Deaths of children in the cotton fields of Gujarat: GOVT APATHY


5 more die in Bt cotton fields of Gujarat

Rao Jaswant Singh | TNN

Jaipur: Barely a week after TOI first reported the deaths of children in the Bt cotton fields of Gujarat (August 28), five more deaths have been reported from the area, taking the total number of those dead in just over a month to 10. A majority of the dead are children, including six girls.

All those who died had been trafficked from Udaipur-Dungarpur-Banswara region of Rajasthan. They were taken to work in the Bt cotton fields at Gujarat’s Banaskantha district, when the cross-pollination season began July-end.

Ironically, even after so many deaths, the district administration has failed to check the migration and initiate action against middlemen, who take children from Rajasthan to Gujarat.

Dakshin Rajasthan Majdoor Union, a social organisation working for migrant workers, has been spreading awareness and also helping the affected families in their fight for justice. Executive member of DRMU, Sudhir Katiyar, told TOI that the deceased workers included Bhuri Ben (14), Haju Ben (16), Madi Ben (16) and Ramesh (14) — all from Dungarpur district — and Basu Hakra Kharadi (13) of Udaipur, Rekha Adela (19) and Nathi Ben (40) of Udaipur, Raju Nemchand (21) of Banswara and an unidentified child worker.

Preliminary investigation by the NGO revealed that Basu Hakra died after congestion and respiratory problems, Rekha and Raju died under mysterious conditions while Nathi Ben died due to snake bite, but no postmortem was done in her case.

Katiyar said though police have registered a case, investigation is still on. ‘‘The cotton field owners are strong enough and police are hand in glove with them,’’ he alleged.In two days, seven Maha farmers kill self


Farmers’ deaths in Maharashtra: Government apathy

Nagpur: With less than 40 days left for Maharashtra assembly elections, the farmers’ suicide crisis is raising its ugly head once again. Seven farmers committed suicide in the last two days in various parts of Vidarbha region, taking the this year’s toll to 638, an NGO that tracks suicides claimed on Saturday.

Vidarbha is facing a severe drought. Yavatmal district, the epicentre of the farm suicide crisis, is worst-hit with a rainfall deficiency of about 40%. ‘‘The rains in last 10 days brought some hope as it ended a prolonged dry spell. But the damage has already been done.

The unprecedented shortfall in monsoon has led to a large-scale pest attack destroying standing crop of soyabean and cotton, the two main cash crops of the region,’’ said Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti president Kishore Tiwari.

‘‘The mealy bug has not spared the high-cost genetically modified Bt cotton seed in Vidarbha this year. More than 90% farmers took to Bt seeds believing the claims of it being safe from pest attacks. But despite farmers spraying pesticide almost on alternative days, the crop has been ruined,’’ Tiwari told TOI from Pandharkawda, a main cotton growing centre in Yavatmal.

Delhi Govt helpline fails to stem capital’s tree-felling spree

New Picture (77)Govt helpline fails to stem capital’s tree-felling spree


New Delhi: The government may be trying to extend its green cover in the city but the existing greens seem to be in trouble. Residents claim that despite the setting up of a tree helpline, no action is generally taken on complaints made. At times, even the complaint number is not given.

Incidentally, the Delhi Tree Protection Act says that no trees can be cut or pruned without permission from the forest department of the Delhi government.

The idea behind tree helpline, which was set up by the Delhi government three years ago, was to involve citizens in protection of trees. However, residents claim that despite repeated complaints to the helpline to report ‘‘merciless’’ pruning of trees in the Rohini area, the forest department has not initiated any action.

Upset by the inaction of the department, Sanjiv Kumar, a resident of sector 9, Rohini, says he’s even shot off a letter to the environment secretary. ‘‘Over the past few weeks, trees in the Rohini area have been pruned and even cut without the requisite permission. Repeated complaints to the tree helpline have not rescued the trees from their fate,’’ says Kumar.

Kumar, in fact, says that ‘‘hacking’’ of trees indiscriminately has been happening for some time now, with no response from the forest department. ‘‘Not only written complaints but even pictures of the felled trees have been provided. But no action taken,’’ adds the resident. Residents in the area allege that the unconcern shown by the local authorities has resulted in several trees falling in the recent storms.

‘‘The roots are left exposed during all the road digging and other civic works that happen here. We’ve called the tree helpline to register complaints but nothing has been done about the trees. As a result, even as small storm makes these trees topple over,’’ added Parul Chhabbra, a resident. Adds Kumar, ‘‘We’ve obviously no complaints about pruning. But this is killing the greens, and the tree helpline should be more accessible to residents.’’

Government authorities claim that the helpline has been registering calls, with no complaints coming in about complaint number not being provided. However, they do admit that lack of adequate manpower means that not all calls are attended immediately.

‘‘Permission for pruning and cutting trees has to be taken from us. But it is not possible for us to attend to every complaint that we receive. We don’t even have the required manpower,’’ said a senior forest department official.

Silent Samaritans: Delhi:Home Cancer Care unit, RGCI

Amid fading hope, they bring cheer

Team Of 3 Docs Treats Terminally-Ill Cancer Patients, Counsels Their Kin

Shreya Roy Chowdhury | TNN
FIGHT TILL THE END: Home Cancer Care Unit of Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute visits patients every 15 days

FIGHT TILL THE END: Home Cancer Care Unit of Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute visits patients every 15 days

New Delhi: Once every fortnight Swarn Kanta Kohli, terminally ill with abdominal cancer, wakes up early with a smile on her lips and cheer in her heart. It’s the day her friends drop by.

These are no ordinary friends but doctors from Home Cancer Care unit of Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute in Rohini. For the past three years, they have treated and counselled her — all for free — just as they have been doing with terminally-ill patients across Delhi.

Rajni Mutneja heads the three-member team, the others a psychologist and a nurse.

They can’t cure but make patients in their care comfortable. They visit the home of each patient at least once in 15 days, bearing nutritional powders, medicines, bandages and words of advice.

‘‘Their support is important. My mother looks to their visits,’’ says Vinod Kohli.

Team-head since 1999, Mutneja says that on an average, there are about 50 patients in their care at a time, two to three of them below the age of 20. Families are counselled against use of futile and frequently harmful alternative therapies; beds and wheelchairs left by deceased patients are circulated among others.

The fortnightly gesture of comfort is even more appreciated by families whose patient is bedridden and unresponsive. Vikrant Pande’s son Rahul was diagnosed with acute leukemia in 2001. He was just 10. In 2003, Rahul slipped into coma. When a 38-day stay at the hospital ended with no improvement, he was discharged. ‘‘It is difficult looking after a patient who can’t express his suffering.

We call the home care group whenever he has a cold or fever or his bedsores need dressing. It really boosts our morale to know someone from the hospital is helping our son,’’ says his father. On visits, lab coats are left behind — many families don’t want neighbours to know. Pande, for instance, is afraid that knowledge of his son’s condition can affect his 21-year-old daughter’s marriage prospects.

They do their best but can’t afford to get too involved. ‘‘Most live for a few weeks to a few months after registering,’’ says Mutneja, who gave up her career as a gynaecologist to tend to the dying. Only about 20% survive beyond two years. ‘‘Sometimes, we call a day before and find upon arriving that the patient passed away in the meantime,’’ she says. But association with the family doesn’t end with the patient’s demise. ‘‘We do at least one condolence visit,’’ says Anita, ‘‘but many of them stay in touch.’’

Much of their work is counselling the families. The team psychologist, Anita Kumari, relates the case of one 52-year-old patient they’re attending to. ‘‘Her husband was stressed and the attendant said he was popping sleeping pills,’’ she says. She got him to speak up while his wife slept, extending support.

The home care programme started a year after the hospital itself, in 1997. ‘‘It is based on the West’s hospice concept,’’ says medical director Dr AK Chaturvedi. Most patients are from RGCI, but about 15% are referred by other hospitals. Since 1997, the team has attended to 2,200 patients. And according to Chaturvedi, there are plans of adding another team.

‘‘We’ve seen so much death,’’ says Anita, who previously worked with an NGO helping school dropouts get back on track. But there’s no sense of despondence.

‘‘You can’t tell what’s in store even for a healthy person,’’ Mutneja reasons. ‘‘We feel satisfied when the patients feel better and their families bless us,’’ they agree.
(Some names have been changed to protect identity)

To curb power theft : Ludhiana / Pune show the way

‘Transmission Losses’ (official  term for pilfering or bijali chori) are as high as 40 % in Delhi.

Politicians and dadas and industries drawing power illegally are against any action to reduce power theft.

Novel way to curb power theft


Pune: The Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd (MSEDCL) has adopted a novel plan to curb power thefts and reduce interruptions in supply to city’s major slum pockets and Pimpri-Chinchwad township.

The method was first tried by the Punjab power utility in Ludhiana and is called the ‘Ludhiana Pattern’. The pattern uses aerial bunch conductors and the electricity meters of consumers are installed atop a tall pole to make them inaccessible. Even the MSEDCL staffers have to use a ladder to take the metre readings.

Aerial bunch conductors have a plastic coating which does not allow the current to pass if a hook is attached to the conductor to steal power. To tap electricity from a normal open conductor all one has to do is put a hook attached to a wire on the conductor.

In Pune, the pattern has been replicated in the Annabhau Sathenagar slum in Sangvi, Pimpri division of MSEDCL. R A Mulani, executive engineer of Pimpri division, said that 114 consumers in the Annabhau Sathe slum were given electricity connections and their metres were put atop a seven-metre-high pole.

“The metres have been fixed in a big box to protect them from thieves and elements of nature,” Mulani said, adding that an aerial bunch conductor was fitted at the point of supply instead of the usual conductor.

Mulani said that another 103 slumdwellers from the same locality have applied for power connections and they too will be given connections using the same method. “It cost us Rs 10 lakh for implementing this system,” he said. Besides preventing power thefts the experiment has also reduced instances of power interruption resulting from sudden increase in load when power is tapped illegally.

The Ludhiana Pattern was also replicated at Janatavasahat slum near Parvati, where 120 consumers were given electricity connections. Fifteen metres each were fitted in eight boxes, which in turn were put up on seven-metre-tall poles at a cost of Rs 2.50 lakh. Consumers in Dandekar bridge slum, too, were given electricity connections using the same technique.

“Since the arrangement makes illegal tapping of power impossible, one does not see the usual mesh of cables on the pole which is a common site in a slum,” explained an official of the MSEDCL.

The officials added that the MSEDCL planned to implement the pattern in other slum pockets in Pune zone.
The project was implemented under the supervision of executive director Uttam Zalte, chief engineer S P Nagtilak and superintending engineer D R Padalkar.

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