National Girl Child Day

India celebrates January 24 as National Girl Child Day. The day is marked out to observe and do away with inequalities faced by girl children in Indian society. It is a day that is meant to raise citizen’s conscientiousness with regard to sub-human treatment meted out to little girls, right from even before they are born! While the country has officially banned sex determination tests to terminate pregnancies if the foetus is a female, yet a good number still find devious ways to find out the sex of their unborn child.

National Girl Child Day therefore focuses on drawing attention to improving the status of the girl child in our society. It is time we made certain that girls get proper reverence and are not only valued as human beings but are ensured of their human rights. We still have a long way to go in maintaining the correct child sex ratio for which we have to work towards changing the warped mindsets with regard to the birth of girls.

The National Girl Child Day should focus on couples to increase their understanding that girls are important and have a definite role to play in society. Demographically and in every other sense to make the world a more balanced and harmonious place to live in.  And for doing this we need to facilitate the issues that are considered a burden in raising girls. We have to give them equal opportunities in provision of the fundamental needs of a child – health, education, nutrition and individual choices.

India is still caught up with patriarchal thinking and it is now up to the new generation to initiate and propagate gender equality among its peoples. National Girl Child Day needs to filter down to every warp and weft of our society to offer every support and opportunity to girls everywhere – urban-rural or rich-poor. Increased awareness will lead to lesser inequalities and give more chances for education, nutrition, legal rights, medical care, job opportunities and decision making.

Apart from these basic needs girls upon attaining maturity need to be given freedom for personal choices like employment, marriage and rights over resources and property. It is therefore important to formulate this day in a manner of mission for creating vital changes for the girl child. Mothers and fathers have to learn to make meaningful contributions in the lives of girl children so that they are given proactive support to live their full lives.

This special day therefore hopes to promote the girls significance and status to make way for a more just and gender equal society. This is extremely important to do away with the rigid social biases that we exercise on them throughout their lives. We need to speak up from every platform – civic, social and political about the urgent need to reform the status of the girl child and pave the path for her to be free from discrimination and exploitation.

Let us all mark this day as a starting point to offer opportunities to girls to gain their full potential in a secure and facilitative setting. Let us offer them good education, nutrition and health care rights. Let us educate them regarding their physiology and reproductive health. Let us take part in this mission to fight all backward thinking and social stigma attached to the birth of a girl child. HERD Foundation looks ahead to a day in the near future when we witness pomp and music at the birth of girls.

(Images – Courtesy Google)


Basant Panchami & Spring Again

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Images Courtesy Google 

‘Basant Panchami’ is a very popular festival in India celebrating the approaching of the coming spring. Also known as Shree Panchami, Basant or Vasant means Spring and this special event falls on the fifth day of the Indian month of Magh of the spring season. Of particular significance is the worship of Goddess Saraswati – the deity of learning, music and wisdom.  As one of the powerful triumvirate Goddesses along with Durga and Laxmi, children are especially encouraged to pay obeisance to Saraswati – Goddess of Learning on this day.

Many schools, colleges and institutions of learning therefore celebrate Vasant Panchami with great fervor. Besides being the harbinger of clement times ahead the festival is enjoyed by people across the land in their own diverse ways. Apart from being celebrated in India it is also enthusiastically fêted in neighboring countries including Pakistan, Nepal as also in Indonesia and Malaysia! The festival is celebrated in various ways depending on the region.

The reverence offered to goddess Saraswati has folks visiting temples or performing sacred rituals in their shrines at home. Many enjoy the tradition of playing traditional music too. An essential ritual awaited for this occasion is when parents invite a sage or pundit to initiate their little ones into learning to write letters of the alphabet. It is commonly known as ‘Patti Pooja’ that is observed on this day.

The young ones mark out the day as a celebration to Lord Kama – the deity of love. It is said to be the equivalent of Valentine’s Day that has eager ones offering their spouses or special loved ones with offerings of flowers of the season. Market places are flooded with traditional bouquets of marigold flowers and mango leaves festooned in small clay pots. Also people largely wear yellow clothes on this day turning the outdoors a riot of yellow colors. In rural areas the mustard fields naturally turn the ambience in hues of ochre and yellow.

Often, food too takes on yellow and saffron colors. Women prepare traditional yellow curries, yellow vegetables and in particular sweet yellow rice to emulate the predominantly yellow mustard flowers growing abundantly everywhere on all sides around them. Children also like to fly kites and are keen to buy yellow kites. In all senses it’s a day that celebrates the color yellow. It is the day that marks the turn in season and generally the harsh winters in northern parts of the country give way to softer weather whereas in central and western parts it is spring already.

Health First – Caring for Rural Poor

HERD Foundation regularly organizes health camps in rural areas where it has been proactively working with tribal and rural populations. The objective is not simply providing health services but also creating locales where entire communities are sensitized to the dire importance of staying healthy. Camps draw out sick and infirm men, women, children and elderly in need of medical help. These camps have the benign presence of generous doctors who offer their services wholeheartedly.

The good doctors are instrumental in demonstrating to the associated medical team staffers how health issues may be dealt with rural communities in an empathetic and interactive manner. Camps are usually well attended as a result of pre-publicity that is done to mobilize patients, whose names, and follow-up details are duly registered. The camp activities usually also include sharing information about preventive measures and awareness on issues of health and hygiene.

As a well-known NGO in these parts run by Dr Amol Deshmukh, HERD Foundation recently organized two special, almost-free medical heath check-up camps for tribal people at Pauni in Ramtek Tehsil and for townspeople of Saoner. Held on January 10 and 12 respectively the camps had 180 patients at Pauni and 175 patients at Saoner to benefit from the care provided by the medical team. Each and every patient was given a personal health card; their details recorded and were offered counseling on the need to stay fit.

The health camps were for the benefit of rural and tribal populations living in Saoner town and Pench forest areas. They were intimated about the health camp through distribution of leaflets giving relevant information and by word of mouth publicity. The camps held from 10:00 AM until 02:00 PM extended well over the stipulated time as patients kept arriving steadily. A token fee of Rs 10 at Pauni and Rs 20 at Saoner was charged for offering a range of services.

As patients lined up before meeting the specialist doctors, they were taken care of by a medical team that recorded their history and basic profile – blood pressure, weight, physical examination by stethoscope and so on were all recorded in their health card file. Medicines were also prescribed and provided to patients who were diagnosed and were advised with due follow up to their ailments with HERD Foundation doctors visiting Pauni and Saoner.

The Pauni camp was monitored by Dr Amol Deshmukh and Dr Suchika Gupta Deshmukh – both co-founders of HERD Foundation. Dr Anuprita Bhadage and Dr Hemlata Kashyap, doctors devoted to Pauni Tribal clinic attended to the patients. In time Dr Suchika Gupta also undertook diagnosis and counseling for the benefit of the tribal patients. The range of afflictions included blood pressure, infections, skin disorders, diabetes, asthma, orthopedic injuries, abdominal pain, back pain and seasonal disorders.

The Saoner camp with a focus on orthopedics had the benefit of the presence of Dr Kuldeep Deshpande, orthopedic doctor from Sancheti Hospital, Pune who offered his services in the camp. Along with him Dr Sushma Gupta, Dr Kanchan as general physicians were examining and prescribing treatments to the patients. Dr Suchika Gupta present at the camp keenly observed the activities of the medical camp. Of the total number of 175 patients visiting the Saoner health camp 60% were for orthopedics, 25% for skin ailments and nearly 15% for general and pediatrics.

Dr Amol Deshmukh has been organizing these health camps under the auspices of “Doctor Aaple Daari” or “Doctor At Your Doorstep” consistently over the past three years, benefitting countless poor villagers in the region. HERD Foundation promotes such health camps with the aim to provide healthcare and awareness on fitness by rural populations. Follow ups are important to maintain quality of health camps and they also help to retain the faith of the people on the diligent treatments.

HERD Foundation Celebrates Kite Flying Festivities For Makar Sankranti

January 14 is celebrated as Makar Sankranti Festival each year all over India. It is said to be one of the most ancient of Hindu festivals. Devoted to the Sun God the day heralds the change of seasons and welcomes the soon-to-come spring time. The festival is associated with communities cutting across the country who all follow diverse traditions with great enthusiasm. The one tradition in common above all, all over, is that of flying kites!!

HERD Foundation HR unit had the staff celebrating the kite flying festivities with great fanfare. Members were invited to go up on the office terrace to enjoy flying of colourful kites.  Soon everyone was busy drawing strings on the paper kites and attempting to get them up in the air to adorn the sky. Colourful kites were to waft amid music and cheers from the staff members.

Wondering why the tradition of flying kites is associated with Sankranti, soon many thoughts began floating around. Some had been taught traditionally that since winters brought in the cold along with illness, the sun offered relief. While it is common to lounge in the warmth of the winter sun to be rid of the chill and disease causing germs, kite flying added a new dimension to enjoying the sun. In fact the act of flying kites is said to be a more proactive way of enjoying the sun.

A yet more symbolic reason on offer is that flying kites up in the high skies is to reach up to the heavens on Makar Sankranti day to offer obeisance and thankfulness to the gods. It is also seen to be a signal to help awaken the Gods who as per mythology go to sleep for six months. Makar Sankranti is the day they wake up and the blue skies are dotted with colourful kites to welcome them.

Taking these reasons with a pinch of salt, the fact remains that all across the country kites fly high on this day. Regarded as the first big festival of the calendar year, (the Hindu New Year is in March on Gudi Padwa day), young and old people participate with great fervor for this annual ritual. Preparations for the celebrations begin days in advance to stock up kites, strings and all other needed paraphernalia.

Makar Sankranti festival is celebrated with great joy by rich and poor alike. The festival marks the onset of spring and thereafter summer after the cold winter which makes it’s a harbinger of good times ahead. The festival in particular gets everyone out in the sun offering health benefits and enjoying special treats prepares especially for the day. The sun offers medicinal support, exposing people with good doses of Vitamin D.

HERD Foundation staff enjoyed the day amid gaiety, laughter and music in the sun, enjoying fun, special fare and togetherness in a spirit of bonhomie offered by the Human Resources unit. Special thanks are due to Nisha Mishra, HR Manager and Latika Vadher, HR Executive for contributing to the success of the event.

The Significance of Uttarayana

HERD Foundation, Nagpur

Uttarayana Uttarayana – Tilting of Earth vis-a-vis Sun’s Reach    

One of the oldest expositions in astronomy is our very own Surya Siddhanta that lays down rules with regard to the motions of celestial bodies. The treatise informs about actual positions of luminaries in the sky, giving their locations along with calculations of solar eclipses and solstices. One may be surprised to learn that it also gives information on the lengths of the Earth’s diameter and circumference!

Surya Siddhanta or the Sun Treatise defines Uttarayana as the period between the Makara Sankranti occurring around January 14 and Karka Sankranti that falls around July 16. Uttara meaning North and Ayana meaning movement indicates the northward movement of the Sun on its celestial course. This is then the period that is celebrated all across our country as an auspicious time.

Today, we are at the threshold of Uttarayana when the Sun’s movement in relation to Earth shifts from its southern run…

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Health Care in Rural India



Access to healthcare is a right that all of us need as a fundamental right. However, despite the grand developments in our country healthcare in rural areas cuts a sorry figure all across the nation. It is appalling that rural regions as yet remain deprived of necessary medical facilities, often infrastructure and medical staff as also non-availability of medicines.  Medical support is clearly denied to nearly 60% of the rural population in India.

Nearly 700 million people in rural areas continue to live in deprivation of basic healthcare and medical relief.  The situation is more deplorable because the fact is that government extension plans, processes and service schemes are in place but actual delivery is missing. This is a major dysfunctional gap that makes the picture very grim indeed.  It’s a caring philanthropy through charities and non-governmental agencies that offers some succor to the rural residents cut away from modern medical benefits.

HERD Foundation has been organizing health camps in rural regions since the past three years. Offering practices and procedures in the isolated forest areas of Central India the Foundation has ensure healthcare delivery in deprived corners of the region. Starting with assistance by organizing mobile health camps we have successfully set up an effective outpost clinic that is affiliated to a partner hospital for referrals. A dedicated medical team serves the predominantly tribal people settled in the parts offering primary health care.

HERD Foundation is well aware that the country accounts for the largest number of maternity deaths. Medical fraternity knows for sure that in the rural areas maternal health care is very poor. Our approaches therefore include education camps where we instruct on the basics of mother and child care. Our health care modules include essential aspects in nutrition, hygiene, antenatal care and access to proper medical care.

Often due to non-availability of public health care rural residents have to scout for doctors and hospitals in urban centers. The travel and transport are an additional burden on beleaguered families. It is for this reason that HERD Foundation camps are flooded with patients since despite the token fee it is access to medications that is a big draw.   Also because running to city based doctors is expensive the presence of a near-free health camp is a huge welcome relief.

HERD Foundation also works on teaching with regard to control and spread of diseases to reduce the rates of sick people. Again lack of health facilities has us paying special attention to the needs in rural areas. Taking on key challenges that include low quality of care, poor accountability, lack of awareness, and limited access to facilities we assist by providing access to referrals to like-minded hospitals.

There are very many ways in which we hope to extend the range of our services. We hope to include simple technologies like for instance mobile connectivity to cater to the needs of the villagers.  By improving communication we may create systems that allow for additional outreach. We are hoping that mobile phones may in the near future offer extensive reach across the demography. This point was recently brought home to us and we will explore the possibilities.


Need to Bridge Skill-Gaps for Rural Income Generation Activities


The rural area around Nagpur where HERD Foundation works needs to be developed to rejuvenate its dwindling economy. Much needs to be undertaken for poverty alleviation and creation of suitable livelihood options. Comprising of tribal populations subsisting primarily on agriculture it has never appeared more important than now to create avenues for income generation. Aside from agriculture the region remains sadly bereft of any traditional skills or rural enterprises that may augment living conditions.

HERD Foundation is exploring approaches to generate fresh perspectives through people’s participation in planning their resurgence. Our initial steps in these directions have led us to probe a variety of opportune ideas. However for lack of any traditional expertise that usually offers a way out, we are left high and dry with this aboriginal population who are largely forest dwelling inhabitants. Having given up their nomadic existence both men and a segment of women simply carry on by tilling the land to make ends meet.

HERD Foundation is of the view that we need to create pathways for appropriating skills that could offer a way out. But bridging the skill deficiency gap is a huge challenge. The majority of house bound women although interested in investing their time for income generating activities remain confounded by the lack of opportunities. Many of these women are members of self-help groups but their activities are restricted to pooling bits of their money for sharing small loans to tide over economic adversity.

They have never ever attempted at using their funds for productive purposes. However with limited access to opportunities for skill building it appears an uphill task to offer them access to sustainable livelihoods. One of the reasons for this is lack of access to any sort of skill training. Relying largely on agriculture and farm based livelihood opportunities, a greater majority remain unemployed. This unskilled or untrained mass of women can be taught to imbibe certain skills for prospective enterprises.

HERD Foundation looks at these gaps in abilities as an opportunity to set up training programs in appropriate skills that may help them set up suitable ventures. Through purposeful examination we intend to establish fitting vocational training that could lead to sustainable forms of employment, self-employment and entrepreneurship. However we are well aware that any skill building program would have to be a long term project to make it viable and workable.

This then means that skill building trainings would have to be targeted towards turning rural unskilled women to be befittingly trained to be work-ready and employable. By the end of such trainings they ought to be effectively ready to be linked with self-employment opportunities. Through these skills building programs interested women could take on enterprises that have the possibility of fruition. One can even think of adopting an ‘Employer-Payer’ model in which an external entrepreneur supports training-needs by mobilizing and training the women who later become ready to be absorbed in any given enterprise.

However the most important factor here would be the interest and proficiency of the rural women in becoming an intrinsic part of the efforts. They need to be made aware of the importance of their skills, outlook, attitude and focus for continued improvement and development. HERD Foundation is looking ahead to take on tasks for appropriate skill-building and livelihood creation for employability and entrepreneurship through interventions and partnerships with government and corporate agencies who share similar futuristic plans.