The ‘India State Level Disease Burden’ report

The ‘India State Level Disease Burden’ report, prepared as part of the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Study 2016, and published in Lancet , was released by Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu.

The study used multiple data sources to map State-level disease burden from 333 disease conditions and injuries, and 83 risk factors for each State from 1990 to 2016. It has found that every State in India has a higher burden from non-communicable diseases and injuries than from infectious diseases.

“The contribution of non-communicable diseases to health loss — fuelled by unhealthy diets, high blood pressure, and blood sugar — has doubled in India over the past two decades. Air pollution and tobacco smoking continue to be major contributors to health loss.

Many of the Indian States are bigger than most countries in the world. It is necessary to plan health interventions based on the specific disease burden situation of each State, many of which are no less than nations within a nation if the existing major health inequalities between the States have to be reduced.
This requires the availability of the best possible disease burden and risk factors estimates for each state based on all available data using a standardized framework.

These estimates are now provided in three complementary outputs released today: the report, the technical paper, and the open-access visualisation tool.
Discussion with policymakers suggests that these findings will be useful for planning of State health budgets, prioritisation of interventions relevant to each State, informing the government’s Health Assurance Mission, monitoring of health-related Sustainable Development Goals targets in each State, assessing impact of large-scale interventions based on time trends of disease burden, and forecasting population health under various scenarios in each State.

The report, which provides the first comprehensive set of State-level disease burden data, risk factors estimates, and trends for each State in India, is expected to inform health planning with a view toward reducing health inequalities among States.

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India Inc opposed to any job reservation in private sector

India Inc is opposed to any move to bring in reservation in the private sector as it would certainly create a big dent in the country’s investment climate and negate the perception advantage given by a jump in the World Bank ease of doing business index, a top industry body

In any case, there is a dearth of private sector investment with capacity utilisation in several sectors not going beyond 72-75 percent. On top of it, if the political economy of the country is geared to populist sentiments, the environment for growth could be vitiated badly.

“Assocham has always been pressing for the affirmative action by the industries for the economically weaker sections of the society. In fact, there is a somewhat similar sentiment across the entire India Inc which has been contributing a lot to the nation building and economic growth. We have been asking our members to give preference in recruitment to the local candidates, train them, skill them and keep in mind the affirmative aspect,

“The industry is willing to engage with the government both at the Centre and states for projects in skill development, training and hiring so that those at the bottom of the economic pyramid are handheld and upscaled,” Assocham said in a statement.

“But any move towards reservation in private sector would be regressive,” the chamber said.

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Not to pursue Islamic banking: RBI

The Reserve Bank of India has decided not to pursue a proposal for introduction of Islamic banking in the country. The central bank said the decision was taken after considering “the wider and equal opportunities” available to all citizens to access banking and financial services.

Islamic or Sharia banking is a financial system based on the principles of not charging interest, which is prohibited under Islam.

Sharia banking refers to banking activity that conforms to Islamic law or Sharia. The fundamental principle of Islamic finance is the rejection of usury, along with the requirement that there must be no engagement in immoral businesses. Usury is seen as the levying of unreasonably high-interest rates while lending money. Interest is Riba, which in its current interpretation, covers all interest — not just excessive interest. Under Islamic law, a Muslim is prohibited from both paying and accepting interest. Thus, Sharia banking means money can only be parked in a bank without interest — and this money cannot be used for speculative trading, gambling, or trading in prohibited commodities such as alcohol or pork.

Need for Islamic Banking:

Certain faiths prohibit the use of financial instruments that pay interest. The nonavailability of interest-free banking products results in some Indians, including those in the economically disadvantaged strata of society, not being able to access banking products and services due to reasons of faith. This non-availability also denies the country access to substantial sources of savings from other countries in the region.

Therefore, the introduction of Sharia or Islamic banking could bring more Muslims into the banking system, and help in the inflow of institutional wealth from entities operating in the Islamic world to the Indian economy. Sharia banking is not restricted to Muslims alone, and other communities who are interested in other forms of banking like ethical banking could be allowed to participate.

How does India benefit from Islamic banking?

Introduction of Islamic Banking was mooted by Raghuram Rajan in his report on the Financial Sector in the year 2008 where he recommended that interest-free banking techniques should be operated on a larger scale so as to give access to those who are unable to access banking services, including those, belong to the economically disadvantaged section of the society.
There are many advantages in introducing an Islamic window in the banks.

For instance, the majority of companies in the Stock Exchange are Shariat compliant (this number is more than the Shariat complaint companies on the Stock Exchange in Malaysia), thus this would result in attracting huge funds in the domestic market alone.

An Islamic Banking window will encourage many from the Muslim community to come forward and invest in projects thereby mobilising a huge amount of capital which they may not be willing to put in the banks. This also means that India will be able to attract huge investments from West Asia and from those who invest only in Shariat compliant projects.

Sharia banking globally:

A 2015 World Bank report estimated Sharia-compliant financial assets to be in the range of US $ 2 trillion, covering bank and non-bank financial institutions, capital markets, money markets and insurance. The Islamic Finance Industry has been expanding at a rate of 10%-12% annually. According to the World Bank, in many Muslim countries, Islamic banking assets have been growing faster than conventional banking assets. There has also been a surge of interest in Islamic finance in non-Muslim countries such as the UK, Luxembourg, South Africa, and Hong Kong.

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India slips 21 slots in Gender Gap index 2017

India fell 21 places on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap index to 108 – far below the global average and much behind its neighbours China and Bangladesh. According to the WEF Global Gender Gap Report 2017, India has closed 67% of its gender gap, less than many of its international peers, and some of its neighbours like Bangladesh ranked 47th while China was placed at 100th.

According to the WEF Global Gender Gap Report 2017, on an average 66% of women’s work in India is unpaid, compared to 12% of men’s. In case of China, 44% of women’s work is unpaid, while for men the figure stood at 19%. Even for developed countries, like the United Kingdom, which was ranked 15th on the Global Gender Gap list, 56.7% of women’s work is unpaid, as against 32% men’s. In the USA also, 50% of women’s work is unpaid while in case of men the figure stands at 31.5%. Unpaid work measures the average minutes spent per day on routine housework, shopping, care for household members, care for non-household members volunteering, travel related to household activities and other unpaid activities for men and women aged 15-64 years.

While much of this imbalance is explained by the discrepancy in caregiving and unpaid work, institutional and policy inertia, outdated organisational structures and discrimination, one additional explanatory factor is the skills differentials in the types of degrees women and men seek out in their education.

India’s greatest challenges lie in the economic participation and opportunity pillar where the country is ranked 139 as well as health and survival pillar where the country is ranked 141.

In 2016, India’s rank was 87. In 2006, when the World Economic Forum started measuring gender gap across the world, India’s rank was 10 notches higher than it is in 2017.

The report said gender gaps in political empowerment, life expectancy and basic literacy also caused India’s rank to slip. It has been more than 50 years since India’s first woman prime minister came to power, it said. “Maintaining its global top 20 ranking on the political empowerment sub-index will require India to make progress on this dimension with a new generation of female political leadership.”

Globally also for the first time since the WEF began measuring the global gap, it has actually widened. A decade of slow but steady progress on improving parity between the sexes came to a halt in 2017, with the global gender gap widening for the first time since the WEF’s Global Gender Gap Report was first published in 2006.

The findings in this year’s report showed that an overall 68% of the global gender gap has been closed. This is a slight deterioration from 2016 when the gap closed was 68.3%. At the current rate of progress, the global gender gap will take 100 years to bridge, compared to 83 last year. The case is worse in terms of workplace gender divide, which the report estimates will take 217 years to close.

Gender Gap Index

The gender gap is the difference between women and men in social, political, intellectual, cultural, or economic attainments. The Global Gender Gap Report ranks 144 countries on the progress they have made towards gender parity in four areas – health, education, economics and politics and is published annually by World Economic Forum.

The report measures women’s disadvantage compared to men and is not strictly a measure of equality. Gender imbalances to the advantage of women do not affect the score.

The report examines four overall areas of inequality between men and women in 144 economies around the globe:

  • Economic participation and opportunity – outcomes on salaries, participation levels and access to high-skilled employment
  • Educational attainment – outcomes of access to basic and higher level education
  • Political empowerment – outcomes on representation in decision-making structures
  • Health and survival – outcomes on life expectancy and sex ratio. In this case, parity is not assumed, there are assumed to be less female births than male (944 female for every 1,000 males), and men are assumed to die younger. Provided that women live at least six percent longer than men parity is assumed if it is less than six percent it counts as a gender gap.

Thirteen out of the fourteen variables used to create the index are from publicly available “hard data” indicators from international organizations, such as the International Labour Organization, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Health Organization.

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Delhi LG cannot sit on govt. schemes

The Lieutenant-Governor (L-G) of Delhi cannot stultify proposals or schemes forwarded by the Council of Ministers to him by simply sitting on it, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud orally observed on Thursday.

His observations came on the first day of a five-judge Constitution Bench hearing of a batch of nine appeals filed by the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government against an August 4, 2016, judgment of the Delhi High Court.

The AAP government argued that the High Court declared that the LG has “complete control of all matters regarding National Capital Territory of Delhi, and nothing will happen without the concurrence of the LG.”

The 69th Amendment of the Constitution in 1992 gave the National Capital of Delhi special status with its own democratically elected government and legislature. Sub-section (4) of Article 239AA mandates that a Council of Ministers shall aid and advise the LG in his functions regarding laws made by the Assembly.

Focus on proviso

The focus of the current controversy is a proviso to Article 239AA (4), which mandates that in case of a difference of opinion between the LG and the Council of Ministers, the former has to refer the issue to the President. In the meanwhile, while that decision is pending before the President, the LG, if the matter is urgent, can use his discretion to take immediate action.

The Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra prima facie said the Delhi government’s ability to ‘aid and advise’ the Lieutenant Governor is limited to subjects other than public order, police and land in the National Capital. It said that the proviso to Article 239AA (4), on plain reading, seems to give primacy to the Lieutenant Governor. Justice Ashok Bhushan remarked that the LG is entitled to take a different view and is not bound by the aid and advice of the Delhi Cabinet.

‘Discretion misused’

Mr. Subramanium alleged that the LG has misused the discretion in this proviso to block governance to such an extent that decisions from appointment of teachers in municipal schools to opening of mohalla clinics have been pending for over a year. The Chief Secretary and other officers simply forward the files to the LG, where it remains indeterminately.

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Blackbuck conservation reserve to come up in U.P.

A wildlife conservation reserve dedicated exclusively to the blackbuck is coming up over 126 hectares in the trans-Yamuna region of Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. A herd of around 350 blackbucks is estimated to be inhabiting the Meja forest division near Allahabad

The State cabinet has approved a Blackbuck Conservation Reserve in the Meja forest division that is known for its rocky, undulating and arid terrain.

There are a few national parks and sanctuaries inhabited by blackbuck in the country, like the Velavadar Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat and the Ranibennur Blackbuck Sanctuary in Karnataka. However, there are not many conservation reserves exclusively dedicated to the antelope.

Blackbucks, known for their majestic spiral horns and coat colour contrasts, are found in grasslands and open forests. They once ruled the open savannahs of north and central India, but are now restricted to just a few patches and habitats, primarily due to human population growth, ecosystem degradation and hunting.

The U.P. government evoked Section 36 A (1) and (2) of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, to declare the conservation reserve.

Safe haven

The blackbucks can often be seen grazing in agricultural fields during the dry season in the trans-Yamuna belt in Meja and Bundelkhand. The island of safe haven for the blackbuck within the designated reserve is a rocky terrain dotted with trees of dhak, mahua, neem and acacia. The area boasts more than 200 species of birds and herbivores like blackbucks and bluebull [nilgai], and carnivores like jackals and stripped hyena.

NTPC authorities at the Meja power plant sanctioned an amount of Rs. 1.20 crore to the forest department under their corporate social responsibility to support the work of the blackbuck habitat through construction of approach roads, waterholes and erection of retro-board signages.

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Kerala’s New Trauma Care Project

Most road-accident victims in India end up succumbing to their injuries for the delay in timely medical attention owing to the reluctance of hospitals in taking the victim’s responsibility during the most crucial hours.

Following the tragic death of Murugan, a Tamil Nadu resident who succumbed to road accident injuries after being refused for treatment by many hospitals, Kerala is instating a Trauma Care Project that will fast-track specialised treatment for road-accident victims and ensure that they get the treatment well within the golden hour.

An ambitious project on behalf of the state government, the initiative will also fund for the treatment expenses of the victims for the first 48 hours, including those at private hospitals. Under the project proposal, one of the guidelines includes forbidding the hospitals from charging any amount of medical fee from the relatives of a victim for the first 48 hours of treatment.

The project will be funded through the state government’s Kerala Road Safety Fund and Social Security Fund of the Kerala State Transport Project. The amount that will be remunerated by the government will be later recovered from respective insurance companies, who will be roped into the project as a detailed framework gets drafted.

The project will ensure that all government medical colleges have a trauma care system, along with district and taluk hospitals as well as major private medical centres.

This will include special ambulance services equipped with modern amenities that will bring the accident victims to the closest hospitals in the vicinity without any further delay. For this service, the government intends to invite private players.

An exclusive software is part of the plan that will help in selecting the ambulances and private hospitals. A centralised call centre is also in the pipeline that will monitor all the activities with the support of the software.

In a recent meeting, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had asked the officials to put an end to the practice of denying treatment to accident victims and along with it, the bias in providing it only to the rich and privileged.

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India hits 100 in ease of doing business

India jumped up 30 notches into the top 100 rankings on the World Bank’s ‘ease of doing business’ index, thanks to major improvements in indicators such as resolving insolvency, paying taxes, protecting minority investors and getting credit.

“The significant jump this year is a result of the Indian government’s consistent efforts over the past few years and India’s endeavour to strengthen its position as a preferred place to do business,” said Annette Dixon, Vice President, South Asia region at the release of ‘Doing Business 2018: Reforming to Create Jobs’ on Tuesday.

India’s fastest single-year jump in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking has been a meticulously planned exercise. It began with the World Bank agreeing with the government that the survey (that underlies the ranking) should be conducted in two cities (Mumbai and Delhi) unlike the pre-2016 methodology of ranking reflecting the perception of business in Mumbai alone.

GST will improve rank

There is significant improvement in many criteria such as protecting minority investors, availability of credit and getting an electricity connection. On the taxation index, India had vaulted up 53 places; once the impact of the GST is factored in, the ranking will improve further. The cut-off for the rankings was June 1.

An improvement in the rankings will help not only foreign investments but also domestic investors.

India is among the top ten improvers this year, with improved ranking in six of the ten indicators, while its performance in absolute terms improved in nine. The six areas of improved ranking include dealing with construction permits and enforcing contracts.

Where India slipped

In the category of starting a business, though, the need for local entrepreneurs to go through 12 procedures to start a business, as opposed to five in high-income countries, worsened India’s ranking in the category to 156 from 155 last year.

There was also a major slip in ranking in the category of registering property — from 138 last year to 154 this year — due to increase in time taken, cost and number of procedures for registration.

Bhutan, in 75th place, is South Asia’s highest-ranked economy, followed by India (at 100) and Nepal (at 105).

This year, the report recognised eight areas in which reforms were implemented in Delhi and Mumbai, as opposed to just four last year.

India’s corporate law and securities regulations were recognised as highly advanced, placing it in fourth place in the global ranking on protecting minority investors. The time taken to obtain an electricity connection in Delhi reduced from 138 days four years back to 45 days now, against a 78-day average in OECD high-income economies, the report observed. This put India in 29th place in the category.

India still lags in areas such as starting a business, enforcing contracts and dealing with construction permits. It takes longer to enforce a contract today, at 1,445 days, than 15 years ago (1,420 days).

Further Reading:

Ease of Doing Business Report

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India Topped Global Tuberculosis Fatalities in 2016

Despite a reduced number of Tuberculosis deaths in 2016, India continued to have the highest TB casualty in the world. WHO’s Global Tuberculosis Report 2017 has recorded 4.23 lakh TB deaths (without HIV) in India, a slight dip from the 4.8 lakh deaths in 2015.
India alone has contributed to 33% of the total 1.04 crore global deaths due to TB (without HIV) and 26% deaths among HIV+ cases. Seven countries account for 64% of these deaths. India, with the highest casualty rate leads the pack of these seven nations, followed by Indonesia, China, Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria and South Africa. However, mortality of TB patients with HIV in India has also dipped from 37,000 in 2015 to 12,000 in 2016.

Efforts put in across the world to combat the menace of Tuberculosis have saved an estimated 53 million lives since 2000 and the mortality rate has come down by 37% globally. Yet, TB remains the most killer infectious disease in the world.

The latest picture is one of a high burden of disease and progress that is not fast enough to reach targets. TB is the ninth biggest killer disease worldwide and the leading single infectious agent, ranking above HIV/AIDS.

A total of 19.36 lakh cases were notified in India in 2016, of which, 17.63 lakh cases were either new or relapse. This is up from 2015’s notifications of 17.4 lakhs. The treatment coverage of TB has gone up from 59% to 63%.

The WHO report also noted that India’s funding for TB has gone up from an annual budget of $280 million in 2015 to $525 million, which is quite a drastic growth. Domestic spending on TB has gone up from 32% of the annual budget to 74%, thus decreasing its dependency on international funding.

Of the 6,00,000 cases that have become resistant to the most effective first line drug — rifampicin — 47% are in India, China and the Russian Federation. India is one of the 14 countries to have the highest Multi Drug Resistant TB (MDR-TB), TB and HIV. The fact that 21% of MDR-TB deaths are in India, affects the figures of drug resistant diseases globally.

India, especially needs to close its gap between the incidence of TB and reported cases, as at 25%, it’s the highest in the world. Tuberculosis incidence is falling at about 2% per year. However, by 2020, it has to go up to at least 4-5% per year, to reach the 2020 goal of ‘End TB Strategy’.

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IIT team tracks urban heat island

Between February and May, most of the 89 Indian cities that are to be developed as Smart Cities have been found to be 1-5 degrees C cooler during the day relative to the surrounding non-urban areas. More than 60% of the total 89 urban areas are 1-5 degrees C cooler during April (it’s 70% in May).

This observation is in contrast with the globally witnessed phenomenon of urban areas getting significantly warmer during the day compared with the surrounding areas as a result of urban heat island effect.

In contrast, during the post-monsoon period (October to January), about 80% of the urban areas show typical urban heat island effect and are 1-6 degrees C warmer than the surrounding non-urban areas.

During the night, all the cities studied are warmer (1-5 degrees C) than the surrounding non-urban areas due to urban heat island effect regardless of the season and location.

Compared with other cities, urban areas in semi-arid and arid regions of western India show higher warming in the night.

The nighttime warming is driven mainly by heat stored in buildings and impervious concrete areas.

Vegetation in focus

A team of researchers from the Civil Engineering department at IIT Gandhinagar found that cities are cooler during the day than the surrounding non-urban areas only when the non-urban areas lack vegetation and moisture either due to lack of irrigation or water bodies. These cities (Kurnool, Vijayawada, Badami, Bijapur, Aurangabad and cities in Gujarat and Rajasthan) are typically located in western and central parts of India.

However, cities (Varanasi, Lucknow, Allahabad, Kanpur, and Patna) in the Gangetic Plain, north-western India (Punjab and Haryana) and southern tip of the west coast show typical urban heat island effect during the day; these cities are 3-5 degrees C warmer than the surrounding non-urban areas during the pre-monsoon (February-May) and post-monsoon (October-January) periods.

The non-urban areas in these areas have vegetation in the form of trees or agriculture and have moisture due to irrigation.

More than 70 of the 89 cities studied are surrounded by non-urban areas which have more than 50% of total land cover under agriculture between November and March.

This results in non-urban areas being cooler than the cities during the post-monsoon season.

Aerosols too have an effect in reducing the temperature but their role in cooling during daytime is less compared with vegetation and irrigation.

Planning requirement

Since the government is planning to develop these as smart cities, we should think of using more sustainable building materials that absorb less heat during the day. We also need to include passive cooling measures such as increased tree cover, increased ventilation in buildings and orientation of buildings in modern building designs to reduce the night-time urban heat island effect. There should be an optimal combination of impervious cover, vegetation cover, and water bodies within the cities.

The researchers used satellite data (2000-2014) and community land model to identify the impact of irrigation and show the cooling seen in cities is due to lack of vegetation and moisture in non-urban areas relative to cities.

Urban Heat Island

An urban heat island (UHI) is an urban area or metropolitan area that is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas due to human activities.

The temperature difference usually is larger at night than during the day and is most apparent when winds are weak. UHI is most noticeable during the summer and winter. The main cause of the urban heat island effect is the modification of land surfaces.

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