UPSC Current Affairs: A vital cog in Bongaigaon’s response to malnutrition| Page – 08
UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper II: social justice and Health
Sub Theme: Malnutrition | UPSC
‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’. This statement is often attributed to Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, and quite literally sums up Project Sampoorna which was conceptualised and successfully implemented in Bongaigaon district of Assam.
National Nutrition Policy was divided into direct strategies (short term) and indirect strategies (long term). Direct strategies demanded focus on the following:
- Ensuring proper nutrition of the target groups i.e. the vulnerable section of the society (children, adolescent, pregnant and nursing women, etc.)
- Expanding the safety net for children (i.e. expanding the policy to rural slums along with urban slums),
- Food fortification,
- Provisions for low-cost nutrition food, and
- Combating micro-nutrition deficiency in the vulnerable groups
Indirect strategies demanded focus on the following:
- Food security,
- Improving the dietary pattern like providing nutritionally rich food at affordable cost,
- Improving purchasing power,
- Encouraging more of the small and medium enterprise to emerge,
- Prevention of food adulteration,
- Imparting nutrition education through social marketing, communication, etc.,
- Minimum wage administration,
- Equal remuneration for women,
- Monitoring of nutrition programs.
National Nutrition Mission:
- Launched in 2018, it is the Government of India’s flagship programme to improve nutritional outcomes for children, pregnant women and lactating mothers.
- It is backed by a National Nutrition Strategy prepared by the NITI Aayog with the goal of attaining “Kuposhan Mukt Bharat” or malnutrition-free India, by 2022.
- Aim is to reduce stunting, undernutrition, anemia (among young children, women and adolescent girls) and low birth weight by 2%, 2%, 3% and 2% per annum respectively.
- 50% of the total budget comes from the World Bank or other multilateral development banks and the rest of the 50% is through Centre’s budgetary support.
- The Centre’s budgetary support is further divided into 60:40 between the Centre and the States, 90:10 for the north-eastern region and the Himalayan States and 100% for the Union Territories (UTs) without legislature.
The vicious cycle of a malnourished child growing into an unhealthy adolescent, and then further into an anaemic pregnant young woman giving birth to an asphyxiated low birth weight baby; this baby then facing possible developmental delays, only to grow into a malnourished child; and this child who struggles further for nutrition and appropriate care while the world around her barely makes ends meet is the one that sucks in all possibilities of a healthy society.
- Institutions – UNICEF, IIT Guwahati, Tezpur University and the Social Welfare Department lent their support in periodic course correction.
- Administration –
Data and documentation
It was during Poshan Maah (Nutrition Month) in September 2020 that 2,416 children were identified to be malnourished in the lush green Brahmaputra valley district of Bongaigaon. The National Family Health Survey (NHFS)-5) has documented that the number of children under five who are stunted, wasted, underweight and the number of anaemic women and children in the district are higher than the national average — anaemia being a major determinant of maternal and child health.
These were corroborated by Project Saubhagya that was designed to reduce the maternal mortality rate and infant mortality rate of the district.
Monitoring – A real time data sheet is updated by field-level doctors as and when a high risk pregnancy is identified, which is then followed up till safe delivery. The project has yielded encouraging results; maternal deaths for six months (April 1, 2020 to September 30, 2020 compared to April 1, 2021 to September 30, 2021) have fallen from 16 to three and infant deaths from 130 to 63.
Bongaigaon has 1,116 Anganwadis with a total of 63,041 children below five. The massive exercise of plotting their weights and heights in World Health Organization growth charts revealed a total of 2,416 malnourished children; 246 cases of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) and 2,170 instances of Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM).
Arrangement was made for 100 millilitres of milk and an egg on alternate days for all 2,416 children for the first three months, giving time for their mothers to stabilise themselves in the newly found jobs.
- People’s participation
District Nutritional Rehabilitation Centres, or NRCs, usually have up to 20 beds; and a monthly intake of 200 SAM children is not practical. Also, parents of the children who are admitted forgo their daily wages (which to an extent is compensated by the Government) and abandon their farmlands for 10 days. Back home, siblings of the SAM child are not taken care of and may become malnourished. The treated child could also slip back to a SAM state after being discharged and if not cared for.
We needed to innovate now. Based on the success of the community-based COVID-19 management model (Project Mili Juli), we launched Project Sampoorna targeting the mothers of SAM/MAM children, the tagline being ‘Empowered Mothers, Healthy Children’. In addition, we identified the mother of a healthy child of the same Anganwadi Centre (AWC) and paired her with the target mother; they would be ‘Buddy Mothers’ (2,416 pairs). They were usually neighbours and shared similar socio-economic backgrounds. The pairs were given diet charts to indicate the daily food intake of their children; they would have discussions about this on all Tuesdays at the AWC. Local practices related to nutrition would also be discussed.
The large hearted people of Bongaigaon adopted Anganwadis and filled the tiny stomachs with the much needed proteins and their hearts with love.
The major hindrance to the project was patriarchy. Mothers had to be empowered financially for sustained results. Therefore, they were enrolled in Self Help Groups (SHGs) under the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM). By the end of three months, 74.3% of mothers were enrolled in SHGs; by the end of six months, enrollment went up to 75.6% and by the end of a year, it was 90%.
The project has resulted in the reduction of malnutrition in children using near zero economic investment. Sampoorna is in tandem with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and those set by the UN Secretary General António Guterres in the Food Systems Summit (September 2021) including the need to have food systems and social protection that support resilience and food security.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also had identified health and nutrition as priority areas and reiterated the need for a ‘Kuposhan mukt Bharat’ (Malnutrition Free India) while launching the Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nourishment (POSHAN Abhiyaan) (National Nutrition Mission) in 2017-18.
After three months of Project Sampoorna, out of 246 SAM children, 27 (11%) continued to be SAM, 28 (11.4%) improved to MAM and a whooping 189 (76.8%) became normal. Out of 2,170 MAM children, 12 (0.6%) deteriorated to SAM, 132 (6.08%) stayed MAM and an unbelievable 2,015 (92.8%) became normal. The best was yet to come. Milk and eggs were stopped after three months but we continued to follow up to see how our Buddy Mothers Model and Women Empowerment Model were working. Mothers had done what institutions could not do for years. By March 2021, 84.96% of SAM children and 97.3% MAM children were normal; and by September 2021, 92.3% SAM and 98.9% MAM children were normal. Project Sampoorna had stood the test of time. Children who had not improved were checked and treated by doctors under the Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK).
Project Sampoorna had prevented at least 1,200 children from becoming malnourished over the last year. The National Nutrition Mission and the State government recognised our project in the ‘Innovation Category’.
UPSC Current Affairs: UNESCO picks Srinagar as creative city I Page – 01
UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Prelims: Important elements of art and culture and international organisation
Sub Theme: creative cities | UPSC
UNESCO has designated Srinagar as a creative city of craft and folk arts.
49 new cities worldwide have joined the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN). These cities were included in the list in recognition of their commitment of placing culture & creativity at the heart of their development as well as for sharing knowledge & good practices.
With the inclusion of 49 new cities this year, total numbers of cities in this network stands at 295 from across 90 countries.
About Creative Cities Network:
The UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) was created in 2004 to promote cooperation with and among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development.
Objective: placing creativity and cultural industries at the heart of their development plans at the local level and cooperating actively at the international level.
The Network covers seven creative fields: Crafts and Folk Arts, Media Arts, Film, Design, Gastronomy, Literature and Music.
Which Indian cities are there in the UNESCO’s network?
- Chennai and Varanasi are included in UNESCO Cities of music.
- Jaipur is included in UNESCO city of crafts and folk arts.
- Mumbai is included in UNESCO city of film.
- Hyderabad is included in UNESCO City of gastronomy.
Significance of inclusion in UCCN
By joining UCCN, cities commit for sharing their best practices and developing partnerships among public sectors, private sectors and civil society for strengthening the creation, production and distribution of cultural activities, goods & services.
Cities also pledge for developing hubs of creativity & innovation.
UPSC Current Affairs: No quota without quantifiable data I Page – 09
UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper I, II : society, polity and governance
Sub Theme: Reservation in India | UPSC
E.V. Chinnaiah v. State of Andhra Pradesh
Justice Ramachandra Raju Commission recommended sub-dividing the Scheduled Castes into four groups and apportioning reservations separately for each.
Andhra Pradesh government passed a law based on the report.
[This was to ensure that all communities within the Scheduled Castes, particularly those that have been oppressed and marginalised the most historically and have been deprived of the opportunities of education and formal employment, receive adequate and equitable representation in educational institutions and state services.]
In 2004, in the case of E.V. Chinnaiah v. State of Andhra Pradesh Supreme Court held that –
- The Scheduled Castes are constitutionally ‘homogenous’ group.
- States do not have the power to further sub-classify the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, for grant of quotas in jobs and admissions to educational institutions.
- Any inter-se classification within the Scheduled Castes would be a violation of Article 14.
- The court held that the declaration of a caste as a Scheduled Caste in the presidential list issued under Article 341 meant that it became subsumed in the broad monolith and was to be treated at par with the other Scheduled Castes for all purposes.
- Only the President has the power to notify the inclusion or exclusion of a caste as a Scheduled Caste, and states cannot tinker with the list.
[The Central List of Scheduled Castes and Tribes is notified by the President un der Articles 341 and 342 of the Constitution. The con sent of the Parliament is re quired to exclude or include castes in the List. In short, States cannot unilaterally add or pull out castes from the List.]
In 2010 the Punjab and Haryana high court had struck down a state law empowering the government to sub-classify SC/STs for grant of quotas.
The high court had relied on the 2004 verdict of the apex court and held that the Punjab government was not empowered to undertake the exercise of sub classifying SC/STs. The high court had struck down Section 4 (5) of the Punjab Scheduled Caste and Backward Classes (Reservation in Services) Act, 2006 and termed it unconstitutional. This Act gave first preference to Mazbhi Sikhs and Balmikis castes for SC quota in public services.
|Davinder Singh v. State of Punjab
The bench said in its view the 2004 verdict was not correctly decided and states can make laws to give preferential treatment by subclassifying caste within SC/STs.
· The Constitution Bench said reservation has created inequalities within the reserved castes itself. The State cannot be deprived of the power to take care of the qualitative and quantitative difference between different classes to take ameliorative measures.
· “Citizens cannot be treated to be socially and educationally backward till perpetuity; those who have come up must be excluded like the creamy layer,” the judgment said.
· sub-classifications within the Presidential/Central List does not amount to “tinkering” with it. No caste is excluded from the list.
Reasons to reconsider the Chinnaiah judgement
Dr B.R. Ambedkar described the Indian society as a gradation of castes forming an ascending scale of reverence (which he later amended to an ascending scale of “hatred”) and a descending scale of contempt.
As is the nature of any hierarchical structure, no two castes are equal and while the Scheduled Castes form one group owing their commonality to their shared experience of untouchability, there is a large gradation within the Scheduled Castes. The ones at the bottom of the ladder, those who have been most severely ostracised and subjugated, have not yet received the benefits of reservations as a tool to ensure their representation in society and government.
The nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court in the case of Indra Sawhney v. Union of India was cognisant of differential backwardness in Indian society and held that it would be perfectly legal for the state to categorise backward classes as backward and more backward.
Justice Sawant judgement said not only it is advisable but also imperative to make the sub-classification if all the backward classes are to gain equitable benefit of the special provisions under the Constitution.” However the judgement was in the context of OBC.
The Supreme Court has held in Subhash Chandra case (2009) that the term “backward classes” in Article 16(4) includes Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes for all intent and purport.
Therefore, the Supreme Court in Indra Sawhney paved the way for sub-classification not only among the other backward classes (OBCs), which it was primarily dealing with, but also within the Scheduled Castes for the purpose of apportioning reservations.
Supreme Court in Chinnaiah (mis)understood that the Indra Sawhney judgment applied only to OBCs and not to the Scheduled Castes. This it did by reading out of context a line from Justice Reddy’s majority judgment recommending exclusion of the creamy layer within the OBCs:
“…we feel that exclusion of such socially advanced members will make the ‘class’ a truly backward class and would more appropriately serve the purpose and object of clause (4). (This discussion is confined to Other Backward Classes only and has no relevance in the case of Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes.)”
The last part of the above paragraph, that “This discussion is confined to Other Backward Classes only” was intended only with regard to the exclusion of creamy layer. This concept, Justice Reddy warned, was not to be extended to the Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes.
Chinnaiah judgement misunderstood that Indra Sawhney judgement was not applicable to SC/STs. Hence their subclassification was not allowed.
The current case of Davinder Singh v. State of Punjab is thus likely to be referred to a larger bench, which would be called upon to decide the correctness of the court’s judgment in Chinnaiah in terms of Article 341 and the judgment of the court in Indra Sawhney.
The case of the Arunthathiyars
An example of state legislations earmarking quotas for certain communities within the Scheduled Castes is the 2009 Tamil Nadu law that reserves 3% of the total seats in educational institutions and state services for the Arunthathiyar community. While the Arunthathiyars constitute nearly 16% of the total Scheduled Caste population in the state, a report of the Justice Janarthanam Commission observed that their representation in most government departments, corporations and education institutions was anywhere between 5% to 0% within the Scheduled Caste communities. For this reason the Tamil Nadu government found it necessary for the state to ensure that the Arunthathiyars obtain representation corresponding to their proportion in the total population of the state.
Reasons to not subclassify schedules caste based on economic conditions
Inter-se classification is wrought with danger, if it is done with the assumption that “affluent and socially and economically advanced”, no more deserve reservations and that reservations need to be rethought and provided on the basis of economic conditions so that benefits can “trickle down to the needy”.
Reservations is not a mean for poverty alleviation or to substitute for quality public education, which has its subscribers inside and outside the court, and which was given a parliamentary stamp of approval with the passing of the 103rd Constitutional Amendment reserving 10% seats for “economically weaker” savarna candidates.
To argue that reservations should trickle down to the ‘needy’ within the Scheduled Castes, ‘needy’ being defined on the basis of economic conditions, refuses to accept caste as a social problem, one which does not go away with some degree of educational or economic mobility.
In a 1976 case, State of Kerala v N M Thomas, the Supreme Court laid down that “Scheduled Castes are not castes, they are class.”
The decision to change the proportion of reservation may be based on the perception that such decisions will be made to appease one vote-bank or the other. A watertight President’s list was envisaged to protect from such potential arbitrary change.
The legal course is moving in the direction of making socio-political status as the basis reservation –
- Justice Krishna Iyer observed in N.M. Thomas (1975) that a “tiny elite gobbling up the benefits” of reservations.
- The Supreme Court in Jarnail Singh Case observed that certain caste groups or sub-groups have “come out of untouchability or backwardness by virtue of belonging to the creamy layer”.
- 103rd Constitutional Amendment reserving 10% seats for “economically weaker” savarna candidates reinforces the idea that reservation is the tool for economic development.
- During the recent hearings in Davinder Singh case, the bench asked whether it is not unfair for some castes within the Scheduled Castes to ‘usurp’ all the benefits of reservation.
This assumption will be denial of the atrocities, humiliation and violence faced by members of the Scheduled Castes across classes, in rural as well as urban spaces. Take the recent example of a minister in the Himachal Pradesh government, with admittedly considerable social standing, who was disallowed from entering a temple in the state in January 2020. This is only one of the several thousand instances of caste atrocities committed across the country every year.
Even with considerable education, economic or social mobility, the humiliation and violence of untouchability does not cease. Reservations thus become necessary to ensure representation in government and society to counter the deep-rooted structures of caste hierarchy, domination and oppression.
Therefore the court ought to steer clear from allowing inter-se classification among Scheduled Castes on the flawed ground that some Scheduled Castes who have gained representation through reservation have “usurped” or “gobbled up” the benefits and therefore, potentially, now should be excluded. The rationale for inter-se classification is simply that it is imperative and a fundamental requirement for our democracy that all communities within the Scheduled Castes are adequately represented in society, polity and government.
Supreme Court has observed that “the constitutional goal of social transformation cannot be achieved without taking into account changing social realities”.