The News Editorial Analysis 1st November 2021

The News Editorial Analysis 1st November 2021

12 D.U. colleges funded by Delhi govt. facing fund crunch owing to slashing of budget: Officials

University registrar Vikas Gupta said they will take up the issue of non-release of funds with the AAP government.

The News Editorial Analysis 1st November 2021

The 12 Delhi University colleges funded by the city government are facing a fund crunch as their allocated budgets have been slashed, alleged officials of some of these institutions.

Due to this, these institutions are also facing difficulties in paying salaries of teachers, they claimed.

D.U. registrar Vikas Gupta said they will take up the issue of non-release of funds with the AAP government. The issue was also raised at the Executive Council meeting of the university held on October 29.

A senior faculty member of Maharaja Agrasen College, claimed, “Teachers have not been paid their salaries for five months. The government has slashed the allocated budget by half. Not only salaries, the teachers are not getting their pension and other allowances.” Explaining the situation, Subodh Kumar, president of staff association of the Maharaja Agrasen College and coordinator of all the 12 colleges, said teachers want the teaching learning process to continue but the government is not letting it happen.

“The government has an issue with the Delhi University. The issue has been going on before the Covid pandemic. There was a tussle over the formation of governing bodies but they were formed.

“Then they (govt) alleged corruption in colleges and despite various audits, they did not find anything. After the pandemic, they said they don’t have money and slashed the budget. Earlier we (the college) were getting Rs 28 crore which has been brought down to Rs 16 crore,” he claimed.

Apart from Deen Dayal Upadhyaya College, other colleges funded by city government are Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar College, Shaheed Rajguru College of Applied Sciences for Women, Aditi Mahavidyalaya, Keshav Mahavidyalaya, Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies, Bhagini Nivedita College, Acharya Narendra Dev College, Maharishi Balmiki College of Education, Bhaskaracharya College of Applied Science, Indira Gandhi Institute of Physical Education and Sports Science and Maharaja Agrasen College.

Terming it ‘inhuman treatment’, Mr. Kumar said teachers will be forced to protest to resist this arm-twisting by the government.

Such is the crisis that teachers have been forced to quit jobs, he said.

Hem Chand Jain, principal of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya College, said, “Last year, the government had released 42 crore (to the college) but this year they reduced it to Rs 28 crore. We have received two instalments but looking at the situation, this money will only allow us to pay salaries of six months,” he claimed. The dearness allowance and other allowances have increased under the seventh pay commission and 80 teachers have received promotions along with non staffers, he said.

Before the Covid pandemic, the college had 122 teachers, but now we have 115 teachers, Mr. Jain said.

“Seven teachers have left the job, including six ad-hoc teachers. One of the ad-hoc teachers is working in a school since she said she would at least get her salary on time,” Mr. Jain added.

Australia reopens international borders for first time in pandemic.

Australia eased its international border restrictions on November 1 for the first time during the pandemic, allowing some of its vaccinated public to travel freely and many families to reunite, sparking emotional embraces at Sydney’s airport.

After 18 months of some of the world’s strictest corona virus border policies that banned citizens from either returning to the country or leaving it, unless granted an exemption, millions of Australians in Victoria, New South Wales and Canberra are now free to travel.

A flight by flag carrier Qantas Airways from Los Angeles touched down in Sydney at 6 a.m. local time, Australia’s biggest airline said, with COVID-19 vaccinated travellers allowed to walk off the plane without quarantining.

International travellers also arrived in Sydney via Singapore Airlines early on November 1.

While the initial flights are limited to Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families, it sets in motion a plan to reopen the country to international tourists and workers, both much needed to reinvigorate a fatigued nation.

Australia’s Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told the Australian Broadcasting Corp on November 1 that the travel changes would immediately aid the economy.

“It’s a day for celebration – the fact that Australians can move more freely in and out of our country without home quarantine, if they’re double-vaccinated,” Mr. Frydenberg said.

Television and social media footage showed tearful family reunions, with strict travel rules previously prohibiting many people from attending significant events, including weddings and funerals.

The relaxation of travel rules is tied to rising vaccination rates with more than 80% of people aged 16 and older in Australia’s two most populous States, New South Wales and Victoria, fully vaccinated.

Australians and permanent residents living abroad may now return, with foreign ministry data showing about 47,000 people are hoping to do so.

Most tourists – even vaccinated ones – have to wait to come to Australia, although vaccinated tourists from New Zealand will be allowed in from November 1. Citizens of Singapore will be able to travel to Australia, without quarantine, from November 21.

Unvaccinated travellers will still face quarantine restrictions and all travellers need proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to boarding.

The change in travel rules, however, is not uniform across Australia, as the country’s States and territories have differing vaccination rates and health policies.

Western Australia, which takes in one of the world’s biggest iron ore precincts, remains largely cut off from the rest of the country – and the world – as the State tries to protect its virus-free status.

Australia previously let only a limited number of citizens and permanent residents return from abroad, with a mandatory 14-day quarantine period in a hotel at their own expense.

But the change has come as it switched a COVID-zero pandemic management strategy towards living with the virus through extensive vaccinations.

While the Delta outbreak kept Sydney and Melbourne in lockdowns for months until recently, Australia’s COVID-19 cases remain far lower than many comparable countries, with just over 170,500 infections and 1,735 deaths.

Developed nations should provide at least one per cent of GDP to finance green projects in developing world: India

As a vocal voice of the developing countries, India cannot ignore the neglect of climate finance by the developed nations, PM Modi asserted at the ‘Climate Change and Environment’ session.

Asserting that India cannot ignore the neglect of climate finance, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said without concrete progress on it, pressuring the developing nations on climate action was “not justice”, as he called on the developed nations to set a target of providing at least 1 per cent of their GDP for financing green projects in the developing world.

Addressing the G20 Summit Session on ‘Climate Change and Environment’, Prime Minister Modi said that by forgetting climate justice, “we are not only doing injustice to the developing countries, but we are betraying entire humanity”.

As a vocal voice of the developing countries, India cannot ignore the neglect of climate finance by the developed nations, he asserted.

Without concrete progress on climate finance, pressuring the developing countries for climate action is “not justice”, Modi said.

He suggested that the developed countries set a target of providing at least 1 per cent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to finance green projects in developing countries.

At the session, Modi put three actionable points before the G-20 partners — the G20 countries create a ‘clean energy projects fund’ which can be used in countries where peaking has not happened yet; create a network of clean-energy research institutions in G-20 countries; and the G20 countries should form an organisation to create global standards in the field of green hydrogen, so that its production and use is encouraged.

India will also make its full contributions in all these efforts, he added.

Modi also asserted that India is moving ahead with ambitious goals on this issue of climate mitigation.

“When we announced our goals in Paris, many asked whether India would be able to do something like (creating) 175 GW of renewable energy. But India is not only rapidly achieving these goals but is also busy setting higher targets,” the prime minister said.

Going beyond its Paris commitments, India has set a target of 26 million hectares of wasteland rehabilitation and Indian Railways, the world’s largest passenger carrier serving an average of 8 billion passengers every year, has set a ‘Net Zero by 2030’ target, he said.

With this decision,the Indian Railways will mitigate 60 million tonnes of carbon emission per year, Modi said.

“We are working on the target of 20% ethanol blending in petrol by 2025,” he said.

By increasing the number of Asian lions, tigers, rhinos, and dolphins, India has proved that our commitment to protecting the environment is not limited to the energy debate, Modi said.

India has never retreated from the responsibility of mitigation, nor will it ever do so, he asserted.

Due to the efforts made in the past few years, today India is one of the top five countries in the world in terms of renewable energy capacity, he highlighted and noted that the world also recognises this success of India.

In his address at another session on sustainable development, Modi said that due to the coronavirus pandemic, the pace of achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in the world has slowed down.

The pandemic has further widened the economic gap between different countries, between social groups, between women and men, he said.

“It is essential that in post-COVID recovery, our major priority remains on the SDGs. LDCs, especially Africa and small island countries, will require special support. In this context, Italy has organised the G20 Development Ministers’ meeting for the first time. I welcome it,” Modi said.

He said India has made many of its digital solutions open source and available to all of humanity.

“We would like to work with our G20 partners to take India’s experience to other developing countries,” he asserted. Noting that this is the first year of ‘Decade of Action’, Modi said, all have a shared responsibility that the benefits of global recovery reach all countries, and added that the role of G20 will be very important in this.

G20 leaders also vowed to strengthen the WHO to fast-track the process for emergency use authorisation for Covid-19 vaccines and to take steps to boost supply of jabs in developing nations so as to move towards the global goals of vaccinating at least 40 per cent of the population in all countries by the end of 2021 and 70 per cent by mid-2022.

In the Rome Declaration, the G20 leaders thanked healthcare and frontline workers, international organisations and scientists for their relentless efforts to cope with the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

“Recognising that vaccines are among the most important tools against the pandemic, and reaffirming that extensive COVID-19 immunization is a global public good, we will advance our efforts to ensure timely, equitable and universal access to safe, affordable, quality and effective vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, with particular regard to the needs of low- and middle-income countries,” the G20 nations said in their declaration at the Summit here.

“To help advance toward the global goals of vaccinating at least 40 per cent of the population in all countries by the end of 2021 and 70 per cent by mid-2022, as recommended by the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) global vaccination strategy, we will take steps to help boost the supply of vaccines and essential medical products and inputs in developing countries and remove relevant supply and financing constraints,” the leaders said.

They also asked their health ministers to monitor progress toward this end and to explore ways to accelerate global vaccination as necessary.

“We will reinforce global strategies to support research and development as well as to ensure their production and swift and equitable distribution worldwide, also by strengthening supply chains and by expanding and diversifying global vaccine manufacturing capacity at local and regional level, while promoting vaccine acceptance, confidence and fighting disinformation,” the G20 nations said.

Briefing the media, India’s Sherpa at the G20 Piyush Goyal said it was decided that the recognition of Covid vaccines which are deemed to be safe and efficacious by the WHO will be mutually accepted subject to national and privacy laws that the countries may have.

“But more importantly it has been agreed that everybody will help to optimize the processes and procedures of the WHO for vaccine approval and emergency use authorisation, and the WHO will be strengthened so that it can do the recognition of vaccines faster,” he said.

The G20 leaders also committed to achieving food security and adequate nutrition for all, leaving no one behind.

The G-20 nations, including India, also committed to strengthen actions to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030.

The declaration said that the leaders agreed to endeavour to restart international travel in a safe and orderly manner, consistent with the work of relevant international organisations such as the WHO, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Maritime Organization and the OECD.

“To this end, taking into consideration national public health policies, we acknowledge the relevance of shared standards to ensure seamless travel, including testing requirements and results, vaccination certificates and interoperability and mutual recognition of digital applications, while continuing to protect public health and ensuring privacy and data protection,” the G20 countries said.

The G20 nations asserted that they would reinforce global strategies to support research and development as well as to ensure the production and swift and equitable distribution of vaccines worldwide, also by strengthening supply chains and by expanding and diversifying global vaccine manufacturing capacity at local and regional level.

“We commit to refrain from WTO inconsistent export restrictions and to increase transparency and predictability in the delivery of vaccines,” the leaders asserted.

“We reiterate our support to all pillars of the ACT-Accelerator, including COVAX, and will continue to improve its effectiveness,” they said.

The G20 nations also said that they will work together towards the recognition of COVID-19 vaccines deemed safe and efficacious by the WHO and in accordance with national legislation and circumstances.

They vowed to strengthen the WHO’s ability regarding approval of vaccines, including optimizing procedures and processes, with the aim of broadening the list of vaccines authorized for emergency use (EUL), while continuing to protect public health and ensuring privacy and data protection.

“As a collective G20 effort, and in light of the enduring vaccination gaps, we commit to substantially increase the provision of and access to vaccines, as well as to therapeutics and diagnostics. We will enhance our efforts to ensure the transparent, rapid and predictable delivery and uptake of vaccines where they are needed,” the G20 countries said.

“We call on the private sector and on multilateral financial institutions to contribute to this endeavor,” they added. They also stated establishing of a G20 Joint Finance-Health Task Force aimed at enhancing dialogue and global cooperation on issues relating to pandemic PPR, promoting the exchange of experiences and best practices, developing coordination arrangements between Finance and Health Ministries, promoting collective action, assessing and addressing health emergencies with cross-border impact, and encouraging effective stewardship of resources for pandemic PPR, while adopting a One Health approach.

“Within this context, this Task Force will work, and report back by early 2022, on modalities to establish a financial facility, to be designed inclusively with the central coordination role of the WHO, G20-driven and engaging from the outset Low- and Middle-Income Countries, additional non-G20 partners and Multilateral Development Banks, to ensure adequate and sustained financing for pandemic prevention, preparedness and response,” the G20 countries said.

The leaders also welcomed multilateral efforts aimed at supporting and strengthening pandemic preparedness and response, including consideration of a possible international instrument or agreement in the context of the WHO, and at strengthening implementation of and compliance with the International Health Regulations 2005.

Acknowledging the importance of swiftly reacting to pandemics, the countries said they will support science to shorten the cycle for the development of safe and effective vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics from 300 to 100 days following the identification of such threats and work to make them widely available. The G20 is a leading global forum that brings together the world’s major economies. Its members account for more than 80 per cent of the global GDP, 75 per cent of global trade and 60 per cent of the population of the planet.

Aiming to uplift poor: Three Bihar-born senior government officers set up Pathshala as part of social responsibility

Three Bihar-born senior government officers have set up AIM (Ambedkar Initiative for the Marginalized)-Pathshala as part of their social responsibility.

Three Bihar-born senior government officers have set up AIM (Ambedkar Initiative for the Marginalized)-Pathshala as part of their social responsibility. The AIMs have come up at villages in the state’s Gopalganj, Samastipur and Aurangabad districts.

Around 450 children, nearly 40 percent of them girls, are given free tuition and study material.  Mina Kumari is in the 5th standard at a Gopalganj village. “My father, a rickshaw puller, was worried about arranging tuition for me. Now, I am getting it free here,” she says.

These officers are Santosh Kumar, Vijay Kumar and Ranjan Prakash. Santosh is a 2014-batch IAS officer posted as secretary in Arunachal Pradesh Staff Selection (APSSB). Vijay is Santosh’s batch mate and is an officer in the Indian Railway Traffic Services (IRTS) posted at Gorakhpur in UP. Ranjan Prakash is the deputy commandant in CRPF in Assam.

The three started the first AIM-Pathshala in 2019. Santosh Kumar set it up at village Basantpur Ramni in Samastipur, Vijay Kumar chose Pithauri village in Gopalganj and Ranjan Prakash went to Tarari village in Aurangabad district. This was their own initiative fully funded by their money. They have hired six teachers at each AIM-Pathshala with a fixed monthly salary. The officers contribute an amount every month for managing the salary of the hired teachers as well as meeting other expenses for the AIM-Pathshala. Before they hired the teachers, the officers would themselves teach at the AIM-Pathshala, whenever they would return to their native villages during the Chhath and other festivals.

Recently, Santosh Kumar went to each AIM-Pathshala and conducted counselling apart from taking tutorial and motivational classes to the pupils of class 1 to 8. Similarly, Vijay Kumar reaches Gopalganj from Gorakhpur to conduct classes.

“We are developing a system for online classes also. Once we are up to it, we would take online classes from places of our posting,” says IRTS officer Vijay Kumar. They are also developing libraries attached with each of the AIM-Pathshala.Santosh Kumar says the objective is not only educating the under-privileged. “We also want them to develop their own thoughts and skills like speaking and writing.”  “The children who cannot afford paid-tuition and others, who belong to the marginalised families, are welcome in this school. Apart from tutorial classes, we also organize competitions like essay writing, elocution, quizzes and drawing and paintings,” says Vijay Kumar.

In 2019, many girls of poor families taught at the AIM Pathshala in Gopalganj and other places had passed the matriculation exam obtaining 70-80 % marks.  “We are now starting to provide guidelines to the poor students of 10-plus,” says Vijay Kumar. He and Santosh Kumar are also aligned with the National Association of Civil Servants (NACS-Bihar & Jharkhand) which provides success tips for interviews and exams to the aspirants of civil services.

Three senior government officers have joined hands and started an initiative to teach 450 children, 40 per cent of them girls, and also provide them study material for free.

India, active infections increase as recovery numbers go down.

The active cases comprise 0.47 per cent of the total infections, the lowest since March 2020, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate was recorded at 98.19 per.

With 14,313 people testing positive for coronavirus in a day, India’s total tally of COVID-19 cases rose to 3,42,60,470, while the active cases were recorded at 1,61,555, according to the Union health ministry data updated on Saturday.

The death toll climbed to 4,57,740 with 549 more fatalities, according to the data updated at 8 am.

The daily rise in new coronavirus infections has been below 30,000 for 36 straight days and less than 50,000 daily new cases have been reported for 125 consecutive days now.

The active cases comprise 0.47 per cent of the total infections, the lowest since March 2020, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate was recorded at 98.19 per cent, the ministry said.

An increase of 221 cases has been recorded in the active COVID-19 caseload in a span of 24 hours.

The number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 3,36,41,175, while the case fatality rate has increased to 1.34 per cent.

The daily positivity rate was recorded at 1.22 per cent.

It has been less than 2 per cent for the last 26 days.

The weekly positivity rate was recorded at 1.18 per cent.

It has been below 2 per cent for the last 36 days, according to the health ministry.

The cumulative doses administered in the country so far under the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination drive has exceeded 105.43 crore.

India’s COVID-19 tally had crossed the 20-lakh mark on August 7, 2020, 30 lakh on August 23, 40 lakh on September 5 and 50 lakh on September 16.

It went past 60 lakh on September 28, 70 lakh on October 11, crossed 80 lakh on October 29, 90 lakh on November 20 and surpassed the one-crore mark on December 19.

India crossed the grim milestone of two crore on May 4 and three crore on June 23.

The 549 new fatalities include 471 from Kerala and 36 from Maharashtra.

Kerala has been reconciling Covid deaths since the last few days, hence the death tally of the state is high.

Of the 471 deaths, 86 were reported in the last few days, 276 were those which were not confirmed until June 18 last year due to lack of adequate documentation and 109 were designated as Covid deaths after receiving appeals based on the new guidelines of the Centre and Supreme Court directions, a state government release said on Friday.

A total of 4,57,740 deaths have been reported so far in the country, including 1,40,170 from Maharashtra, 38,061 from Karnataka, 36,083 from Tamil Nadu, 31,156 from Kerala, 25,091 from Delhi, 22,900 from Uttar Pradesh and 19,113 from West Bengal.

The health ministry stressed that more than 70 per cent of the deaths occurred due to comorbidities.

“Our figures are being reconciled with the Indian Council of Medical Research,” the ministry said on its website, adding that the state-wise distribution of figures is subject to further verification and reconciliation.

After Facebook change, Big Tech’s FAANG considers toothless MAANG.

The elite FAANG stocks have a combined market capitalisation of about $7.416 trillion so far this year, up from about $5.8 trillion last year.


Facebook’s rebranding to Meta Platforms has launched a search for a new name for the high-flying FAANG group that also includes Apple,, Netflix and Alphabet.

Facebook on Thursday announced it is now called Meta Platforms as the social media company shifts to building the ambitious “metaverse”a shared virtual environment. The name change comes after a damaging whistleblower report and criticism from lawmakers and regulators over its market power.

The most popular suggestion on Twitter for the tech-related heavyweight group was MAANG — where FAANG’s “F” is replaced with “M”. Some users also rearranged the letters to MANGA, referring to Japanese comic books.

The elite FAANG stocks have a combined market capitalisation of about $7.416 trillion so far this year, up from about $5.8 trillion last year.

Several Twitter users also proposed to reshuffle the group to add Microsoft Corp – which has beat Apple to become the most valuable U.S.-listed company – as well as Tesla Inc, which joined the elite trillion-dollar market value club just this week.

With the reshuffle, some users came up with MAMATA – that would drop Netflix, which has the smallest market cap compared with the rest of the group at $299 billion, and use an “A” for Alphabet, whose search engine Google gave the FAANGs their “G”.

MAMATA – consisting of Microsoft, Apple, Meta, Amazon, Tesla and Alphabet – have a combined market cap of about $10 trillion. They make up a quarter of the S&P 500’s weight, compared with the legacy FAANG group’s nearly 20%.

“These handful of stocks (FAANG) have reigned for quite sometime, and it may be with the beginning of taper, rates slowly rising and inflation… that these tech long duration assets may become less valuable,” said Tom Hayes, managing member at Great Hill Capital in New York.

Shares of Meta Platforms rose about 2% in early trading and will get a new ticker, MVRS, on Dec. 1.

G20 Summit ‘fruitful’: PM Modi

Modi attends an event about global supply chains during the G20 leaders summit on October 31, 2021, in Rome.  

During the two day summit, the leaders adopted the Rome Declaration and emphasised on Covid-19 immunisation across the globe

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday described the just-concluded G20 Summit in Rome as “fruitful” and said world leaders had elaborate deliberations on issues of global importance such as fighting the pandemic, improving health infrastructure, boosting economic cooperation and furthering innovation.

The G20 leaders during their two-day summit, adopted the ‘Rome Declaration’ and the countries agreed that the COVID-19 immunisation is a global public good.

PM Modi and other G20 leaders visit iconic Trevi Fountain in Rome

“Leaving for Glasgow after a fruitful @g20org Summit in Rome. During the Summit, we were able to have elaborate deliberations on issues of global importance such as fighting the pandemic, improving health infrastructure, boosting economic cooperation and furthering innovation,” Mr. Modi tweeted.

The G20 leaders have agreed that the World Health Organisation would be strengthened to fast-track the process for emergency use authorisation for Covid-19 vaccines, India’s G20 Sherpa Piyush Goyal said on Sunday.

Noting that energy and climate were the centre of the discussions at the G20, Mr. Goyal said India and many other developing countries pushed for safeguarding the interest of the developing world.

“We were also joined by the developed countries to increase the ambition from the current levels of commitment and active interest that the developed world has shown in terms of providing technology and affordable finance,” he said.

Ahead of COP26, Indian database highlights emissions gap

“We have really got into the text the language that confirms that the developed world has acknowledged that they have not done enough in terms of meeting their commitments and that they will have to be more forthcoming in providing finance in providing technology and (be) the enablers to make the transition to a clean energy world in the future,” he said.

Mr. Goyal said it was also decided that the recognition of Covid vaccines which are deemed to be safe and efficacious by the WHO will be mutually accepted subject to national and privacy laws that the countries may have.

In Rome, Mr. Modi interacted with several world leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and South Korean President Moon Jae-in among others.

Getting nutrition back on the school high table

COVID-19 or otherwise, educational institutions need to ensure that schoolchildren are nurtured and nourished.

With COVID-19 cases reducing in the country, several establishments, including schools, are opening again. While the reopening of all schools is on the anvil, the festive season ahead and the fact that children are not yet in the ambit of the vaccination drive are causing apprehension. We, as a society, must focus on the nutrition of children to ensure they are armed with good immunity as they get ready to take on new challenges especially after emerging from the confines of their homes. However, It is important to remember that even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, India was facing significant nutritional challenges. Hence, there is a need to pivot on children’s nutrition, using the novel coronavirus pandemic to better understand current nutrition and nutritional requirements for a healthy body and mind.

Tackling India’s triple burden

India faces multiple problems of under-nutrition and overweight/obesity coexisting with deficiencies of micronutrients such as iron, zinc, calcium and several vitamins. This triple burden of malnutrition has to be identified, understood and addressed. It is much more important especially in the case of children and adolescents as it is during these phases of life that we see rapid growth of the body and development of food habits. Childhood and adolescence are two conjoined periods of continuous growth and development — a seamless duration. For instance, between two and 10 years of age, children tend to grow at an average of 6-7 cm in height and 1.5 to 3 kg in weight every year. But specifically, when the growth spurt happens at about 10-12 years in girls and two years later in boys during adolescence, their nutritional needs are vastly increased. In the case of girls, their nutritional status impacts not only their health but that of generations to come. Malnutrition in any form can put children and adolescents at risk of compromised immune function, thus making them vulnerable to infections.

Social factors

To understand and foster their immunity, one also needs to understand disruptive social environment factors that affect diet quality. In urban as well as among middle class and affluent communities, restricted movement, constrained socialisation and even dwindling physical contact have become the new normal. COVID-19 isolation and fatigue have led to generalised stress, adding to the immunity challenge for children. These challenges coupled with a lack of diet diversity leading to imbalanced micronutrient intake or consumption of high carbohydrate and high sugar foods, endanger the child’s health by compromising their immunity and making them vulnerable to infections. Hence, the way we approach nutrition needs to change.

Need for a balanced diet

It is essential to look beyond minimum calorie requirements and ensure children consume a balanced diet with adequate diversity in order to ensure the required balance of all necessary nutrients. Providing children with a balanced diet packed with all the necessary nutrients provides them with a solid foundation for an active and healthy life. Often overlooked, micronutrients are essential for production of enzymes, hormones and other substances for good immune function, healthy growth and development. Each stage of the body’s immune response relies on the presence of many micronutrients. To combat hidden hunger, affordable, accessible and diverse food sources must be made available across India. Micronutrients that are primarily available in fruits, vegetables, greens, nuts, legumes and whole grains play a crucial role in enhancing the native and adaptive immune function and also aid ‘immune memory’ formation. A substantial serving of fresh fruits and vegetables, as much as about 300-500 gm per day per child is recommended depending on the age group. These, along with curd and nuts, can increase beneficial probiotic bacteria in the intestine. But it is better to help them choose fresh fruits rather than fruit juices. Thoroughly cooked meat/poultry and sea fish are very good for protein; sea fish also provide essential fats. About 300ml-400 ml of milk or curd can provide the required calcium, good quality protein and other nutrients.

Among urban and affluent groups, indulgence in frequent munching of high-calorie snacks and sweetened beverages that are devoid of beneficial nutrients should be discouraged. However, fats need not be seen as a villain — children and adolescents need about 25g-50g a day, which should ideally be derived from more than two varieties of oils. Maintaining ideal body weight, regular physical activity, adequate water intake along with adequate sleep and low screen time can go a long way in building and regulating their immunity.

Failing on food: on child malnutrition and mid-day meals

Noon meal scheme

The Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman Yojana (PM POSHAN) — the mid-day meal programme in its new avatar — is all set to broad base itself even to students of pre-primary levels or Bal Vatikas of government and government-aided primary schools along with primary and upper primary schoolchildren who are already within the ambit of the mid-day meal programme. The PM POSHAN envisages providing 450 Kcal energy and 12g of protein for primary; 700 Kcal and 20g protein for upper primary children through diet diversity. In addition, monitoring haemoglobin levels of schoolchildren, appointment of nutritional experts to ensure the haemoglobin and growth status are continuously monitored; focus on nutrigardens are all welcome steps as we prepare to reopen schools. Moreover, special provisions for nutritional items for children in districts with high prevalence of anaemia and the involvement of farmer producer organisations and self-help group women will strengthen linkages and convergence for promoting children’s nutrition.

COVID-19 or no COVID-19, good immunity will lay the foundation for long-term well-being. After all, good nutrition, safe food, and positive lifestyles are the cornerstones of great immune function. To ensure this, schools, when they reopen, should be avenues for teaching nutrition as a life skill than rhetorical pedagogy.

Tensions rise over caste split of MGNREGA wages

States, Social Justice Ministry raised concerns at a meeting on October 11; they were assured March 2 order would be revoked, but no action yet

For poor villagers in Rajasthan’s Ajmer district, a good Diwali depends on their wages from the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme, so tensions were high when some got paid faster than others for work done over the last six months..

“These are people who did the work together, at the same worksite, under the same mistri, for the same number of days. They were all on the same muster roll. But those from SC/ST [Scheduled Castes and Tribes] got paid within 15-20 days. Those from other communities had to wait two months,” said Karthik Singh, a coordinator with the Rajasthan Asangathit Mazdoor Union.

“This caused a lot of worry that there was some gadbad (mess-up), and created suspicions and tensions among the villagers. When Diwali is coming, how can anyone buy what is needed unless the money comes on time? Panchayat officials say they have submitted the details for everyone, but the order to split the payments by caste has come from higher up, so they cannot do anything.”

Similar concerns have been raised by grassroots activists and union leaders in a number of States including Jharkhand, West Bengal, Bihar, Karnataka, Telangana and Tamil Nadu after a Central directive to split MGNREGA budget for wage payments along caste lines was issued on March 2.

Threat to harmony

At a meeting with the Finance Secretary and Rural Development Ministry officials on October 11, the Social Justice Ministry and several State governments warned of “dissension”, “backlash” and threats to social harmony in villages being caused by the directive.

 “A decision was then taken to go back to a single muster and payment system,” said one of the officials who attended the meeting. State government officials also said they had been informally assured that the directive would be revoked.

However, no such order has been issued as yet, and a statement from the Rural Development Ministry on Saturday only said the system was being streamlined.

“The category wise (SC, ST and Others) wage payment system, as made applicable from this current financial year, has been introduced to accurately reflect on the ground flow of funds to various population groups. Its further streamlining is being undertaken,” it said.

SC payments favoured

An analysis of 18 lakh fund transfer order transactions from 10 States between April and September by researchers from LibTech India showed that SC workers in most States were getting paid significantly faster than others.

“Under the MGNREGA law, once the fund transfer order is approved, the Centre should take no longer than seven days to sign the payment order and credit the bank accounts of workers. The Centre transferred money to 46% of SC workers within the mandated seven days, while 80% got paid within 15 days after FTO approval. However, among non-SC/ST workers, only 26% were paid within seven days, and 51% were paid within 15 days,” explained Rajendran Narayanan, an assistant professor at Azim Premji University who led the LibTech research. “It goes against the universality of the MGNREGA scheme.”

In Jharkhand, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh, the gap was even more stark. In M.P., for instance, money was transferred within the mandated seven days for about half of SC and ST workers, but only 7% of workers from other communities. In Chhattisgarh, it was ST workers who got paid much faster than others.

On the other hand, the Social Justice Ministry received complaints from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana that it was payments for SC workers which were being delayed, “creating dissensions in village communities”.

A senior official in Tamil Nadu also said the Rural Development Department had received multiple complaints from SC representatives that their wages came later than others in June, the first time payment was made after the Central directive was implemented.

The Karnataka government wrote to the Centre last month, noting that the SC account received funds six times during a period when funds were not received at all for the other two categories although wage demand was generated across categories, adding that field level officials were unable to provide any explanation to those left bereft.

Cohesion at stake

Abhay Kumar, a leader of the Grameen Coolie Karmikara Sangathane, a union of 2.5 lakh MGNREGA workers in Karnataka, has seen the devastating impact on the ground.

“For years, we have seen that MGNREGA workers unions help to remove casteism, as women workers work together, and so start to socialise with each other across communities. But after this order, there is a backlash and divisions are coming back,” he said, noting that SC workers were getting paid earlier in about 80% cases.

“Earlier, they used the word ‘we’, saying ‘we are fighting for our wages’. Now it has gone back to ‘ours versus theirs’. This kind of language signifies a very harmful and dangerous change in our communities,” he warned.. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that our children are nurtured and nourished.


The News Editorial Analysis 31 October 2021

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