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Telugu farmers stare at major crisis amid lockdown

The two states have over 1.20 crore farmers and 70 per cent of their households depend on agriculture.

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TN farmers

Hyderabad, March 29 : Farmers in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh could be heading for a major crisis as the 21-day nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of Coronavirus has affected the harvest of Rabi crops.

Though agriculture is exempted from the lockdown in both the states, a majority of farmers are scared to come out of their homes. Shortage of agricultural labourers has added to their woes.

The lockdown, from Tuesday midnight till at least April 14, has dealt a blow to the agricultural sector at a time when crops like paddy, maize, red jowar, pulses, chillies are ready to be harvested.

With the agricultural markets shut, the state governments have told farmers not to come to the towns with their produce but wait in their respective villages for procurement by authorities.

With no hopes of an early return to normalcy, the farmers are keeping their fingers crossed despite assurance by the governments that all their produce would be procured.

While exempting agricultural activities from the lockdown restrictions, Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao said farmers would be allowed to complete the harvesting of the crops spread over 50 lakh acres.

However, non-availability of agriculture labourers has hit the farmers hard. Many labourers have gone back to their native states due to the lockdown and those available are demanding higher wages, complained many farmers.

“No one is coming out due to lockdown. If there is a delay of another 10-15 days in harvesting, the paddy crop will get damaged,” Rythu Sangham leader S. Malla Reddy told IANS.

The Telangana Chief Minister last week asked the farmers not to visit the markets to sell their produce. “We will get it procured in your villages. All you have to show is your passbooks. We will give you tokens informing you about the time and date of procurement and will remit the payments directly into your bank accounts,” he said.

The state hopes to purchase about 38 lakh tonnes of paddy, and the procurement was expected to begin from April 1. Procuring paddy from all the farmers in the state is estimated to cost Rs 35,000 crore.

However, the farmers’ leaders are not convinced about the government’s assurance. They point out that 15 days ago when there was no coronavirus scare, the government failed to procure 1.5 lakh tonnes of red gram from farmers and the Agriculture Minister even admitted that the government had no money to pay the farmers.

“When it had no money to procure the produce when everything was fine, how will it procure now,” asked Malla Reddy, general secretary of All India Kisan Sabha.

He believes that with no money in hand and banks refusing to give fresh loans, the farmers may struggle to go for cultivation in the Kharif season, which begins in June.

He claimed that the banks were refusing to give fresh loans because the government failed to release funds towards the waiver of farm loans. The farmers depend on private money-lenders for cultivation.

Reddy said a survey conducted by his organization revealed that farmers get Rs 20,000 crore from private money lenders at higher interest rate — 30 rupees for every hundred rupees for six months.

“This time, even the private lenders may have no money as the flow of funds will be badly hit due to the impact of lockdown on the overall economy,” social entrepreneur V. Naveen Kumar told IANS.

While paddy farmers can wait for procurement by the government, maize and red jowar growers are the worst hit as the coronavirus has dealt a big blow to the poultry industry. With lockdown, consumption of maize and jowar has come to a complete halt.

“The good thing about paddy is that entire stocks available with farmers can be purchased by the government because rice is a staple but bulk of maize and jowar is purchased by poultrers from February to April. Nobody knows as to when the poultry industry will recover,” said Kumar, who is the founder and managing director of NaPanta, a mobile app catering to farmers in both the Telugu states.

The normal area under paddy cultivation in Telangana is 17 lakh acres but this year it has more than doubled. The maize area also increased to 5.84 lakh acres against the normal 3.72 lakh acres.

The horticulture crops have also taken a huge hit by the lockdown. With transport coming to a complete halt, farmers are unable to take vegetables and fruits to the markets in town.

Banana, watermelon, tomato and chilli farmers in Andhra Pradesh too are badly affected by the situation. “You can’t store bananas. If there is a delay of one week the entire crop goes waste. There are no buyers. We may a see a situation where farmers will dump bananas like what we have seen with onions and tomatoes on many occasions in the past.”

Mango farmers in both the states will also be badly affected by the lockdown. They are the major producers of the king of fruits and with lockdown in force they stare at a gloomy season.

The two states have over 1.20 crore farmers and 70 per cent of their households depend on agriculture.

Kumar believes that a new thought process is what can help farmers tide over the crisis. “Local consumption of perishables like vegetables and fruits should be encouraged. The farmers may adopt barter system to minimize their losses and this can see them through these difficult times.”

(Mohammed Shafeeq can be contacted at [email protected])

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Govt taking care of nurses, healthcare workers: HC

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Delhi High Court

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Friday disposed off a petition which highlighted the blatant violation of the human rights of the nurses and other health workers deployed at the forefront in private nursing homes or hospitals in Delhi, after noting that the authorities have taken adequate steps in this regard.

“Looking into the present PIL, the respondents have taken good care of the situation, provided helpline number, grievance settlement cell has been created, for N95 masks and PPE care has been taken and even a nodal officer is also appointed. In these circumstances, there is no need to further monitor the same and hence the said petition is disposed of,” said a division bench of the high court presided by Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan.

The court also noted the submission of the Delhi government that quarantine is required for nurses who are working with high-risk patients. “In view of this, it appears that quarantine facility is not required for all the nurses,” the bench said.

In its affidavit filed before the court, the Delhi government stated that via an office order dated July 14, the Kejriwal government has directed all registered hospitals both government and private to file an undertaking with regard to the N95 masks, PPE kits and other protective equipment being provided to the nurses and the healthcare workers.

The affidavit said that in respect of making necessary PPE kits, N95 and other protective equipment available, necessary directions have been issued by the Health and Family Welfare Department of the Delhi government which state that all registered healthcare facilities in Delhi are to follow the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health regarding rational use of PPE equipment in accordance with risks involved.

“For managing healthcare workers in COVID as well as non-COVID areas of hospital, regular quarantine of healthcare workers after duty in COVID areas is not warranted, an initial period of one-week quarantine (with further extension of one week) as per discretion of nodal officer is warranted only in high-risk/low-risk exposure, due to breach of PPE or non-use of recommended PPE,” the affidavit stated.

With regard to the ex-gratia amount for all healthcare professionals irrespective of whether they are attending COVID or non-COVID patients, the Delhi government responded that it would abide by its existing policy, which says only those persons (doctors, nurses, paramedic staff, security, sanitation workers, police official or any other government official) whether belonging to private or government who are deployed for COVID-19 duties by the government are eligible for the ex-gratia payment posthumously.

Meanwhile, on the submissions regarding the extension of benefits of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana to the nurses/healthcare professionals, who are working in private nursing homes and the premium for which is to be paid by the government, the Centre informed that the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan package was implemented by it which provides comprehensive personal accident cover of Rs 50 lakh to over 22.12 lakh healthcare professionals.

During the course of the hearing, the petitioner insisted on inclusion of the nurses working in private nursing homes under the ambit of the scheme, to which the court responded, “If we include other people in this Yojana and interfere with the policy decision, it would change the whole budget of the Yojana.”

“Such schemes are created keeping in view the funds available and the same would affect the budget,” the court added.

The submissions came while the bench was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) which aimed at highlighting the blatant violation of human rights of the nurses and other health workers deployed in the forefront of private nursing homes or hospitals in Delhi.

The plea stated that the health and welfare of the nurses should be considered paramount, especially during the time of such a pandemic.

During these testing times, the plea said, the worst-hit are the nurses who are giving care to the patients at the bedside without personal protective equipment (PPE), N95 mask, gloves, etc especially in private nursing homes in Delhi and other parts of the country when there is spike in asymptomatic Covid cases.

“This has led to severe stress among the working nurses in Delhi and other parts of the country. Nurses live in the midst of the distressed atmosphere of the hospital. Naturally they get tired due to the stress and strain both mentally and physically,” the plea said.

(IANS)

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Shama Sikander on battling bipolar disorder, depression

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Shama Sikander

New Delhi, June 1 : Shama Sikander has been very vocal about her battle with bipolar disorder and depression. Years after emerging victorious against her struggles, the actress describes the illness as a “pandemic”. She says that she doesn”t have words to describe how painful it was for her every moment over those five years, when she often felt she would die.

It was in 2016 when Shama, who rose to fame playing Pooja in the 2004 slice-of-life TV show “Yeh Meri Life Hai”, came out and spoke about her struggles.

“That is the darkest time anybody can ever have. That is like waking up with a pandemic almost every moment and minute of your life. You don”t know what”s going to happen, you are so uncertain. You don”t even have desires at that time. The saddest part is that you don”t have any hope. A desire is something that keeps a human being alive because if we lose all desires then you don”t know the purpose of your life,” Shama told IANS.

“Depression or bipolar are mental situations where you tend to lose hope and desires and that is the darkest space any human being can ever be in,” she said, adding: “I don”t think there is anything sadder than that. It”s the worse a human being can go through and if you survive that you can survive anything, any pandemic.”

“As they say what doesn”t kill you makes you stronger… We all have that strength, some of us just give up before that strength or the revelation of that strength within us comes to us,” said Shama.

Shama calls it her “new birth”, after recovering from the illness: “But maybe I was stronger than I felt I was, and that attitude of mine has brought me back to life and has given me a purpose. There is immense light after darkness. This is a new birth for me.”

“I died for five years every day thinking that I am going to die and I should die, and there is probably nothing for me to look forward to. So, I want to tell people who might feel vulnerable and helpless that you will find the light. You just have to hang in there,” she said.

She says that the reason behind mental illness still being considered a taboo is society”s conditioning. “It is our conditioning problems. We have a lot of do”s and don”ts and sharing your actual life with another person comes in don”ts most of the time. People are so scared,” Shama told IANS.

Shama says not many dare to come out and speak the truth.

“From my childhood, I remember I was very honest. I would reveal whatever I went through in life and was never ashamed of it. People would shame you, they would make you feel bad, ashamed, and guilty for being right because they themselves have been living their lives with all the lies. Not many people have the courage to speak the truth to themselves, forget about others,” she declared.

She went on: “The society is the one which ruins it all. To be a part of a society or a herd you want to just pretend to be like them and obviously being honest means standing alone, and that is scary. People who have problems sharing their problems can end up with mental illness because you”ve suppressed that energy so much that now it is becoming an illness inside you.”

(Durga Chakravarty can be contacted at [email protected])

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Covid-19 corollaries on the dairy sector: CRISIL

Overall, demand for milk and dairy products would be lukewarm in the near term, so prices are unlikely to boil over, according to the report.

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dairy industry

New Delhi, May 26 : Supply chain disruptions in the early weeks of the nationwide lockdown, and bread-and-butter issues for hotels, restaurants and cafes, have materially reduced demand for dairy products.

This is despite supply of most dairy products continuing during the lockdown, since they are categorised as essentials.

The shuttering of hotels and dine-ins has also dried up off-take of skimmed milk powder and khoya.

According to report by CRISIL Research on the state of dairy industry and supply chains, products that can’t be made at home easily – such as cheese, flavoured milk and also khoya – haven’t found their way back to the dining table in the same quantities as before the lockdown.

Demand for ice creams, which usually peaks in summer (accounting for 40 per cent of annual sales) has just melted away. Rural areas, which are feeling the income pinch more, seem to be staying off butter and ghee, the report by global analytics firm has said.

To be sure, since the third week of April, supply chains have turned smoother, so demand for staples such as milk, curd, paneer and yogurt are expected to see a quick rebound, leading to on-year expansion in sales, CRISIL said.

The pandemic, however, may sour the business for unorganised dairies because of pervasive contamination fears.

Conversely, as consumers shift, revenues of organised dairies and packaged products should fatten.

Overall, demand for milk and dairy products would be lukewarm in the near term, so prices are unlikely to boil over, according to the report.

Large brands such as Amul and Mother Dairy had already hiked retail milk prices by 4-5 per cent last fiscal. They may not serve an encore.

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