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Current Events 12 April 2016



12th APRIL 2016


Health cover: Too little, too scarce

Over 80 per cent of India’s population is not covered under any health insurance scheme, according to National Sample Survey (NSS). The data reveals that despite seven years of the Centre-run Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), only 12 per cent of the urban and 13 per cent of the rural population had access to insurance cover.

It basically produces an assembly line of patients for the private hospitals pouring tax payers money into outsourcing treatment to the private sector. Private doctors emerged as the single-most significant source of treatment in both rural and urban areas

Around 86 per cent of the rural population and 82 per cent of the urban population were not covered under any scheme of health expenditure support, the data showed.

The survey found that 72 per cent of the treatment provided in rural areas and 79 per cent in urban areas was availed in the private sector.

Further, it was found that coverage is correlated with living standards, as in urban areas, over 90 per cent of the poorest residents are not covered, while the figure is 66 per cent for the richest residents. According to the report, “The poorer households appear unaware or are beyond the reach of such coverage, both in rural and urban areas.”

The biggest hurdle in seeking medical treatment was “financial constraint”, reported by over 55 per cent and 60 per cent people in rural and urban areas, respectively. In rural areas, the next most important reason was “no medical facility available in neighbourhood”, accounting for 15 per cent cases, while this figure was just 1.3 per cent for urban areas.



After Shani Shingnapur, it’s Kolhapur Mahalaxmi temple

With the Bombay High Court upholding the fundamental right of women to pray, and the Shani Shingnapur Temple Trust opening its doors to women, it appears that patriarchal barriers in Maharashtra are falling like ninepins.

Changing a 400-year old tradition in Maharashtra, five women devotees entered the inner sanctum of Kolhapur’s historic Mahalaxmi temple under the vigilant eye of police and the district authorities.

Earlier, it was slain rationalist-thinker Dr. Narendra Dabholkar and his Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS) that waged a long and hard struggle for the opening up of the Mahalaxmi temple for women.


Simhastha Maha Kumbh Mela in Ujjain

Sadhus have begun arriving in Ujjain for the Simhastha Maha Kumbh Mela which will be held from April 22 to May 21.

To provide round-the-clock hassle free connectivity during the month-long Simhastha Kumbh Mela in Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, state-run BSNL has set 40 mobile towers and 10 new telephone exchanges in the designated area.

Besides in view of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposed visit to Simhastha Mela, 19 wifi hot spots are being created at village Ninora where he is likely to take part in a programme.

Besides to deal with any emergency situation, five satellite communication systems are also established in the area.

Kumbh Mela festival is held in four places — Haridwar, Allahabad, Nashik and Ujjain — every third year and witnesses a convergence of sadhus and devotees.


Jewellers’ strike takes the glitter off Bidri works

The month-long strike by jewellers has hit traditional Bidri artisans hard since they use silver pieces to create the ornate works. Gold and silver shops have downed shutters for nearly 40 days now. Jewellers are upset at the Union government for imposing excise duty and making some paper work mandatory.

This has forced artisans to buy silver in the black market at high prices or to use alternative materials like copper. The Bidri artists need a steady supply of silver wires and plates for inlay work.

The livelihood of around 200 artisans in the city depends on the 600-year-old art form, which has a Geographically Indication (GI) tag.

 Earlier, the State Handicrafts Development Corporation used to supply 2.5 kg of silver to each certified artisan every quarter, under a buy-back agreement. It worked well, as procuring officers of the Cauvery Emporium purchased artefacts whose value equalled the amount of silver supplied to artisans, after adding artists’ wages. However, this system has been stopped now.


Tiger population up by 22%

There is good news for wildlife enthusiasts ahead of the 3rd Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation that takes off in New Delhi. The number of wild tigers has gone up globally by 22 per cent to 3,890, from the earlier 2010 estimate of 3200, based on the best available data, according to the World Wildlife Fund and the Global Tiger Forum (GTF). India leads tiger population countries with an estimated population of 2226, according to a 2014 national survey. India’s own tiger population has gone up significantly from 1706, as per its own national estimates, reported by the IUCN in 2010.

The updated minimum figure, compiled from International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) data and the latest national tiger surveys, can be attributed to multiple factors including increases in tiger populations in India, Russia, Nepal and Bhutan, improved surveys and enhanced protection. For the first time after decades of constant decline, tiger numbers are on the rise.

Despite countries such as India, Nepal, Russia and Bhutan registering a spike in tiger population, the status of the animal remains “endangered”. According to the WWF, hundred years ago there were 100,000 wild tigers. By 2010, there were as few as 3,200. Therefore, in 2010, tiger range governments agreed to act to double wild tigers by the next Chinese Year of the Tiger in 2022. This goal is known as WWF Tx2 Tiger Initiative.

More than 700 tiger experts, scientists, managers, donors and other stakeholders gather to discuss issues related to tiger conservation at the conference. Ministers and government officials from all Tiger Range Countries - Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, India, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russian Federation, Thailand, Vietnam - besides Kyrgyz Republic and Kazakhstan, that have ranges of snow leopard also participate to decide the next steps in tiger conservation.

Prerna Singh Bindra, former member, National Board for Wildlife said that while it’s heartening that the tiger numbers have gone up both in India and world over, we cannot afford to get complacent.

“For one, poaching has peaked – this year till 31 March we have lost 25 tigers to illegal killing, this includes seizures of skins and bones,” she said, citing data from the Wildlife Protection Society of India. “Stepping up protection, empowering the foot soldiers in the field, and the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau is our first big challenge. Equally important is conserving tiger habitats and corridors. For instance, the expansion of NH 6 and 7, and of the Gondia –Jabalpur railway line has splintered the finest tiger landscape in the world: The central Indian Tiger landscape. Even the expert advised mitigation measures have been dismissed. Even within reserves, there are threats, the Ken-Betwa river links is within Panna (Madhya Pradesh), and is expected to submerge a large part of the Park’s core critical tiger habitat,” she said.

Statistics from TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, show that a minimum of 1,590 tigers were seized by law enforcement officials between January 2000 and April 2014, which feed a multi-billion dollar illegal wildlife trade.


Superbug gene conferring resistance to colistin

A newly-discovered antibiotic-resistant gene is threatening to open a new front in the war against superbugs by rendering a last-resort drug impotent, experts warn.

The gene’s resistance to colistin, a life-saving medication which has been around for 60 years, is the latest frustration for physicians battling disease with a shrinking arsenal of antibiotics to treat a wide variety of ailments, many once easily curable.

Dubbed mcr-1, the resistance-conferring gene easily transfers between bacteria, benign or otherwise, found in humans, animals or the environment.

First identified in China in November 2015, the gene has since been discovered in livestock, water, meat and vegetables for human consumption in several countries, and in humans infected with E.coli -– one of the disease-causing bacteria it targets.

For the first time, mcr-1 has now also been found living in the gut of healthy humans.

A key element for the emergence of superpathogens (superbugs, or drug-resistant germ strains) has made its way to our bodies. It is only a matter of time before the dissemination of mcr-1 gene will be prevalent in the clinic, bringing the world closer to an antibiotic crisis.

Colistin has been available since 1959 in order to treat infections caused by Gram-negative bacteria — a category including the food-poisoning germs E-coli and Salmonella, as well as Acinetobacter which can cause pneumonia or serious blood and wound infections.

It was abandoned for human use in the 1980s due to high kidney toxicity, but is widely used in livestock farming, especially in China. As bacteria have started to develop resistance to other, more modern drugs, colistin had to be brought back as a treatment of last resort in hospitals and clinics. Now resistance to that too is becoming a problem.


Fiasco in Libya was the worst mistake of my presidency: Obama

In his final year in office, U.S. President Barack Obama said that failing to prepare for the aftermath of the ousting of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 was the “worst mistake” of his presidency.

The 2011 U.S.-backed intervention helped topple Gaddafi, who ruled Libya for over 40 years. But after the former Libyan president was killed, Libya plunged into chaos with militias taking over and two rival parliaments and governments forming.

Both Mr. Obama and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continue to argue that it was not the removal of Gaddafi that caused the chaos, but rather the failure to prop up a stable government in the days following.

An Islamic State affiliate has since gained a foothold in Libya, and the U.S. has carried out airstrikes against “IS camps” as recently as February 2016.

Mr. Obama, the 44th U.S. President, will demit office on January 20, 2017 after two consecutive four-year terms. He is the first African American to hold the office.



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