From: Press Information Bureau Ministry of I&B <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thu, Sep 30, 2010 at 4:11 PM
Subject: Features for release..........1,2,3,4
Press Information Bureau
Government of India
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Mahatma Gandhi – a Protagonist of Peace
The second day of the month of October presents yet another occasion to a grateful Nation to recall the teachings of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. The advent of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on the Indian political horizon posed enough reasons to excite as well as attract hundreds of Indians towards him and – more towards his ideology, which later came to be called the Gandhian Philosophy. It is indeed amazing that the personality of Gandhiji gripped the imagination of millions of his countrymen and in later stage an overwhelming number the world over.
It was to his unique credit that in a world marred by violence and man-made hatred, Mahatma Gandhi stands firm as a man of universal goodwill and a protagonist of peace. What is more striking is that Gandhiji emerged during his life time as a torchbearer of peace, even today he continues to surprise mankind with his non-violent methods of resolving conflicts. To many, it is not merely a strange phenomenon that a Nation subjected to colonial rule put up a strong resistance against the British hegemony with non-violence as a principal tool under a frail looking leader like Gandhiji. What is stranger still is the magic spell of success his methodology continues to have.
Can there be any denying the fact that 'non-violence' and the message of peace is still a familiar catchword among the world leaders to settle any international or bilateral dispute? It goes without saying that it is never possible to evaluate how much India and the world owes to Mahatma Gandhi, the holy mascot of peace.
A peace – however with a difference! This is what the protagonist was himself to say: "I am a man of peace. But I do not want peace at any price. I do not want the peace that you find in grave". This is precisely an element that gives a suitable clause about Gandhi as a 'man of peace'. This is only to underline that despite being a crusader of peace, Mahatma Gandhi was not just cut out to be someone who would or could accept anything or everything in the name of a peace deal.
Gandhiji's definition of peace was not without struggle. In fact, he had led brilliantly in fight against apartheid in white-ruled South Africa. Consequently on his return back home in 1915, Gandhiji took on the mantle as a social reformer with campaign against untouchability and other social vices. Later he extended this yardstick to political sphere and in the long run took his message of love, peace and mutual adjustment to the cause of Hindu-Muslim harmony.
His 'Ram dhun', the popular devotion number, 'Ishwar Allah tera naam' is still the nation's best hymn for Hindu-Muslim peace. This brings us into debate what was then 'peace' to Gandhiji. Well, one can say that the highly upheld 'Peace' was not an end by itself to him. Rather it was only a sort of a means to ensure better welfare for the mankind.
Mahatma Gandhi in real sense was a harbinger of truth. In fact, he even had said that 'Truthfulness is more important than peacefulness'. In this context, the following words of the Mahatma, as quoted from 'Young India' newspaper are quite relevant. Mahatma Gandhi wrote, "Though we sing – all glory to God on high and on the earth be peace — there seems to be today neither glory to God nor Peace on earth". Mahatma Gandhi wrote these words in December 1931. He died 17 years later in January 1948 to an assassin's bullets. It indeed was tragic that a saint of universal peace and non-violence fell a victim to violence and hatred. But even today in the circa 2010, Mahatma Gandhi's words of 1931 holds true.
The world is today faced with plethora of conflicts – of all types. Therefore, we see Gandhi's emphasis on universal brotherhood and peaceful co-existence has all time relevance. His teachings are therefore the most upheld principles of patriotism as also on ways and means to end various global conflicts. In fact, a true testimony of Gandhij's teaching lies in the fact that mere "good ends" do not justify 'bad' means. The world over therefore, today the emphasis is on human dignity and upholding the values of natural justice.
It is obvious that in today's world, nothing seems to be permanent except the 'crisis of peace' – and nothing would be a better tribute to this man than to re-dedicate ourselves towards the cause of 'peace' and mutual tolerance. Here lies the relevance of Gandhism. (PIB Features)
*Special Representative with 'The Statesman' in New Delhi.
Disclaimer : The views expressed by the author in this feature are entirely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of PIB.
Press Information Bureau
Government of India
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Taking Care of Senior Citizens
Vidya Bhushan Arora*
We are living in an ageing world. Over the past few years, the world's population has witnessed a growth in the number and proportion of older persons. According to a UN paper, such a rapid, large and ubiquitous growth has never been seen in the history of civilization. The World Health Orgnization (WHO) has projected that world-wide, there are around 600 million persons aged 60 years and over; this total will double by 2025 and will reach virtually two billion by 2050 - the vast majority of them in the developing world.
According to the Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations Secretariat, the current demographic revolution is predicted to continue well into the coming centuries. Its major features are: one out of every ten persons is now 60 years or above; by 2050, one out of five will be 60 years or older; and by 2150, one out of three persons will be 60 years or older. Similarly, the older population itself is ageing. The oldest old (80 years or older) is the fastest growing segment of the older population. They currently make up 13 percent of the 60+ age group and will grow to 20 percent by 2050. The number of centenarians (aged 100 years or older) is projected to increase 14-fold from approximately 265,000 in 2005 to 3.7 million by 2050. This kind of demographic situation calls for fresh thinking at policy level to enable the societies to equip themselves for this changing scenario where not only taking care of senior citizens will be important but in addition emphasis should be on devising the ways in which the potential of senior citizens will be fully utilized. Perhaps the time has come when it has become utmost necessary to change our mindset about the older persons and also change our notions about their perceived 'limitations'. The societies must learn to take advantage of the experience and dormant abilities of older persons and also make necessary infrastructural and other changes required to meet this new challenge.
As the 'Policy Considerations' segment of the UN document 'Implications of An Ageing Society' notes, "Recognition of the uniqueness that unfolds throughout one's life is core to igniting society's embrace of the contributions of its older citizens. The package of knowledge, wisdom and experience that so often comes with age is part of an inner awareness that cannot be traded, sold or stolen. It should, however, be activated, amplified and utilized in all the crossroads, fields and storefronts of society, and in the windows of our creative imaginations."
1st October is observed as the International Day of Older Persons (IDOP) every year throughout the world. The United Nations has set some objectives for the U.N. International Day of Older Persons 2010 which include addressing the current state of the Global Ageing Agenda and Strategies at the United Nations, review of the Millennium Development Goals in context of ageing and identifying innovative initiatives which are advancing the Global agenda on Ageing. It also emphasizes the need for anchoring ageing further into the UN activities.
Population of Senior Citizens in India
The elderly population of our country is steadily on the rise and is projected to grow at a faster pace than the population in general. The population of senior citizens is projected to rise to nearly 10 crore by 2011, 12 crore by 2016, 14 crore by 2021 and over 17 crore by 2026.
As per 2001 Census, total population of Senior Citizens (60+) was 7.7 crore, of which population of males and females was 3.8 crore and 3.9 crore respectively. Senior Citizens constituted 7.5% of the total population. Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Orissa, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry have more than the national average (7.5%) of Senior Citizens population.
In 1991, about 6.8% of the total population was aged 60 years and above. The figure is projected to go up to 12.4% in 2026. General improvement in the health care facilities over the years is one of the main reasons for continuing increase in proportion of population of senior citizens in India. Ensuring that they not merely live longer, but lead a secure, dignified and productive life is a major challenge. Some main problems of senior citizens on which there is a constant need to take care include security, health care and need for care and maintenance.
National Policy on Older Persons (NPOP) 1999 Under Revision
The first National Policy on Older Persons (NPOP) was announced in January, 1999 by the Government of India to reaffirm the commitment to ensure the well-being of the older persons. The Policy envisages State support to ensure financial and food security, health care, shelter and other needs of older persons, equitable share in development, protection against abuse and exploitation, and availability of services to improve the quality of their lives.
Ten years have passed since the announcement of the Policy. Keeping in view the changing demography of the senior citizens in the country, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment constituted a Committee in January 2010 to assess the present status of various issues concerning senior citizens, in general, and implementation of National Policy on Older Persons (NPOP), 1999 in particular. The Committee is working on a draft for a new National Policy on Older Persons. The Review Committee has so far held five meetings and five regional meetings at Chandigarh, Chennai, Mumbai, Guwahati and Bhubaneswar. The Review Committee is expected to submit its recommendation by the end of December 2010.
Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007
The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 was enacted in December 2007 to ensure need based maintenance for parents and senior citizens and their welfare. The Act, amongst other things, provides for maintenance of parents/ senior citizens by children/ relatives made obligatory and justiciable through Tribunals, revocation of transfer of property by senior citizens in case of negligence by relatives, penal provision for abandonment of senior citizens and protection of Life and Property of senior citizens etc.
The Act comes into force in a State upon notification by the individual State/ UT Government. At present, the Act had been notified by 22 States and all UTs. The States which had notified the Act are also required to take further measures for effective implementation of the various provisions of the Act. These measures include framing of rules, appointing Maintenance Officer and constituting Maintenance and Appellate Tribunals etc.
So far, nine States namely, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Tripura and West Bengal have taken all the necessary steps as mentioned above. Remaining States/ UTs are constantly being reminded by the Centre to take necessary action in this regard at the earliest.
Integrated Programme for Older Persons (IPOP)
The Ministry has been implementing a Central Sector Scheme "Integrated Programme for Older Persons (IPOP)" since 1992. The Scheme aims at improving the quality of life of senior citizens by catering to their basic needs, particularly shelter, food and health care to the destitute elderly. Under the Scheme, financial assistance up to 90% of the project cost is provided to non-governmental organizations for running and maintenance of old age homes, day care centres, mobile medicare units, etc. During the year 2009-10, 360 NGOs were supported under the Scheme to run 345 Old Age Homes, 184 Day Care Centres and 27 Mobile Medical Units. On an average, about 35,000 beneficiaries are being covered every year under the Scheme. (PIB Features)
*Deputy Director (M & C), Press Information Bureau, New Delhi.
(With inputs from the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment and UN Websites)
Press Information Bureau
Government of India
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World fondly Remembers the Mahatma
V. Mohan Rao*
Comity of nations across the globe, having faith in democracy continue to pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi on his birth day on the 2nd day of October every year because of the relevancy of his time-tested principles of truth and non-violence. The over six decades old philosophy continued to be relevant in the modern world even today. Gandhi's philosophy of Satyagraha (Truth) and Non-violence (Ahimsa) has lead the United Nations to adopt his birthday as the International Day of Non-Violence thus declaring him a global ambassador for preaching peace and communal harmony. The United Nations General Assembly had adopted a resolution to this effect on 15th of June 2007. In the home front, the Father of the Nation continued to be an undeclared brand ambassador for achieving social justice in the promotion of communal harmony, eradication of poverty, women's rights, universal education and other burning problems of the day. His contribution in these sectors is the befitting reply to those who ask the question — Is Mahatma Gandhi relevant today. His enumeration of seven sins like politics without principles, wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, commerce without morality, science without humanity and worship without sacrifice, will continue to guide the humankind forever. He always preached for respect to various cultures and religions based on the fundamentals of Listening, Speaking and Appreciating each other as he believed that in a vibrant democracy, the concerns of everyone, predominantly, the poor, women and disadvantaged communities must be addressed. Gandhi always preached "the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." This gives the message that as India experiences rapid growth, it is vital that its citizens work together to ensure that the progress made is truly inclusive and that weaker sections are equal stakeholders in the processes of development. Eminent historians likened Gandhi to be a politician, an economist, a doctor, a nutritionist, an environmentalist and a spiritual master - all rolled into one. This is also evident from the description of Mahatma Gandhi as the legendary Indian icon by no less than the American President Mr Barack Obama, who has asked the young Africans to follow Gandhi in bringing changes in the continent. In his address to the Young African Leaders from nearly 50 African countries at the White House on 4th of August this year, Mr Obama quoted Gandhi as having said – "you have to be the change that you seek." Gandhi proved to the world that freedom can be achieved through the path of non-violence, a true symbol of peace and truth.
Tributes To The Mahatma
Gandhi Jayanti provides a platform to the people to emulate the great preachings of the Mahatma (Great Soul). A grateful nation, has renamed several of its flagship programs aimed at providing employment and educational opportunities besides health facilities to the people, particularly the women and the poor after him. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme is one among them providing job guarantee for 100 days in the rural areas. Gandhi pushed for education as a mass weapon for salvation, freedom and success in life. In a befitting tribute to the Father of the Nation, the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP), a UNESCO institute, will be unveiled on his 141st birth anniversary in New Delhi. This will be the Category-I institute of UNESCO to be located in Asia. Out of 11 such institutes, nine are situated in the developed world and the two others in Ethiopia and Venezuela. The Human Resource Development Ministry has made a financial assistance of Rs.223 crore for setting up of the Institute. Meanwhile, the HRD Ministry informed the recently concluded Parliament session that India and Australia have agreed to set up a Joint Education Council (JEC). The India-Australia Education Council, will bring together government, academia, business and industry of both the countries to enhance bilateral collaboration in the education sector. The government has decided to provide financial assistance for establishing Gandhi Heritage Sites Portal. A Corpus fund is being set up for which Rs.4 crore are being released to the Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust (SAPMT). The decision was based on the recommendations made by a panel of eminent Gandhians, set up by the Centre in 2006. The major recommendations of the 6-member Panel, headed by Gopal Krishna Gandhi, included the setting up of the Gandhi Heritage Sites Mission with five Zonal Centre besides the setting up of SAPMAT at Ahmedabad. Sabarmati Ashram contains the largest collection of carefully preserved manuscripts of Gandhi's writings during his stay there. The Library and Archives at Sabarmati consist of 34,111 letters - either to Gandhiji or from him; original as well as photocopies. These letters have already been microfilmed and entered into a Register. Government of India has also decided to set up the Gandhi Heritage Sites Mission with a total outlay of Rs. 42 crores during a five-year period. The Mission will initiate conservation/restoration and preservation of Gandhi Heritage Sites, which will be an ongoing exercise. The Panel has recommended 39 Core Sites which include Porbandar and Rajkot sites of the childhood period, Tilak Ghat, Chennai, Mani Bhavan, Mumbai, Beliaghata, Kolkata, the venue in Madurai where Gandhiji took to the loin-cloth, the prison cell in Yeravda Jail, Pune, and the prison room in Aga Khan Palace (Pune). The list of Gandhi Heritage Sites has covered almost every single place visited and associated with Gandhi from 1869 to 1948, in India, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Mauritius, Burma (Myanmar), Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and other venues. The government plans to publish a Comprehensive Master List. The UNESCO has agreed to support the Indian government in achieving the goal of Education for all children between 6 to 14 years by the year 2015. Its Director-General, Ms. Irina Bokova, gave an assurance to this effect in New Delhi early January this year saying that it is extremely important to promote primary education. (PIB Features)
Disclaimer : The views expressed by the author in this feature are entirely his own and do not necessarily reflectthe views of PIB.
Press Information Bureau
Government of India
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Mercury- Environmental Implications and Toxicity
Smt. Kalpana Palkhiwala*
Mercury is the only liquid state metal, which finds very wide commercial application in industries, electrical appliances, mercurial catalysts, healthcare sector for extensive , seed treatment, laboratory reagents etc. Because of extensive use in thermometers, sphygmomanometers, dental amalgams, agriculture for seed treatment, as laboratory reagents etc. Because of extensive commercial use, the mercury consumption in the country is quite high. The Mercury Cell process based Chlor-alkali industries are one of the major users and thus prime source of mercury release to the environment along with the coal-fired thermal power plants, plastic industries, pulp and paper industries, discarded medical instruments, used electrical appliance, electronic waste, certain pharmaceuticals and agricultural products.
The mercury is highly toxic in both forms elemental and compounds; irrespective of whether inhaled, ingested or absorbed through the skin. The microbes convert inorganic mercury of aquatic environment into methyl mercury and various organic mercury compounds. These compounds may be bio-accumulated and bio-magnified in food chain, particularly in the body tissue of fresh water and marine organisms and consequently get transferred to human beings. The Environmental issues of elemental mercury and its various forms, their toxico-kinetics and human health impacts have been widely documented. The mercury compounds are recognized as cumulative poison and are potent neuro and nephro toxic substances. Alkyl mercury has been known to cause permanent mental retardation.
Nature, Occurrence, Distribution
Mercury is the only element, which is liquid at ambient temperature and sometimes called Quicksilver because of its silvery white appearance. It rarely occurs free in nature and is mainly found as bright red crystalline solid Cinnabar ore (HgS). Mercury is a heavy, odourless, lustrous liquid metal that sinks in water. It is mobile, ductile and converts into malleable mass on being solidified at -39o C, which may be cut with a knife.
Mercury has very wide commercial and industrial applications. It is an excellent conductor of electricity, therefore it is widely used in electrical apparatuses i.e. meters, switches, batteries etc. Being highly mobile, it cannot be disintegrated into harmless components. In the industrial processes, mercury is actually not consumed, therefore whatever mercury is used comes back with wastes, effluents, air emissions or in the products. The mercury hazards have been recognized since last few decades due to environmental awareness. It is estimated that more than 90 percent of the mercury used in the industrial processes literally vanishes into various environmental components.
Chlor-alkali industries had been the major source of mercury release to the environment till sometimes back, because of obsolete technology. However, now all of the Chlor alkali industries except few are based on upgraded advanced and cleaner Technology viz. Membrane Technology which does not use mercury in the process.
The average concentration of mercury in the earth's crust is about 0.07 mg/kg. More than 90% of the world's supply of mercury is provided by seven countries: USA, Spain, Yugoslavia, Italy, former Soviet Union, China and Mexico.
Existence of Various Forms of Mercury In Environment
Mercury and its compounds exist in the environment in two forms, inorganic mercury and its compounds and organic mercury and its compounds. The inorganic mercury is available either in mercurous (Hgo) or mercuric (Hg2+) form, while organic mercury is covalently bonded with alkyl or aryl groups.
The metallic mercury when enters in the aquatic environment, the bacterial action converts it slowly to methyl mercury, both the methyl mercury ions (CH3HG+) and Dimethyl mercury (CH3)2Hg are formed. Mercury is particularly dangerous in organomercury compounds. The inorganic mercury directly accumulates in body tissues, while organic mercury in form of aryl salts of mercury, breaks down into organic mercury in the body tissue. The alkyl salts of mercury, particularly methyl mercury is able to diffuse easily through the membranes and spread throughout the body.
Mercury Trade in India
Mercury is not geologically extracted in the country, but imported for commercial uses. Mercury and mercury containing wastes are included in the waste streams of the Basel Convention on trans-boundary movements of hazardous waste and their disposal. In order to control the movement of Basel wastes, the export and import of mercury bearing wastes has been banned under Schedule 8 of the Hazardous Waste (Management and Handling) Amendment Rules, 2003. But elemental mercury and mercury containing equipments are continued to be freely imported.
Global Production of Mercury
Mercury is Natural component of the Earth, with an average abundance of approximately 0.05 mg/kg in the Earth's crust, with significant local variations. The ores of mercury, which are mined generally, contain about one percent mercury.
Natural Sources of Mercury
Mercury can be found virtually in all geological media in small, but varying concentrations. The major sources of mercury are the natural degassing of the earth's crust i.e. evaporation from soil and water surfaces, degradation of minerals and forest fires. Elemental and oxidized forms of mercury are being continuously added to the environment due to their volatile nature. Several cycles are involved in the transport and distribution of mercury in the environment. The global cycle involves the atmospheric circulation of elemental mercury vapours from sources on that also transport the mercury to streams and lakes through surface.
Anthropogenic Sources of Mercury
Industrial use and commercial products containing mercury are recognized as significant sources of mercury release in the environment. Air emissions from coal burning power plants, incinerators, and hazardous waste combustions are the major contributors of mercury. Mercury is also contributed directly from municipal and industrial sits, hospitals, dental clinics, and wastewater and from breakage or disposal of mercury contains products such as fluorescent lights, thermostats and thermometers. There are three major sources of anthropogenic release of mercury which include mobilization of mercury impurities, intentional extraction and use of mercury and waste treatment and cremation, etc.
Coal-fired power generation and heat production, energy production from other fossil carbon fuels, cement production (mercury in lime), mining and other metallurgical activities, and petroleum production are sources of mobilization of mercury impurities.
Chlor-alkali production, products such as thermometers, manometers and other instruments viz. electrical and electronic switches containing mercury, use of fluorescent lamps, instruments and dental amalgam fillings, etc., and use of batteries, fireworks and laboratory chemicals form the source from intentional extraction and use of mercury.
Waste treatment and cremation, etc. activities include municipal, medical and hazardous wastes incineration, landfills and recycling and storage.
Mercury in Atmosphere and Aquatic Environment
The atmospheric chemistry of mercury involves several interactions such as gas phase reactions; aqueous phase reactions (in cloud and fog droplets); partitioning of elements and oxidized mercury species between the gas and solid phases and partitioning between gas and aqueous phase.Methyl mercury can be formed in the environment by microbial metabolism. The efficiency of microbial mercury methylation generally depends on factors such as microbial activity and the concentration of bio available mercury, which in turn are influenced by temperature, pH, redox potential and the presence of inorganic and organic agent.
Mercury in Soil/Sludge and Food Chain
Soil contamination could be caused either by direct dumping or land filling of mercury contaminated wastes. Mercury in water body sediments may indicate the history of contamination. The concentration of mercury in Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) composts is usually very low and thus there is little likelihood of significant transfer of mercury to other environmental components.
Mercury enters into the terrestrial food chain by way of seed eating animal species, resulting in increased level of mercury in tissues and eggs of predatory birds, singing birds and rodents. Some parts of mercury also enters via plant in lonic, complexes and gaseous form through leaves and roots. Human beings can be affected on consumption of contaminated plants and animals on setting the mercury poisoning. (PIB Features)
*Deputy Director(M & C), Press Information Bureau, New Delhi