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

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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.

 

 

HERD TECSOL – IT Arm of HERD Group of Companies

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Images – Courtesy Google

HERD TECSOL is a private limited IT company attached to the HERD Group of companies. It came into existence in June 2016 that makes it a very young startup, just barely beginning to get noticed. Starting in a small way, it was self-financed and operated by founders Dr Amol Deshmukh and Dr Suchika Gupta. IT Manager Jigar Joshi runs the operations with help of a small team. As yet in its early stages the company is doing it all – developing, testing and marketing its IT services brand.

As we all know pretty well a startup company is an entrepreneurial venture that typically follows an emerging, fast-growing business aiming to connect with the marketplace. Improvising a viable business model around the idea, HERD TECSOL offers IT services through the platform offered by HERD Group of Companies. Small in size it is gradually working its way around to develop and validate its existence.

On a typical day we can see IT Manager Jigar Joshi responding to numerous in-house projects spread across the city as well as catering to out-station assignments every now and then. Just last week took him to Kurha and Titamba villages of Amravati district to install biometric machines in two remote schools located there. Fixing biometric machines, CCTV cameras, or computer peripherals as and where needed, he is also catering to installation of IT communication gadgets in sync with service providers.

It is ongoing research that opens up new markets. Aside from regular in-house jobs that come, HERD TECSOL watches out to offer services in under served areas. For doing this the manager has to stay alert around the local market to grab upcoming opportunities. With increasing number of web-based IT services the potential is definitely out there. Our best route as of now has been through the in-house niche that helps us to reach out to known institutions. We are now ready to offer IT services to the open market as well.

As HERD TECSOL prepares itself for offering needed IT services and skills, the team is advised to keep honing their talents to serve and ensure that they are at par with existing trends and requirements. Whenever feasible they attend seminars and conferences sponsored by IT sector to stay up to the mark in an industry that works on current knowledge. Credibility in the IT industry is critical and HERD TECSOL strives at being successful as a reliable IT company.

The founding directors of the company launched it with the knowledge that their networks and skilled operational team will help it get on its feet in the all-pervading robust IT environment. They were not wrong in their assumption. With a planned business approach in line with the HERD Group credentials it has been an experiential process thus far.  The team uses its work experience to identify customers, services, features and IT products that make it known as a hub for information technology. Satisfied customers will be our best bet to lay the foundation for HERD TECSOL.

As of now the prognosis looks good and we have secured good business even as we look beyond the potential of just profits. The small team wearing all kinds of professional hats is working hands-on with all kinds of tasks.  They have undertaken work for reputed companies and venture on in every direction to turn it into a profitable venture. They are confident to take on increasing targets for IT delivery services.

With customers in academia and education the going certainly looks good. Although the information technology industry can be highly competitive HERD Group of companies is confident it can establish HERD TECSOL on its own credentials with a stronger business plan and by offering innovative services. It is the drive and efficiency of the team that will pave the way to future success.

“Adding Scholarship to Teaching”

 

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Sunday, August 6, 2017 saw HERD Foundation attending the Annual Conclave organized by The Hitawada – a leading newspaper of Nagpur. The media-house has been organizing the event for almost a decade in a bid to head-start advancement and progression in the field of higher learning. Entitled “Adding Scholarship to Teaching” the convention included the upper echelons of the teaching fraternity of Nagpur and few surrounding towns of Vidarbha.

The Hitavada is the largest selling English daily newspaper in Central India. It was founded in 1911 by freedom fighter Gopal Krishna Gokhale, whose portrait took center stage at the dais.  Sitting down to hear the speakers spell out their views on how teaching could be enhanced to indoctrinate and instill scholarship in students, the fairly full gathering appeared keen on the offerings that were to follow.

The erudite crowd gave their ear to the submissions of the five speakers invited to share their opinions and insights. Aside from the Chairman, Shiksha Mandal who provided some general interpretations about what it meant to add scholarship to teaching, the remaining four eminent speakers (Amravati University, IGNOU Nagpur, Institute of Science and RTMNU) were actually mulling about teaching-learning methodologies coupled with thoughts on scholarship norms.

A visibly disheartened Chief Editor of the newspaper attempted to salvage and reconstruct the theme for the benefit of the audience. His focused interpretation of scholarship in terms of erudition, knowledge, learning, literacy, education soon made it clear that what was expected of the speakers was to chart out ways to inspire and motivate academic attainments from students. As also, to enumerate the role of teachers in doing so. Sharing influences of teachers of yore, on minds of students, he went on to elaborate how present day teachers could begin to tap the minds of young academicians to bring out enquiry and original thinking.

Apparently the invited speakers had been caught up with their interpretation of the term ‘scholarship’. The first known use of the word scholarship in circa 1536 had of course meant serious, detailed study for academic achievement. Synonymously, it is now understood to pertain to learning of a high order for attaining the character, qualities, and activities of a scholar. The current meaning of scholarship is more commonly understood as an amount of money or grant given by a school to a student to help for the student’s education. Somewhere between these two definitions the convention took off at tandem to make it all inclusive. Of course they did elaborate on the subject in its entirety by adding practical and experiential dimensions to explain teh finer nuances of teaching.

Had it not been for the chief editor’s elucidation, the conclave would have been bereft of the serious nature of the thematic issue at hand. It was his inferences on how a fund of knowledge or learning could help draw out the scholarship (read scholarly quests) of an avid student that lent the right context to the pursuit of this intellectual enquiry. Hopefully the understanding of the theme filtered down to the audience after his simplified description on this serious question of notching up scales in teaching to inculcate scholarship.

“Adding Scholarship to Teaching” was a first-rate attempt at reviewing and making projections for best practices in assessing the teachers role in value-addition to the student’s learning. The goal appears to be refining active learning. Let us work together to ingrain enhanced features that will inspire research and contemporary designs to foster systematic, intentional changes in teaching and learning outcomes. The mission here could be to leverage research among university educators to create appropriate value addition in order to provide orientation for original thinking in students.

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