World Population Day

World Population Day, which seeks to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues, was established by the then-governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme in 1989, an outgrowth of the interest generated by the Day of Five Billion, which was observed on 11 July 1987.

Almost on the verge of completing three decades now, the internationally celebrated event aims to spread awareness on issues such as overpopulation, underpopulation and birth control. The world population is currently pegged at around 7 billion and according to UN reports is growing at a fast pace, adding 83 million people every year.

The theme for 2018: World Population day will run on the theme “Family Planning is a Human right” this year.

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Gender bias caused ‘excess’ deaths of girls under 5: Lancet study

There have been 2,39,000 “excess deaths” per year of girls under the age of five in India, and 29 out of 35 States contributed to this mortality, according to a study in the online, open access, peer-reviewed journal Lancet Global Health. That works out to about 2.4 million deaths in a decade, and the additional deaths were found in 90% of districts in the country.

Excess mortality is the difference between observed and expected mortality rates in both genders.

To arrive at this number for India, the researchers calculated the difference between these two numbers in 46 countries that consistently did not have a problem with gender discrimination. They then used that to define an equation and arrive at numbers for India.

 

Most studies of India’s skewed sex ratios have focussed on pre-natal mortality.

The National Family Health Survey in 2017 said that India’s sex ratio at birth has increased to 919 in 2015-16 from 914 in 2004-05. This study, however, focuses on mortality after birth and says that the problem is most pronounced in northern India, where the four largest States in the region, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh, accounted for two-thirds of the total excess deaths of females under five. In Uttar Pradesh, excess female mortality was calculated at 30.5. In Bihar, the rate was 28.5, in Rajasthan it was 25.4, and in Madhya Pradesh, it was 22.1.

The average level of excess mortality in girls aged 0-4 in the study period of 2000-2005 was 18.5 per 1,000 live births, compared to the expected mortality of girl children aged under five in areas of the world without known gender discrimination. This study period was chosen, said Dr. Saikia, because it had the most consistent district-level data.

The worst affected areas were all rural, agricultural areas with lower levels of education, high population densities, low socio-economic development and high levels of fertility.

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Death Penalty For Rape of Minors

Following a nationwide uproar over the rape of two minors in Kathua and Unnao, the Union Cabinet, in its meeting on Saturday, took a decision to bring an Ordinance to award death penalty to those convicted of sexually assaulting a child.

Law Ministry sources say that they have approved a proposal received from the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MoWCD) to amend the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, and a final decision to bring it in the form of an Ordinance was taken at the Cabinet meeting.

Tracking down sexual crimes has proved difficult because — as pointed out by National Crime Records Bureau reports since 2014 — in over 90% of such crimes, the perpetrators are known to the victim. A report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs noted that “child sexual abuse and related crimes remain overwhelmingly under-reported due to the associated stigma and propensity of parents/guardians to not involve the police in these matters”. A study by the National Law School of India University (NLSUI) also reported that in 67% of child rape cases, the survivors gave up on the trial or changed their statement. Therefore, introducing the death penalty in the POCSO Act will aggravate this problem.

The demand for death penalty for sexual crimes stems primarily from a society’s desire for revenge, not redress. A growing body of literature now emphasises that the death penalty is not a deterrent against any kind of crime — better policing, social welfare and effective implementation of the due processes are. Also, separate courtrooms exclusively for child abuse cases should be established.

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Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana

Launching the ‘Gram Swaraj Abhiyan’ here on Saturday, the Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan said the number of LPG distribution points in the State will be increased to 1,000 from the existing 707 for quicker and efficient delivery of gas cylinders.

About the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana:

Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana aims to provide LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) connections to poor households.

Under the scheme, an adult woman member of a below poverty line family identified through the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) is given a deposit-free LPG connection with a financial assistance of Rs 1,600 per connection by the Centre.

Eligible households will be identified in consultation with state governments and Union territories. The scheme is being implemented by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.

Some of the objectives of the scheme are:

  • Empowering women and protecting their health.
  • Reducing the serious health hazards associated with cooking based on fossil fuel.
  • Reducing the number of deaths in India due to unclean cooking fuel.
  • Preventing young children from a significant number of acute respiratory illnesses caused due to indoor air pollution by burning the fossil fuel.

About 75 crore Indians, especially women and girls, are exposed to severe household air pollution (HAP) from the use of solid fuels such as biomass, dung cakes and coal for cooking. A report from the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare places HAP as the second leading risk factor contributing to India’s disease burden.

According to the World Health Organization, solid fuel use is responsible for about 13% of all mortality and morbidity in India (measured as Disability-Adjusted Life Years), and causes about 40% of all pulmonary disorders, nearly 30% of cataract incidences, and over 20% each of ischemic heart disease, lung cancer and lower respiratory infection.

PMUY has been a revolutionary initiative that has transformed the lives of more than 3.57 crore households spanning across the length and breadth of the country. The initiative is in line with Governments aim to eradicate energy poverty, thereby promoting economic empowerment.

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India at risk of Food Shortage due to Climate Change

India is among the countries which are at the greatest risk of food insecurity due to weather extremes caused by climate change, a global study suggests.

Researchers led by the University of Exeter in the UK examined how climate change could affect the vulnerability of different countries to food insecurity – when people lack access to sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.

The study, published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, looked at 122 developing and least-developed countries, mostly in Asia, Africa, and South America.

The countries at the greatest vulnerability to food insecurity when moving from the present-day climate to 2 degrees Celsius global warming are Oman, India, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and Brazil, researchers said.

Warming is expected to lead to wetter conditions on average – with floods putting food production at risk – but agriculture could also be harmed by more frequent and prolonged droughts in some areas, researchers said.

Wetter conditions are expected to have the biggest impact in South and East Asia, with the most extreme projections suggesting the flow of the River Ganges could more than double at 2 degrees Celsius global warming, they said.

The areas worst affected by droughts are expected to be Southern Africa and South America – where flows in the Amazon are projected to decline by up to 25 percent, according to the researchers.

They examined projected changes in weather extremes and their implications for freshwater availability and vulnerability to food insecurity.

 

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SHe-Box for Online Complaints of Sexual Harassment

WCD Minister Smt Maneka Sanjay Gandhi launched a comprehensive SHe-Box online complaint Management System for women working in both public and private organizations to lodge complaints of sexual harassment at workplace.

The SHe-Box was launched in New Delhi to ensure the effective implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act (the SH Act), 2013.

The new SHe-Box portal offers the facility of making online complaints of sexual harassment at the workplace to all women employees in the country including government and private employees. Those who have already filed a written complaint with the concerned Internal Complaint Committee (ICC) or Local Complaint Committee (LCC) constituted under the SH Act are also eligible to file their complaint through this portal.

WCD Ministry has also produced a manual and has organized training programmes for Internal Complaint Committees and in the next significant step, the SHe-Box has been launched to provide a platform to aggrieved women to make their complaints directly so that suitable action is taken to redress their grievances.

SHe-Box portal is an effort to provide a speedier remedy to women facing sexual harassment at workplace. Once a complaint is submitted to the portal, it will be directly sent to the ICC/LCC of the concerned employer. Through this portal, WCD, as well as complainant, can monitor the progress of inquiry conducted by the ICC/LCC. This is a proactive step taken by MWCD in the wake of the worldwide social media campaign #MeToo, where women have related their experience of facing sexual harassment and abuse. The portal can be accessed at the link given below:

Link to the SHe-Box portal: http://shebox.nic.in/

Users of SHe-Box also have the option of interacting with Ministry of WCD through this portal, with an assured time-bound response. The portal also provides information on 112 institutions empanelled by MWCD to conduct training/workshops on the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace. It also has the option for resource persons and institutions willing to contribute to training on this subject in various organisations to submit their applications. SHe-Box will provide a platform to these empanelled institutes/organisations to share their capacity building activities with the Ministry which in turn will be able to monitor the activities of these institutes/organizations so empanelled from across the country.

The Ministry has published a Handbook and Training Module on the SH Act to provide information about the provisions of the Act in easy to use practical manner. The private organizations are encouraged to customize the Training Module as per their extant service rules and disciplinary procedures prescribed therein.

Ensuring the dignity and safety of women must be the first priority for any digital society. Towards realization of the vision of the Digital India programme, the Ministry is promoting utilisation of information and communication technology to achieve the goal of gender equality and women empowerment. It is an effort to utilise the digital space to enable speedier response to the complaints of women against sexual harassment at workplace.

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President of India inaugurates Global Clubfoot Conference

The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, inaugurated the Global Clubfoot Conference being organised by the CURE India in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, in New Delhi .
It can cause permanent disability if not treated early. This affects the child’s mobility and confidence. Inevitably, education and schooling suffer – and the child cannot fulfil his or her potential.

The President said that in India the burden of disability affects more than 10 million people. The differently-abled or Divyang as we call them deserve equal opportunities in all avenues of life. Mainstreaming their social and professional experience is a commitment for all of us. Having said that, many of these disabilities are preventable or curable – which is often forgotten. Prevention, treatment and mainstreaming have to go in parallel.

Clubfoot

  • Clubfoot is one of the most common orthopaedic birth defects.
  • It can cause permanent disability if not treated early.
  • Clubfoot is a birth defect where one or both feet are rotated inwards and downwards.
  • This affects the child’s mobility and confidence. Inevitably, education and schooling suffer – and the child cannot fulfil his or her potential.
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Sex with minor wife between 15-18 years is rape.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday criminalised sex with a minor wife aged between 15 and 18 years, saying the exception in the rape law was arbitrary and violative of the Constitution.

Section 375 of the IPC, which defines the offence of rape, has an exception clause that says intercourse or sexual act by a man with his wife, not below 15 years, is not rape. However, the age of consent is 18 years.

This comes as a major relief in the wake of the steadily increasing number of cases registered under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. The disturbing trajectory has seen an upward growth with 60 cases registered in 2010 to 293 in 2015. There was a 4.6 percent increase in 2015 as compared to 2014 when 280 cases were registered.

As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, Tamil Nadu has reported the maximum number of crimes in 2015 with 77 reported incidents. This was followed by West Bengal, which recorded 40 cases.

Five states from South India — Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala — saw a combined 139 cases of child marriage in 2014, as per the NCRB data. This accounts for nearly half the total number of cases reported in the country that year (280 instances).

Deccan Herald reported that Women and Child Ministry had acknowledged that data shows 43 percent of women aged between 20 and 24 years were married before the age of 18 years.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development said that the reasons for child marriage are complex and it is a mindset problem, which considers girl child as a burden.

According to a UN report, India has the second-highest number of child marriages. “Girls with no education are 5.5 times more likely to marry or enter into a union as those with at least 10 years of education,” the UN report said.

A bench comprising Justice Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta also expressed concern over the prevalent practice of child marriage in the country during the Wednesday ruling and said that social justice laws were not implemented with the spirit with which they have been enacted by Parliament.

The court had earlier reserved the verdict while questioning the Centre how the Parliament could create an exception in law declaring that intercourse or a sexual act by a man with his wife, aged between 15 and less than 18 years, is not rape when the age of consent is 18.

The apex court had also observed that child marriage cannot go on like this just because this illegal practice was assumed to be legal and has been going on for ages.

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Passive Euthanasia Already a law, says governmentt

More than six years after sanctioning passive euthanasia as a legitimate option to end lives of people in a permanent vegetative state, the Supreme Court has decided to examine the more complex concept of a “living will” where removal of life support is authorised in case of an irreversible coma.

SC was hearing a plea by NGO Common Cause to declare ‘right to die with dignity’ as a fundamental right within the fold of right to live with dignity, which is guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

A “living will” is a document prepared by a person in a healthy state of mind specifying that if s/he slides into a vegetative state because of an irreversible terminal illness, the debilitated existence should not be prolonged with the help of life support systems or other medical interventions.

In such a case, relatives will be spared the agonising decision of removing life support and doctors will be guided solely by the “living will”. In several cases, the reluctance to pull the plug on a loved one even when s/he is in a vegetative state prolongs the pain of the patient.

Active and passive euthanasia:

Active euthanasia, the intentional act of causing the death of a patient in great suffering, is illegal in India. It entails deliberately causing the patient’s death through injections or overdose.

But passive euthanasia, the withdrawal of medical treatment with the deliberate intention to hasten a terminally ill patient’s death is “partially” allowed.

The patient, family, friends and legal guardians can’t take the decision on their own, but need a high court’s approval bill for stopping treatment.

Euthanasia in law:

The government told the court on Tuesday there was already a law on passive euthanasia and it had drafted a ‘management of patients with terminal illness-withdrawal of medical life support bill’.

The issue of euthanasia was first examined by the health ministry in consultation with the experts in 2006, based on the 196th Law Commission of India report. However, it was decided to not make any laws on euthanasia.
Aruna Shanbaug case:

In 2011, the Supreme Court, while hearing the case of Aruna Shanbaug, who was in a vegetative state for nearly 30 years, had legalised passive euthanasia partially.

A nurse at KEM Hospital in Mumbai, Shanbaug was in a vegetative state since 1973 after a brutal sodomisation and strangling with a dog-chain during a sexual assault. She died in 2015 while on a ventilator for several days after suffering from pneumonia.

SC gave patients living in a vegetative state the right to have treatment or food withdrawn, and laid down guidelines to process passive euthanasia in the case of incompetent patients. The guidelines include seeking a declaration from a high court, after getting clearance from a medical board and state government.

Medical experts on euthanasia:

Doctors have a mixed reaction to legalising euthanasia. They say the government needs to take a careful approach before legalising passive euthanasia when the measures to prolong the life of the patient are withdrawn.

Most doctors, however, agree that euthanasia should be made legal in cases where there is no scope of a patient recovering. But many feel that India is not yet ready for a decision like this which requires a mix of sensitivity and maturity.

A major concern is the misuse of the law. If it is legal to passively allow or actively hasten death, what’s to say an aged parent won’t be hastened in favour of an inheritance, or a spouse have treatment withdrawn for the sake of a hefty insurance payout?

Euthanasia in other countries:

Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide have been legal in The Netherlands and Belgium since 2001 and 2002. In the US, Switzerland and Germany, euthanasia is illegal but physician-assisted suicide is legal. Euthanasia remains illegal in the UK, France, Canada and Australia.

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Passive euthanasia case: Centre opposes the living will

The court is now considering the plea of an NGO, Common Cause, to declare ‘right to die with dignity’ as a fundamental right within the fold of Right to Live with Dignity guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

A five-judge constitution bench of the top court, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, is hearing the case.

Besides the CJI, the bench also comprises justices A.K. Sikri, A.M. Khanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan.

The court had in February 2014 referred to a Constitution bench a plea favouring voluntary passive euthanasia or mercy killing in cases where a person is suffering from a terminal illness and has no chance of revival and recovery as per the medical opinion.

How is living will defined?

‘Living will’ explain a situation whether or not a person wants to be kept on life support if he/she becomes terminally ill and will die shortly without life support, or fall into a persistent vegetative state. It also addresses other important questions, detailing a person’s preferences for tube feeding, artificial hydration, and pain medication in certain situations. A living will becomes effective only when a person cannot communicate his/her desires on own.

What is “passive euthanasia”?

The term “passive euthanasia” used by the Supreme Court in its verdict on Aruna Shanbaug’s case is defined as the withdrawal of life support, treatment or nutrition with the deliberate intention to hasten a terminally ill patient’s death.

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