanyahu’s gravest crisis of his lengthy political career. 

He was charged with breach of trust and fraud in all three corruption cases against him, as well as bribery in one of the investigations, according to a charge sheet released by the Justice Ministry.

He is under no obligation to resign after being charged. The opening of a trial could be delayed for months by a new election and any moves by the right-wing prime minister to seek parliamentary immunity from prosecution.”

5. Is that all?

India is apparently using “…a 134-year-old law designed for telegraphs to monitor people’s encrypted texts”, and it doesn’t seem to be going so well.

“1885 was the year Mark Twain published the “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York on a boat from France.
It was also the year the Indian government passed a piece of legislation that lawmakers in Delhi say is key to providing them with broad powers to monitor, intercept, and decrypt all digital communications as part of a growing attempt to control the online space.

The Telegraph Act of 1885 “empowers” lawful interception of messages in the case of a public emergency or in the interest of public safety, the government said this week, even though the legislation was enacted over a century before the advent of the internet, mobile communications or encrypted messaging platforms.”

6. Before you leave…

Take a look at the alarming climate emergency in Pakistan, where most of its glaciers are melting at once.

“For generations, farmers in the Harchi Valley in Pakistan’s highlands enjoyed a close relationship with the glacier that snakes between two mountain peaks. It watered their fields, orchards and grazing lands.

Following local tradition, it has a name — Ultar — and a gender — male, because it is black, owing to the debris that covers it (female glaciers are white, residents say).

Now, their relationship is unraveling as pollution and global warming cause the Ultar glacier to melt and form unstable lakes that could burst their icy banks at any moment. Already this summer, much of Harchi’s lands were destroyed in glacial floods.”

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