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.

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Need to Bridge Skill-Gaps for Rural Income Generation Activities

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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.

World Soil Day 2017 – ‘Caring for the Planet starts from the Ground’

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It was only in 2002 that the International Union of Soil Sciences or IUSS adopted a resolution proposing December 5 as World Soil Day to celebrate the importance of soil as a critical component of our natural resources. In truth natural soil is a vital contributor to human well being. Recognizing this fact FAO supports the formal establishment of World Soil Day by creating solidarity for Global Soil Partnership. Since 2012 FAO-GSP has been organizing awareness events for this important day.

HERD Organic Farms is diligent in raising awareness about World Soil Day. Soil is an essential resource and a vital part of our natural environment from which our food is produced. Human beings have survived because it is soil that nourished and nurtured generations. Alongside soil continues to provide living spaces for us humans. Importantly soil is critical in maintaining our essential ecosystem. It regulates water, climate and conserves biodiversity as well as enables carbon sequestration.

It is disheartening that in present times soils continue to be under pressure due to human factors. Increasing population and high demand of land-use for needs other than food cultivation remain two debilitating reasons. Industrialization and urbanization are directly responsible for ruining soils. Additionally 33% of global soils suffer from degradation. This is what brings FAO sponsored Global Soil Partnerships into play in order to have policy makers around the world explore opportunities to embrace sustainable development.

A global community of 60,000 soil scientists has been given the responsibility to generate and communicate soil knowledge for the common good of the world. World Soil Day observes the importance of soil as a critical component of our natural systems or growing food and ensuring biodiversity as well as containing climate change. The need is to promote the regenerative landscape for integrated management of soil, water, vegetation and biodiversity.

HERD Organic Farms supports the need for maintaining healthy soils. It is really very important so that we enable sustainable agricultural production which is ultimately good for the environment and human health. The way things are going now soon soil may be a finite natural resource. We dread the day when it may even become non-renewable. It would do well for us all to remember that soil plays an essential role in our wellbeing.

Climate change and desertification are increasingly degrading soil worldwide. Our own environs are getting affected by power-plants and factories that spew forth pollutants that add to further degradation of soil resources. It is time we worked towards mitigating inappropriate technologies to safeguard soils. Also we need to instill safer agri-management practices to replenish soils. With regard to population pressure we may do well by understanding about the carrying capacity of the land.

Soil organic carbon (SOC) forms the basis of soil health, fertility, and food production. A healthy soil with an ideal amount of SOC (the main component of soil organic matter) can provide optimal plant growing conditions, functional nutrient cycling and effective water infiltration and storage. Agricultural soils are among the planet’s largest reservoirs of carbon and hold potential for expanded carbon sequestration, and thus provide a prospective way of mitigating the increasing atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide.

World Soil Day 2017 therefore focuses on activities with the aim to communicate messages on the importance of soil quality for food security, healthy ecosystems and human well-being. The first ever Global Soil Organic Carbon map (GSOCmap) is being launched on World Soil Day 2017! The GSOC map is not just a map! It is also a comprehensive process that supports the development and empowerment of national capacities to build their national soil information systems. Please click on the link to open the GSOCmap web application:

http://www.fao.org/world-soil-day/worldwide-events/en/

Smog-Apocalypse: Death by Breathing

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It was the London of the 20th century mired in low hanging pollution that infiltrated the foggy city, when the word “smog” was coined for the first time. Today many Indian cities face this lethal condition. And many more will soon face yet more dire consequences if corrective steps are not taken. A known reason for pollution laden air is of course our ever increasing vehicular traffic. Add to this industrial smoke and effluents coming out everywhere. Lace this with construction dust, crop burning smoke and mushrooming thermal power stations. Soon our towns and villages too will be engulfed in this all pervasive smoggy grip.

There was a time when we actually romanticized the morning mist and thought of it as clouds settled on earth! The charming smoky invisible pall was actually cast by water droplets in the air! Sunlight reflecting off this hazy atmosphere was sans pollution. With the land cooling down, air became less able to hold moisture and water condensed in the air. This is the fog that happens in early winter mornings that automatically gets erased when the sun comes out.

There are all kinds of fog. Radiation fog is when temperatures are cold and there are no winds. Valley fog is fog that fills a valley and may last up to days because of the unique topographical layout. Upslope fog happens on hillsides while coastal fog occurs on coastlines. When fog forms ice crystals over surfaces it’s known as freezing fog. But fog turns into nasty haze when pollutants carried by wind currents gather and settle with the fog. This pollution laden hazy fog full of low-lying ozone is what is now commonly known as smog.

Smog is a killer. It makes you cough and burns eyes since it’s made up of ozone. When pollutants like nitrogen oxides react with the sunlight to form ozone then it’s not such a good idea to breathe it. Aside from sore throats and eye irritation it can lead up to chronic asthma. It also severely impacts productivity of agriculture in rural areas. These symptoms are now very common in most Indian towns and cities.

Smog is now a real threat to our social and ecological damage. Air pollution is certainly a very serious issue. In rural areas it is fuel-wood and biomass burning and in urban sites it is adulterated fuel, vehicle emission, traffic congestion and factory smoke that are major sources of pollutants that smog up particulate pollution to gag people. Although India has a low per capita emissions of greenhouse gases but the country as a whole is the third largest polluter after China and USA.

Continued exposure to particulate matter leads to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer and heart attacks. Since 2010 studies have been revealing that outdoor air pollution is the fifth-largest killer in India. Around 620,000 early-deaths occurred from air pollution-related diseases in 2010 itself. According to a WHO study 13 of the 20 most-polluted cities in the world are in India. And the 2016 Environmental Performance Index ranked India 141 out of 180 countries.

There has been vociferous activism mostly by science backed NGOs that spurred action for improvements in air quality testing and monitoring. The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act was passed in 1981 to regulate air pollution. In 2015 the government together with IIT Kanpur launched the National Air Quality Index. In the last fifteen years India has been working unremittingly on regulatory reforms for improving its air quality. Most Indian cities however continue to violate air quality PM10 targets.

Respirable particulate matter pollution continues to be a key challenge. In May 2014 the World Health Organisation announced New Delhi as the most polluted city in the world. In November 2016, the great smog of Delhi created an environmental event that saw the city and neighboring region covered in dense smog. The present scenario is not much different and once again north India is struck by smoggy conditions with thick haze and air quality remaining at hazardous levels. Aside from the NCR area many more cities are experiencing smog with people literally gasping for breath. Smog-apocalypse or death by breathing is actually a fact now. Click on the link below to check out air pollution in India – Real-time Air Quality Index Visual Map:

http://aqicn.org/map/india/#@g/10.5933/91.0986/4z

November 7 – National Cancer Awareness Day

 

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Images Courtesy Google

November 7 is observed as National Cancer Awareness Day in India each year. The day is marked out to teach people to combat the disease. With nearly 2.9 million cases of cancer in the country and about 1.1 million new cases reported annually, we have to learn to deal with this feared disease. The sad part is that two-thirds of cancer cases get diagnosed very late when the disease is at an advanced stage. This reduces the patient’s chances of survival. It is for this reason that Cancer Awareness Day becomes important to instill awareness for early detection.

The medical fraternity and allied agencies working for cancer awareness observe the day conscientiously. Cancer refers to the group of diseases that affect the living cells in the human body, and may affect anybody at any age. Causes of the malady may be multi-factorial but the disease may advance with fatality. Tobacco is identified as the single most important risk factor for cancer.

The good news is that it’s well established by now that nearly one-third of cancers are preventable and one-third have the potential to be cured provided they are diagnosed early on. To control the cancer one needs to effectively make use of all knowledge that has been accumulated through successful research over the past couple of decades.

The quality of life of cancer patients who are incurable is maintained by provision of palliative care. However, in India with its financial and urban-rural divides and constraints, along with shortage of manpower, all this creates a dearth of palliative facilities that need to be made widely  available. Save for cancer hospitals at select urban centers, a large segment of the population remains out of the loop of cancer diagnostics, facilities and treatment.

Add to this the fact that lack of awareness has cancer patients arriving at very advanced stages thereby increasing rates of morbidity and mortality. Thus, in comparison to western countries we lag behind in numbers of treated patients. It is largely due to late diagnosis and lack of treatment that cancer remains a dreaded disease.  Even pediatric cancers that are often curable remain sadly defeated since we lack access to quality care and support systems.

Cancer Awareness Day therefore becomes a day to spread the message out loud and clear. Early stage cancer, if detected sooner than later, has remarkable chances of being treated. People and institutions should be taking on the cudgels for drawing attention to this fact and making known developments in the field of cancer treatment. Initially cancer may show no signs and go undetected, but one needs to be watchful for signals that should not be ignored.

Early detection and treatment can alter the course of the disease and improve chances of survival, to even returning back to good health. This is especially important for people who are addicted to tobacco – a known cancer agent. It is said that nearly 3000 people die every single day due to tobacco related cancer deaths. Tobacco addicts are more prone to dying of cancer than non-tobacco users.

Besides tobacco addicts there are other high risk-groups and these include post-menopausal women, women on birth-control pills/hormone therapy, people working in toxic environments, people exposed to second-hand smoke, heavy drinkers and people suffering from disturbed sleep patterns. Cancer tumors grow to press on nerves, penetrate blood vessels and interfere with functioning of organs. They may cause bleeding, be painful and impair bodily functions.

Here are signs of cancer that need to be medically checked out:

  • Lesions that do not heal despite medication.
  • Change in look and feel of existing wart, mole, or sore.
  • Bleeding or watery discharge that is abnormal.
  • Any lump or thickening in any part of the body.
  • Acidity, indigestion, difficulty in swallowing.
  • Chronic fatigue, nausea, or vomiting.
  • Sudden changes in bowel or bladder habits.
  • Nagging cough or hoarseness in the throat.
  • Persistent headaches.
  • Loss of appetite, sudden weight loss.
  • Pain in bones or any other area.
  • Constant or intermittent low fever.
  • Poor immune system, repeated infections.

Early signs may occur to anybody, even those having healthy lifestyles. One has to be watchful, especially high risk groups. Early diagnosis and treatment is a sure way to fight off cancer.

 

 

Pharmacy Front-End Operations

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Pharmacy operations management takes into count the running of a business enterprise along with being part of the healthcare system and services. Thus pharmacy operations include both tangible and intangible characteristics. Healthcare pharmacy services are knowledge-based and require continuous customer-interaction and that makes for its intangible component in operations. The logistics and supply of services that form the crux of the functions in operations management remain the evident and tangible features of the pharmacy business.

It is the human workforce of a pharmacy that actually forms the interface between the customers and the management. There is little doubt that this is the most significant part of the pharmacy operations. It is the workforce that represents the organisation to the customers. It is this end of the business force that must remain responsible for the pharmacy to be seen as functioning in an optimal manner. It is imperative to have technically trained personnel who facilitate smooth operations management in synchronization with the realities of human behavior.

To keep the team well informed and keyed to their roles, management should follow on all inputs necessary for their peak performances. In this connection it would do well to be constantly reinforcing the Pharmacy Practice Regulations. The PPR-2015 that has been enforced by Pharmacy Council of India is meant to regulate pharmacy practice in India. Here are a few pointers that may always be kept in mind. As per the rules,

  • Dispensing of drugs should be carried by the qualified registered pharmacists only.
  • Renting of registration certificated to pharmacy owners is strictly prohibited.
  • Pharmacists who rented their registration certificates without attending dispensing services considered as misconduct and subjected for cancellation of their registration certificates permanently.
  • Pharmacists during working times should wear a white clean apron, black badge plate with name and registration number of pharmacists.
  • Registration certificates should be displayed visible to the public.
  • Along with dispensing services pharmacists should provide their professional services like patients counseling, adverse drug reactions reporting, and primary care to all uncomplicated simple illnesses. For this purpose a separate cell may be arranged within the pharmacy.
  • If any case of drugs dispensing carried by unqualified persons instead of qualified pharmacist, public may lodge their complaints against pharmacist directly to the registrar state or central pharmacy council.

For a while after this notification was introduced, social media went mistakenly rife with comments that pharmacists were empowered to open pharma clinics to diagnose disease and prescribe medicines. However no such provision is mentioned in Pharmacy Practice Regulations, 2015. A registered pharmacist is required only to dispense medicines on the prescription of a registered medical practitioner and can only counsel patients or care-givers on medicine to enhance or optimize drug therapy.

Patient counseling usually includes the following features:

  • Name and description of the drugs
  • Dosage form, dose, route of administration, and duration of drug therapy
  • Intended use of the drug and expected action
  • Special directions and precautions for the drug
  • Common severe side effects, adverse effects, interactions, therapeutic contraindications that may occur, including their avoidance and action required if they occur
  • Techniques for self-monitoring drug therapy
  • Proper storage of the drugs
  • Prescription refill information
  • Action to be taken in the event of a missed dose
  • To ensure rational use of drugs

In view of above it then becomes clear that under no circumstances may a registered pharmacist consider himself empowered under the Pharmacy Act, 1948 and Pharmacy Practice Regulations, 2015 to practice medicines or open clinics to provide medical care. Rigorous training is therefore part of HERD Pharmacy management procedure to keep pharmacists aware of their essential roles and responsibilities.

Pesticide Deaths – Deathly Enterprises

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Images Courtesy Google

Social media is aghast at the deathly footage of the New York killings yesterday in Manhattan when eight people were killed and more injured after an attack. It made for grisly news and everyone’s attention was caught at these senseless deaths. Yet, close at hand when Yavatmal District in Vidarbha region lost 21 farmers just about three weeks back to ignominious deaths, not many were affected in their worlds nor shaken out of their stupor.

The media is going gaga today about the World Bank assessment about India scaling up in rankings for its ease of doing business and thereby attracting foreign investments. However media correspondent Prashant Kadamb’s tweet remains a lone voice wondering if somebody will ever assess India’s ranking for ease of farming. And he quizzes  “अशी कुठली देशांची क्रमवारी काढली जात नाही का जगात? की उद्योग म्हणजेच विकास अशी सर्वमान्य कल्पना आहे?”

Stating with a satirical bent he wants to know if anyone creates similar rankings for countries of the world involved in agriculture. Or is industrialization the only indicator for assessing development. His agony perhaps stems from the fact that Yavatmal lost 21 farmers, the highest toll thus far. Actually at least about 34 farmers from Vidarbha have died of poisoning. Deaths have also been registered in Akola, Amravati, Buldhana, Nagpur and Bhandara!

Three pesticide companies have been booked and the Maharashtra government has registered police complaints against them. Cases have been registered against the companies and the distributors. The Krishi Seva Kendras or agro-input centers have been prohibited from selling pesticides not recommended for the region.

The agriculture department reports that highly toxic and expensive pesticide was sold to unsuspecting farmers simply to make sales and earn profits. They found that a pesticide named ‘Profex Super” locally dubbed as ‘Police’ recommended only for the sole use of sugarcane crop was made available for farmers in Yavatmal which primarily grows cotton in the region. It therefore becomes very important to educate farmers with regard to pesticides that they will be using for their crops.

Profex is an expensive and highly toxic pesticide. The farmers were misguided and told that it will be very effective for their crop and they could make more money by using it. Cases have been registered against the manufacturing companies since the uninformed farmers were for taken for a deathly ride. Even the Krishi Seva Kendras that distributed the un-recommended pesticides have been booked.

Agriculture Department officials have taken up enquiry and are also taking into account the stocking of highly toxic pesticides in the area. They have seized pesticides worth Rs 12 crores thus far. It is sad to note that in Vidarbha 32 farmers have died so far and about 800 farmers admitted to state-run hospitals for complaints of dizziness, diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach-ache and blurred vision. In a bid to contain the situation the government announced ex-gratia payment of Rs 2 lakh to the family of the deceased that they may still be struggling to obtain.

The legal wrangling will now run its course with the State being taken on by Agriculture Department. Subsequently the National Human Rights Commission taking suo moto cognisance of media reports of deaths of farmers due to pesticides has sent notices to the Maharashtra government and Central Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare. The commission has directed the state government to provide free treatment to people suffering from infections.

These unfair and unwarranted deaths in our rural hinterlands bring more discomfiture to the people eking out uncertain livelihoods from an ever-declining agrarian business. Companies responsible for producing such poisonous pesticides and everybody involved around them will remain guilty of these deaths. There is need to educate farmers on proper cultivation methods. We can only hope that our fellow citizens in rural areas are offered real help and not just one time sops.