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ASHA & Anganwadi Workers Interact with & Meet Prime Minister

ASHA & Anganwadi Workers Interact with & Meet Prime Minister

Team of 3 As: ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist)  workers, Anganwadi workers and ANMs (Auxiliary Nurse Midwife), from across the country had an opportunity to interact with Prime Minister through video conferencing on September 11, 2018, and the  Prime Minister recognised the contribution of these grass-root health workers and thanked them for their efforts in building strong and healthy nation and appreciated their effort to work together, to use innovative means and technology, to improve the delivery of health and nutrition services and achieve the goal of POSHAN Abhiyan – reduction of malnutrition in the country. National Nutrition Mission was renamed as POSHAN (Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nutrition) Abhiyan on May 25, 2018. September month is being observed as “Poshan Maah” with the aim towards taking the message of nutrition to every household.

Prime Minister announced on September 11 significant increases in the honorarium given to Anganwadi workers. Those receiving ₹3000 so far, would now receive ₹4500. Similarly those receiving ₹2200 would now get ₹3500. The honorarium for Anganwadi helpers has also been increased from ₹1500 to ₹2250. He also announced the doubling of routine incentives given by the Union Government to ASHA workers. In addition, all ASHA workers and their helpers would be provided free insurance cover under Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana and Prime Minister Suraksha Bima Yojana. Anganwadi workers and helpers using techniques such as Common Application Software (ICDS-CAS) would get additional incentives ranging from ₹250 to ₹500, based on their performance.

The Union Cabinet on September 19 approved this increase in the honorarium for Anganwadi and Asha workers which will become effective next month.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by Prime Minister, has also given its approval to increase routine and recurring incentives under the National Health Mission for Asha workers from ₹1000 to ₹2000 per month.

A group of over 100 Anganwadi workers from across the country called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 19 to thank him for increasing the honorarium amount by up to 60%. Acknowledging the greetings, Modi accompanied by Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi, said:

  • Anganwadis play a key role in a child’s physical and cognitive development.
  • Nutrition requires constant focus and development of good habits, which can be provided by Anganwadi workers.
  • Referring to the on-going Poshan Maah (nutrition month), the momentum that has been built up during this campaign should not flag.
  • Nutrition requires constant focus and development of good habits, which can be provided by Anganwadi workers.
  • Anganwadi workers should ensure that the nutritional assistance being made available to beneficiaries is used judiciously.
  • Children will listen more to Anganwadi workers. They have a key role in generating awareness.
  • He encouraged healthy competition among Anganwadis, as a “motivation for better nutritional care and efforts among various Anganwadi workers.”

A group of about 90 ASHA representatives from across the country called on Prime Minister on September 20 to express their happiness, and thank him for the recent announcement of increase in incentives, and insurance cover. Prime Minister recalling his interaction on September 11 with the ASHA and Anganwadi workers, via video conference, appreciated the experiences and personal accounts that had been shared by ASHA representatives, and said that these will surely prove inspirational for many.

  • ASHA activists on September 20 shared some more accounts of how they had been instrumental in saving lives of poor mothers and children through timely intervention.
  • Prime Minister appreciated the skill and dedication of ASHA workers, and recalled that even Bill and Melinda Gates had praised the efforts of ASHAs towards eradication of diseases such as Kala Azar.
  • Prime Minister encouraged them to devote their energies to work in coordination with other government agencies to improve the quality of life in their villages.
  • He also explained how Government schemes and initiatives are all aimed at empowering the poor to fight poverty.

Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Sh. J.P. Nadda was also present on the occasion.

Anganwadi, a type of rural child care centre, started in 1975 as part of the Integrated Child Development Services programme to combat child hunger and malnutrition, provides basic health care in villages. These centres provide supplementary nutrition, non-formal pre-school education, nutrition and health education, immunization, health check-up and referral services of which later three services are provided in convergence with public health systems.

There are around 14 lakh Anganwadis or child care centres in rural areas across the country and 10 crore beneficiaries, including children under the age of six, pregnant women and lactating mothers. There are a total of 12 83707 Anganwadi workers and 1050564 helpers.

ASHAs (Accredited Social Health Activists), “an ASHA in every village”, are community health workers instituted by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) as a part of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), which began in 2005. ASHAs are local women trained to act as health educators and promoters in their communities, who create awareness on health and its social determinants and mobilize the community towards local health planning and increased utilization and accountability of the existing health services. Their tasks include motivating women to give birth in hospitals, bringing children to immunization clinics, encouraging family planning (e.g., surgical sterilization), treating basic illness and injury with first aid, keeping demographic records, and improving village sanitation.

There are a total of 1023136 ASHAs across the country.

Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM) is a village-level female health worker, known as the first contact person between the community and the health services and regarded as the grass-roots workers in the health organisation pyramid. In 1950s ANMs focussed on midwifery and mother and child health and now their services are considered important to provide safe and effective care to village communities.

Each ANM is supported by four or five ASHAs and with Anganwadi worker, the ANM works as a resource person for the training of ASHAs. The ANM motivates ASHAs to bring beneficiaries to the institution. The ASHA brings pregnant women to the ANM for check-ups. She also brings married couples to the ANM for counselling on the family planning. The ASHA brings children to immunisation sessions held by the ANM. The ASHAs act as bridge between the ANM and the village.

India & Cyprus MoUs on Combating Money Laundering & Environment Cooperation

 “Youth, Technology and Ideas: Shaping the Contours of the 21st Century” was  the theme of address delivered by President of India Ram Nath Kovind at University of Cyprus September 4, 2018, where he said that pursuit of excellence should inspire minds of future generations.

India and Cyprus also signed two MoUs on Combating Money Laundering and Cooperation in the field of Environment in the presence Indian President Ram Nath Kovind and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades on September 3, 2018 in Nicosia; and they held wide-ranging talks that include exchange of views on economic cooperation. Kovind and Anastasiades held discussions on issues of mutual interest including promotion of business collaboration in the fields of IT and IT enabled services, tourism, shipping and renewable energy.

President Kovind said that India happens to be the fastest growing major economy in the world today with a growth rate of 8.2 per cent last quarter, and added:

  • “In this context and given Cyprus’ niche expertise in financial services and investment banking, both of us agreed that there was much scope to deepen our investment partnership.”
  • “We welcomed the signing of the MoU between Financial Intelligence Unit, India and Unit for Combating Money Laundering of Cyprus.”
  • “This agreement would further strengthen the institutional framework to facilitate investment cross-flows. We also emphasised that the revision in the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement made in 2016 provided greater opportunities for our investment partnership to grow.”
  • “President Anastasiades and I held detailed discussions on the way forward for our long-standing and excellent relations. I reaffirmed India’s un-wavering support to Cyprus for upholding its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
  • “We reviewed our on-going bilateral and multi-lateral engagements and discussed issues of regional and global concern. We underlined our common objectives to negotiate the challenges that lie ahead. And we committed ourselves to further step-up our mutually beneficial ties, especially in the economic field.”
  • “Our founding fathers, Archbishop Makarios and Mahatma Gandhi have blessed our partnership with timeless values, wisdom and foresight. We have the greatest respect for Archbishop Makarios in India.”

The President also paid tributes to Mahatma Gandhi’s bust and praised the Indian community in Cyprus for strengthening people-to-people relations between the two nations.

President Kovind also attended a banquet hosted in his honour by President Nicos Anastasiades of Cyprus in the evening of September 3, 2018. Speaking on the occasion, the President said India and Cyprus as two ancient civilizations; we have a deeper understanding of each other’s culture and thought. We have always been open and receptive to ideas, cultures and peoples. Our shared historical experience and sensibilities have drawn us closer as friends and as partners. We have been steadfast supporters of each other on issues of vital concern. India’s commitment to Cyprus and its territorial integrity remains deep and abiding.

India and Cyprus are located in a challenging security environment. We must support each other in our quest for peace and security. India deeply appreciates the strong condemnation of terrorist acts by Cyprus and looks forward to closely working with it to defeat and destroy terrorism.

President Kovind was in Cyprus on the first leg of his three-nation visit to Europe that include Bulgaria and the Czech Republic besides Cyprus, to continue India’s high-level engagements with European countries.

Institutions of Eminence to Propel Competition in Education Sector

Institutions of Eminence (IoE) status has been conferred on following Six Higher Education Institutions, including 3 from Public Sector and 3 from Private Sector, by the Government as announced on Monday July 09, 2018 by the Minister of Human Resource Development, Prakash Javadekar, who said, “The selection of institutions of eminence will not only improve the quality of education but also propel competition in the entire education sector”. This will enable them to be free from regulations of the AICTE, UGC, or the Higher Education Commission of India that is set to replace the UGC:

  • Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru,
  • Indian Institutes of Technology at Mumbai,
  • Indian Institutes of Technology at Delhi; and
  • Manipal Academy of Higher Education,
  • BITS, Pilani
  • Jio Institute of the Reliance Foundation (proposed),

The proposed Jio Institute of the Reliance Foundation in Maharashtra, chosen in the “Greenfield Category”, is among three private institutions granted the status. The “Greenfield Category” institutions will be issued letters of intent for three years within which to commence academic operations for the notification declaring them IoE to be issued. If they fail, the committee can recommend cancellation of the IoE status. This sets them apart from other institutions

These Institutions selected as IoEs, by the Empowered Expert Committee (EEC) under former Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami, based on their 15 years strategic vision plan and 5 years implementation plan as well as any other measure of demonstrated commitment to the cause of developing an Institution of Eminence, will have freedom to choose their own path to become world class institutions and will have greater autonomy:

  • To admit 30% foreign students with no restrictions on fees to be charged from them;
  • To recruit foreign faculty up to 25% of faculty strength;
  • To offer online courses up to 20% of its programmes;
  • To enter into academic collaboration with top 500 in the world ranking Institutions without permission of UGC;
  • To fix and charge fees from foreign students without restriction;
  • Have flexibility of course structure in terms of number of credit hours and years to take a degree;
  • Complete flexibility in fixing of curriculum and syllabus, etc.

Each Public Institution selected as IoE will be provided financial assistance up to 1000 Cr over a period of five years.

University Grants Commission (UGC) had issued / notified enabling regulatory architecture in the form of UGC (Declaration of Government Educational Institutions as Institutions of Eminence) Guidelines, 2017 and UGC (Institutions of Eminence Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2017 to enable 10 public and 10 private Institutions to emerge as World Class Teaching and Research Institutions.

The aim of the scheme is to bring higher educational institutions selected as IoEs in top 500 of world ranking in the next 10 years and in top 100 eventually overtime. The scheme has been launched with an objective to provide world class teaching and research facilities to Indian students within the country and enhance general level of education of the country.

  1. Gopalaswami heading the empowered expert committee said, “We were asked to select 10 public and 10 private institutes to bag the tag of the ‘institutions of eminence’ but we could not find 20,”

India-Seychelles Strategic Convergence is Reinforced Resolve to Secure Their Oceanic Space

India and Seychelles agreed to work together on Assumption Island project based on each other’s rights and signed multiple MoUs in the fields of data sharing, culture, information technology and education on June 25, 2018, during six-day visit to India of President of Seychelles, Danny Antoine Rollen Faure, from June 22. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India is offering USD 100 million credit to Seychelles to buy military hardware from India. India gifted second Dornier maritime patrol aircraft built by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to Seychelles on June 26. Do-228 aircraft will be flown at the 42nd Independence Day celebrations of Seychelles on June 29. The Dornier is equipped with a 360-degree surveillance radar, a forward-looking Infra-red system, satellite communication, a traffic collision and avoidance system and an enhanced ground proximity warning system, among others. The aircraft would help to bolster the coastal maritime surveillance of Seychelles and monitoring of its extensive Exclusive Economic Zone, besides pollution monitoring and control, search and rescue and commuter services.

Prime Minister Modi held crucial bilateral talks with Seychelles President Danny Faure. In a joint statement the two leaders called for strengthening bilateral defence relations and expanding trade. Modi terming the talks very meaningful said that since independence of Seychelles in June 1976:

  • Both the democratic countries have special relations, are key strategic partners and share equally geo-strategic vision of maintaining peace, security and stability in the Indian Ocean.
  • Sustainable development of ocean economy in the secure maritime environment is very important for the prosperity of our citizens.
  • Only by successfully confronting conventional and non-conventional threats, we can take advantage of opportunities provided by the ocean.
  • Reiterated commitment to working jointly to take full advantage of ocean based Blue Economy.
  • India and Seychelles are connected to the Indian Ocean.
  • There is a deep strategic convergence on cooperation between us to deal with maritime challenges.
  • We agree to work together on the basis of each other’s interests in relation to the Explosion Island Project.
  • We are widely collaborating to undertake hydrography surveys to improve the availability of navigation charts.
  • Under the Special grant, India is ready to finance three civilian infrastructure projects in Seychelles. These include Government House, new Police Headquarters and Attorney General’s Office

Modi congratulated the President Danny Faure, on Seychelles having achieved the highest Human Development Index in Africa and having emerged as one of the leaders of Blue Economy.

Seychelles President Danny Faure, Striking the notes of friendship!, showcased his vocal skills at Hyderabad House in New Delhi with a rendition of a song named “Mon Pei Sa” at a lunch hosted by Prime Minister Modi on June 25.

President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, hosted a banquet in honour of President of Republic of Seychelles Danny Antoine Rollen Faure, at Rashtrapati Bhavan on June 26 and said that India and Seychelles need to work together as partners in strengthening the regional architecture of the Indian Ocean. India has a robust defence, security and strategic cooperation with Seychelles. India-Seychelles strategic convergence has reinforced the resolve to secure their oceanic space, in the region and beyond. India views the Indian Ocean and the Pacific as a contiguous construct sharing similar economic opportunities and security challenges. Our vision is for a free, open, peaceful, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region, based on a rules-based order and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Indian Prime Minister Modi, during a visit to Indian Ocean Rim (IOR) countries in March 2015, had announced the ambitious project, ”SAGAR’, Security and Growth for All in the Region, to boost India’s influence in Indian Ocean and strengthen ties with IOR nations. Modi unveiled a plaque during the dedication of the India-Seychelles cooperation project ‘Coastal Survillence Radar System’ in Mahe, Seychelles in March 2015.

Assumption Island deal, an agreement allowing India to build a naval base on the strategically located island of Assumption, a crucial part of India’s maritime strategy SAGAR, was signed during PM Modi’s Seychelles visit in March 2015, in which India’s main motive was to counter China’s increasing presence and securitisation of the Indian Ocean Region:

  • India’s primary objective for setting up a joint naval facility in Assumption was to ensure the safe passage of shipping vessels and containers in the southern Indian Ocean Region.
  • Another important objective was to allow Indian Navy to monitor the Mozambique Channel and thwart any piracy attempts since much international trade transits through this region.
  • This agreement was also supposed to help Seychelles patrol its 500000 square-miles exclusive economic zone for illegal fishing, drug trafficking and piracy, and its ratification would have made India’s relationship with Seychelles truly strategic.

The Assumption Island deal, however, could not be ratified by the Seychelles parliament during the term of the then president, James Michel. Following Faure’s coming to power in late 2016, the re-negotiated agreement was signed on January 27, 2018 by India’s then foreign secretary, S Jaishankar, during his Seychelles visit. The Indian project was to include facility for Indian ships and an airstrip that would allow New Delhi to guard the energy lanes vital to India’s economy.

Opposition members in Seychelles Parliament accusing the Faure government of undermining the country’s interests, argued against allowing India to build the naval base on the strategically located island of Assumption, saying it would infringe on the country’s sovereignty. Civil society activists urged the government to remain non-aligned and avoid tilting towards either India or China. Faure then clarified in the parliament that no compromise had been done on the Assumption Island, which “belongs to Seychelles and Seychellois”. President Faure, ahead of his visit to India, in a press conference on June 4, 2018 had said that the joint project with New Delhi to develop a naval base at Assumption Island in his country would not move forward.

India upholds Net Neutrality whereas US repeals Network Neutrality

Net Neutrality, which means that telecom and Internet service providers must treat all data on the Internet equally, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, site, platform, or application; has been approved by the Telecom Commission (TC): the highest decision-making body in the Department of Telecom, on Wednesday July 11, 2018, as recommended by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) eight months ago in November, 2017. This move that will ensure open and free Internet in India as telecom and Internet service providers now cannot engage in practices such as blocking, slowing down or granting preferential speeds to any content. Certain emerging and critical services that may include autonomous vehicles, digital healthcare services or disaster management will however be kept out of the purview of net neutrality.

The underlying principle of net neutrality is that the users should have neutral access to all lawful content and applications on the internet, regardless of the source, without the government or Internet service providers (ISPs) influencing their choices through pricing or selective access.

Without specific net neutrality regulations, ISPs can block or slow down internet speeds for select sites, or provide preferential treatment to certain content providers over others. For instance, a telecom operator can enter into an agreement with a company and allow faster access to its website compared to others, or bar the entry of new players in that particular area. But laws upholding net neutrality prevent this.

Highlights of TRAI recommendations on Net Neutrality:

  • Discriminatory treatment of content is prohibited. Internet access services should be governed by a principle that restricts any form of discrimination or interference in the treatment of content, including practices like blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds or treatment to any content.
  • Content Delivery Networks (CDN) has been kept out of the regulation. CDNs enable telecom deliver content within their network without going through the public internet in order to create a content ecosystem to drive user traction. Telecom firms such as Airtel, Reliance Jio stand to gain.
  • Internet of Things (IoT), as a class of services, is included in scope of restrictions on non-discriminatory treatment. However, critical IoT services, which may be identified by department of telecom as specialised services which could include telemedicine, B2B services will be automatically excluded.
  • Watchdog for enforcing Net Neutrality with reasonable measures of traffic management has been recommended by TRAI in line with its guidelines.
  • International treaties, court orders, government order on blocking certain sites are exempt from Net Neutrality guidelines.

In United States, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had adopted in 2005 network neutrality principles, “to preserve and promote the vibrant and open character of the Internet as the telecommunications marketplace enters the broadband age.” FCC’s network neutrality principles were challenged by large broadband Internet access service providers (ISPs) and in 2014 the District Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that FCC could not regulate the ISPs so closely.

In the US repeal of rules of FCC took effect on June 11, 2018, ending network neutrality regulation, which paves the way for service providers to block or slow down access to particular content for users.

India’s decision to uphold Net neutrality assumes greater significance given that in the U.S., the rules on Net neutrality were recently repealed.

India Now has 37 World Heritage UNESCO Inscriptions

Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensemble of Mumbai declared as a World Heritage Property by UNESCO on June 30, 2018 as per decision taken at 42nd session of World Heritage Committee (WHC) of UNESCO at Manama in Bahrain from 24 June to 4 July 2018. India’s 37th World UNESCO Heritage Site, include the Victorian buildings, which are amongst the finest and most cohesive group of 19th century Victorian Gothic in the world, and the Art Deco of the 20th century, which is the second largest and homogenous collections in the world. As recommended by WHC India accepted the renaming of the ensemble as “Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai”, whereas, as per the Nomination Dossier presented to UNESCO, prepared by Abha Narain Lambah, it was named as, “Victorian and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai”.

Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensemble, the iconic cluster, Maharashtra’s fifth, is the third such honour for the Metropolis after Elephanta Caves and majestic Victoria Terminus, rechristened Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus railway station.

  • Mumbai city is now the second city in India after Ahmedabad to be inscribed on the World Heritage List.
  • Ahmedabad in Gujarat, 606 year old walled city, founded by emperor Ahmed Shah, was declared a World Heritage City on July 8, 2017 by WHC after a meeting in Krakwo, Poland, was the first city in India to be inscribed on the World Heritage List.
  • Mumbai now has equal number of UNESCO sites as Delhi, which also has three: Red Fort, Qutub Minar and Humayun’s Tomb.
  • India has managed to get inscribed seven of its properties/sites on the World Heritage List of UNESCO in the past five years.
  • India now has overall 37 World Heritage Inscriptions with 29 Cultural, 07 Natural and 01 Mixed sites.
  • India stands sixth largest in the world and second largest after China in terms of number of World Heritage properties in Asia and Pacific (ASPAC) region.
  • Ensemble comprises of two architectural styles, the 19thcentury collection of Victorian structures and the 20th century Art Deco buildings along the sea, conjoined by means of the historical open space of the Oval Maidan.
  • Together, this architectural ensemble represents the most remarkable collection of Victorian and Art Deco buildings in the world which forms the unique character of this urban setting, unparalleled in the world.
  • Ensemble consists of 94 buildings primarily of 19thcentury Victorian Gothic revival and early 20th century Art Deco style of architecture with the Oval Maidan in the centre.
  • The 19thcentury Victorian buildings form part of the larger Fort precinct situated to the east of the Oval Maidan.
  • These public buildings include the Old Secretariat (1857-74), University Library and Convention Hall (1874-78), the Bombay High Court (1878), the Public Works Department Office (1872), Watson’s Hotel (1869), David Sasoon Library (1870), the Elphinstone College(1888), etc.
  • Art Deco styled buildings to the west of the Oval Maidan were raised in early 20thcentury on the newly reclaimed lands at Marine Drive and symbolised the shift in expression to represent contemporary aspirations.

Union Minister of State for Culture (I/c) Dr. Mahesh Sharma said, “This international recognition to the heritage precinct of the city of Mumbai will boost the local economy and is expected to give a tremendous fillip to domestic and international tourism leading to increased employment generation, creation of world-class infrastructure and augmentation of sale of local handicrafts, handlooms and heritage memorabilia.”

India has shown Impressive Gains in Reduction of Maternal Mortality

Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) has significantly declined in India as nearly one thousand fewer women now die of pregnancy related complications each month in the country according to the recently released Sample Registration System (SRS) bulletin – 2016, India has shown impressive gains in reduction of Maternal Mortality with 22% reduction in since 2013. MMR of India has declined from 167 in 2011-2013 to 130 in 2014-2016. The decline has been most significant in Empowered Action Group (EAG) States (Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Rajasthan) and Assam from 246 to 188. Among the Southern States, the decline has been from 93 to 77 and in the other States from 115 to 93. Uttar Pradesh with 30% decline has topped the chart in the reduction of Maternal Deaths. Kerala, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have already met the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) target for MMR of 70 per 100,000, while Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are within striking distance.

Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare J P Nadda attribute this milestone to joint efforts of Centre and states and on June 6, 2018 said, “The latest SRS figures reveal that we have gone beyond the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of MMR of 139 by 2015 and have reached 130.” This is the result of the strategic approach of the Government and major initiatives under the umbrella of National Health Mission, such as:

Mission Indradhanush (MI), a Central government initiative launched on December 25,  2014 with an aim to immunize all children under the age of 2 years, as well as all pregnant women, against seven vaccine preventable diseases.

Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI) launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 8, 2017 that aims to reach each and every child under the age of two years and all those pregnant women who have been left uncovered under the routine immunisation programme. The special drive will focus on improving immunisation coverage in select districts and cities to ensure full immunisation to more than 90% by December 2018. Prime Minister said while launching, “Let no child suffer from any vaccine-preventable disease”.

Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakaram (JSSK) launched on June 1, 2011, which provides for free transport and care for pregnant women and entitles pregnant women delivering in public health institution absolutely free and no expense delivery including Caesarean section. Initiative stipulates free drugs, diagnostics, blood and diet.

Millennium Development Goal (MDG)  focus on Improving maternal health, which is key to saving the lives of more than half a million women who die as a result of complications from pregnancy and childbirth each year. Almost all these deaths could be prevented if women in developing countries had access to adequate diets, safe water and sanitation facilities, basic literacy and health services during pregnancy and childbirth. Hunger and malnutrition have been found to increase both the incidence and the fatality rate of the conditions that cause up to 80 percent of maternal deaths.

Higher Education Commission of India for Improving Academic Standards & Quality of Higher Education

Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) will focus on improving academic standards and the quality of Higher Education as per the Higher Education Commission of India (Repeal of University Grants Commission Act) Bill 2018 prepared by the Ministry of HRD aims at reforming the regulatory systems that provide for more autonomy and facilitate holistic growth of the education system which provides greater opportunities to the Indian students at more affordable cost. Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu, while addressing convocation of ICFAI University in Dehradun on Saturday July 15, 2015, noting that Indian universities had not been able to make it to the list of world’s top universities, asked them to treat it as a “big challenge” and work hard to distinguish themselves from others. As per the proposed Bill, HECI will oversee accreditation, curricular and quality issues, while the HRD Ministry will control the funding and grant-giving process. The transformation of the regulatory set up is guided by the following principles:

  • HECI should not have interference in the management issues of the educational institutions. This will downsize scope of the Regulator based on the principle of Less Government and more Governance
  • HECI would focus only on academic matters and the grant functions would be carried out by the HRD Ministry, leading to separation of grant functions.
  • HECI would do Regulation through transparent public disclosures, merit-based decision making on matters regarding standards and quality in higher education, leading to the end of Inspection Raj.
  • HECI will focus on academic quality and would be tasked with the mandate of improving academic standards with specific focus on learning outcomes, evaluation of academic performance by institutions, mentoring of institutions, training of teachers, promote use of educational technology etc.
  • It will develop norms for setting standards for opening and closure of institutions, provide for greater flexibility and autonomy to institutions, lay standards for appointments to critical leadership positions at the institutional level irrespective of University started under any Law (including State Law).
  • HECI as Regulator will have powers to enforce compliance to the academic quality standards and will have the power to order closure of sub-standard and bogus institutions. Non-compliance could result in fines or jail sentence.

It is expected that the initiative of setting up HECI would ensure access, equity and excellence in the higher education, as it aims to give more autonomy to the higher education Institutions. However, it is essential for every Institution to brainstorm in respect to the prevailing requirements of education imparted by them and remain competitive for producing excellence.

Why your Child must learn Geography

Global awareness is a 21st century skill that students are expected to make Geography one of the most relevant subjects to learn. Contrary to popular belief, Geography is a lot more than being able to point out a country on a World map or knowing the capital city of every country in the World. Essentially, just as reading, writing, and mathematics are the fundamental building blocks to a child’s education, Geography opens the door to understanding history, culture, and current events.

It’s imperative to learn Geography to know where places are, and some facts about those places, so that you can tell why they are different.  It’s important for children to understand that the World is round, there are land masses surrounded by bodies of water, and that people of all different cultures live in various areas of our amazing Earth!

Why should kids learn Geography?

  • They become more aware – Geography helps to spark the children’s curiosity and as they become more curious, their awareness grows. They begin to acknowledge that the World extends a lot farther than the boundaries of their town or city. It opens their eyes to different cultures and perspectives, and helps them grow as well-rounded, emphatic individuals.
  • It helps them learn about people across the Globe – The Geography of a region has major influence on the lifestyle of its inhabitants and culture. Besides having a deep impact on the social and cultural norms of the people, the Geography of a region also affects the art forms, literature, food habits, and celebrations of the people. Geography imparts kids an understanding of the distribution of people around the World and the differences in their ways of living.
  • Geography helps kids learn History – An understanding of where a place is located, its surroundings, its culture and people can help kids see how and why different civilizations influenced each other. It also helps them realize the significance of one civilization conquering another.
  • It gives them an idea about the importance of natural resources – As the World today faces the problem of the fast depleting natural resources, Geography makes our children understand their importance and why they must be preserved. Climatic conditions and available natural resources in a particular region shape the lives of its inhabitants. Geographical features influence the distribution of natural and man-made resources across the Globe.
  • Geography helps them appreciate life – Studying Geography helps kids appreciate the diversity in life forms. As they are exposed to various ecological issues and environmental concerns they understand how nature influences life and how cultures take shape. The children gain a deeper insight into the interaction between natural components and human beings.

Geography is undeniably an important subject that gives your child an opportunity to observe and analyze the close association between natural environment and human life. The power of understanding the World is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your child. Buy a Globe and an atlas, as well as Geography books for competitive exams that describe histories, cultures, and religions of people living in other countries. You can also buy Geography magazines online to promote your child’s interest in the subject.

Teach your children about the World outside of their everyday experience, and watch horizons of their imagination and intellect explode. And start with the forgotten basics of Geography.

President Emphasises Defence &Tech Relations in Czech Republic

Special carve-out for Indian skilled workers and business executives to work and live in the Czech Republic on a long-term basis that will come into effect in October 2018 and will initially be limited to 500 visas a year, was welcomed by Indian President Ram Nath Kovind during his state visit to the Czech Republic from September 6 to 9, 2018 and he thanked President Miloš Zeman and Government of Czech Republic for that gesture.

President Kovind highlighted that Indian economy was the fastest growing large economy in the world as it grew 8.2% in the first quarter this fiscal and was now the 6th largest economy in the world and poised to become a $5 trillion economy by 2025.

President Kovind while addressing India-Czech Business Forum in Prague on September 7, 2018 said India’s growth story, Czech Republic’s technology and manufacturing prowess makes the countries ‘natural partners’ and invited Czech Republic’s defence companies to invest and manufacture in India, noting that defence was a vital area of cooperation between the two countries. Eyeing partnerships, he urged Czech enterprises to explore, initiate and expand their footprint in India, “I invite you to partner us in India’s exciting and transformative journey, which is going to usher in a new era to not only India and Czech Republic, but to the entire world”.

President Kovind emphasised India’s keenness to cooperate with the Czech Republic in the fields of defence, technology and manufacture, business and trade, as well as on issues of multilateral importance such as terrorism and added that Czech strengths in manufacturing and advanced technology make the country a natural fit to partner Indian economic growth and next-generation development. President Kovind led delegation level talks and 4emphasised defence and tech relations, and India and Czech Republic signed five agreements:

  • Cooperation between the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, India, and the Czech Academy of Sciences
  • A work plan to support Indo-Czech projects in diverse areas of science and technology, with the Department of Science and Technology taking the lead from the Indian side
  • A visa waiver agreement for diplomatic passport holders
  • Cooperation in laser technology between ELI Beamlines and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research
  • Cooperation between the Haryana Agricultural University and the Czech University of Life Sciences

India and the Czech Republic have also agreed to initiate cooperation in civil nuclear energy. Details of a prospective agreement between the Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership, Jhajjar, Haryana, and a relevant Czech institution are to be worked out.

President Zeman congratulated India on its admission to MTCR, Wassenaar Arrangement, Hague Code of Conduct (HCoC) and Australia Group. He reiterated Czech Republic´s strong and active support for India´s accession to Nuclear Suppliers Group, recognizing that India’s accession will add value to the aims and objectives of the NSG.

President Kovind addressed an impressive gathering of the Indian community at a reception in the evening of September 6, 2018 in Prague hosted by Smt Narinder Chauhan, Ambassador of India to the Czech Republic. Speaking on the occasion, the President said that India considers every Indian abroad as an ambassador. He urged members of the diaspora to share the beauty of India’s culture and business potential with the host community.

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