Group President, Group Managing Director & Editor In Chief: Dr.Shelly Ahmed
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Madhya Pradesh. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Madhya Pradesh. Sort by date Show all posts

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

In India, 3626 Villages Named On Ram, 3309 After Krishna

By Kajol Singh / INN Bureau

What's in a name, or two, or 6,77,459? In the case of India's villages, that list tells us they love gods, goddesses, nation builders and mythologies above all else, and that, when they migrate, they often take the name of their place of origin with them.

INN went through the names of all 6,77,459, inhabited and uninhabited, villages in India, as listed in Census 2011 — data for which was released recently. Lord Ram ranks way up there, with 3,626 villages named after him, in almost all parts of the country except Kerala, while Lord Krishna is a close second at 3,309.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Over 1,000 IAS Officers Fail To Submit Property Returns

Over 1,000 IAS officers have failed to submit their immovable property returns (IPRs) to the government within the stipulated time frame this year.

Of the total of 1,057 officers who did not submit their IPRs for 2012, a highest of 147 are from Uttar Pradesh cadre, 114 of Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram-Union Territories (AGMUT), 100 of Manipur-Tripura, 96 of Jammu and Kashmir and 88 of Madhya Pradesh cadre among others, according to Department of Personnel and Training data.

Suspended IAS couple Arvind and Tinoo Joshi of MP cadre are also among the list of erring officials. Joshis, both 1979 batch officers of Madhya Pradesh cadre, made headlines after Income Tax department raided their residence in February, 2010 and allegedly unearthed assets worth over Rs 350 crore.

58 IAS officers of Karnataka cadre, 53 of Andhra Pradesh, 48 of Punjab, 47 of Orissa, 45 of West Bengal, 40 of Himachal Pradesh, 35 of Haryana, 25 of Jharkhand, 23 of Assam-Meghalaya, 22 of Rajasthan, 20 of Tamil Nadu, 17 of Maharashtra, 16 of Nagaland, 14 of Gujarat, 13 of Bihar, 10 of Kerala, nine each of Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh and eight of Sikkim cadre have not given their IPRs, it said.

The total sanctioned strength of IAS is 6,217, including 1,339 promotion posts. Of these, 4,737 officers are in position.

An all-India service officer is bound to file property returns of a year by January end of the following year, failing which promotion and empanelment to senior level postings may be denied.

Besides, there are 107 IAS officers who have not submitted their IPRs for 2011. As many as 198 IAS officials did not give their property details for 2010. “A circular has already been sent to all cadre
controlling authorities to inform them about timely submission of their IPRs,” said an official of the DoPT, which acts as a nodal agency for administrative matters of the IAS officers.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

'They Still Die in Labor Room'

By Samiya Anwar & M H Ahssan

Taj Mahal- One of the seven wonders of the world, One of the Greatest monuments, dedicated to the memory of the Queen Mumtaz , by her husband Emperor Sahajahan, is a testimony and a grim reminder of the tragedy of maternal mortality, that can befall any women in childbirth. The probability of an Indian mother dying during childbirth is roughly 10 times that of her Chinese counterpart. Reducing the Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) by three-quarters in 10 years is now a Millennium Development Goal. Why is MMR in India so high and how far are we from the goal? HNN unravels the many challenges to saving mothers' lives.

Maternal Death - A Tragic Reality
Women, undoubtedly is the most beautiful piece of creation. She is not just a female, she is more than it. She is definitely a special handiwork of God. That is why she is wanted, she is loved. Men love women. Isn’t so and why not they are always surrounded by women. First it is a woman, to whom they are born. Then they grow with women as sisters. They are married to women. And also women are the one who reproduces the generations. Yes, because women are the reason for the offspring and growth of society.

But the same women are put to menace for procreation of mankind. They are often treated as reproducing machines. Not cared, left as scraps or doormats at homes women die anonymously especially the poor. For women it is a joyful start to a life as the mother and for a child a whole new life. It is really indecent that there is no man or women who take care of them or good medical facilities when the women are in need of special care and attention during and after pregnancy. Hence they either develop complications in the womb or die soon after child birth. Lack of education and short of medical facilities would be the cause. Many stories of women dying with maternal deaths are largely untold and unheard.

This is a social issue and heeds attention. Thanks to the television channels for wonderfully presenting the shows on social problems. Balika Vadhu, is such a social serial on Colors, which had so far portrayed the maternal deaths of young women. It is a mirror of Indian Society. The Indian Government estimates that 301 women die annually for every 100,000 live births. In some states the maternal mortality ratio is even higher -- 358 in Orissa, 371 in Bihar, and 379 in Madhya Pradesh. It is also estimated that few rural women chooses to remain passive. Laajwanti (name changed) a rural girl barely 16 has no complaints; however, she says “It’s a woman’s duty to produce as many children she can. They are God’s gift.” It is been observed that the maternal mortality rate has risen faster as there is pressure on girls to produce as soon they reach puberty. It is a shame to our country which is developing but not the people. We’re still backward. Right!

As the new data analysis tool reveals an estimated 80,000 pregnant women or new mothers die each year in India often from preventable causes including hemorrhage, eclampsia, sepsis and anemia. Since many deaths happen in the anonymity of women's homes or on the way to seek help at a medical facility, they often go unrecorded. It is absurd because we know about such practices, we have heard it, we have also listen to the news channels and read in several newspapers but still there is no official complaint.

Over 67% of maternal deaths in eight districts in Orissa were among SC/ST groups. Illiteracy is as much a factor as lack of primary health care. After achieving so many laurels in academics, still we’re not fully educated. Though the enrolment in schools has risen from past, our country yet suffers from problems due to lack of information and knowledge. Also in Purulia, West Bengal, 48% of the women who had died had no formal schooling. That’s a real embarrassment. In Bihar’s Vaishali, we can see 42% of the deaths occurred due to Haemorrhage, the most common cause of delivery-related deaths, with almost all hemorrhages occurring after delivery. Many women who delivered at home also died from postpartum hemorrhage. Eclampsia, a serious complication during pregnancy that is attributed to under-developed arteries in the placenta, was the second most common cause of death (17% in Dholpur, 19% in Purulia, and 27% in Guna/Shivpuri). However, the standard treatment for eclampsia, magnesium sulfate, was often not available in these places. These are the shocking findings of an ongoing survey across six states being conducted in co-ordination with the United Nations Childrens’ Fund (Unicef). India is still quite far from achieving the Millennium Development Goal of reducing maternal mortality rate (MMR) by three quarters by 2015. On an average, there are at least 301 women dying annually for every 100,000 live births. In some states the MMR is even higher—358 in Orissa, 371 in Bihar and 379 in Madhya Pradesh.

Causes may be:
- Early marriage,Hidden pregnancy, history of abortion, etc
- Financial disasters, No medical facilities
- Smoking, drinking and drugs (urban women)
- Lack of knowledge (like the example I gave about Laajwanti above)

Maternal death is a sensitive issue of human race. We need to curb the social ailments from the society. It is like terrorism killing the number of innocent lives in the dark of ignorance. Though it is hard to eliminate fully from the society we can generate proper awareness about the loss of humanity with every mother dying during and post pregnancy.

Maternal mortality: This India story is a shame!
Over 67% of maternal deaths in eight districts in Orissa were among SC/ST groups. Illiteracy is as much a factor as lack of primary health care. In Purulia, West Bengal , 48% of the women who had died had no formal schooling.

Haemorrhage is the most common cause of delivery-related deaths, with almost all haemorrhages occurring after delivery. In Bihar’s Vaishali, 42% of the deaths occurred due to this. Many women who delivered at home also died from postpartum haemorrhage.

Eclampsia, a serious complication during pregnancy that is attributed to under-developed arteries in the placenta, was the second most common cause of death (17% in Dholpur, 19% in Purulia, and 27% in Guna/Shivpuri). However, the standard treatment for eclampsia, magnesium sulfate, was often not available in these places.

These are the shocking findings of an ongoing survey across six states being conducted in co-ordination with the United Nations Childrens’ Fund (Unicef). India is still quite far from achieving the Millennium Development Goal of reducing maternal mortality rate (MMR) by three quarters by 2015. On an average, there are at least 301 women dying annually for every 100,000 live births. In some states the MMR is even higher—358 in Orissa, 371 in Bihar and 379 in Madhya Pradesh.

A new tool, Maternal and Perinatal Death Inquiry and Response (MAPEDIR), has been developed to analyse the underlying medical and social reasons behind maternal death and is being used across 16 districts in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Orissa and Bihar providing an ongoing, systematic collection of data to reconstruct and analyse the cases of 1,600 women—the highest number of audited maternal deaths in the world. MAPEDIR also informs health officials about the challenges local women face in accessing reproductive health care.

“The tragic reality is that too often maternal deaths are not visible. They don’t leave any trace behind, and their deaths are not accounted for. Unicef is committed to continue working with the National Rural Health Mission to promote surveillance as a key strategy to lower maternal and child mortality,” Chris Hirabayashi, Unicef India deputy director of programmes, said at a meeting with health officials from the six states who are using MAPEDIR.

“Unless we know the main reasons for maternal deaths we cannot take effective measures to tackle them. The traditional system did not deal with the issues adequately. Now using MAPEDIR, we can know if the death are due to delays in decision making at household level or lack of transport or delay at the facility or a cumulative of all three,” S P Yadav, director of medical and health services in Rajasthan said.

A team made up of state government health and nutriti on officials and NGO members, headed by a member of the local village council or Panchayati Raj Institution, conducts interviews with surviving family members at community-level with technical support from Unicef and funds from the United Kingdom’s department of international development (DFID) work under MAPEDIR.

Social and economic factors like the low status of women in communities, the poor understanding of families on when to seek care, lack of transport, poor roads, the cost of seeking care, multiple referrals to different health facilities and a delay in life-saving measures in rural areas have been listed out by Unicef as the reasons behind the high MMR.

Many of these deaths happen in the anonymity of women’s homes or on the way to a medical facility and so they often go unrecorded. An estimated 80,000 pregnant women or new mothers die each year in India often from preventable causes including hemorrhage, eclampsia, sepsis and anemia.

Who cries when mothers die?
Munna was nine months pregnant. She did experience pains few days back, when her husband and mother-in-law rushed her to the nearest primary health centre in Kushwai of the District Shahdol in the State of Madhya Pradesh in India. They had to make her travel by bus from their village, and then in pain Munna had to walk, which she could barely to reach the health centre.

But unfortunately the kushwai health centre, where they had come with lot of hopes, did not had a medical doctor for last one and half years. One male health worker mans the centre. Though, he puts in his best but that may not be enough for women like Munna and others who need medical support.

Inspite of reaching the primary health centre, she did not get any help. She has to travel another eight kilometers to Burhar, the place where there is a community health centre. The centre is fortunately newly built and has facilities for delivery. Munna did develop some complications during the delivery but fortunately survived to see her new born.

She was lucky but thousands of women which die in the state are not. App 10,000 women die every year in Madhya Pradesh during pregnancy or within 42 days after pregnancy. Majority of these could be prevented. Medically these deaths may be due to hemorrhage, infection, eclampsia or unsafe abortion or any of three delays. But fact is there exists a yawning gap in our health system which stands in between life and death of women in the state. This gap has linkage to availability and access to health services, infrastructure, awareness among communities of not only the services but even recognizing danger signs, issue of how where they can access the services etc. Studies also tells us that for every maternal death in India, 20 more women suffer from the impaired health.

But if the situation at ground is like this, and has been there. What is the state’s response to an issue like this? Does it impact the political leaders, their discourse? Does issue of women dying in the state is debated in discussions where funds are allocated or decisions are made? Does state’s machinery care for it? Does civil society raise its concern?

To answer some of these questions a dip stick assessment was done in year 2004 at various levels within civil society, debates in the state assembly, media analysis. Outcomes were revealing. First of all the issue concerned only few in health department. There were only handful of civil society partners, and their major role was to support service delivery system. As such there was no push or urgency to bring change. Interestingly, the issue had never being debated on the floor of the state assembly, a place where elected representatives ‘of the people, for the people and by the people’ decide. It did not impact them, many of them were not even aware of the fact that state has this high number of maternal deaths? An issue like this was never raised by the political leaders in the debates which happen there – an issue of total neglect at the highest political body. Media covered ‘event news’ around the safe motherhood day, probably they never got the right information too.

That was a starting point, but nevertheless situation has changed today. Today state recognizes it as a major issue when it comes to women and children. State calls for an action. It is on high priority list of the political head of the state, state party is being questioned on the number of deaths, gaps on the infrastructure and many related points. Today more than 150 civil society organizations are raising concern on the issue and demanding urgency and urgency of action in the state.

How it happened and what does it impact and what strengths does it generate? Movements don't just happen; the energy that underlies them must be marshaled, channeled, and focused. The principal means by which this is achieved in our society, and within our political tradition, is through advocacy networks and coalitions.

Networks like Madhya Pradesh Voluntary Health Association, Madhya Pradesh Jan Adhikar Manch and Collective for advocacy, resource and training, Madhya Pradesh Samaj Sewa Sanstha, Mahila Chetna Manch, and many others have not only contributed to help bring the issue at an individual level but as a part of informal collation added to that force which helped bringing the agenda on political normative framework. Some of the strengths which this informal network helped bring were the numbers of civil society partners raising concern on the issue spread across different regions of the state. From a handful few now it is more than 150 civil society partners in the state working in all divisions to bring the issue to forefront. The turn around is also in their way of working from being a service delivery partners or a social mobilization partners in supportive and submissive role in a new avatar of advocacy partner. In this new role civil society speaks on the issue of right to health, its violation, demands state’s accountability to provide for safemotherhood. In this new business influencing people who make decisions which impact human lives is the key.

The primary target of the civil society was to bring the issues which impact lives of women at the villages, blocks and districts to the agenda of the people who make or influence decisions, i.e. state assembly debates, political leaders, members of legislative assembly, ministers, media, rights commission etc. They had been to some part successful. ex-pression of this concern was undertaken by directly meeting and sensitizing political leaders. The evidences highlighting gap were shared with political leaders, urging them to rise above politics and give a strong call for action. These non governmental organizations wrote memorandums, shared information and collected evidences for the same purpose. Media engagement also supported by providing an enabling environment for change. Strong evidences i.e. case of maternal deaths which can be presented, health system gaps were highlighted which added pressure on the state and the leaders to react. Resultant of this solid gains achieved. Today questions on maternal mortality are being raised in the state assembly, the highest policy making body of the state. It is not just few many voices are being publicly heard on the issue. There is a increased concern within media.

From nowhere it came to a point where state publicly acknowledge the problem, and its commitment to act. Many new polices and schemes have been announced and that too in the rapid succession. This amount of concern and even expressed publicly by leaders had never been seen earlier in the state on the issue of maternal mortality. But that is not enough today empowered civil society and media is always looking with eagle’s eye on the new measures of the state and vocally points out the gaps This is a positive sign, where people are voicing their opinion. But it is not easy as said. Political leaders have started picking up real cases of deaths, gaps in infrastructure in the state, violation of rights, gaps in policies and seeking answers to what is being done by the state to response to the situation.

Advocacy experts tell us that ‘people centered advocacy’ is the best, i.e. position when people who suffer can speak for themselves. A step has been taken in the same direction by the engaged networks. Madhya Pradesh Jan Adhikar Manch in their work with communities helped to bring the issue to debate in various gram sabhas which were held by panchayats in Gwalior – Chambal division. Similarly women who had participated in various women conventions hosted by Madhya Pradesh Samaj Sewa Sanstha came forward and wrote about the problems women face in rural areas when it comes to issue of safemotherhood and why do women die in their villages while giving birth. As per sources of Madhya Pradesh Samaj Sewa Sanstha more than 200 women have written to the Chief Minister. On a simple fifty paise post card, they wrote by theselves and it was send to the Chief Minister. It looks simple but powerful, if it gets to his eyes. Recently a large number of women from villages across Madhya Pradesh have joined a signature (or thumb-impression) campaign to press for their right to health and to call upon the Government to ensure that the dream of safe motherhood becomes a reality. As a part of a special drive to raise concern on this crucial issue, more than 20,000 women from different villages of the State are now in the process of signing (or placing their thumb impression) on a various banners demanding the right to health and calling upon the State to ensure that the dream of safe motherhood becomes a reality. Madhya Pradesh Voluntary Health Association, Madhya Pradesh Samaj Sewa Sanstha are the civil society partners who are collecting these signatures/thumb impressions of women. They say that they do so after they are adequately sensitizing them on the issue of maternal mortality. Then if they feel that some concrete action is needed to improve the situation, they come and sign. Plan is to present the banners with their signatures to policy makers.

One might say that this is good effort, which indeed it is to bring the agenda of maternal mortality on to the political and action framework but it is still a long way to go. This is true. But if one looks back one and half years where there was hardly any concern, hardly anyone called for action, except few that too ‘within the box’. The focus was limited. From nowhere it has come somewhere, which is an important achievement by any means. Need of the day is to provide possible answers to the state, which is willing to listen. Answers which can help deliver results, within the context of the field realties and socio – cultural aspects – a new call to many!

Lhamu, a mother of twelve, lives in a remote village in Western Tibet. Three of her children died within a month of birth and the four year old strapped to her back looked as small as a one year old. She gave birth all alone, at home, all twelve times. But Lhamu was lucky. She didn't die. One in 33 women dies during childbirth in Tibet. Malnutrition, abject poverty and lack of any health care – however basic—plagues Lhamu's family, as it does much of Tibet. Tibet – vast lonely stretches of dead habit with nary a creature on its harsh plains and no economy to speak of. It can't be as bad here in new economy India, right?

Think again.

One in 48 women in India is at risk of dying during childbirth. The Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) in India is a high 407 per 100,000 live births, according to the National Health Policy 2002. Other sources put the MMR at a higher 540 (NHFS and UNICEF data, 2000). Reducing the Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) by three-quarters by 2015 is a Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for all countries including India. Achieving this means reducing the MMR to 100 by 2015. Part of the problem is this measurement – MMR data is just not there and if it is, it varies widely depending on what method was used to get it.

Studies show MMR among scheduled tribes (652) and scheduled castes (584) is higher than in women of other castes (516, according to one study). It is higher among illiterate women (574) than those having completed middle school (484). The key determinant seems to be access to healthcare. Less-developed villages had a significantly higher MMR (646) than moderately or well-developed villages (501 and 488 deaths, respectively).

"It is very sad that the numbers are so high even 57 years after independence," avers Dr H Sudarshan who is Vigilance Director (Health) of the anti-corruption body Karnataka Lokayukta. "Not only are the numbers from the Sample Registration System (SRS) high, they are also incomplete. We do not know how many mothers actually died during childbirth and why. Underreporting is rampant and people hide MMR numbers in fear of repercussions. We need state-wise and within states, district-wise data," says Sudarshan who was also Chairman of the Karnataka Health Task Force which made wide-ranging recommendations based on a 2-3 year detailed study conducted in the state. Regardless, the UN MMR numbers for India (540) are several times higher than those for other developing countries like China (56), Brazil (260), Thailand (44), Mexico (83) or even Sri Lanka (92).

Medical reasons
So what exactly leads to such a high MMR? The main reasons for maternal deaths related to pregnancy are anaemia, post-partum bleeding and septic abortions with anaemia being the most rampant. "Antenatal care is most important," declares Sudarshan, "and that is just not being done. This kind of care checks for high risk pregnancies."

Public health advocate Dr Mira Shiva agrees, "Hypertension and the toxemias of pregnancy can only be detected with antenatal care. There is a total neglect of a mother's health in India. [The situation] is disgusting because a big chunk of all this is preventable. The medical establishment is busy with micronutrients but that is not the answer. Giving one iron tablet to a woman during her pregnancy is too late." Shiva is coordinator of the All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN) and one of the founding members of the People’s Health Movement (PHM). Striking out at a more endemic problem, she says, "The real problem is food. It is all about food, the cost of food and the nutrition content therein. These pregnant women have to fetch the water, make fuel, work the buffaloes, etc., all on the measly amount of food they can afford. How can the nutritive intake be enough? It becomes a negative calorie balance. In short, what is needed goes beyond a medical solution."

Sudarshan echoes Shiva's sentiment, "We need to move from a medical model to a social model. Nutrition for pregnant mothers is very important and the ICDS Anganwadi scheme has clearly not achieved the hoped results." Where antenatal care is good, the results are good as well. Kerala and Tamilnadu have good antenatal care and correspondingly have two of the lowest MMRs in India. In Assam and Bihar where antenatal care is almost zero, the MMRs are among the highest. India has the lowest percentage of antenatal coverage (60%) among countries like China, Brazil, Mexico, Thailand and Sri Lanka which are all in the high 86-95% range.

While antenatal care is paramount in the prevention of pregnancy-related deaths, septic abortions are more insidious. What is worse, the latter tends to go unreported due to the nature and circumstances surrounding it. In many rural areas couples do not use any spacing methods and women conceive within 7 months of having given birth. Dr Leena Joshi of Family Planning Association of India (FPAI) is familiar with this scenario. Her voice drops with concern when she mentions abortion rates in the remote reaches of Maharashtra. "The abortion rate in these areas is just so high. With it comes hidden mortality from septic abortion deaths. Since the PHCs do not have MTP methods, the abortions are performed by quacks. And even if the PHCs or district hospitals have MTP methods, the people opt for local help." Why? "It saves them money. These are very poor people and transport costs and medical costs can be saved by walking to a local quack." As a result there are a high number of abortion-related deaths which do not get reported under maternal mortality. Dr. Joshi laments that everybody only talks about deaths during the childbirth process. "But since there are so many septic abortion cases it all goes unreported."

The problem of unsafe abortion is something that Shiva worries about as well. "Abortion (MTP) being legal in India, no one is turned away. Second trimester abortion is a big reason for rising MMRs." People come late for the abortions and complications ensue. And apparently these are not only driven by spacing problems. "Contraceptives are used only by women and failure of these is common," says Joshi. Of course, abortion of female fetuses is routine and it goes on until the woman conceives a male child. The whole scenario makes one shudder.

But all this seems to be not even half the story.

Take malaria, for example. Orissa has a high incidence and accounted for 28.6% of detected cases of malaria -- 41% of falciparum -- and 62.8% of all material deaths in India (1998). Malaria and pregnancy form a sinister synergistic pair. Falciparum malaria leads to abortion and still births in the gravid woman and can severely compound anaemia. Coincidentally, Orissa has a high incidence of sickle cell anaemia. The combination is lethal. The haemoglobin in pregnant women could drop to 1gm/dL (healthy levels are between 12-16gms/dL). While drugs are available to treat the malaria, the treatment requires a high degree of awareness and care in administration. For example, the common primaquine and tetracycline are absolute no-nos during any stage of pregnancy. But chloroquine and quinine are allowed. "But mistakes occur and are lethal," says Shiva. Acting fast and carefully is paramount and any deaths due to these infections are primarily due to gross neglect or ignorance. Orissa has one of the highest rates of MMR in India at 738.

Another key reason for deaths during pregnancy is post-partum bleeding or haemorrhage. The need for blood in such cases is imperative and access is less than ideal. Both Sudarshan and Shiva worry about the blood bank policy in India. Heavily driven by the HIV/AIDS lobby, they feel that somewhere the important issue of access to blood has been sacrificed for quality and safety since the policy makers are looking at it all from the AIDS perspective. Says Sudarshan,"The policy says you have to keep the blood in an air-conditioned room. But in Coorg, for example, you don't need it. HIV awareness is good, but blood banks need to be demystified and access and availability improved." Shiva adds, "It is imperative in case of complications during pregnancy to have blood available. But no. NACO only sees blood banks from their perspective and only in an emergency are you allowed to take blood from the banks. It is a major concern." When it comes to donation, Shiva points to an endemic problem. The strange connection between men, caring for women, and giving blood. "If the men have to pay a lot of money and go far to get blood for their wives, they just won't. And men will never give blood. They think a 100 drops of blood equals one drop of semen and thus, giving blood is related to potency. And so many times, when women need blood, it is not available."

Organisational reasons
Early diagnosis of high-risk pregnancies and complications and quick referrals are of paramount importance. But is institutionalising deliveries the answer? By requiring 100% institutional deliveries, the World Bank supported vertical program Reproductive Child Health 1 (RCH1) resulted in the abolishing of the dais (Traditional Birth Attendants), and Sudarshan believes, probably increased MMR. Subsequently, following a public uproar, the program was amended to advocate "training" TBAs into Skilled Birth Attendants. "Institutional support will bring down MMR, yes, but what type of institution is important," says Sudarshan. "The so called Primary Health Care units are so dirty that infection will probably increase because of them." "In Bihar, for example," explains Sudarshan, "80% of the deliveries happen at home. In Karnataka it is 70%." Joshi concurs with this high degree of preference. "In the Bhandara area almost 100% prefer home deliveries. And if there are complications, it means there are inevitable delays in getting more sophisticated care."

Now, if there were a skilled birth attendant (SBA) at the time of each delivery or for antenatal checkups for each pregnancy, he or she can recognize a high-risk pregnancy or a potential complication and refer the mother to a district hospital or closest emergency care unit. The incidence of death from complications would be reduced. Countries like Malaysia have employed this strategy to bring down MMR to less than 100. In India only 43% of deliveries are attended by an SBA compared to between 86% and 99% in Mexico, China, Sri Lanka, Brazil and Thailand.

Sudarshan himself is involved in training tribal girls in the Soliga communities of Karnataka to be auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs). For a population of 3000, there is a sub-centre and for every 5 or 6 sub-centres, there is a primary health care unit. Sudarshan's team trains the tribal girls in each village so that the few ANMs posted do not have to walk the 20 kms between the 4-5 villages this program covers. Joshi's team in Bhandara also trained 25 local dais or Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) to recognize complications and give basic medicines and obstetric care in the villages, one to each village. They also conduct antenatal checkups every month in about 10 villages. But funds for such programs are scant primarily because maternal health is not recognized as a priority issue in India. "The awareness that a pregnant woman should be taken care of is just not there," says Joshi. "If a woman is not delivering, the attitude used to be, let's wait and see, maybe tomorrow morning she will deliver. Now with our training, the dais can recognize complications but the money to shift the patient to a hospital is still not there."

This brings us to the next obstacle. So say the SBA refers to patient to an emergency obstetric care unit (EOC) and let's assume that we have one of those for every few villages. How would the patient reach the EOC? "Transport is a big issue. It is appalling that we do not have EMS (emergency medical services) that is efficient and well staffed," Sudarshan states categorically. He is working on building one for Karnataka with a coordinating body at district level which has jeeps, ambulances, even tractors available for responding to emergency calls. "We have to strengthen the PHC and an EMS is an integral part of that," he says. Bhandara is not so lucky. "Vehicles are available in 50% of the cases. But they are expensive. In the day, people can use buses, but not at nights. There are several rivers in this area and the buses are not allowed to travel over these at night," says Joshi.

Suppose the patient does reach the first referral unit (FRU) with complications that say, require a C-section. Is that a guarantee for a safe delivery? Sadly, no. Few FRUs run 24 hours. Joshi's hospital has 2-3 gynaecologists where the recommended number for the population of that area is 5-6. "All the C-sections and hysterectomies are carried out by these 2-3 gynaecologists. In the PHC in the villages, there is one doctor and 2-3 sisters (nurses), but they are only graduates, not post graduates or MBBS. So they cannot even do a complicated normal delivery, let alone C-sections."

Even in Karnataka, the FRUs are woefully understaffed and in some cases dangerously mismatched. "In one case," says Sudarshan with an ironic smile, "an orthopedist was posted where an obstetrician was required. With bribes, these so-called doctors can get posted to any area they want regardless of what is actually required there." And then there is the big problem of anaesthetists. At the Taluka level there is an acute shortage of them. Anaesthetists are required during complications and surgeries. When Sudarshan's team proposed that nurse obstetricians and other doctors also get trained in anaesthetics, the proposal was shot down by the medical lobby. Human resource management in the health sector seems to be a big issue. Shiva echoed the sentiment saying, "We need trained people in PHCs. And people with the right training. There is no point sending patients who require C-sections to where there is no anaesthetist or ob-gyn."

Now, if we had fully staffed and functioning FRUs, would that bring down the mortality rate? Unfortunately, there is still one more layer that mothers have to contend with.

Shanta lives in a slum in Bangalore. When she was expecting her second child, she had the good fortune of being close to a government hospital where care would be free. Or so she thought. When she reached there, she realized that she had to 'buy' a bed or sleep on the floor. She also had to 'buy' food. So much so that she even had to 'buy' washing services or wear soiled clothes. And when it was time to "push" during delivery, she was just too weak, and the nurses slapped her. Left and right, again and again. They abused and cursed. "Is that the way to treat a patient?" Shanta queries in puzzlement. "My mother's house where I had my first born was better," she declared. Her sister-in-law Prema now laughs as she describes her own run-in with a local PHC outside Mysore. "They wouldn't give me my child until I paid up. Luckily I had saved all year, knowing this would be the case. The nurse was actually someone I grew up with. I thought she would be fair, but no. Everyone wants money." As soon as they got their money, she was sent home -– the same day -- with no medicines or follow-up monitoring either for her or her baby.

Corruption is not a new problem. "Even if the most sophisticated PHC is right across the road the ward boy needs to be bribed with Rs 150 to wheel the mother into the operation theatre and another Rs 300 to wheel her to the ward and most cannot afford that," declares a grave Sudarshan. In his opinion this final layer is the most important and toughest one to correct. "Bad governance. The real problem is not technological care but simply what I call the epidemic of corruption in the health services. And this is not just in the public healthcare sector, the private is just as bad," he says. "Doctors in Arunachal Pradesh take their pay checks but never show up. There is rampant corruption in procurement where, in one case, 123 spurious drugs were identified but bribes were taken and they were not reported. Dialysis machines which cost 5 lakhs are bought at 12.5 lakhs. Poor people end up spending huge amounts due to over-prescription of medicines that should be free to them. This is the real problem and no amount of infrastructure improvement will bring down MMR if governance is not improved," warns Sudarshan.

Shiva adds, "The private hospitals are mercenaries too. They perform unwanted C-sections and hysterectomies where none is required simply because there is big money in these procedures." Sudarshan, who sits in the anti-corruption cell of the Karnataka Government has presented strong recommendations to the Karnataka government regarding this issue. He stresses that good accreditation, accountability, good monitoring, and honest reporting are the only things that will actually bring down MMR, given the other necessities are taken care of.

And where will the money for the necessary infrastructure come from? Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has promised that the government spending on public healthcare -- which currently stands at an abysmal 0.9% of GDP (one of the five lowest in the world) -- will be increased to 2-3% of GDP which Sudarshan finds heartening, but tempers his optimism with caution. "It is great that there will be three times the amount available today for a sector that needs it badly, but one must plug the holes first. No point pouring all that money into a leaky vessel," he quips.

So, can it be done? Can MMR be brought down under 100 by 2015?

Sudarshan thinks so, but he will give it not 10, but 15 years. "It all comes down to political will. Sri Lanka, in spite of the civil war showed tremendous political will in tackling IMR and MMR and setting goals for themselves. Tamilnadu has a Deputy Commissioner (DC) monitor maternal mortality himself." This has increased the accountability and responsibility of the people in charge and has achieved good results. In Kerala, awareness about maternal health issues is high and the citizens demand more. Literacy plays a key role in keeping the MMR low. Kerala leads the way in successfully reducing MMR and Tamilnadu is close behind. While people like Sudarshan are doing everything to make sure it happens in Karnataka, the awareness and more importantly, recognition of this as an issue is lacking in other parts of India. In Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Assam and Orissa where the MMRs are well above the national average, it will require serious political will and accountability to change status quo.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare puts plans in place with the best of intentions (see here), but until governance and administration is addressed, people like Prema will still have no guarantees of care without paying beyond their means to like other pockets. But whether we will make progress will also be determined by when the Ministry recognizes MMR itself one of the key "Health and Population Indicators." Today, they do not. (See here.)

Both Shiva and Sudarshan agree that what India does not require is yet another vertical program to tackle maternal mortality. Verticals tend to be donor driven and cost intensive. MMR is not a disease unto itself. Clearly, high MMR is a symptom of a larger and wider problem in healthcare, namely the overall health of the woman, and should be treated as such and across verticals. Tackling a lot of the broader issues of governance and infrastructure should bring down the MMR. The National Rural Health Mission aims to reach across verticals to integrate services and by appointing an Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) at the community level provides decentralized first contact care. Shiva was part of one of the Task Forces of the NRHM and lauds its efforts as broadening the RCH program. But in order that the NRHM succeed, we come back to the need for evaluation methods and strong accountability.

The health of mothers is directly related to a child's health and without due attention to the causes behind high maternal mortality ratios, we are ignoring an important determinant of the health of our nation. In doing so, we may be running the risk of damaging our chances for all-encompassing prosperity.

Ways to tackle maternal mortality
To check the maternal mortality rate in India, health experts have stressed on changing the traditional treatment and delivery system being practised in most villages.

At the 52th All-India Congress of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, the annual meeting of The Federation of Obstetric & Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI), gynaecologists from across the globe advocated the need to adopt advanced strategies practised in some of the countries in Africa.

“Lack of access and inadequate utilisation of healthcare facilities are responsible for maternal deaths in India. Countries like Mozambique have made good progress in reducing maternal mortality ratio (MMR),” explained Staffan Bergstrom, from Sweden.

Bergstrom added that the healthcare facilities in remote areas of countries like India are virtually absent, with no specialist doctors and advanced treatment facilities.

“In a number of countries with low per capita income, there is a scarcity of specialist doctors. Non-specialist doctors do major surgeries and fail to diagnose complications. Besides, many medical and clinical officers are being trained to perform surgeries in remote places, where specialists are not available. This is very risky,” Bergstrom explained.

“We should remember that children’s health is directly related to mother’s health. The MMR reflect the health of our nation. So, we should introduce advanced facilities in our villages,” said Gita Ganguly Mukherjee, former head of obstetrics and gynaecology, RG Kar Medical College and Hospital.

In India, one of 48 expecting mothers is at risk of dying during childbirth. According to the data of National Health Policy 2002, the MMR in India is as high as 407 per 100,000 live births. Other sources have put the MMR as high as 540 (NHFS and Unicef data, 2000).

“The chances of death of an Indian mother during childbirth is roughly 10 times more than that of her Chinese counterpart,” said Bergstrom.

India and other Third World countries have set a goal to reduce the MMR by three-quarters by 2015.

Also Read:
  • Motherhood Cursed Bliss in India

  • Obstetrical Interventions and Maternal Mortality

  • Death in Birth

  • The Heartbrake

  • Wednesday, July 08, 2015

    OpEd: Why Do Indians Show Sympathy For 'Rule-Breakers'

    By Dr.Shelly Ahmed
    From businessman Rajat Gupta to the Vyapam suspects, the public often views wrongdoers as victims.

    Discussing Madhya Pradesh’s Vyapam scandal, which began with students hiring proxies and bribing exam invigilators, a friend reminded me of the case of Ashwini Gupta. On April 9, 1935, Gupta, then a young professor in Calcutta’s Ripon College, took leave from work pleading ill health, and instead sat for a BA economics exam under the name of a student he tutored privately called Samaresh Mukherjee. 

    Gupta’s ruse was discovered, he was soon arrested, and in December that year sentenced by a magistrate to six months hard labour.

    Tuesday, July 07, 2015

    The Most Dangerous 'Vyapam Scam': Is CM Chouhan's Sudden Request For CBI Probe Is A Stunt?

    By Sunder Singh in Bhopal
    Is Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Chouhan’s plan to request the High Court to order a CBI probe into the Vyapam scam a tactical retreat or plain capitulation?

    Madhya Pradesh government filed a request with the Madhya Pradesh High Court Jablpur for a CBI inquiry into the Vyapam. The state advocate general P Kaurav said "Yes we have filed a request in the court of the Chief Justice, AM Khanwilkar, for the CBI probe into the alleged Vyapam scam. The HC might hear our plea tomorrow."

    This was just a couple of hours after Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan made the announcement bowing to the mounting public pressure.

    The Blood-Soaked Trail Of India’s Massive 'Vyapam Scam'

    By Radha Misra
    BURNING TOPIC: A massive scam worth some Rs.6,300 crore is unfolding in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. While shady deals aren’t exactly unusual in Asia’s third largest economy, the Vyapam scam—or the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board scam—is getting murkier and scarier by the day.

    Since 2007, thousands of applicants in Madhya Pradesh have allegedly paid bribes to manipulate examination results for government jobs and medical colleges, according to police. A number of government officials, businessmen and politicians are currently serving jail terms. The total arrests in the case exceeds 1,900.

    Sunday, December 08, 2013

    Election 2013: BJP Wins, Congress Routed & AAP Debuts

    By M H Ahssan | INN Live

    DANCE OF DEMOCRACY  The verdict of the Assembly elections in four states – Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh – has sparked a wave of fresh enthusiasm in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) camp, which has already been riding high after the declaration of Narendra Modi as its Prime Ministerial candidate.

    Not only did the party retain its governments in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, it also snatched away power from the Congress party in Delhi and Rajasthan. While it sweeped Rajasthan, winning 162 seats, the BJP managed to emerge as the the single largest party in Delhi with 33 seats, two short of the half-way mark.

    Thursday, December 05, 2013

    BJP Win In Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh; AAP Sweep Delhi, 30,000 Crore ‘Satta’ On 2013 Elections

    By Sunaina Shah | INN Live

    Exit polls have given BJP a big reason to smile after the assembly elections 2013 in five states. According to the exit polls, the BJP will sweep in the four of the five states—Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi—Congress may retain power in Mizoram.

    Congress is projected to lose Delhi and Rajasthan while the BJP will continue to rule Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

    In Rajasthan, with the halfway mark for the state assembly at 100 to form the government, the average of various exit polls show the BJP winning 138 seats and the Congress just 44. Some, however, show the BJP tally stopping at 110.

    Monday, May 20, 2013


    By Mithilesh Mishra / Raipur

    Once struggling to find someone among its legislators who could be chief minister, the Congress is suddenly caught in the problem of plenty in Chhattisgarh. Preparing for a hard battle to wrest the state from the BJP in the assembly elections scheduled for later this year, this is not a happy situation for the party. To make matters more complicated, there’s Ajit Jogi.

    Chhattisgarh—eastern Madhya Pradesh till it was carved into a new state—had been the traditional power base of the Congress for long. Not long ago, the BJP was considered an usurper here.

    Tuesday, February 17, 2009


    Editor Speaks: There’s an old saying that money is the mother’s milk of politics. In the Indian context, it’s more a question of milking the state. We have reached a level of cohabitation where money, corruption and unethical deal-making occupy the same bed. Increasingly, people are joining politics to make money or stay out of jail. Money power is the dominant factor in today’s electoral politics.

    Back in the mid-90s when HNN was launched, I remember meeting politicians who were struggling to make ends meet. When we featured them next, they had become overnight millionaires. The point is not that we can’t have wealthy politicians but the question of how they earned their wealth. I am sure there are many legitimately rich politicians but politics increasingly resembles a profitable business rather than a public service today.

    It wasn’t always so. Money power has played a positive role in politics: Industrialist G.D. Birla bankrolled Gandhi’s campaigns and along with other businessmen entered politics inspired by the freedom movement. It was in the late ’60s, when ‘Aya Ram Gaya Ram’ entered the political vocabulary, that money became a major factor. Since then the situation has only worsened with the dawn of coalition governments in the late ’80s.

    With the likelihood of not being returned for the next term, they make hay while the sun shines and quite blatantly. No wonder many of these governments have been termed as ‘cash and carry’ ones. These days, it’s almost impossible to find a poor politician except among the Left parties. Adding to the scenario is the fact that a large number of businessmen have joined politics in recent years, either elected or nominated by various parties.

    So who are India’s richest politicians? Thanks to a Supreme Court ruling in 2002, the filing of assets data is mandatory by anyone contesting an election. In order to establish exactly who are India’s rich politicians, we undertook a study along with EmpoweringIndia, an initiative of the Liberty Institute led by Barun Mitra. It took three months of exhaustive research at the Election Commission and Rajya Sabha Secretariat by staffers Swati Reddy and Kajol Singh under the supervision of Editor in Chief M H Ahssan to list the richest politicians whose submissions are open to debate.

    The filing of assets data is mandatory but not verified. Some legislators have shown an increase in wealth of over 500 per cent in four years. Yet, the statistics are revealing. Of the 215 Rajya Sabha members for which we have data, 105 are crorepatis. Of the 522 Lok Sabha members, 135 are crorepatis.

    Members of legislative assemblies seem wealthier than many of the MPs. The top five MLAs across the 30 states are worth Rs 2,042 crore. Uttar Pradesh has the richest chief minister and 113 crorepati MLAs. One indication of how this money has been accumulated is that of 150 wealthiest MLAs, 59 don’t even have a PAN card! Our cover story looks at India’s richest politicians across various categories. A handful are legitimate businessmen, the rest only serve to reinforce the dubious nexus between power and money.

    Richest politicians
    A lean bare man on the banks of a river near Champaran, his eyes moist with sadness, letting go of his shawl for a poor woman downstream to cover herself and her child. This poignant moment from Richard Attenborough’s biopic on Gandhi is perhaps the most eloquent image of selfless politics.

    The gentle giant—loved as Bapu and revered as the Mahatma—epitomised the philosophy of public service as one who gave up everything to be one among the huddled millions. Nearly a century later there is little evidence—in reel or real life—of the high moral ground once straddled by that generation.

    The brazen parade of the Prada Prado set zipping across cities in cavalcades, appropriating security funded by public money is evidence that politics has since morphed into a largely self-serving enterprise. The pretense of khadi and Gandhian values went out of vogue with the Gandhi cap long before the Gucci generation stormed the political arena in the 1980s.

    The transition is best described by Rajiv Gandhi who said at the Congress Centenary in Mumbai in 1985 that politics has been reduced to “brokers of power and influence, who dispense patronage to convert mass movement into feudal oligarchy”. Yes there are those who enter politics to serve the public cause but they are exceptions rather than the rule. Entering public life is now an investment of time and effort for dividends to be earned from political entrepreneurship. A joint study by HNN and EmpoweringIndia (an initiative of the Liberty Institute) of the reported assets of our elected representatives reveals a startling contrast between the rulers and the ruled.

    In a country where over 77 per cent of the populace, or an estimated 836 million people, earn an income of Rs 20 per day and over 300 million are living below the poverty line, nearly half the Rajya Sabha members and nearly a third of those from the Lok Sabha are worth a crore and more. Just the top ten Rajya Sabha members and the top ten Lok Sabha members have reported a cumulative net asset worth Rs 1,500 crore. The 10 top losers in the last Lok Sabha polls—including Nyimthungo of Nagaland who reported total assets of Rs 9,005 crore —is Rs 9,329 crore. Members of legislative assemblies seem wealthier than many MPs. The top five MLAs across the 30 states are worth Rs 2,042 crore. Of these 150 crorepati MLAs, 59 don’t even have a PAN card.

    And don’t look for a correlation between the state of the state and the wealth of the legislators. Uttar Pradesh boasts of the largest number of people—59 million or over a third of its population—living below the poverty line. Not only is Mayawati the richest chief minister in 30 states, the state also boasts of 113 crorepati MLAs. Similarly, Madhya Pradesh which has over 25 million of the 60 million people living below the poverty line boasts of 80 crorepati MLAs. The Marxists are the stark exception in this study too. The CPI(M) has 301 MLAs across 10 states but has only two MLAs with declared assets of over Rs 1 crore. Of the 537 candidates who contested on a CPI(M) ticket, only seven had assets of over Rs 1 crore, of which five lost in the elections.

    As the old maxim goes, power begets power and money attracts riches. Clearly, it pays to be in power. Take the last round of Assembly elections which afforded the study an opportunity to compare the increase in wealth. In Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh where the BJP was in power, the average assets of candidates increased by five times.

    In Karnataka too where the Congress ruled in rotation with Deve Gowda’s JD(S), Congress candidates reported a fivefold rise in their assets. Mercifully, wealth doesn’t always ensure success. In all, 365 crorepatis contested the Lok Sabha elections in 2004; 88 lost their deposits, and 114 came second.

    Last December in Delhi the Congress learnt this important lesson again when they found that Congress candidates who lost in Delhi were on an average richer than those who won. But wealth clearly does matter, all other things being constant.

    The caveat emptor here, as with all matters concerning transparency in public life, is that we are going by what the political class has chosen to declare. After all, the statement of assets filed by candidates is at best a confession of sorts mandated by two Supreme Court judgements of May 2002 and March 2003.

    There are several gaps in the information available. Of the 542 Lok Sabha members, details of assets are available for only 522. Similarly in the Rajya Sabha, only 215 members have filed details of assets.

    There is no institutional mechanism to cross-check facts, nor is there a requirement for candidates to declare the source of wealth, or the increase in wealth of candidates in subsequent declarations. In Mizoram for instance, none of the 10 top candidates have reported possessing a PAN card even though their wealth is in excess of Rs 1 crore.

    What is worse is that although MPs who are ministers file annual statements of their assets, the information is not available to the public. This virtually negates the concept of scrutiny that would prevent misuse of position of power and enrichment. Indeed, what should be openly available is denied even under the Right to Information Act.

    It is tragic that the Office of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh—who has been described as integrity personified—has been made party to this decision to deny the information. Again, while Central ministers are required to file a statement of assets, there is no such requirement for ministers in states.

    The adulterous cohabitation of power and pelf is conspicuous across the political spectrum. The chasm between the declared and perceived reality is all too obvious to be missed. Contrast the wealth reported and wealthy lifestyles of those elected to high office.

    Clearly the tip of the benami iceberg has not even been touched. In a country with a stark asymmetry in opportunities and ability, political power enables bending and twisting of policy, converting politics into the elevator politicians ride to reach the pot of gold. Living room conversations in middle and upper middle class homes are dotted with whose son, daughter or son-in-law is raking it in using the benami route to accumulate property and assets.

    Television footage of currency notes being waved in Parliament during the last trust vote, the airborne campaigns witnessed during the polls in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, money spent in fielding dummy candidates, funding of party offices, travel in Toyota SUVs costing over Rs 75 lakh each and private charters that politicians avail of to fly within the country are all pointers that are hard to ignore.

    Bankers and brokers talk in not so hushed tones about the role of politicians in corporate scams. There is also speculation about the real beneficiary and benami ownership of at least two airlines, several real estate ventures, pharmaceutical units and infrastructure companies. The corporate concept of ‘sleeping partner’ has a whole new connotation in the political world. As long as the real incomes, wealth and funding of politicians remain opaque, governance will continue to suffer and democracy will be rendered more often on the liability side in the balance sheet of development.

    Television footage of currency notes being waved in Parliament during the last trust vote, the airborne campaigns witnessed during the polls in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, money spent in fielding dummy candidates, funding of party offices, travel in Toyota SUVs costing over Rs 75 lakh each and private charters that politicians avail of to fly within the country are all pointers that are hard to ignore.

    Bankers and brokers talk in not so hushed tones about the role of politicians in corporate scams. There is also speculation about the real beneficiary and benami ownership of at least two airlines, several real estate ventures, pharmaceutical units and infrastructure companies. The corporate concept of ‘sleeping partner’ has a whole new connotation in the political world. As long as the real incomes, wealth and funding of politicians remain opaque, governance will continue to suffer and democracy will be rendered more often on the liability side in the balance sheet of development.

    Wealth leadership
    1. T. Subbarami Reddy
    Indian National Congress
    Rajya Sabha, Andhra Pradesh
    Total Assets: Rs 239.6 cr

    2. Jaya Bachchan
    Samajwadi Party
    Rajya Sabha, Uttar Pradesh
    Total Assets: Rs 214.3 cr

    3. Rahul Bajaj
    Rajya Sabha, Maharashtra
    Total Assets: Rs 190. 6 cr

    4. Anil H. Lad
    Indian National Congress
    Rajya Sabha, Karnataka
    Total Assets: Rs 175 cr

    5. M. Krishnappa
    Indian National Congress
    MLA, Vijay Nagar, Karnataka
    Total Assets: Rs 136 cr

    6. MAM Ramaswamy
    Janata Dal (Secular)
    Rajya Sabha, Karnataka
    Total Assets Rs 107.7 cr

    7. Anand Singh
    MLA, Vijayanagara, Karnataka
    Total Assets: Rs 239 cr

    8. Anil V. Salgaocar
    MLA, Sanvordem, Goa
    Total Assets: Rs 91.4 cr

    9. N.A. Haris
    Indian National Congress
    MLA, Shanti Nagar, Karnataka
    Total Assets: Rs 85.3 cr

    10. Mahendra Mohan
    Samajwadi Party
    Rajya Sabha, Uttar Pradesh
    Total Assets: Rs 85 cr

    Sunday, January 04, 2015

    Special Report: How A 8-Month-Old Abhilasha Sent To Jail In Madhya Pradesh's 'Anti-Conversion' Case?

    Recent cases in the state show how the anti-conversion law is being used as a political instrument to target Christians.

    With the Bharatiya Janata Party pushing for a national anti-conversion law, it might be instructive to see how existing state laws are used (or not). Last week, INNLIVE reported on a ghar wapsi event in Gujarat’s Valsad district where Vishwa Hindu Parishad activists announced to the media that they had converted 400-500 Christian tribals to Hinduism. Under Gujarat's law, those holding or participating in religious conversion ceremonies must seek permission from the district authorities. No permission was sought by the VHP and yet the policemen present at the event felt no need to act against the organisers.

    Thursday, April 30, 2015

    Eat Your Way With These 14 Varieties Of Indian Mangoes

    It’s that time of year when everything is bathed in a warm, fuzzy, honey glow and there’s a sweet fragrance in the air. That might be partly due to summer setting in across India but it’s also because the best (and India’s national) fruit is making the rounds. 

    For most Indians, summer is synonymous with mangoes; climbing trees to pluck those sunshine-coloured fruits or watching our grannies prepare mango pickles for the year. Mangoes are a habit that many of us find hard to give up.

    Sunday, November 24, 2013

    Focus: Rubbled Roads Of MP, Gathering Political Whispers

    By Neelabh Mishra (Guest writer)

    INN Live traveller takes the rubbled roads of MP, gathering political whispers. When we left Gwalior around 10 am, the concierge at the hotel said, “In your Innova, you should be reaching Indore in 10 hours.” About 450 km. We gave ourselves three extra hours: on the way, we’d be stopping a few times to chat up people. 

    After Shivpuri, the constituency of former state minister Yashodhararaje Scindia, the road became difficult; but after Guna, the parliamentary constituency of her nephew Jyotiraditya Scindia, it became impossible. As the evening darkened, the highway—a stretch of rubble, mud mounds, craters and loose metalling—led us deep into the heart of a dark nowhere.

    Thursday, May 07, 2015

    The Vicious Consequences Of Child Marriage Are Beyond!

    For some of us, the whole concept of child marriage exists only in TV shows, or in some faraway land. For us, ‘Balika Vadhu’ is just that – a television show. The reality of this seldom strikes.

    Honestly, caught in the rigors of everyday life, I sometimes forget how privileged I am. It is in these moments that I then sit down and crib about my privileges. I cry about having to travel for two hours to reach college, having to manage my own monthly budget.

    Wednesday, March 13, 2013

    Young ‘Brides’ Have Good Resale Value

    With drought in Maharashtra, ‘selling’ and ‘reselling’ of brides is likely to become an increasingly lucrative business for nefarious elements—the bride agents. 

    It has been known that the agents scour Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu to look for prospective brides for men from gender-skewed regions of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, western regions of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab. Maharashtra’s Chandrapur district, which has been officially tagged as one of the most backward districts in the country, has become one of favoured hunting spots for these agents.

    A recent case, in which five adolescent girls went missing from the district, saw the political mercury in the district soar and the police swing into action. It was a 700-kilometre trail that the police had to follow. With the five girls from the slum being sold as ‘brides’ to desperate unmarried men in Madhya Pradesh, a special team of the Maharashtra Police had to pursue the case in Ashok Nagar district in the neighbouring state. Led by Assistant Inspector Yogesh Pardhi, the Maharashtra Police team was determined to bring back the girls, aged between 16 and 20.

    What Pardhi and his team learnt during the investigation was quite intriguing. The police had managed to arrest one of the agents who had sold one of the minor girls to a man from Shadora village in Ashok Nagar in Madhya Pradesh. Police team found out that the agents who sold off those women got Rs 30,000 to Rs 50,000 for every woman sold. However, one of the five girls from Chandrapur, who had been sold for Rs 30,000, had returned to her agent owing to the ill-treatment at the hands of her owner. The agent was too happy to resell her a second time and pocketed Rs 35,000. Pardhi had no answer as to why the girl did not return to her family when she had the opportunity, and instead approached her agent.

    Though Pardhi had no answers, Shafiqur Rehman Khan of Campaign Against Bride Trafficking has them. “The ceremony solemnising such marriages are most appropriately called as Thag Vivah (cheat marriage). Rarely does the bride enjoy the social status of a wife. These women are either known as Paro brides, as in stolen, or Molki brides as in purchased,” said Khan. He explains Molki brides have to physically satisfy more than one person and also double as labourer on the fields.

    The trading of brides also means that the few genuine bride seekers are finding it difficult to ‘stay’ married. When a 50-year-old businessman from Jaipur in Rajasthan had married a bride from Maharashtra, he thought it was coincidence that the two brides that he had earlier purchased from agents had run away. In two months the man has spent Rs 2.50 lakh on three brides. 

    However, his third bride from Maharashtra too ran away. Subsequent police investigation revealed that agents and the brides were hand-in glove and were sold again. The agents are finding selling brides more lucrative than dealing in brothels. And more than the buyers, the agents are more keen to sell brides owing to demand in northern states. Khan fears that with drought in Maharashtra, agents would have a field day recruiting new brides as poor families are happy to have one less mouth to feed.

    Though Khan believes that it is difficult to put a precise number on the quantum of bride trafficking, he estimates that there are about dozen such brides in every village of Haryana. As agents come up with offers of new brides, the time spent by the bride in particular household is also limited. “The old brides are sold to procure new ones. It is very similar to the cattle market. The market for brides as per our study is growing steadily at the rate 20 per cent every year,” said Khan.

    Wednesday, December 10, 2008

    Assembly Elections - Time to Retrospect

    By M H Ahssan & Kajol Singh

    Although the outcome of the Assembly polls is being described as a 3-2 victory for the Congress, it is actually a two-all draw since Mizoram’s results do not have much influence on national politics. Even then, the Congress can be said to have its nose ahead since the BJP’s earlier string of victories seems to have come to an end.

    After its successes in Gujarat, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Karnataka, the BJP had seemingly convinced itself that it had acquired an unstoppable momentum on the road to Delhi. But, now it is bound to have a rethink, for the tide appears to have turned, even if partially. However, that is not the only reason for the sadness that was noticeable in its New Delhi office on Monday evening. What may have concerned the BJP more is the belief that it may have lost its terror card, which apparently gave it a permanent edge over the Congress.

    By accusing the latter of being soft on terror in order to preserve its minority vote bank, the BJP evidently thought that it had an irrefutable argument to influence the voters. But what has proved this assessment wrong is the Delhi election results because the elections took place the day after the horrendous terrorist attack on Mumbai. Yet, the ease with which the Congress swept the polls showed that the tragedy had virtually no impact on the electorate. Even the Congress seemed to have been taken aback by this response, for it had believed that terrorism, coupled with inflation, would spell disaster for it.

    If the voters thought otherwise, it was apparently because they looked upon these as passing phases with no long-term effect. Not only would prices come down, as they have already started to do, but the very insanity of the jihadis would lead them to their doom. They were also probably not too pleased by the BJP’s propensity to make political capital out of such tragedies.

    The BJP is apparently worried that such an interpretation of its motives will not leave any cards in its hands for the next big test the general election.

    The other indication from the voters relates to their interest in development. The reason why Sheila Dikshit, Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Raman Singh won in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh is that their almost exclusive focus was on the bijli-sadak-pani factor. If politicians get this message, it will mark an end of divisive politics.

    Results of five states that went to election over the past few weeks have surprised many observers. Congress has won Delhi and Mizoram decisively and inching towards the half-way mark in Rajasthan. BJP on the other hand has managed to retain Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

    Bucking anti-incumbency factor in Indian elections once is quite an achievement and doing it twice is extraodinary. Sheila Dixit has been able to do just that. Her opponent, Vijay Malhotra, currently a BJP MP from South Delhi parliamentary seat was not able to enthuse the base or adapt to the changing demographics in Delhi. Delhi that went to polls just three days after Mumbai attacks seemed to suggest that even in assembly elections local factors play a bigger role. It also seemed to rebut BJP’s allegation that Congress is soft on terrorism.

    After the Meena Gujjar agitation earlier this year, it was very difficult for Vasundhara Raje to dig herself out of the hole and win the elections. Her performance, though credible will leave BJP with a big headache where it has to defend 21 out of 25 Lok Sabha seats in the upcoming general elections. Ashok Gehlot, has led his party to victory again and he will be able to cobble up a coalition with independents to form a government.

    Madhya Pradesh
    The central Indian state has had three chief ministers in five years. It was Uma Bharati who won a decisive victory against the Congress in 2003 but resigned from the post due to her role in the Hubli-Idgah controversy. Her place was taken by Babulal Gaur who was then replaced by a much younger Shivraj Chauhan. It is to his credit that he had been able to win the state again despite Uma Bharati contesting elections as a separate entity and a much powerful Bahujan Samaj Party.

    Raman Singh has managed to win a narrow victory in a very close fight in this small state. Ajit Jogi, who was caught on tape after last assembly elections bargaining with opposition MLAs, led the challenge this time too and lost.

    The tiny northeastern state brought Congress back to power after 10 years with the ruling Mizo National Front losing by a big margin. BJP hardly has any presence in the state.

    Some quick thoughts on the results:
    Good governance matters. It might not matter every time but it still pays to perform and then go asking for votes.
    Terrorism is a national issue and these assembly elections might not exactly be a referendum on policy positions of either Congress of BJP.
    Caste politics still pays in India but it might not be a winning proposition anymore. It increasingly is providing little dividends at high risk.
    The results are like a hung parliament. Everyone can claim victory.
    Mayawati can be the next Prime Minister of India. I can’t believe I just wrote it.

    Monday, March 24, 2014

    Jaswant Singh To Advani: Is BJP Treating 'Old Guard Right'?

    By Chandrakant Naidu (Guest Writer)

    Bilochan Prasad, 54, hails from Chhapra in Bihar but, has spent half his life plying auto-rickshaws in Delhi. He is quite amused by the milling crowds at the headquarters of various political parties during the ticket distribution season. “If Narendra Modiji wants to come to power to fight the bad parties, why does he need so many from those very parties?” he asks about a stream of new inductees being offered tickets for Lok Sabha. 

    Tuesday, January 06, 2009

    Special Report: THE DIAMOND DOOM

    Prayaag Akbar finds a trail of corruption and exploitation in the diamond mines of Panna

    When Panda Rama [name changed on request] found a large glowing, diamond amidst the dirt in an uthali mine in Panna, he did what he had been instructed to do by his boss – he slipped it to him instead of handing it over to the mining havaldaar. Later that week his boss gave him one thousand rupees for finding the diamond. “Now I wish I hadn’t given it to him,” he says, “If I had given it to the havaldaar at least I would know how much it was actually worth. It was a big stone. I haven’t found anything since then and that was last season. How am I supposed to survive?”

    Panna district in Madhya Pradesh, the oldest and largest diamond source in India and once a territory coveted by emperors and kings, is threatening to devolve into the hotbed of a serious humanitarian crisis due to Government inaction, pilferage by local strongmen and the exploitation of adivasi workers in the area. The Hollywood film Blood Diamond might have brought attention to the diamond trade in countries like Botswana, Congo and Angola, the largest producers of diamonds in the world, but the lucrative diamond trade in Panna, in the heart of Bundelkhand, is surrounded by its own tales of hardship and exploitation. The Bundelkhand region is consistently ranked amongst the lowest in India in indices of per capita income, human development, literacy and infant mortality.

    Everywhere around are indications of a desperate, pervasive poverty. Yet we are told time and again by proud locals of the area that this land is of great worth. As we approach Panna, our taxi driver says, “The land might look arid and poor, but there are diamonds in the ground here – is zameen main heere hain.” There are three aspects to the recent debilitation of the region and the growth in illegal activity here. First, the Government-run Navratna company NMDC [National Mineral Development Corporation], the largest employer for adivasis working in the diamond trade here, was forced to shut down the only mechanised mine in the country by the Supreme Court for environmental violations. As a result, for the last two years all the diamond extraction has been manually done, in what are called uthali [shallow] mines. These uthali mines, running across the district of Panna, are usually in small standing fields where diamonds have been found in the past.

    Many of the adivasis prospecting for diamonds in these mines work without any wage, believing they will be allowed to keep 70% of the value of any stones they find. In reality any stones found are the property of those local contractors who have purchased the lease from the Madhya Pradesh Government. In addition, because the chances of finding valuable stones so close to the surface are minimal, the adivasis working in these mines often toil for months on end without any form of income. In effect, some contractors trick a large number of adivasis into working for them for free. Then, if diamonds are found, a fraction of the value of the stone is passed on to the labourer, with the contractor keeping the bulk of the revenue.

    The Rakshaya Mine is a half hour drive from the town of Panna, a long, dry patch of cracked earth that bakes the soles of your feet as you walk upon it. A scene reminiscent of the Californian Gold Rush of the 1850s plays out under the midday sun. There seem to be two levels of employees here; the adivasis who sift through the soil, working without a wage, and the labourers who are paid their mazdoori every day. In one corner a number of the daily-wage labourers, generally young, fit and male, break open the massive Deccan Plateau boulders with kulhaadis. Young women carry the crushed stone to a pool of water a few hundred yards away. Others submerge the rock to separate stone from gravel. Perhaps because of their superior earning potential, perhaps because they are not adivasis, these workers are paid their minuscule daily wages by the contractors. The stone is then dried on flat mud beds until it will be sifted through by the adivasis. Most are old men and women or very young boys and girls.

    Bal Kishen is a sun-scarred, needle-thin 60-year-old adivasi from southern Madhya Pradesh who travelled with his family to the mines of Panna to search for diamonds. He has been working here under the belief that he will be allowed to keep a substantial portion of the value of any stones he finds. Rising to his feet with surprising energy, he tells Covert: “Yes, we don’t get paid any daily wages, but I think of it as doing my own dhandaa. Before leaving home I saved up enough money to come here for six months with my family. This area was blessed many hundreds of years ago. It is a very spiritual place. Mahamati Prannath blessed the land for the king, who was his disciple. He was the one who said that diamonds will always be found in the soil.”

    Kishen has been sifting through gravel, sand, and soil in search of these shiny stones for four months now. He spends all day working here under the sun, his four young children and wife alongside him in their quest. But he does not seem overly discouraged by the fact that his search has been fruitless. His confidence is borne of both superstition and subtle misdirection from those with power and money. “We came here four months ago. We haven’t found any diamonds yet but I’m sure we’ll come across something before the money runs out. What if I find a diamond worth Rs 5 or 6 lakhs? With that much money I can go home to my village very happily.” Without the workers realising, the contractor will keep most of the money from the auction of the stone. It is also problematic because these uneducated workers are encouraged to believe that stones of that value are regularly found in the shallow mines in this area. However, J.K. Solanki, the Mining and Diamond Officer stationed in Panna, says, “The average value of most of the stones found in the shallow mines is about Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000.”

    Another serious problem in the trade here is that there is a great deal of pilferage of diamonds that are found, causing a direct loss of revenue for the Madhya Pradesh Government. The MP Government is the owner of all the mines in the region and only gives businessmen one-year contracts to operate shallow mines. The licence to prospect for diamonds here is available for only Rs 200. Stones that are found in the shallow mines are supposed to be handed over to Government officials, who then auction the diamonds once every four months. Officials have placed Mining Havaldaars – complete with khaki uniform and laathi – who are required to walk around two or three of these shallow mines every day and take possession of any stones that have been found. Shiddhi Lal, who spends most days of the year walking between three mines in this area, explains: “I have to cover all three mines in the area so sometimes it does become difficult.

    If a stone is found and I am not there in that mine who is to say that the person who finds it does not just give it to the contractor or whoever is in charge at the mine? But I don’t think it happens very often. For example, once I took in a 3 carat stone from one of these mines. I remember it was auctioned off for Rs 1.5 lakh.”

    Others disagree. Sitaram Patwaria, the owner of a hotel on the outskirts of Panna and a well-known figure in the community, contends that at least one-third of the stones found in the shallow mines are not declared to the havaldaars and pass under the radar of mining officials. “It is bound to happen, because the method of monitoring the extraction is not very good. The businessmen who buy the licences from the Government sometimes don’t want to give even that 10% of the value of the stone, so they tell their workers not to declare some of the stones they find. Diamond traders are always coming to town to buy diamonds – and they can pick these ones up on the cheap because they have to be sold quietly.”

    Every resident with knowledge of the diamond trade Covert spoke with agreed that 30-40% of the stones would go undeclared every year. Solanki, the Mining and Diamond Officer of Panna, while unsure about the extent of the illegal trade, admitted that a number of stones are kept out of the official tracking process without his knowledge.

    Away from the town of Panna, the standard form of shelter is tiny, decrepit mud huts that are seen sporadically in clusters along the road. It is clear the area is mired in poverty, yet successive State Governments have failed to provide the infrastructure and facilities that would allow this severely underdeveloped region to benefit from this business. Pradeep Pateria, a lifelong resident of Panna and a worker in the Congress Party here, tells Covert: “The Government has failed us because they don’t provide the facilities they should. Industries should be developed here for cutting, polishing, shorting, gridding; if they had built a Diamond Park in this area it would have provided so many jobs. Instead the stones that come from this region create wealth in Bombay and Gujarat, instead of helping one of the poorest places in India.”

    The Supreme Court has just sanctioned the reopening of the huge NMDC mine, which should revitalise diamond production here and bring some employment and industry back to Panna. But, inevitably, things will get worse before they get better. As the world economy spirals into recession the demand for diamonds in the big markets like Dubai and the United States, the largest purchaser of diamonds, is declining sharply. Viral Chokshi, a diamond trader with Swastika International, explains, “Because of the recession, the diamond market has shut down in India right now. Over 200,000 people have been retrenched in Surat alone. If the American economy continues to struggle the prices they get at the auctions held in places like Panna will begin to fall as a consequence. Right now there is no demand.”

    Some of those operating shallow mines in Panna are already engaged in highly dubious practices. With demand and prices falling, the temptation to cut corners and exploit those without the strength and education to fight back only increases. A new system is needed – one that protects people like Panda Rama and Bal Kishen, who spend their old age on their knees, in search of a sparkling object in the dirt that will transport them from a life spent in poverty