Hunger Stalks Temple Town Of Varanasi


While district administration of Varanasi says that the children died of tuberculosis, human rights’ activists allege that the deaths were due to hunger and malnutrition
Virendra Nath Bhatt

VIRENDRA NATH BHATT

May 15, 2013

Illustration: Anand Naorem

Two children from a poor family of weavers have allegedly died of starvation in Varanasi. Four-year old Mohammed Murtaza died on 9 May, while his sister Shamim Parveen (14) died the next day in the Bajardiha locality of Varanasi. Their father, Abdul Khaliq died 10 months ago of malnutrition. He was unable to pay bills for his medical treatment.

While the district administration of Varanasi says that the children died of tuberculosis, human rights’ activists allege that the deaths were due to hunger and malnutrition.

“Both children died due to extreme poverty,” says Mukhtar Ahmed, owner of the loom where Abdul Khaliq worked. “Naazra, mother of the four children, worked at my loom weaving sarees. She earned Rs 25 to Rs 50 everyday and was dependent on her neighbours financially. The children searched for food in garbage dumps.”

But the district administration of Varanasi has denied that the deaths took place due to starvation. “Two doctors examined the bodies of the children and certified that both were suffering from tuberculosis. After all, we have to accept what is being diagnosed by the doctors,” said Additional DM of Varanasi, Mangal Prasad Singh.

Endorsing the official stand, Varanasi City President OP Singh said, “The family was very poor, but the cause of death was not starvation, it was lack of proper medical treatment. Opposition parties are politicising the issue for obvious political gains.”

However, soon after the death of the two children, Naazra was rewarded with a Weaver Card, a BPL Card, foodgrains, kerosene oil and a flat built under the ‘Kanshiram Sahree Garib Avas Yojna’ scheme of the Mayawati regime.

Shruti, head of a human rights organisation, working among weavers in Varanasi says that Naazra had an Above Poverty Line (APL) card. However, soon after the death of her two children, the district administration lost no time to issue her a BPL card. The Weaver Card will enable her to avail the benefits of welfare schemes.

Questioning the ‘benevolence’ of the district administration, Shruti said, “If the family was not under extreme poverty and malnutrition, why have they been given a BPL card, Weaver Card and food grains? How can the district administration claim that the two children died of the disease when the post mortem of the bodies was not conducted?”

She maintained that the Naazra family suffered from extreme poverty and malnutrition. Whatever little Naazra earned as a saree weaver, went in purchasing foodgrains. The family was dependent on doles from neighbours, but the financial condition of neighbours was also not good.

“This is not the first time such an incident has happened in Varanasi. Several such incidents have occurred in the past where poor weavers died of starvation, but no government in UP ever admitted to the deaths,” says Shyamdeo Rai Chowdhary, BJP MLA from Varanasi. He added, “One time assistance of foodgrains and kerosene oil is no solution – the government should run a state-wide programme identifying the vulnerable poor in rural and urban areas.”

– See more at: http://tehelka.com/hunger-stalks-temple-town-of-varanasi/#sthash.c3Tt5PcX.dpuf

 

#Chhattisgarh #Andhra – Setback to health insurance


Published on Down To Earth (http://www.downtoearth.org.in)

Setback to health insurance

Author(s):

Kundan Pandey

0 Comments
Author(s): Kundan Pandey
Issue Date: Apr 30, 2013

Private hospitals in Chhattisgarh, Andhra refuse to treat under government insurance scheme

Strengthening primary healthcare facilities would cost one-third of what governments spend on health insuranceStrengthening primary healthcare facilities would cost one-third of what governments spend on health insurance (Courtesy: swasthindia.in)

LAST year when the Chhattisgarh government announced health insurance scheme for people above the poverty line (APL), it was touted as an initiative to improve healthcare delivery in the state. But within a few months of introducing it, Mukhyamantri Swasthya Bima Yojana (MSBY) has turned out to be a political gimmick to capure the vote bank as the government faces elections in October-November.

The state launched MSBY on the lines of the Centre’s Rastriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), which caters to people below the poverty line (BPL). It provides cover for hospitalisation cost up to Rs 30,000 for a family of five on floater basis. The state has roped in the 350 private hospitals under RSBY for its MSBY scheme. But the hospitals are not willing to admit APL patients under the scheme, saying the insurance amount is too less.

Like RSBY, MSBY sets down the amount a hospital can charge for the treatment of a particular disease. For example, hospitals under the scheme can charge Rs 3,500 for treating pneumonia or malaria and Rs 9,500 for jaundice. The private hospital authorities say they treat BPL patients at such low rates as a welfare scheme. It would be difficult to provide the care to all at such low fees.

Ajay Sahay, president of the Chhattisgarh chapter of Indian Medical Association (IMA), says, “We have informed the government about our demands to increase the insurance amount to somewhere between Rs 1.5 lakh and Rs 2 lakh.” On April 4, a group of private hospital authorities held a meeting with the state’s health minister, principal secretary and other government officials to discuss their grievance. “Instead of proper solution, they proposed increasing the cost of one treatment and reduce that of the other. They also said that we would have to treat MSBY beneficiaries, if we want to treat people under RSBY,” says Sahay. “We are now left with no option except refusing BPL patients as well.” Sahay alleges that the government did not consult the private health sector while planning MSBY, but now it wants the sector to implement the scheme before the elections.

Can private players help?

In December last year, the Chhattisgarh government had tried to outsource diagnostic facilities for government hospitals to strengthen its public healthcare system. But no private party showed interest to provide diagnostic facilities in remote areas of the state.

“It is not strange or unexpected,” says T Sundararaman, executive director of National Health Systems Resource Centre, a technical support institution with the National Rural Health Mission. Private sector works for the maximum margin and is demanding just that, he adds. But increasing the insurance amount is not the solution, Sundararaman says, citing the example of Andhra Pradesh, where the private health sector is demanding an increase in the insurance amount from the existing Rs 1.5 lakh.

Private hospitals in Andhra Pradesh have threatened to discontinue providing treatment under Rajiv Arogyasri scheme for BPL category from May 3 if their demands are not met. Every year about 200,000 patients undergo surgery under the scheme for 938 listed diseases.

B Bhaskar Rao, president of Andhra Pradesh Specialty Hospitals Association (ASHA) says the government launched the scheme six years ago. But there has been no hike in the amount despite requests by the private doctors’ association. “We demand that the government raise the insurance amount by 30 per cent and thereafter increase it by 5 per cent every year,” says Rao.

To achieve universal healthcare, senior public health specialist Sakthivel Selvaraj, says governments should focus on strengthening primary healthcare facilities. After all, this would cost one-third of what they spend on insurance, he says, adding, “We have never invested sufficiently in public health system which can solve the problem.”

 

Gujarat PSUs gave undue benefits to business houses: CAG


 

The CAG detailed undue favours to Reliance Industries Ltd, Essar Steel and Adani Power Ltd. It also highlighted that the state government has tweaked rules to grant land to Ford India Pvt Ltd as well as Larson and Toubro Ltd
CAG Vinod Rai

Gandhinagar, Apr 2 (PTI): The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has said that government-owned firms in Gujarat granted “undue benefit” to big industrial houses, which resulted in revenue losses worth crores of rupees to the state exchequer.

The CAG report, for the year ended March 31, 2012, was tabled on Tuesday in the Gujarat State Assembly. The CAG detailed undue favours to Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), Essar Steel and Adani Power Ltd (APL). It also highlighted that the state government has tweaked rules to grant land to Ford India Pvt Ltd as well as Larson and Toubro Ltd.

“Gujarat State Petronet Ltd (GSPL) was responsible for deviating from the agreed terms of recovery of gas transportation charges from the specified entry point of the company’s pipeline network and this led to passing of undue benefit of Rs 52.27 crore to RIL,” the CAG report said.

CAG was of the view that GSPL has failed to safeguard its own interest, leading to passing on undue benefit of Rs 52.27 crore to RIL. GSPL had entered into a gas transportation agreement (GTA) with RIL transport D6 gas from Bhadbhut in Bharuch district to RIL’s refinery in Jamnagar in March, 2007.

However, when RIL began transporting gas from its KG-D6 field to its refinery, GSPL did not invoke GTA terms and instead charged RIL a single rate on the quantity transported, thereby passing of undue benefit of Rs 52.27 crore to RIL.

Similarly, it has also highlighted that Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Ltd (GUVNL) was involved in non-adherence to terms of the power purchase agreement (PPA), which led to short recovery of penalty of Rs 160.26 crore and passing of undue benefit to Adani Power Ltd (APL).

On the other hand, the CAG report observed that GUVNL recovered a penalty of only Rs 79.82 crore from APL for its failure to supply power and also for the short supply of power against GUVNL’s entitlement in the power generated by APL during August 2009 to January 2012.

CAG also took strong exceptions to the Gujarat government regularising alleged encroachment of 7,24,897 sq mts of land by Essar Steel Company Ltd (ESCL) at Hazira in Surat, at the same price as government alloted land to L&T near ESCL, which resulted in short recovery of ad hoc occupancy price to the extent of Rs 238.50 crore.

“Government land measuring 7,24,897 square metres was encroached by ESCL in Hazira, Surat district. On request of the company, the government decided in July 2009, to regularise the encroachment by levy of 2.5 times of ad hoc value of land at Rs 700 per square metre, on the ground that, the land in a nearby area was given to L&T,” the CAG report said.

“We noticed that Rs 700 per square metre considered by the government for working out the ad hoc value was not justifiable,” the CAG report said.

“When pointed out, the government replied in June 2012, that as the company was incurring loss of Rs 200 crore per day, due to delay in completion of the project, an ad hoc price of Rs 700 per square metre was fixed,” it said.

In its report, CAG also alleged “playing around rules” by the state government to grant land to Ford and L&T at concessional rates.

As per the report, the state government had allotted around 460 acres (18,63,687 square feet) of land valued at Rs 205 crore to Ford India Pvt Ltd “for the purpose of establishment of a mega project of automobile and engineering for manufacture of automobiles at the rate of Rs 1,100 per square feet, fixed by the State Level Approval Committee (SLAC)”.

It observed that the SLAC had not been empowered to fix the rate of land for allotment to mega projects (above Rs 1,000 crore investment).

After the discrepancy was pointed out, the government replied that the SLAC had decided the value of land, based on some concrete facts, which is an SLAC practice and the price was also approved by the Cabinet.

The CAG said that the reply from the government is not acceptable, since SLAC is not empowered to do valuation of land.

It also recommended that the state government follow a uniform policy for allotment of government land to safeguard its revenue and public interest at large.

CAG also highlighted the case of allotment of land to L&T measuring 8,53,247 square metres at Hazira, Surat for setting up facilities for manufacture of super critical steam generators and a forging shop for a nuclear power plant.

A District Level Valuation Committee (DLVC) had recommended the rate as Rs 1,000 to 1,050 per sq mt. As the value of the land exceeded Rs 50 lakh, the revenue department sent the case to the SLVC for valuation. The SLVC recommended the rate at Rs 2,020 in September 2007 and the revenue department forwarded the proposal to the state Cabinet, prescribing the same rate.

CAG noted that the cabinet, in February 2008, granted a special concession of 30 per cent on the value of land fixed by the DLVC and allotted the land at Rs 700 to Rs 735 per square metre, as it considered the project “high tech” and “of national importance” as well as the first of its kind in Gujarat.

“It was seen from the above that the concession was granted on the price of land recommended by the DLVC. Thus, non-adoption of the value of land fixed by SLVC, resulted in loss of revenue of Rs 60.66 crore even after granting 30 per cent concession on the final value of land fixed by SLVC. The percentage of concession worked out to 65.20 per cent on price fixed by SLVC,” the CAG report said.

 

Setback to Chhattisgarh health care services


SUVOJIT BAGCHI, The Hindu, March 30, 2013

Private hospitals refuse treatment under government insurance schemes

The Chhattisgarh government has had to accept yet another setback while trying desperately to rope in private players to strengthen public health care services.

At least 20 major private hospitals have refused to provide treatment under the Chief Minister’s health insurance scheme — Mukhyamantri Swasthya Bima Yojana (MSBY). Reportedly, they are also not following guidelines to provide treatment under the national health insurance scheme, Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), and are charging money from the patients.

Hospital owners claimed that the insured amount paid for treatment of the patients below poverty line (BPL) under RSBY is “very low.” In addition, introduction of a scheme for the people above poverty line (APL) under MSBY will “seriously damage business and thus will affect services.”

State health officials, hospital management and representatives of insurance companies and Third Party Administrators (TPA) held a meeting on Thursday. According to local news reports, Director, Health Services, Dr. Kamalpreet Singh, said rates had already been “upwardly revised” under RSBY and MSBY after consultation with private hospitals.

Under the new list, 272 categories of treatment, commonly called ‘packages,’ were increased by four to 200 per cent. Another 22 packages had been added and the new list will be applicable from April 1. However, major private players are not happy with the revised rate list and refused to implement the insurance schemes in their hospitals. The move angered the government and the health department has decided to de-panel the hospitals, the sources said.

Earlier this month, the government faced a setback while trying to introduce the policy of Public Private Partnership (PPP) in public health facilities. No private diagnostic centre had come forward to set up radiology and laboratory facilities in the two most underdeveloped divisions with high percentage of rural population — Bastar in south and Surguja in north Chhattisgarh following governments directives.

The Chhattisgarh Government’s Directorate of Health Services had to seek fresh bids for newly aligned divisions. According to the sources, while a good number of applications were filed for affluent divisions such as Raipur and Bilaspur, not receiving a single application for the poorer divisions illustrate the private players’ reluctance to acknowledge health care as a social service. However, the proponents of Chhattisgarh’s public-private venture in health care were optimistic about its future, even after these recent rounds of setbacks.

 


  • Major private players are not happy with the revised rate list
  • Government to “de-panel” hospitals that refuse to cooperate

 

Ration shop dealers demand withdrawal of cash transfer scheme #AADHAAR #UID


200 px

200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 7 DEC, 2012,PTI

 

NEW DELHI: Ration shop dealers today threatened to go on strike demanding that direct cash transfer scheme should be withdrawn, and accused the government of being lethargic in strengthening the food distribution system.

 

 

The All India Fair Price Shop Dealers’ Federation said it would close down various rations shops across the country for one day on December 11, which would have an adverse impact on farmers.

 

 

The Federation has written to Union Minister K V Thomas intimating him about their intention to go on strike.

 

 

“We demand immediate withdrawal of Cash Transfer scheme. This scheme will not only ruin ration shops across the country but will completely destroy the public distribution system of the country.

 

 

“They (government) should strengthen the existing public distribution system across the country so that each and every member of BPL and APL families gets food to eat,” general secretary of the Federation, Biswambhar Basu, said.

 

 

The government proposes to roll-out the Aadhaar-enabled cash transfer for 29 schemes from January 1 in 51 districts, spread over 16 states. It also plans to cover the entire nation by the end of December 2013. Later, cash transfer would cover 42 welfare schemes.

 

 

 

 

 

INDIA-Left parties submit charter of demands to Prime Minister


 

NDTV.com | Updated: August 04, 2012 1

New Delhi: The four Left parties met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with a charter of demands concerning food security. This memorandum was submitted today after a five day dharna at Jantar Mantar.

Here is the full text of memorandum presented to Dr Singh.

Dear Dr. Manmohan Singhji,

The Left parties have held a nationwide campaign on the issues concerning food security. This phase of the struggle ended with a five day sit-in protest at Jantar Mantar attended by thousands of people from all over the country. Representatives of different States presented their experiences and highlighted the adverse impact of relentless food inflation on the lives of common people. There was a unanimous rejection of the draft Food Security Bill presently before the Parliamentary Standing Committee. We write this memorandum to draw your attention to what we consider are the critical issues.

1. India produces enough foodgrains to ensure a food security system which covers all sections of the people. The targeted system introduced as part of the so-called economic reforms from the decade of the nineties has proved to be a failure. Large sections of people who require subsidized foodgrains are excluded. It has been shown that in a country like India, with a large majority of the workforce in the unorganized sector with no fixed income, the errors of exclusion far outweigh those of inclusion in a targeted system. With the largest numbers of hungry people in the world, India requires a comprehensive and inclusive food security system, which can only be provided by scrapping the targeted system and replacing it with a universal system.

2. With the relentless increase in prices of food items, a universal public distribution system can also help to keep market prices down. Dal, edible oil and other essential commodities should be  supplied through the public distribution system.  Many State Governments using their own funds, however limited, are providing foodgrains at one or two rupees a kilo. The central food security system therefore must keep the prices of foodgrains down to a maximum of two rupees a kilo. We therefore believe that it is only reasonable that a minimum of 35 kg of foodgrains at a maximum price of two rupees should be provided.

3. The experience of targeting is not just in poor implementation but more fundamentally linked to the estimates of poverty converted into daily poverty lines and State wise quotas by the Planning Commission. You well know of the national outrage against the poverty line figures given by the Planning Commission to the Supreme Court of  Rs. 26 for an adult in rural India and Rs. 32 for an adult in urban India at 2010-2011 prices. We have learnt that yet another committee has been set up to look at poverty estimates afresh. We strongly oppose the linkages between Planning Commission estimates with either food security or other welfare rights and schemes. The present questionnaire for the BPL census also raises many questions as it is designed to exclude rather than include the deprived. This further underlines the urgent necessity for universalizing the right to food.

4. India can have a successful food security programme only if the kisans of India are protected from the volatility of market manipulation by powerful lobbies. In this connection the recommendation of the National Farmers Commission is for an MSP based on the actual cost of production, which is constantly rising given the increase in the prices of fertilizer, diesel, pesticides, seeds, electricity and other inputs plus a 50 per cent profit margin. This is an important aspect of providing food security.

5. At present the Government is holding around 5 crore tonnes of surplus stocks of foodgrains. In the name of “liquidating the stocks” the Government has decided to export the grains. Already 25 lakh tonnes have been exported. The grains are given at subsidized prices to private traders. Substantial amount of this grain will be ultimately used as cattle feed in developed countries. We believe that the grains should be distributed universally. Particularly at a time when India is facing one of its worst droughts, export of foodgrains is shortsighted and will only benefit big agribusinesses. We are against exports at this time.

6. All these issues should be reflected in the Food Security Bill. Instead it is unfortunate that the Bill seeks to push the so-called reform process further by linking the APL subsidy to acceptance by the States of certain objectionable conditions such as introduction of cash transfers, AADHAR cards etc. Cash transfers at a time of high food inflation will erode even the present inadequate allocations apart from other factors such as possible diversion of the funds for other pressing needs. In any case such conditions are an attack on the federal character of the constitution and an encroachment on the rights of the States. The Bill gives overriding powers to the Central Government. The present Bill also legalizes targeting in a new form by introducing three categories of general (APL), priority (BPL) and automatically excluded sections. We find this highly objectionable. We believe that the Bill in its present form will legalise food insecurity and must be radically changed so as to include:

Minimum allocation of 35 kg of foodgrains of reasonable quality per family at the maximum price of two rupees a kilo.

This should be a legally enforceable universal right, scrapping APL/BPL divisions.

Conditions such as cash transfers should be eliminated.

The Food Security Bill should be suitably amended and presented in the forthcoming session of Parliament.

We hope that you will consider our views and take appropriate action.

With regards

(Prakash Karat)                        
General Secretary, CPI(M)

(S. Sudhakar Reddy)
General Secretary, CPI

(Debabrata Biswas)                       
General Secretary, AIFB

(Abani Roy)
Secretary, RSP

 

Centre Proposes Six Months Advance Allocation of PDS Grains #Goodnews


New Delhi: The central government on Thursday decided to allow states to lift and distribute six months’ quota of food grains under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) in one go.

The decision has been taken in view of its granaries overflowing and record food production for the third year in a row.

Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution KV Thomas has written to the states, requesting them to make the most of the facility of advance lifting of food grains, according to an official statement.

“This will not only ease the problem of additional storage in view of increased procurement but also ensure uninterrupted supply of ration to the beneficiaries,” it said, reports IANS.

India‘s food grain stocks are 71.21 million tonnes as of May 1 with 38.19 million tonnes of wheat and 33 million tonnes of rice, according to the Food Corporation of India.

Thomas has also requested states to ensure lifting of additional allocation of 60 lakh tonnes grains for above poverty line (APL) families and 15.40 lakh tonnes for the poorest districts in 12 states made during 2011-12.

He regretted that states had lifted only 27 per cent of the additional grain allocation made during the current year.

Further the ministry has asked the states not to force the beneficiaries to lift the additional quota in one go and let them take the grains as per convenience.

In order to ensure transparency, the states have been advised that the bulk distribution may be made as far as possible in the presence of state government officials, representatives of Panchayati Raj institutions, members of vigilance committees in Gram Sabhas and NGOs concerned.

Centre Proposes Six Months Advance Allocation of PDS Grains

New Delhi: The central government on Thursday decided to allow states to lift and distribute six months’ quota of food grains under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) in one go.

The decision has been taken in view of its granaries overflowing and record food production for the third year in a row.

Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution KV Thomas has written to the states, requesting them to make the most of the facility of advance lifting of food grains, according to an official statement.

“This will not only ease the problem of additional storage in view of increased procurement but also ensure uninterrupted supply of ration to the beneficiaries,” it said, reports IANS.

India’s food grain stocks are 71.21 million tonnes as of May 1 with 38.19 million tonnes of wheat and 33 million tonnes of rice, according to the Food Corporation of India.

Thomas has also requested states to ensure lifting of additional allocation of 60 lakh tonnes grains for above poverty line (APL) families and 15.40 lakh tonnes for the poorest districts in 12 states made during 2011-12.

He regretted that states had lifted only 27 per cent of the additional grain allocation made during the current year.

Further the ministry has asked the states not to force the beneficiaries to lift the additional quota in one go and let them take the grains as per convenience.

In order to ensure transparency, the states have been advised that the bulk distribution may be made as far as possible in the presence of state government officials, representatives of Panchayati Raj institutions, members of vigilance committees in Gram Sabhas and NGOs concerned.

In a communication sent to the Chief Ministers of all the States/UTs, Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Prof K.V. Thomas has requested the states to avail the facility of advance lifting of food grains and its onward distribution to the TPDS beneficiaries to the maximum extent possible. This will not only ease the problem of additional storage in view of increased procurement but also ensure uninterrupted supply of ration to the beneficiaries.Prof Thomas has also requested the States to ensure lifting of additional allocation of 60 lakh tons for Above Poverty Line (APL) and 15.40 lakh tons for poorest districts in 12 States made during the current year under TPDS to the States/UTs. He has regretted that the states have lifted only 27 percent of the allocation made to these districts during 2011-12.

Regarding the six months advance allocation of ration to PDS beneficiaries in one go, the States have been advised to ensure that beneficiaries are not compelled to lift their entire allocation in one go and it should be purely voluntary. In order to ensure transparency, states have been advised that the bulk distribution may be made as far as possible in the presence of state government officials, representatives of Panchayati Raj Institutions, members of vigilance committees in Gram Sabhas and NGOs concerned.

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