Gondwanaland: Our Land – Our People

Adivasis Rights

                                      Tribal Futures At Stake

Central India as we all know is home to Adivasis or aboriginal tribes who are rightly ascribed as India’s first people. The land here is home to India’s richest concentration of natural resources. In recent years national and international market forces have been trying to gain control over land, water, forest and mineral wealth of the region. This exploitation has affected the well being of indigenous and marginalised community’s dwelling here.

It is very important to preserve the land as well as the people who reside here as they are part of the larger anthropological legacy that we have inherited. The Pangaea continent called Gondwana was so named by Austrian scientist Eduard Suess, to really venerate the Gondwana region of central northern India. The term comes from the Sanskrit Gond-Vana meaning ‘Forest of the Gonds’.

The now well-accepted theory of the continental drift tells us that during the Jurassic age, Gondwana continent began to break up by accompanying massive eruptions of basalt lava from East Gondwana, Antarctica, Madagascar, India and Australia and had Africa separating off in another direction resulting in open marine conditions. In time even East Gondwana began to separate when India began to move northward.

The Indian Plate collided and buckled with Asia to create the Himalayas. Even today, they say, the Himalayas are rising by an inch every year! The theory of the continental drift and tectonic plates tells us of movements of the Earth’s continents as also the ocean beds. The continuity of glaciers, deduced through glacial striations and tillites deposits suggested the existence of the supercontinent of Gondwana that was central to the concept of continental drift.

The present locations of the continents had previously been in dramatically different places and had also been contiguous with each other. The Gonds are the most important of the non-Aryan or primitive tribes of the Central India region and are important human species. They have been vividly described in the book ‘The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India–Volume I’ authored by R.V. Russell. The book includes their description in great detail with regard to social customs, information on villages, houses, dress, food and manner of life.

Modern day India seems to have abused the living situation of its aboriginals and merely given lip service to their right over their land. They have involuntarily been forced to acquiesce to their holdings over their land for both rightful and wrongful reasons. Whether it is in the name of conserving forest tracts or allowing greedy corporations to mine minerals (hand in glove with governments), the Adivasis rights to their land has been compromised for the longest time. Only until very recently after the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act (PESA) passed in 1996 (a very important piece of legislation for Adivasis) have we established special provision for tribal peoples under such scheduling.

This Act extends to the Panchayats of tribal areas of nine states – Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Rajasthan. The Act intends to enable tribal society to assume control, preserve and conserve their traditional rights over natural resources. However PESA has been grossly violated and not upheld by many states, especially the minerals and natural resource rich areas. Market forces continue to unleash their onslaught on land grabbing for lucrative earnings.

The Adivasis are experiencing great disillusionment not only by state governments but with the Government of India too. We are not able to contain corporate greed nor to understand that natural resources are the tribals customary rights, their right to life and livelihood to which they have full constitutional right. Corrupt corporations join hands with corrupt states to continue to destroy India’s vibrant natural heritage and mineral wealth.

Tribals Rights

                       Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act

Sickle Cell Disease In Vidarbha Forest Areas

Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle Cell Anemia Disease Among Our Tribal Populations

The tribal belt in which HERD Foundation operates is well known for people suffering from sickle-cell disease. The disease is said to be a severe hereditary form of anemia. What happens is that a mutated form of hemoglobin distorts red blood cells into crescent shapes having low oxygen levels. It has been found that it is commonest among those of African descent.

Sickle cell anemia is the most common form of sickle cell disease or SCD. It is a serious disorder in which the body makes sickle-shaped red blood cells. Normal red blood cells are disc-shaped and move easily through blood vessels. They contain an iron-rich protein called hemoglobin that is carries oxygen from lungs to the rest of the body.

In sickle cells abnormal hemoglobin causes cells to develop into crescent shaped sickle cells that are stiff and sticky. They tend to block blood flow in blood vessels of limbs and organs. Blocked blood flow causes pain and organ damage and can raise risk of infection. Unfortunately sickle cell anemia has no widely available cure. But treatments improve anemia and lower complications by alleviating symptoms and complications.

Doctors have learned a great deal more about sickle cell anemia. They know its causes, how it affects the body and how to treat many of its complications. Sickle cell anemia may actually vary from patient to patient. With proper care and treatment people can have improved quality of life and reasonable health. Because of improved treatments and care, people having sickle cell anemia now have longer age expectancies.

Symptoms of the disease include chronic pain or fatigue. Sickle hemoglobin is highly prevalent in Vidarbha region with prevalence rate of 4-40%. It has variable clinical presentation and most patients remain asymptomatic for longer periods. Less numbers of deaths are reported due to this cause because of ignorance of autopsy surgeon in considering this disease as a cause of death despite of its high prevalence.

Sickle hemoglobin is prevalent among tribal populations of central, southern and western India. Its variable frequency ranges from 10-23%. Increased prevalence is reported in non tribal communities of these areas too. Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh show higher prevalence of this disease. Actually Central India region is a focus of sickle cell disorder and the prevalence in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra ranges between 4-40% with average sickle cell gene frequency being 4.3%.

Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle Hemoglobin is Highly Prevalent in Vidarbha Region

September 21 – World Alzheimer’s Day

Keep your mind active and busy

Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention

World Alzheimer’s Day is observed every year on 21st September. In fact the month of September is known as World Alzheimer’s Month. It is believed that nearly 44 million people worldwide live with the disease. It therefore becomes essential to share information, understand risk factors and comprehend prevention measures. HERD Foundation is spreading awareness and inspiring people to make positive changes in their lives to ward off the onset of Alzheimer’s.

The disease, named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer, was detected in 1906, when he noticed changes in the brain tissue of a woman who died of mental illness. Her symptoms had been memory loss, language problems, and unpredictable behavior. After her death her brain was investigated to reveal many abnormal clumps and tangled bundles of fibers that are now medically known as amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, respectively.

Alzheimer’s is actually a form of dementia that is largely incurable. People diagnosed with it may really exhibit few symptoms initially but as the disease progresses it gets more debilitating. The plaques and tangles in the brain are essentially two of the main features of Alzheimer’s disease. The third is the loss of connections between nerve cells or neurons in the brain. Although treatment may help manage symptoms there is actually no cure for this devastating disease.

The disease increasingly makes one suffer from loss of cognitive functioning. It impairs thinking, remembering and reasoning and also affects the behavioral abilities to an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. This ranges in severity from mild stages to most severe stage that makes the patient completely dependent on others for basic daily living. Thus this neurological disorder ends in death of brain cells causing memory loss and cognitive decline.

The neurodegenerative dementia happens over a course of time, when the total brain size shrinks and the brain tissue progressively has fewer nerve cells and connections. Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually even the ability to carry out simplest tasks. In most people with Alzheimer’s, symptoms first appear after age 60. Foods like walnuts, flax seeds, salmon and soybeans are high in omega-3’s that help you keep your brain healthy. Be sure to eat them in moderation.

The disease is equally challenging for the patient as it is for family members. Worse still are stigma and misconceptions surrounding the disease that need to be addressed. People with dementia feel disconnected not only from society but also from their own friends and family. This distancing further creates barriers to progress.  Reports state that 40 percent of people with dementia have experienced being avoided or treated differently because of the diagnosis of the disease.

Here’s how one can reduce risk of developing Alzheimer’s:

  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Eat a well-balanced diet with plentiful fruit and vegetables
  • Keep your mind active and busy
  • Do regular physical exercise
  • Get plenty of good quality sleep
  • Follow your treatment guidelines if you have a chronic disease, such as diabetes
  • Maintain healthy blood cholesterol levels
  • Control your blood pressure
  • Indulge in memory games, stay organized and be active
  • Don’t smoke or drink alcohol
abnormal clumps and tangled bundles of fibers

Amyloid Plaques and Neurofibrillary Tangles

HERD Foundation Medical Clinic in Pauni – The Outbacks

Pauni Clinic

                                  HERD Foundation & Lata Mangeshkar Hospital Out-Patient Clinic Inauguration at Pauni

HERD Foundation and Lata Mangeshkar Hospital established a new medical clinic in Pauni, Ramtek District that primarily serves low-income tribals and villages settled around here. Word of mouth publicity steadily draws patients in large numbers to the clinic that sits by the highway road in the main bazaar of Pauni. Initially being run three days a week – Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, patients line up well in advance at the open space in front of commercial building standing just off the road.

An opening ceremony took place on September 9, 2014 for this new Out-Patient Department Clinic located on the Highway No. 7 at the Main Bazar of Village Pauni, 75 kms from Nagpur. The clinic inaugurated by Smt Roopatai Deshmukh and Vice-Dean Dr H. Kanade, NKPSIMS had local panchayat members, HERD Foundation staff and local people present for the inaugural function. Villagers looked happy that they were to get access to medical services in their village.

HERD Foundation is locally well-known because of the series of medical camps that were undertaken in the region. Looking at the dearth of medical services and on insistence of local people the decision was taken to open a local clinical center offering check-ups, diagnosis and treatment options through services of in-house doctors. The clinic hours are 10:00 to 02:30 in the afternoon. But in reality we get such a flow of patents that doctors are busy till five in the evening.

The team of doctors is experienced, compassionate and well versed in public health services who are working hard to get the patients on the road to recovery. Serious patients are assisted in getting immediate medical attention at Lata Mangeshkar Hospital at their varied departments as the case maybe – Medicine, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Pediatrics, Orthopedics, Ophthalmology, Surgery, Dental and ENT Departments. For the nearly 400 patients checked on six days in the clinic that opened just two weeks back, there’s been much relief.

The clinic is proving to be useful in this remote region for the largely tribal population availing of medical services. The clinic aims at providing primary care to tribal belt of patients whose numbers keep surging. The larger-than-expected numbers proves the need for such assistance in an area where there is severe shortage of doctors, nurses and primary care health providers. They get ready access to specialist doctors, to even receive emergency care in needed cases.

The Pauni Clinic is a community health center operated by HERD Foundation that’s been set up after a bit of redesigning to make healthcare more accessible to patients living in remote forested areas. Our goal is to extend medical services for these neglected people in a region where primary health care is nearly non-existent. Right now it’s looking to be a great venture and we feel sure that it will be a success. Its working great and we know for sure that in the times to come, we would have done a remarkable service.

Access to Medical Services

                                                           Patients Surging With Each Passing Day

16 September – International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer

Save the Stratosphere

“Ozone Layer Protection: The Mission Goes On”

Theme – Ozone Layer Protection: The Mission Goes On

The UN sponsored International Day for Preservation of Ozone Layer is celebrated each year on September 16, to commemorate the date of signing of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer in 1987. The day was proclaimed as such by the resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1994. Building up public awareness through concerted publicity, all affiliated agencies celebrate the event by intensifying efforts to continue protecting the earth’s ozone layer.

Many schools and scientific institutes organize activities that focus on topics related to the ozone layer, climate change and ozone depletion. One can retrieve information and educational packages from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) site that caters to specifically tailored topics about the earth’s ozone layer. Other activities for the day include promotion of ozone friendly products and other special programs for saving the ozone layer.

So what exactly is ozone depletion? In simplest terms it is the wearing out or reduction of the amount of ozone in the stratosphere. Ozone depletion is pinned down to one major human activity. Industries that manufacture things like insulating foams, solvents, soaps, cooling things like Air Conditioners, Refrigerators and ‘Take-Away’ containers use something called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

CFCs are substances that are heavier than air but over time, from two to five years, they get carried high into the stratosphere by wind action. Depletion begins when CFC’s get into the stratosphere. Ultra violet radiation from the sun breaks up these CFCs. The breaking up action releases Chlorine atoms which then react with Ozone to start a chemical cycle that destroys the good ozone in that area. One chlorine atom can break apart more than 100,000 ozone molecules.

The good news is that the earth’s protective ozone layer is well on its way to recovery. This has mainly happened due to concerted international action against ozone depleting substances.  The document entitled ‘Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion 2014’ published by UNEP and WMO is a comprehensive update on the situation. The stratospheric ozone layer which is like a fragile shield of gas protects the Earth from harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun.

The Montreal Protocol worked at reducing the atmospheric levels of ozone depleting substances. The awareness generated by environmental agencies throughout the world prevented the increase in health issues like skin cancer, damage to human eyes and immune systems and protected wildlife and agriculture as per UNEP. The world acted responsibly with manufacturing needs so as not to introduce more CFCs into the air.

The theme for this year’s celebration is “Ozone Layer Protection: The Mission Goes On”.  So far we have been successful in meeting some of the targets on phasing out ozone-depleting substances. This resulted in decline of the abundance of ozone-depleting substances in the atmosphere and the ozone layer is expected to recover around the middle of this century. Even so there remain some challenges to the phase-out of ozone-depleting substances. The theme therefore seeks to keep stakeholders energized on efforts to address the challenges.

Ozone depletion happens due to human activity of releasing CFCs

Montreal Protocol Reduced the Gaping Ozone Hole

September 15 – International Day of Democracy

Democratic Governments from 1900 to 1950

World Map Showing Democratic Governments from 1900 to 1950

2014 Theme: Engaging Young People on Democracy

Let us contemplate today as to where democracy stands in our modern times? The classic definition of democracy that we learnt is to have a government for the people, of the people and by the people. This means it is a form of government in which people choose their rulers. Democracy makes for a universal system where everyone can freely express their will to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems. In modern times democracy allows people to elicit their full participation in all aspects of their lives.

Today democracies share many common features but there is really no single model of democracy. The basic feature of democracy is the capacity of all voters to participate freely and fully in the life of their society. With its emphasis on notions of social contract and the collective will of all voters, democracy is characterized as a form of political collectivism. On the other hand representative democracy is equated with the republican form of government that may encompass both democracy and aristocracy – UK remains a classic example of this form.

Democracy contrasts from other forms of government where power either is held by an individual (monarchy) or by a small number of individuals (oligarchy). Several variants of democracy exist, but two basic forms are more prevalent. One form is direct democracy in which all eligible citizens have direct and active participation in the political decision making. In the other form, the whole body of eligible citizens remains the sovereign power but political power is exercised indirectly through elected representatives and is known as representative democracy.

The United Nations culls out activities in support of Governments to promote and consolidate democracy in accordance with the UN Charter. The UN General Assembly encourages Governments to strengthen national programmes devoted to promotion and consolidation of democracy. For this purpose the UN celebrates 15 September each year as International Day of Democracy. Year 2014 addresses the theme: Engaging Young People on Democracy by highlighting challenges and opportunities for young people engaged in democratic processes.

Today, all over the world youth constitute one fifth of the world’s population. In developing countries this proportion is still higher. Majority of young people today are living in under developed countries. However, increasingly studies are showing declining faith of young people in politics. With each passing year there seems to be a decrease in levels of participation in elections, political parties and social organizations across the world. This fact is true for both established and emerging democracies.

On the other hand it is also true that several educated youth-led movements for democratic change are on the rise in a number of countries. These technology savvy democratic groups are using new communication channels through social networks making a mark on democracy-building through unconventional ways. So from the time of the Greeks in 5th century BCE who build up this political form, modern social media networks take Democracy to a new level. The social media now is abuzz with political thought of the day! The Inter-Parliamentary Union thus proudly promotes International Day of Democracy through Member Parliaments of 162 countries round the world. Long live Democracy!

“I call on members of the largest generation of youth in history to confront challenges and consider what you can do to resolve them. To take control of your destiny and translate your dreams into a better future for all.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Democratic Countries in 2000

World Map Showing Democratic Countries in 2000



Climate Change – A Living Reality

Changing Climate Patterns

Floods and  Tragedies

Our Earth is a living, breathing, changing entity. Down the ages, humans first suspected, then became fully aware that climate changes are a fact of life. Weather patterns keep changing over course of time. From Aristotle to later Renaissance scholar’s, mankind realized that deforestation, irrigation, grazing and other human interventions affect climate. Series of ancient cities along the Anatolian peninsula by the Aegean Sea vanished into the waters. Closer home we know Dwarka, the ancient city by the Gujarat coastline got engulfed by the sea.

Striking changes have been observed in the 18th and 19th centuries too. When forested lands got converted to croplands they actually transformed the climate in several regions of the world. Scientists and experts who have been studying climate patterns for years now eventually agree that large scale impact of human activities adversely affects climatic conditions. It is true that we humans can affect the climate of the planet as a whole.

The late 19th century had scientists warning about human emissions of greenhouse gases that were altering the climate. The sixties showcased the warming effect through carbon dioxide gas emissions. By the seventies the world was convinced through scientific reasoning that greenhouse gases were deeply involved in most climate changes, and human emissions were bringing on serious global warming. We even created the ozone hole in the skies. Since the 1990’s research on climate change has expanded and grown, linking many fields such as atmospheric sciences, numeric modeling, behavioral sciences, geology and economics.

We know for certain now that human-caused global warming is a fact and a serious threat. Numerous examples of effects of climate change keep driving home this point. The latest in the series are floods in Kashmir. Just as we were emerging from the Uttarakhand tragedy of the past year when cloudbursts, heavy rains and landslides killed countless people, the hitherto unheard of phenomenon of flooding in Jammu and Kashmir hands another blow. It is the mountainous region’s worst flooding in six decades submerging hundreds of villages and bringing on a crisis of grave proportions.

Social organizations need to create an understanding of the issue through climate activists. In 2008 India formally adopted the National Action Plan on Climate Change outlining policies and programs to address climate change mitigation. We need to spread the message that global warming is happening and is human-caused. We need to perceive global warming as a serious threat while at the same time believe that the issue can be resolved. It is our own collective actions that will make a difference. HERD Foundation promotes the opinions of experts and scientists by sharing insights within social networks.

Work on Improving Climatic Conditions

Climate Change Facts