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It is already facing acute power shortage with cuts lasting up to five hours in many parts following shutting down of all five thermal facilities owing to running out of coal stocks in the wake of non-plying of goods trains in the state for over a month now.

The ‘economic blockade’ has again brought to focus the much debated issue of Centre-state relationship, with some points to a federal breakdown.

The bone of contention between the Congress-ruled Punjab, where the BJP has just two lawmakers in the 117-member state Assembly, and the BJP-led Central government is the amended farm laws passed by the state to counter the Central farm laws.

Reacting to this development, Bharatiya Kisan Union President Balbir Singh Rajewal informed in a recent tweet that, “Modi government silently imposed economic blockade of Punjab. Lawyers please study if it is possible in democracy?”

Officials told IANS the trains have been suspended in Punjab since September 24 with farmers starting the rail blockade campaign against the farm laws.

Reiterating his assurance of smooth and safe goods train movement, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday spoke to Union Home Minister Amit Shah for his intervention to ensure early resolution of the issue.

As his party MPs failed to end the impasse, the Chief Minister spoke to Shah to discuss the situation and assured him that there were no law and order concerns to prevent resumption of the services for facilitating supply of essential commodities in Punjab and neighbouring states, including Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir, all of which were suffering colossal losses due to the continued suspension of trains.

Amarinder Singh assured that all tracks had been cleared by farmers for movement of freight trains.

The situation on the ground was totally peaceful and conducive to safe transportation of goods, he apprised the Home Minister, an official statement said.

The state government, said the Chief Minister, was closely engaged with the farmer organisations to persuade them to lift their blockade completely to allow the passenger trains also to commute so that Punjabis, including the 1.5 lakh soldiers stationed in various places, could come home for Diwali.

Pointing out that it was in Punjab’s interest to ensure early revival of rail services, Amarinder Singh termed as unfortunate the attempts by the opposition, including certain BJP leaders, to politicise the issue.

Slamming its previous ally, SAD President Sukhbir Badal has blamed the Centre over the virtual economic blockade imposed on Punjab.

In a tweet, Badal said: “Strongly condemn the Central government for not resuming train services to Punjab despite all railway tracks having been cleared.

“It’s deplorable that agitating farmers are being treated as enemies of the state. Centre shouldn’t try to use heavy handed tactics against them.”

Saying the Centre has virtually imposed an economic blockade on Punjab, Badal minced no words in taking a jibe at his bete noire and the Chief Minister by saying, “The CM held a one-hour ‘protest’ in Delhi solely for photo ops. Why didn’t he meet the Railways minister or the PM? Rather than standing beside the farmers, Amarinder Singh is colluding with the Centre to ensure farmers don’t get any relief.”

“This is an incredible level of vindictiveness of the Centre towards a state to undermine federalism,” a Cabinet minister privy to the development told IANS.

“Is the BJP planning an economic blockade for Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh too as they have done the same?” he asked.

The Rajasthan Assembly on November 2 passed three Bills by a voice vote to negate farms laws cleared by Parliament, following the footsteps of the Congress-ruled Punjab and Chhattisgarh.

The Bills in all three states mandate that crops will be bought or sold for no less than the minimum support price and provide for imprisonment of three to seven years for harassing farmers.

However, the Bills become law only after the respective Governor’s assent, who may either withhold or decide to refer them to the President.

Firing potshots at the Punjab Chief Minister, BJP national President J.P. Nadda last week expressed concern over the continued suspension of goods trains by the Indian Railways and hit back with an open letter, holding Amarinder Singh “fully responsible” for the current impasse.

“The Government of India is very keen to run trains in the state of Punjab, but unfortunately you are not performing the role that is expected of you and your government in the state of Punjab,” Nadda wrote.

But in the battle of ‘supremacy’, the situation in Punjab has turned literally grim, admit government functionaries.

They say snapping of rail links severely impacted the electricity generation and shortage of urea and diammonium phosphate (DAP) have badly hit the sowing of wheat during the Rabi season.

The requirement of urea in the state is 13.5 lakh metric tonnes, whereas the availability is almost nil. Likewise, against the requirement of six lakh metric tonnes of DAP its availability is just marginal.

Before the snapping of rail links, the state was loading around 30-35 rakes per day.

As per the government estimates, the movement of foodgrains has been too hit. A total of 10 lakh metric tonnes of foodgrains has got affected.

Fearing the strained relations may spoil peace, the Chief Minister has warned many a time that any move by the Central government to tinker with religion or livelihood of the people would trigger resentment and anger.

Leading a protest at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar last week to get “justice for the poor farmers”, the Chief Minister warned that failure to resolve the issues of the farmers would cause unrest, which both China and Pakistan would try to exploit.

Amarinder Singh said as state’s Home Minister, he was aware of the threat at the borders with Pakistan smuggling drugs and weapons via terrorists and gangsters into Punjab with the help of one to three drones every day.

With only 1.57 per cent of the country’s total population, Punjab contributes 40 per cent to the national food pool.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at [email protected])

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Governments can come and go but cultural nationalism is here to stay

The issue did not receive much traction because of Nehru’s leadership but all this changed in next 50 years especially after Balasaheb Deoras became the RSS chief.

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Ram Nath Kovind

On Friday, when President Ramnath Kovind donated Rs 5 lakh in personal capacity for the construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya to the trust, life came a full circle for the Indian Republic. In 1951, when deputy Prime Minister Sardar Patel wanted the Somnath temple to be renovated by the Congress, it was opposed tooth and nail by Pandit Nehru, who wanted the new state to be at arm’s length from the renovation of the Somnath temple in Gujarat.

It led to a terse exchange of letters between Sardar Patel and India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The context was Somnath temple but the fight was over the idea of India and how the state will deal with religion in future. Nehru wanted distance but many in the Congress felt that Hinduism cannot be dealt with the European model of separating the state and the church.

Today the national consensus based on French secularism has been replaced by cultural nationalism promoted by the RSS. The latter has moved to the political fringe and former has become mainstream.

Nehru did not participate in the renovation of the temple. After Sardar Patel passed away, the matter was carried forward by another Cabinet Minister KM Munshi. Nehru was also opposed to President Rajendra Prasad attending the lingam installation ceremony which he eventually attended in 1951. Though money was raised from non-state actors by K M Munshi but it was enough to raise temperatures within the Nehru government which had become very sensitive to the issue of religion. Despite Nehru’s objection Munshi and Rajendra Prasad ensured that they remained attached to the renovation project.

In fact the first Lok Sabha elections were fought by the Congress on the issue of communalism and inter-religious harmony. The construction of Ram Temple has become synonymous with national pride. Instead of remaining a legal issue about ownership of a piece of land, it became a matter of faith in the 1980s.

Though the meeting between the President and the Trust was personal in nature, it is a reflection of how mainstream acceptance of nationalism has changed in India. It marks a move from Constitutional Nationalism to Cultural Nationalism where the state does not feel uncomfortable with religious ceremonies. In the 1950s, for the Hindu Right group Somnath was symbol of a wounded Hindu pride as the temple was desecrated thrice over a period of 500 years.

The issue did not receive much traction because of Nehru’s leadership but all this changed in next 50 years especially after Balasaheb Deoras became the RSS chief. He pushed the VHP to make the Ram Temple a political agenda and the BJP ultimately had to adopt it as their political agenda during the Palampur Session in Himachal Pradesh. It is for this reason that LK Advani started his Rath Yatra from Somnath temple for the construction of Ram Temple in 1990s.

The Indian Constitution during the Emergency also saw the word secular added to its preamble but the matter remained contentious even then. The difference is that there exists public acceptance to the phrase ‘cultural-nationalism’ and change in mindset towards the relationship of the state with Hindu religion.

It also reflects the realignment of Hinduism with nationalism. Whether, India of the future resets the clock or not, for now cultural nationalism is here to stay. The relationship between state and Hinduism has s been further cemented through the process of through the process of judicial scrutiny and construction of the temple.

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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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