Thursday, May 31, 2018

World No Tobacco Day: India among top 4 users of tobacco

Tobacco is one of the most common and preferred forms of addiction. Even though scientific evidences have revealed its harmful health effects, the use of tobacco in different forms has seen a dramatic increase, especially in the developing countries.

This potentially lethal substance is responsible for more than 1 in 10 fatalities globally, with India featuring among the top four users of tobacco. About 11.2 percent smokers worldwide are Indian.

Despite decades of research and strong initiatives for controlling diabetes carried out globally, the number of tobacco users in the world has not seen a declining trend.
Besides cancer, the use of tobacco in any form is also a leading cause of Type-2 diabetes, the most common type of the disease as seen in adults. Research shows that smokers are 30 percent to 40 percent more likely to develop diabetes as compared to non-smokers. This risk doubled with the number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day.

"Naturally occurring tobacco does not have much sugar, the processed forms have added sugars in high amounts. Hence, tobacco raises blood sugar levels and makes it more difficult to manage diabetes. This was not the only problem. While nicotine may seem harmless, it plays havoc on your body by changing the natural cell processes, thus affecting insulin response leading to a condition called insulin resistance. People with insulin resistance need larger and more frequent doses of insulin to control the blood sugar levels in their body," said Sujata Sharma, Diabetes Educator, BeatO.

"Thus, smokers with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing serious complications such as heart disease, neuropathy or nerve damage in extremities and poor blood circulation to limbs and genitalia leading to gangrene, infections and possible disability and infertility. Retinopathy leading to blindness is another common complication associated with diabetic tobacco users," added Sharma.

A Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS-2) report shows that India is the second largest consumer of tobacco products with 28.6 percent of the population addicted to it in any form. Of this, 10.7 percent smoke, and 21.4 percent use SLT. Of the 346?million global SLT consumers, India alone has 152.4?million consumers with a substantial increase across all age groups.

"Many smokers tend to use Smokeless Tobacco when quitting cigarette addiction. Vaping, as the use of e-cigarettes is called, is also considered as an alternative and at only 10 percent of nicotine compared to a cigarette, it may seem relatively less harmful. But this is not so. Smokeless tobacco poses just as many health risks," said Dr Ramananda Srikantiah Nadig, Head of the Clinical Advisory Board, healthi.

Snuff and chewing tobacco also contain nicotine, which is responsible for tobacco addiction. Though it is absorbed at a slower pace than that from cigarettes, the absorbed amount is three to four times and remains in the bloodstream longer.

"Due to the presence of nicotine and other chemicals, prolonged use of SLT causes serious health issues such as cancer and heart disease. It also increases the risk of oral and oropharyngeal cancer. Sometimes, there may be white patches on the gums, tongue, or lining of the mouth called leukoplakia. Though this is noncancerous, it could evolve into a fully blown cancer of the mouth. Lung, stomach, bladder, pancreatic and esophageal cancer are some of the other cancers associated with smokeless tobacco addiction," added Dr Nadig.

Another form of tobacco, called smokeless tobacco and sheesha, release high levels of carbon monoxide. By reducing the amount of oxygen circulating in the blood, these raise a person's heart rate and blood pressure putting undue stress on the cardiovascular system.

"Apart from this, frequent tobacco users also stand the risk of cardiac arrests, elevated blood pressure levels, strokes, hemorrhages, blood clots, and other heart-related ailments. It is imperative for people who are at risk or those with a history of cardiac ailments to discontinue using snuff or other smokeless tobacco products after an attack, failing which it can become life threatening," said Dr Rajiv Agarwal, Cardiologist, Lybrate. 

World No Tobacco Day

Every year, on 31 May, WHO and partners mark World No Tobacco Day (WNTD), highlighting the health and other risks associated with tobacco use, and advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption.

The focus of World No Tobacco Day 2018 is "Tobacco and heart disease." The campaign will increase awareness on the:

link between tobacco and heart and other cardiovascular diseases (CVD), including stroke, which combined are the world’s leading causes of death;
feasible actions and measures that key audiences, including governments and the public, can take to reduce the risks to heart health posed by tobacco.

World No Tobacco Day 2018 coincides with a range of global initiatives and opportunities aimed at addressing the tobacco epidemic and its impact of public health, particularly in causing the death and suffering of millions of people globally. These actions include the WHO-supported Global Hearts and RESOLVE initiatives, which aim to reduce cardiovascular disease deaths and improve care, and the third United Nations General Assembly High-level Meeting on the Prevention and Control of NCDs , being held in 2018.

How tobacco endangers the heart health of people worldwide
World No Tobacco Day 2018 will focus on the impact tobacco has on the cardiovascular health of people worldwide.

Tobacco use is an important risk factor for the development of coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease.

Despite the known harms of tobacco to heart health, and the availability of solutions to reduce related death and disease, knowledge among large sections of the public that tobacco is one of the leading causes of CVD is low.

Facts about tobacco, heart and other cardiovascular diseases
Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) kill more people than any other cause of death worldwide, and tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure contribute to approximately 17% of all heart disease deaths. Tobacco use is the second leading cause of CVD, after high blood pressure.

The global tobacco epidemic kills more than 7 million people each year, of which close to 900 000 are non-smokers dying from breathing second-hand smoke. Nearly 80% of the more than 1 billion smokers worldwide live in low- and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is heaviest.

The WHO MPOWER measures are in line with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) and can be used by governments to reduce tobacco use and protect people from NCDs. These measures include:

Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies;
Protect people from exposure to tobacco smoke by creating completely smoke-free indoor public places, workplaces and public transport;

Offer help to quit tobacco (cost-covered, population-wide support, including brief advice by health care providers and national toll-free quit lines);

Warn about the dangers of tobacco by implementing plain/standardized packaging, and/or large graphic health warnings on all tobacco packages, and implementing effective anti-tobacco mass media campaigns that inform the public about the harms tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure.

Enforce comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and
Raise taxes on tobacco products and make them less affordable.
Goals of the World No Tobacco Day 2018 campaign
World No Tobacco Day 2018 aims to:

Highlight the links between the use of tobacco products and heart and other cardiovascular diseases.
Increase awareness within the broader public of the impact tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke have on cardiovascular health.

Provide opportunities for the public, governments and others to make commitments to promote heart health by protecting people from use of tobacco products.
Encourage countries to strengthen implementation of the proven MPOWER tobacco control measures contained in the WHO FCTC.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Agriculture dept. clarifies on neera tapping provisions

Farmers instructed to complete registration procedures
Agriculture department officials have made a clarification that Farmer Producer Organisations (FPO) could get involved in neera tapping if they had completed the requisite registration and consent procedures.

“The FPO interested in neera tapping should first register with Coconut Development Board at Kochi in Kerala for the specific purpose and also should obtain the requisite approval for tapping neera from the Board”, explained Deputy Director of Agriculture K. Arasappan.

Mr. Arasappan, who is also the Personal Assistant (Agriculture) to District Collector, informed the the farmers during the grievances redress meeting organised by district administration here on Wednesday.

C. Mounagurusamy, a farmer, alleged that a large chunk of maize farmers in the district who suffered setbacks due to drought during 2016-17 financial year were yet to receive the crop insurance under Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana.

Insurance amount

Collector K. S. Palanisamy and the agriculture department officials said that insurance amount to the tune of ₹ 12.33 crore had been cumulatively sanctioned to 3,513 maize farmers in the district.

“Of the amount, ₹4.85 crore had already been remitted to the bank accounts of 1,137 farmers. The remaining beneficiaries will receive the amount within a fortnight”, said the officials.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Fijeeha 'Independence Pick' Photo Competition for Journalists

Fijeeha I-Pick

The nation has just celebrated 68th Independence Day with Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi giving a clarion call to ensure cleanliness, curb corruption, ensure provisions for toilets for all, come Make in India, and dignity of girl child. To celebrate this idea, we are inviting photo entries on the above issues. 

What's good, today is also the World Photography Day.

Please send your entries to with 'Fijeeha I-Pick' in the subject line.

Prize Money

Winner: Rs 1,500
Second & Third: Rs 750 each

Last day of submission: Tuesday, August 26, 2014, 5 pm. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Agriculture must embrace technology

Interview with Dr Marc Van MontaguFounder & Chairman, Institute for Plant Biotechnology

Q. Nourishing nearly 9 billon people globally is a big challenge. What are ways to tackle this challenge effectively?

A. By 2050, nourishing two billion more people by 2050 in a changing climate would a big challenge. It will prove one of the greatest challenges in human history. To meet it, we should embrace an agricultural approach that combines the best features of traditional farming with the latest technology. We can make the world wonderful by the use of science and especially biotechnology in agriculture. The new innovations can transform agriculture to meet the requirements of food and feed of the world. Enormous future awaits agriculture and with best of science including molecular biology, target of feeding two more billion would not be an unachievable task. But acceptance of science by convincing society is a daunting task.

Q. What India needs to do for food Security?

A. India has excelled in IT, and there is no reason why it can’t do well in Biotech. Several decades back when I came to Bangalore it was small city, but now with 9 million people it has ever booming IT industry of world class. India should embrace a realistic approach that seeks to answer what science can do and what society wants. We need a realistic approach towards GMOs (GM crops and GM food) as well. We need to tell society about benefits and safeguards. It would be wrong to believe that scientists are not concerned about agro-ecology and biodiversity. Moreover, the government should have a long term vision for agriculture sector and role of science in it. Therefore, I firmly believe that sustainable intensification is the way out for future.

Q. Do we need stringent regulations?

A. No, I do not think so. 21st century plants will all GM plants. Nature is a big laboratory. India should accept the role of biotechnology and GM crops need no regulations as conventional farming. The government needs to have a long term vision for agriculture and science. The new innovations can transform agriculture to meet the requirements of food and feed of the world. Enormous future awaits agriculture and with best of science including molecular biology, target of feeding 1.2 billion in India would not be an unachievable task.

Q. What do you mean by sustainable intensification?

A. During Green revolution production and productivity increased many fold. We adopted the best inputs and agronomy practices. Likewise, with the help of new technology, we need to intensify the best inputs and practices. India and other developing countries can produce their own GM varieties of seeds. The six big MNCs would not touch anything except major crops. There would plenty of orphan crops which can be taken up by local companies both in public and private sectors. Therefore I feel that sustainable intensification is the best way out for increasing productivity.

Q. Generally, it is believed that Europe is opposed to GM. Is it true that Europe is GM free?

A. No, it is wrong to believe that Europe is GM free or all countries. United Kingdom is not opposed to GM but France is. Politics play critical role there also as in India. France needs nuclear power so they have a tacit understanding with NGOs opposed to GM. They (NGOs) do not oppose nuclear and in turn France is opposed to GM. Some countries are neutral on the issue. Going forward politics at European Union will determine the future of GM in several countries. The EU spent over 300 million Euros to prove through scientific research that GMOs are not safe. But results were negative. But they never publicized the results and neither they said, on the basis of the results, GMOs are safe. But by doing this European countries are not doing good to society. See what happens to ‘golden rice.’ Non-adoption of this product so far manifests Europe’s delusion. After a decade of research scientists developed this wonderful variety which is showing great results in other parts of the world but it is still not commercialized. However, It is wrong to believe that Europe is GM Free as they have adopted one crop, but import as many as 46 crops.

Q. Why scientists are not able to convince society about the benefits of science?

A. Scientists are confined to laboratories even if the world is crumbling. Scientists need to understand the need of society and politics as well. They will have to step out from their laboratories to convince people about the wonders science and especially biotechnology can bring in agriculture. We need a realistic approach towards GMOs (GM crops and GM food) as well. We need to tell society about benefits and safeguards. It would be wrong to believe that scientists are not concerned about agro-ecology and biodiversity.

The interview was shared by leading agriculture news portal

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Agri production in Eastern India has increased dramatically

Agriculture is a fascinating subject. I certainly did not realise as a modest student at Hindu College in Delhi University where I did an Economics Honours programmes. However, in hindsight it appears I always had an inclination towards the subject - I scored the maximum in my Indian Economy paper! As a journalist I never got an opportunity to explore if I had a proclivity to dive deeper into it. However, as an entrepreneur, I was lucky I am getting ample opportunity to focus on agriculture. 

I realised agriculture sector has some fascinating administrators too. One gentleman whom I have closely followed is Mr Mukesh Khullar who passionately drove National Food Security Mission programme as its Mission Director. I have had the privilege of interviewing him for our portal, which I reproduce below: 

Mukesh Khullar, IAS, Principal Secretary, Govt of Maharashtra
Former Mission Director, NFSM, Min of Agriculture

Q. Critical achievements of NFSM?

A. National Food Security Mission has met and even exceeded the domestic consumption requirement of total food grains in the country. Secondly it has been able to widen the food basket from traditional 5 to 6 surplus States to 16 food surplus States in last five years, and thirdly by targeting low productivity districts, strategic crops (pulses) and areas (eastern and rainfed) NFSM has been able to promote inclusive and sustainable production.

Q. What are the 3 critical challenges that NFSM should address in 12th Plan, based on the learning of the 11th Plan?

A. National Food Security Mission will need to target lowest producing areas (blocks) within low productivity districts. Secondly it should address key site specific constraints in conjunction with other interventions, and thirdly it should focus on primary processing in post-harvest management to save grains and improve their marketability.

Q. You have also recommended a revisit in strategy vis a vis the laggard districts and advised a holistic and participatory model. Increasing synergy between different schemes is a novel idea but will it work?

A. There are a number of laggard districts where promoting crop husbandry alone might not work considering area constraints in the form of extreme climatic conditions, poor land development or more attractive alternate land use. With MGNREGS, IWMP, RKVY, NHM, NMMI, NMSA and host of other schemes, NFSM should promote its intervention in conjunction and not in isolation of these schemes. Since CDAPs are already developed, NFSM could assign these tasks to a partner institution which can implement the plan holistically by taking contributions from different schemes. Such partner could include a credible NGO.

Q. The operationalisation of Food Security Bill will mean additional foodgrains. How do you think NFSM can play an important role on this?

A. Total estimated demand for food grains for 12th Plan period has been computed by Planning Commission. NFSM has accordingly been given target to produce additional 25 million tons of food grains by the end of 12th Plan. It is essential now to create adequate buffer to tide over likely fall in production due to wide spread extreme climatic events. Current strategy of broad based production would also ensure sustainability.

Q. We have adopted a structural shift in approach through programmes like NFSM and BGREI. Is it helping?
Mr Mukesh Khullar, IAS

A. Sure, production in Eastern India has dramatically increased with significant productivity and production gains in rice based cropping system in all the seven States of Eastern Region. In fact it is heartening to note that the winners of Krishi Karman Awards for 2011-12 were mostly from hitherto under-performing areas.

Q. Integration of technology in agriculture is low - farm mechanization being one example. What policy prescriptions would you like to provide to address this gap, which surely has direct bearing on productivity and farmers prosperity.

A. Improving access to technology is the way to go for ensuring desired level of adoption of farm mechanization especially for resource poor small and marginal farmers. Services model is getting popular among paddy farmers with a number of service providers offering end to end mechanization services.

Q. Ministry of Agriculture has rightly endorsed use of biotechnology in agriculture - and the runaway success of Bt cotton gives us ample reasons to do so. However, today biotech is mired in an intense politicking and policy haze. NGOs are creating panic while silence of agencies including Ministry of Environment and Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) are doing no good to the cause of this technology. What is your view on this?

A. Biotechnology is not just about transgenics. There are other ways in which genetic engineering is being used. For example stress tolerant rice varieties have introgressed specific stress tolerant gene from wild varieties into the desired varieties. Such method does not need any environmental clearance or biosafety safeguards.

Mr Khullar was the Mission Director of National Food Security Mission between July 2011 to July 2013 and did exemplary work. Currently he is the Principal Secretary to the Government of Maharashtra in Tribal Development Department.

The interview can also be read at: