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A new vision for a new India

While a political party may draw inspiration from the past, it must live in the present

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Our Prime Minister has, from time to time, administered to the body politic shock therapies to ostensibly eliminate corruption and the use of black money, deal a fatal blow to terrorism, address the problem of circulation of fake currency notes, and put in place a fiscal regime that promotes the formal economy with extensive use of digital platforms. One may question both the motives and the wisdom of these therapeutic procedures that have failed to realise the outcomes they set out to achieve. But the most fatal blow to the body politic is to let loose in different ways forces, disruptive and destructive, that seek to systematically destabilise established systems of governance.

The imposition of votaries of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in positions of influence is disconcerting. They provide the pervasive ideological rationale behind this disruption and justify it. The destructive elements, whom the Bharatiya Janata Party seeks to distance itself from, are not averse to the use of violence to silence voices inconsistent with the ideological position of Hindutva. Lynching Dalits; the targeted homicide of Muslims and rationalists; instilling fear amongst minorities by attacking their culinary preferences, culture and traditions; and, above all, attempting to propagate a nationalistic narrative through the assertion of a particular mindset are all intended to transform India.

Opposing disruption

The Congress, a truly national party, needs to stem the dismantling of our cohesiveness, traditions, culture and constitutional polity. Our party must expose through a coalition of like-minded forces the deliberateness with which our Prime Minister is acting to achieve his biased agendas. We need to reach out to people by penning our thoughts and articulating them through all possible channels of communication. We need to highlight that the RSS is occupying the most important offices of this country: the seat of vice chancellor in universities, the office of the Governor, the office of the President of India as well as that of the Vice President. We must inform people how constitutional practices are being subverted and constitutional norms are being violated with impunity; that ordinary legislation termed as Money Bills are being introduced to ensure their success, bypassing the Rajya Sabha; how Raj Bhavans, instead of acting as constitutional facilitators, have become centres of intrigue to bring down Opposition-led governments by openly aligning with and manufacturing majorities for the BJP; how history is being rewritten with icons of the past relegated to oblivion; that statistics are often used to blur the contours between myth and reality, and name change and plagiarism carried out to appropriate schemes launched by the United Progressive Alliance I and II. Added to this is targeting leaders and members of political parties through investigating agencies, offices that are being allowed to be willingly misused for vendetta politics.

Though providing leadership to oppose both the disruption and destruction of our value system is essential, that alone will not do.

Making honest promises

The world has changed radically. The communication revolution has eliminated the concept of distance. Proximity is the order of the day. Our people know about us. Every word we utter is heard with rapt attention. Our persona is an open book. So we can’t fool people any more. Our integrity, commitment to values and our attitudes are etched and stored in digital mode. This applies to individuals, entities, and political parties. So, we must be careful in our utterances lest they come back to haunt us. Our detractors are ever alert to trip us for what we said. We may win elections by words, tall promises and lies; we may also lose them because of betrayal. Narendra Modiji will be paying a heavy price for his utterances. It is therefore incumbent on leaders of political parties to be upfront and honest about what they can promise and deliver.

Politics must be grounded to solve the problems of today. While a party may draw inspiration from the past, it must live in the present. The laurels of the past will not serve the present. The present is far more dynamic than the past ever was. Millions are influenced by the tsunami of information which has the capacity to misinform and misdirect impressionable minds. Political parties must be alive to this and have an army of digital soldiers to guide and educate. Without it, political discourse might just be one-sided.

More important is the ability of a political party to sensitise itself to the most fundamental issues of the people. The two areas of concern to every home are educating children and health-care facilities for the family. We need a transformational education policy and a radically different mechanism for delivery. Those details must be worked out after thoughtful debate.

A similar exercise must be done with reference to the delivery of health care. Existing systems of education and health care suffer from a deep malaise. Lack of resources, inadequacy of quality teachers and doctors and inadequate infrastructure are a few of the causes. Central to any exercise in providing solutions is the abject poverty afflicting our people that diminishes their ability to make choices. Any proposed solution must take that into account.

The road ahead

We need to deregulate both our mindset and governmental procedures. Industry must flourish for economic growth. We must not view business, and through it prosperity, with suspicion. Investigating agencies must not be used to throttle enterprises. Our taxing regime must be far more humane than it is today. Money in the hands of the private sector is often more efficiently used than by government. Yet the state must garner adequate resources for providing infrastructure and public necessities. Digital technologies must be accessible to all to ensure equity. We must quickly bridge the gap between India and Bharat.

Our obsession with a market-oriented distribution of public assets needs a relook. Allocation of land, spectrum, minerals and other natural resources, if allocated through a competitive bidding process, has made our industry globally non-competitive. We need to put in place an alternative resource allocation mechanism in which the government is entitled to a share of the profit that industry garners. Further, high interest rates have debilitated both industry and business. This is the main reason why enterprises cut corners and indulge in malpractices — reasons for the growing spiral of corruption.

Our legal system is poor in quality. Our justice system must be made immune from external pressure. Corruption within our justice delivery system destroys the citizen’s confidence in the state. Our police and enforcement agencies must also be immune from external pressures.

We need to embrace a new vision. Let us make a fresh start giving hope to those we serve.

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Rise in Severe Acute Malnutrition in children a major worry: CMAM Association

According to the CMAM Association, reports released by different agencies have pointed to the need for strengthening community-based treatment of SAM.

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Malnutrition

New Delhi, Jan 14 : The results of the Phase 1 of the 5th National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare recently, show that there has been an increase in the percentage of severely wasted children under five years of age, in as many as 16 out of the 22 surveyed states and union territories in NFHS-5 in comparison to NFHS-4.

The CMAM Association of India has expressed its concern on the rising trend of severe wasting or Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in children.

The states that have shown an increase in incidence of severely wasted children include economically powerful states such as Gujarat and Maharashtra. Other regions being Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Telangana, Tripura, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and Lakshadweep.

To meet the challenge of rising incidence of SAM in children, the Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) Association (comprising manufacturers of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods) said it has extended its all-out support to the government to develop new products so as to address SAM under the Poshan Abhiyan at the community level itself and prevent worsening of SAM problem in the country.

“While substantial improvement in child health indicators and vaccination coverage over NFHS-4 is a positive development, the rise in wasting levels does not bode well for a country which is poised to emerge as a major socio-economic power with youngest demography in the world. The Association is all set to align with various nutrition interventions of the government through development of therapeutic products and extending the PM’s vision of a self-reliant India,” said Akshat Khandelwal, President, CMAM Association.

Feeding protocols that use a combination of home-based food and high-quality energy dense nutrition supplement need to be urgently explored, it has stated.

According to the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, children with SAM have nine times higher risk of dying than well-nourished children. The Association has pointed to the urgent need for collaboration between government, therapeutic food manufacturers and civil society to meet the intricate challenge of SAM in the country.

According to the Association, Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF) has been successful in preventing deaths and helping children recover from SAM in India and across the world. RUTF comprises energy dense foods which are specifically tailored for children suffering from SAM and are not meant to be a substitute for breastfeeding or home cooked food as is often believed.

Since RUTF can ensure the recovery of a SAM child in 2-3 months at the community level in most of the cases and reduce the need for treatment at Nutrition Rehabilitation Centres (NRCs), it reduces the chances of infections and the overall cost of treatment.

According to the CMAM Association, reports released by different agencies have pointed to the need for strengthening community-based treatment of SAM.

“The current interventions from the MoHFW, to ensure in-facility care for SAM children, are currently reaching around 20 per cent of those who are estimated to need such care. Even as these need expansion, what is imperative is stronger linkages with community-based programs to reach the large majority of wasted children before they require in-patient facility care,” stated a report titled ‘Accelerating Progress on Nutrition in India’.

If acute malnutrition is identified in the early stages, the treatment can be provided at the community level itself and medical complications in the children with SAM can be averted, argues a recent report titled “Community based programme for children below 5 years of age with severe acute malnutrition in India 2020 – Progress so far and lessons learned”.

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SARS-CoV-2 can infect neurons, damage brain tissue: Study

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incomes drop brain week

New York: Researchers have discovered that SARS-CoV-2 can directly infect the central nervous system and have begun to unravel some of the virus’s effects on brain cells.

The study, that used both mouse and human brain tissue, indicates that SARS-CoV-2 can affect many other organs in the body, including, in some patients, the central nervous system, where infection is associated with a variety of symptoms ranging from headaches and loss of taste and smell to impaired consciousness, delirium, strokes and cerebral haemorrhage.

“Understanding the full extent of viral invasion is crucial to treating patients, as we begin to try to figure out the long-term consequences of Covid-19, many of which are predicted to involve the central nervous system,” said researcher Akiko Iwasaki, a professor at Yale University.

For the study, published on Wednesday in the Journal of Experimental Medicine (JEM), the team analysed the ability of SARS-CoV-2 to invade human brain organoids (miniature 3D organs grown in the lab from human stem cells).

The researchers found that the virus was able to infect neurons in these organoids and use the neuronal cell machinery to replicate. The virus appears to facilitate its replication by boosting the metabolism of infected cells, while neighbouring, uninfected neurons die as their oxygen supply is reduced.

SARS-CoV-2 enters lung cells by binding to a protein called ACE2, but whether this protein is present on the surface of brain cells is unclear.

The team determined that the ACE2 protein is, in fact, produced by neurons and that blocking this protein prevents the virus from human brain organoids.

SARS-CoV-2 was also able to infect the brains of mice genetically engineered to produce human ACE2, causing dramatic alterations in the brain’s blood vessels that could potentially disrupt the organ’s oxygen supply, the team said.

Central nervous system infection was much more lethal in mice than infections limited to the lungs, they added.

The researchers also analysed the brains of three patients who succumbed to Covid-19.

SARS-CoV-2 was detected in the cortical neurons of one of these patients, and the infected brain regions were associated with ischemic infarcts in which decreased blood supply causes localized tissue damage and cell death. Microinfarcts were detected in the brain autopsy of all three patients.

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Muslims need higher education: Madani

“Unfortunately, Indian Muslims, especially the wealthy Muslims of northern India, are not paying attention to what is most important to us at this moment,” he said.

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Muslim education in India

New Delhi, Jan 14: Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind President Arshad Madani has emphasised the need for higher education for the Muslim community and said the current situation in the country can only be countered through education.

“The kind of religious and ideological war that has now started in the whole country cannot be countered with any weapon or technology but the only way to win this war is to equip our new generation with higher education. We should enable them to use their knowledge and consciousness to defeat their opponents in this ideological war and to reach the milestones of success and prosperity,” said Madani.

He alleged that all the post-independence governments had excluded Muslims from good education through their policies. The report of the Sachar Committee discloses this bitter truth which clearly states that Muslims lag far behind even Dalits in the field of education, he said.

He asked if this happened spontaneously or Muslims deliberately withdrew themselves from education. “All the governments that have come to power have kept us backward in education, as they may have realised that if Muslims move forward in the field of education, they will rise to the highest positions with their abilities and talents. Efforts have been made to isolate Muslims from the national mainstream of education through tricks and obstacles.”

He stressed that now is the time for Muslims to get their children educated at any cost. “We urgently need schools and colleges in which our children can get higher education with religious identity in the world without any hindrance or discrimination.”

“Unfortunately, Indian Muslims, especially the wealthy Muslims of northern India, are not paying attention to what is most important to us at this moment,” he said.

He cautioned the community that today Muslims are more interested in spending on other things but they are not paying enough attention to education.

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