People's Basic Needs

Chhattisgarh IAS Officer Sends Bike Ambulances to Tribal Door Steps, Reduces Medical Costs by 90%

For Kaniharin Bai, a resident of Koyilari village in the Naxal-affected Kabirdham district, Chhattisgarh, the nearest primary health centre is 12 km away in Daldali village. All through her pregnancy, this woman from the indigenous Baiga tribe feared would happen once she got into active labour.

Recalling how her relatives and friends suffered the ordeal of walking to the health centre in this hilly and rugged terrain under tremendous pain, she feared the worst. The possibility of delivering at home came with its own risk of complications.

On 7 October 2018, when she got into active labour, she called the number of the local motorbike ambulance driver, and within minutes, he was at her residence.

“It was a blessing that I didn’t have to walk down to the clinic with so much pain. Fortunately, the Sangi (translation: companion) Express driver and ASHA worker came to my doorstep, picked me up, and drove me to the clinic in Daldali, where the local doctor treated me. On 11.20 pm that night, my child was born safe and sound,” says Kaniharin Bai.

When Awanish Saran took over as the District Collector of Kabirdham district in April 2018, he saw a healthcare system that could not reach those most in need, particularly vulnerable citizens of the Baiga and Gond tribal communities. District Collector Awanish Sharan. Source: Awanish Sharan/Facebook

“Government four-wheeler ambulances couldn’t reach or serve the community on time due to geographical constraints. Beneficiaries had to pay out of their own pockets and opt for private vehicles to seek health services. If they could not afford it, they would risk their lives, trying to reach the nearest health centre,” says Awanish, speaking to The Better India.

To address this shortcoming in the delivery of basic healthcare services, District Collector Awanish Sharan formulated a system of bike ambulances.

By any measure, this isn’t a novel initiative. In the Maoist-affected region of Bastar, for example, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) used a similar system to offer immediate help to a sick or injured person backed by armed security personnel. However, Awanish felt that this could work in his district as well.

There are four key objectives of the Sangi Express initiative:

1) To decrease the maternal, infant, and child mortalities by commuting those who need emergency care within the Golden Hour.

2) To provide Emergency Response Services (ERS) commutation facility to accident victims, and those suffering from other trauma cases.

3) To reduce migration of villagers to other districts and connected states for seeking health services, and availing health services at the respective areas.

4) To strengthen the antenatal, intranatal, and postnatal care to pregnant women and newborn children under the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY), a safe motherhood intervention under the National Rural Health Mission, and act as a bridge to provide primary care to all.

“Surrounded by hills, many areas of Kabirdham district have suffered from the lack of access to basic healthcare facilities, particularly Pandariya and Bodla blocks. The population is scattered and commuting is a big challenge during the monsoon seasons, due to which basic antenatal and newborn care services are comparatively difficult to provide. This leads to deliveries at home in these areas. This poses a risk to the lives of both mothers and newborns,” says Awanish.

Besides, there was also the challenge of unavailability of human resources (medical officers, particularly at the primary and community health centres). In the district hospital, meanwhile, there was a lack of specialist doctors. Motorbike ambulance. Source: Awanish Sharan/Twitter

After addressing this shortfall in staff, the district administration came together with the Anganwadi workers, ASHA workers, and the local Gram Panchayats to spread awareness among locals regarding the Sangi Express initiative.

On 15 July 2018, the district administration launched this initiative in the villages of Kukdoor, Daldali and Bokarkhar. After receiving positive responses and acquiring good results, it was replicated in two more villages—Jhalmala and Cheerpani on November 1.

After initial hiccups, the motorbike ambulance service began working round the clock.

How does it work?

The beneficiary contacts the PHC, the CHC in-charge (Community Health Centre) or motorbike ambulance driver through the Anganwadi or the ASHA (Mitanin) Worker on a number specific to a village, which is widely distributed by the local panchayat to each household. This information is disseminated during meetings and awareness-raising sessions, where local officials talk about the usefulness of motorbike ambulances.

Each village has one motorbike ambulance, which reaches the beneficiary’s doorstep so that they don’t have to bear the cost of paying for private vehicles, and avoid the pain of walking. Patient, attendant and ASHA worker. Source: Awanish Sharan/Twitter

In the ambulance, you have the beneficiary, an attendant (usually a relative), the ASHA worker and driver, carrying all first aid supplies and protective helmets. They are transported to the nearest health centre, where they receive treatment.

Once treated, the patient is transported back to their home in the same ambulance. These services are free of cost.

“Besides offering immediate care, this initiative has given employment opportunities to locals. Drivers of this ambulance service are from the respective villages. These boys are ‘one of their own’, thus making it easier for locals to utilise these services. An advantage of a local boy on the wheel is that they are familiar with the geography, and can find the fastest or shortest route to arrive at a government health facility,” says Awanish.

Also Read: Here’s How One Doctor-Turned-IPS Officer is Using Kindness to Counter Naxalism

The impact of the Sangi Express has been real. Since 15 July 2018 to 31 May 2019, the total number of institutional deliveries have been 346, while the number of children brought for antenatal check-ups is 1,120, according to district-level data.

Only in 11 instances, the PHC or CHC were forced to commute patient cases to seek a higher level of health services. More importantly, however, the district magistrate claims that these motorbike ambulances have reduced out of pocket expenditure by a whopping 90 per cent!

“The successful implementation of Sangi Express has not just resulted in incremental health improvements but also helped and empowered women to understand the concept of ‘Right to Health’. It has boosted their confidence to seek health facility with ease,” concludes Awanish.

(Edited by Shruti Singhal)

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How a British Sea Cadet Set Up India’s Oldest Surviving Bookstore

The name ‘Higginbothams’ shakes up a lot of memories for all old-timers residing in Chennai, whether it was where they bought their first book or the classic chequered flooring, its high arches or the wooden railings.

“This is my usual routine for the last 50 years. I never forget to visit Higginbothams; I like to see Anantharama’s photo… it inspires me,” says Doraisamy Vishwanathan, one of the older customers.

The beloved bookstore once served royals, Prime Ministers, and institutions for more than a century. India’s oldest bookstore, still in business after 175 years, it all began with an illegal immigrant and his sheer luck. Source: Wikimedia Commons

In the early 1840s, a British librarian named Abel Joshua Higginbotham boarded a ship. When discovered by the captain, he was thrown out at the port of then Madras presidency. Fortunately, being a librarian, he found employment as a store manager of Wesleyan Book Shop. The store catered to local theologians and largely sold religious works.

His dedication was soon evident. But the Mission was losing its profits and in 1844, when they decided to shut the store, they offered Higginbotham the option of buying out the stock.

A J Higginbotham took the opportunity; he bought the shop and renamed it ‘Higginbothams’.

The store gained popularity for its quality of books and diversity of subjects, for its proprietor had the skill to track down rare and in-demand books.

A guide book published in 1859 by John Murray titled Presidencies of Madras and Bombay listed Higginbothams as a ‘premier book shop’. Sources: (L) Aksay Seesit/Facebook (R) Higginbothams/Facebook

The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 provided Europe with direct access to Asia in record time. This shortcut impacted shipping routes, world trade, and passenger travel. The three-month journey from England to India was reduced to three weeks. Ships arrived at Indian ports carrying foreign goods. Large crates for Higginbothams were being offloaded at the Madras port. They contained precious cargo—books and publications that were topping the bestseller lists in Europe.

Higginbothams became India’s largest bookstore chain in the 19th century. As it grew, so did its reputation.

History has it that Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, was a voracious reader. Higginbothams was also appointed as his official bookseller when he visited India in 1876. They were called upon to provide the prince with appropriate reading material following his arrival at the Royapuram Station in Madras. This led the bookshop to attract a large number of elite clientele.

By the beginning of the 20th century, Higginbothams had already become the official book supplier for the government and expanded to publishing with cookbooks. In keeping with the changing times. Sources: (L) Higginbothams/Facebook (R) Higginbothams/Facebook 

Their customers ranged from the British Prime Minister Clement Atlee to the Maharaja of Mysore, Jayachamaraja Wodeyar. It is widely speculated that the Mulligatawny Soup and Madras Curry Powder became legacies of the British Raj only after Higginbothams first printed their recipes.

A J Higginbotham passed away in 1891, leaving his son C H Higginbotham, in charge. After he took over, he went on to spread this legacy across south India. The bookshop shifted to its present location at Mount road (now Anna Salai); the white building is one of the landmark and heritage structures in the city.

By the 1940s, it had stalls at the Central Railway Station in Chennai, and the Ernakulam Junction Railway Station in Kochi, making books accessible to travellers. Source: Deepa Jayaraj/Facebook

After Independence, in 1949, S Anantharamakridhnan of the Amalgamations Group took over the bookstore. “The year ushered in the transition of the Company from a foreign-owned one to an Indian company. Despite its long history of 175 years, Higginbothams remains young by constantly meeting the ever-changing needs of its esteemed customers,” says Nasir Ahmed Shariff, Chief Operating Officer.

Shariff talks about the relevance of the bookstore in the digital age. He says “Physical books have not lost the charm. As a brick and mortar store, we provide the ambience and meeting point for readers. In trying to reach the younger generations, we have moved closer to our customers. Regional language publications have always been dear to Higginbothams. The Chennai showroom has an exclusive section for Tamil books.”

Also Read: How One Man Made Bengaluru’s Favourite Bookstore ‘Blossom’ From the Pavement

At present, the Higginbothams group has more than 20 stores spread across South India. The Chennai store holds a special place in history as the first and the oldest bookstore, with an ambience that takes you back to a time long gone.

(Written by Krutika Haraniya and Edited by Shruti Singhal)

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Autism to Hormones: 15 Things You Must Know About India’s New Health Cover Rules

A new set of directions by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) promises to make your health cover more inclusive than before. Apart from instructing health insurance companies to not discriminate based on gender or identity, the IRDAI has said that they cannot exclude mental illnesses from their packages.

However, on the other hand, the regulatory has announced that certain conditions like Alzheimer’s and epilepsy can be permanently excluded from the lists.

Here are the 15 takeaways from the notice:

  • According to the IRDAI, health insurance companies cannot exclude from their packages children who suffer from autism, cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, dyslexia or speech and language disorders like stammering.
  • Additionally, the plans will also have to cover puberty as well as menopause-related health issues like flushing, hormonal changes or excessive bleeding.
Source: torange.biz.
  • Insurance companies exploited loopholes in the rules and were selective in covering mental illnesses. The regulatory, however, has ruled that mental illnesses can no longer be excluded from the policies.
  • No more can the companies exclude people with a history of clinical depression or are prescribed to use opioids or anti-depressants. In addition to this, the failure to follow medical advice or treatment can no more be a clause to deny medical insurance.

Furthermore, the regulatory has also said that companies cannot discriminate between clients based on gender or identity.

  • Henceforth, insurers will also have to cover patients kept on artificial life maintenance. This, even in the cases where the doctors have declared that there are no chances of the patient recovering or going back to their previous health conditions.

An important thing to note here is that the above will be true only up to the date of confirmation by the doctor.

  • Oral chemotherapy and robotic surgery will also be covered by insurance packages.
  • All health insurance policies filed and cleared after 1 April 2019, will have to follow these guidelines. Those cleared before this date that do not follow the guidelines cannot be offered or promoted after April 1, 2020.
Source: Harsha K R/ Flickr.
  • Pre-existing ailment too cannot be automatically excluded by insurance companies. Only those ailments will be excluded that have been mentioned in the IRDAI given list. The guidelines towards this rule are mentioned below.
  • A total of 17 conditions have been granted permanent exclusion by the national insurance regulator. These conditions and disorders include Alzheimer’s disease, chronic liver diseases, epilepsy, Hepatitis B, HIV/AIDS, kidney diseases and Parkinson’s disease.
  • The expenses incurred by patients for illnesses within 30 days from when the policy commences will not be covered by the policies. This clause excludes accidents, which can be claimed by policyholders.

You may also like: RBI Relaxes Norms for Basic Savings Accounts: 5 Free Services Banks to Provide

  • Except for cases of fraud or permanent exclusions, a health insurance policy cannot be contested after the completion of eight years (this is called the moratorium period).
  • Waiting periods for a specific disease cannot exceed four years. But, the companies are allowed to impose sub-limits or annual policy limits for specific diseases. This covers the terms of amount, percentage of sum insured or the number of days of hospitalisation or treatment.
  • Similarly, the waiting period for lifestyle conditions such as hypertension or diabetes cannot be for over 30 days. The only exception to this rule is if the health issues are pre-existing and disclosed when the policy is purchased.
  • Treatment taken due to some adventure sports like rock climbing, scuba diving, mountaineering as well as diagnostic tests, infertility treatment, weight control surgeries and plastic surgeries continue to be excluded from health cover packages.
  • However, sports like dirt biking, paragliding, whitewater rafting, go-karting, F1 racing as well as ethnic sports like jallikattu and kambala will be included in the packaging.

(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)

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This IIT-Delhi Startup’s Innovation Tackles Air Pollution for Just Rs 10!

Did you know air pollution kills an estimated seven million people worldwide every year? According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) data, nine out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants.

Closer home, in June 2019, a report by an environmental organisation, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), stipulated that life expectancy in India has gone down by 2.6 years due to the deadly diseases caused by air pollution. The third highest cause of death, ranking just above smoking in India, is the combined effect of outdoor particulate matter (PM) 2.5, ozone and household air pollution.

But what if we told you that a low-cost invisible nasal filter that sticks on your nasal orifice could prevent dust and air pollutants, especially PM 2.5 from entering your system? Nasofilters

Or that a Rs 400 filter could turn your AC into an air purifier?

Or that a pollution net fixed on your doors and windows could not only stop dust and pollutants but also protect your home from harmful UV rays?

Shocked?

Meet Prateek Sharma, an IIT-Delhi alumnus who with a dream team consisting of fellow IIITians, Tushar Vyas and Jatin Kewlani, supported by faculty members, Prof Ashwini Agrawal and Prof Manjeet Jassal, established award-winning startup, Nanoclean Global Private Limited. A startup that has been developing low-cost preventive measures for polluted air and innovations for air filtration.

Nanoclean was awarded the National Startups Award by former President Pranab Mukherjee in 2017, recognised among the top 25 technical startups from over 118 countries by the Republic of Korea and selected among Top 100 Startups in the World by the Hong Kong government, making it the only Indian startup to achieve this feat.

Who is Prateek Sharma? Prateek (centre) alongside his co-founders Tushar Vyas and Jatin Kewlani

Born in Jaipur and raised in Bikaner, Rajasthan, Prateek Sharma had grown up watching his own mother, an asthmatic, struggle with both indoor and outdoor pollution and sand storms, a common phenomenon in the desert state.

“It ached me to always see her cover her mouth with a dupatta when she walked outside. Growing up, I would either alter existing masks in the markets or gift her different types of equipment like nose-insertion buds. But nothing seemed to work. She refused to wear a mask stating that people would think she is sick if she stepped out with it and the nose-insertion buds created a lot of discomfort.”

Today, the innovative nasal filter that his team has developed, christened ‘Nasofilter’, costing close to Rs 10 a piece, is protecting people in 30 countries against air pollutants.

What is Nasofilter?

Launched as one of the first commercial products by the startup which was incubated at IIT-Delhi, it is a respiratory filter that restricts the entry of dust and tiny suspended particulate matter from entering your system while breathing.

Particulate matter refers to the microscopic solid particles and liquid droplets floating in the atmosphere. Fine (PM2.5) and coarse (PM10) particles are considered to be the most hazardous pollutants.

Nasofilter uses nanotechnology to create nanofibres by reducing the thread diameter of a normal fabric by 100 times, creating millions of pores in a tiny area to filter out pollutants.

The resulting device can combat 90 per cent PM2.5 and 95 per cent PM10 particles.

What is its USP?
  • It is small and easy to wear biodegradable polymer. In stark contrast to large traditional face masks, it is a transparent filter that covers your nostrils, is invisible from a distance and can be worn for up to 24 hours.
  • It filters out PM2.5 and other air pollutants
  • Does not restrict breathing or speaking
  • It is also one of the cheapest options available in the market.
  • The team was able to successfully patent the technology behind the innovation two months ago.

Another product that the founders worked on is aimed to combat indoor air pollution. This refers to the Nanoclean AC filters.

Nanoclean AC Filter

Costing as low as Rs 400, this device has been designed to complement existing filtering screens of wall-mounted air conditioners. Simply put, it converts your AC into an air purifier at no recurring electricity cost, using nanotechnology.

It removes PM2.5 and other Micro-Particle pollutants from the air inside homes while cooling it at an affordable cost.

Features:
  • It can purify the air from various pollutants such as PM 2.5, dust, allergens, etc inside a room by 90 per cent within the short span of one hour
  • It is compatible with both window & split ACs
  • It has no recurrent electricity costs
  • It does not affect cooling or increase power consumption.
  • It is easy to install and you change its filter by yourself.
  • Even though one filter can last for two months, for best results, it is recommended to change it every month.

Indoor air pollution is considered 10 times worse than outdoor air pollution due to the potential of contained spaces to allow pollutants to build up more in our system than open spaces. And while major cases are often seen in rural areas owing to use of chulhas and firewood, indoor pollution is also witnessing a steady rise in leading cities.

A decent air purifier may cost anywhere around Rs 20,000, add to your electricity bill and be difficult to change filters yourself. Our innovation aims to tackle these issues with an affordable innovation which has an excellent dust holding capacity, is durable and avoids pollutants from entering a home.”

And so for those who do not have ACs at home but want to combat indoor pollution, the innovators have also developed the ‘Nasofilters Pollution Net.’

Nasofilters Pollution Net

Designed to replace your mosquito net on existing doors and windows, it allows your home to be free of PM 2.5 & 10 particles, dust, UV rays, and allergens.

The outer layer of the net is a hydrophobic mesh, which repels water and makes it water-resistant.

It is a three-structured net, while the first layer is designed to fit the net in existing moulds of your doors and windows, another white layer ensures water resistance and provides protection from harmful UV rays. Sandwiched between the two layers is the nanofiber layer which filters PM 2.5 PM matter

With durability of up to five years, unlike the AC filter which needs to be replaced every month, the pollution net can be easily cleaned with a damp cloth.

Currently selling in the Indian market at Rs 200 per sq feet, the cost of installing the pollution net on all doors and windows of a 2BHK home may come up to 7,000-8,000, says Prateek. The product which is currently being sold in the B2B market has received positive feedback and testimonials from builders and architects, adds the co-founder.

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Where are these products available?

The products are currently sold on their website nasofilters.com, Amazon and Apollo Pharmacy stores.

Placing India in the elite club of nanotechnology in the world

Apart from the National Startups Award and multiple grants from the government of India including the Department of Science and technology, Biotechnology, and a recent joint-grant with IIT Delhi from the Ministry of Human Resource Development, the startup has been recognised by the Government of South Korea which has extended financial support for operations in Seoul.

Today, their products and distributors are spread across 30 countries.

Today only a handful of countries have the required expertise and industries to mass-manufacture nanofibres like the US, Japan, Czech Republic, and South Korea. With our technology, we want to add India to this club. We are now working on developing a nanofibers production and development unit for India and our target for it would be the world market.

In his final message, Prateek says, “In India, we have brains and talent that can build technologies but they lack the entrepreneurial mindset. They love what they create inside a lab, but need guidance and support to help it reach a wider audience. So we need to support our innovators.”

One of his recent endeavours alongside the IIT-Delhi Alumni Association is to create innovation centres in India, one of which was recently launched in IIT Delhi. The focus of these centres is helping student innovators turn entrepreneurs, bring more value to our nation and bring more employment to our people.

We wish him and his team the very best!

If this story inspired you or you have any queries, contact Prateek’s team at care@nasofilters.com. Or get in touch with them on 9560691372

(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)

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IIM Researchers Bring Retired Teachers, Rural Kids Together To Bridge Learning Gap!

There is a serious learning and reading deficit among Indian school children, states the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2018 published by the education non-profit Pratham. The study shows that those in elementary school often fail to read texts meant for lower classes.

Improper infrastructure, the lack of skilled teachers and teacher accountability are some of the reasons cited in the report that mirrors the poor state of education even after 72 years of Independence.

Priyadarshini Dey and Arina Bardhan from Kolkata learnt about the situation in 2014 when they were working as social science researchers at the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta under Prof Somprakash Bandyopadhyay. Priyadarshini Dey, Jayanta Basak and Arina Bardhan

While Priyadarshini was researching how to improve the quality of education via ICTs, Arina was studying how to bring back dormant knowledge resources of the elderly in the mainstream. During their stint at the premier institution, the duo along with Jayanta Basak, a Computer Science Researcher, conducted several school surveys.

We initially studied rural schools, both private and public, across West Bengal. These schools had common problems of teacher absenteeism, poor quality of teachers, a lack of teaching-learning materials and inadequate learning environments, Priyadarshini tells The Better India.

Using one stone to kill two birds, the PhD students came up with a pilot project of e-learning and conducted several social experiments. They approached a local orphanage in Krisha Nagar and two retired teachers. 

39 students were taught for six months on a video conferencing system which was an interactive two-way learning platform. Its success encouraged them to replicate a similar model in 4-5 other places in the city. NexConnect aims to bridge rural and urban gap in education

“Development and quick acceptance of this platform among students and parents from all socio-economic backgrounds led us to believe that using and expanding this mode of learning to millions of underserved students in West Bengal, meant that we needed to sustain and scale up our model,” says Arina.

The idea paved way into a full-fledged social business startup ‘NexConnect Ventures Private Limited’, which was incubated at the IIM Calcutta Innovation Park in 2017.

The objective of this edutech startup is to provide quality education to all and mainstreaming senior retired teachers using digital technologies. It is a hybrid business model where teachers earn from students in urban areas while providing quality education to students in remote rural areas almost free.

Since its inception, the startup has impacted 850 students (including children and elderly), 30 teachers, and eight villagers-turned-social entrepreneurs. Moreover, it has conducted around 3,500+ hours of online live classes.

How Distance Learning Works There are ten learning centres spread across several districts of West Bengal and Jharkhand

‘NexConnect Internet Schools’ are physical study centres (franchises), established in rural areas, where the startup looks after the regular course and Board-specific regional learning materials, while infrastructure such as computers, projectors, TVs and internet are provided by the franchisees.

“The local enablers are mostly rural adult students who are looking for better work opportunities. We focus on creating women rural entrepreneurs who get fewer opportunities to be involved in a lucrative job,” says Priyadarshini.

There are ten such centres spread across several districts of West Bengal and Jharkhand. Meanwhile, teachers from urban areas are selected based on certain criteria, like years of experience and educational qualifications.

One of the most daunting tasks for Priyadarshini and Arina was to convince parents in rural areas. The startup also focuses on creating rural entrepreneurs who get fewer opportunities to be involved in a lucrative job

“Since our process is disruptive, i.e. going against the conventional methods of teaching, acceptance is rare. Many parents do not trust the e-learning format, fearing a lack of personal attention,” says Arina.

However, with time, the number of children attending the supplementary classrooms increased. Today, students from classes 1-12 visit the centres for an hour to study subjects like Math, English, Social Sciences and Science. Vocational training in spoken English, soft skills, entrepreneurship, computer basics, stitching and tailoring is also given to adult learners including rural women.

Centres and teachers are given login credentials, and as per the timetable, they attend the classes. A minimal fee between Rs 100-200 is charged from the students per month.

A digital plan is formulated by the startup that comprises everyday lesson plans, lecture divisions, and digital content in the form of PowerPoint presentations. This is used by in-service teachers at the time of lecture delivery in class.

A Retired Teacher And Student On Distance Learning The startup has impacted 850 students and 30 teachers,

To understand the ground reality and the impact of NexConnect, The Better India spoke to a class 7 student from Kalanabagram, Burdwan town, West Bengal and a retired teacher from Kolkata.

Anindita Roy has been a Math teacher for more than two decades and is a month-old at the startup.

She says, I have taught hundreds of students, and I thought that my teaching experience here would be no different. However, it is a delight as the rural kids are keen to learn. They know the importance of having a good teacher. E-learning is, in fact, better, as students can interact with me one-on-one. I am happy to make my contribution.

Suman Baag has been associated with the startup for more than a year. His grades and interest in education had increased, he says. “After school hours, I come here every day with my colony friends. In my previous tuition, the teacher would be absent on most of the days, and we did not get personal attention. The new methods of learning here, have helped me a lot,” shares the 14-year-old.

Difficulties And Future

Every startup has its own share of challenges, and NexConnect is no exception.

Technical problems include power and internet cuts, and natural disasters. “Both students and teachers suffer whenever there is a technical snag. We have to give them offs. However, internet and power supply have improved since we started,” says Arina.

The IIM Researcher Associates are also at the receiving end of people’s backlash. “The local tutors feel that we are eating on their business. Women entrepreneurs often get threat calls for investing in the learning centres,” says Priyadarshini.

Also Read: Magnetic Shirt to Cooling Helmet: 2000+ Kids From Low-Income Schools Turn Innovators!

The startup aims to expand learning centres across the country to other developing nations. For the same, it is looking for collaborations.

“NexConnect aspires to bridge the information and knowledge divide between the rural and urban areas by providing regular academic and non-academic assistance to students and adult learners in rural areas. These non-academic subjects taught by experts and senior citizens play a crucial role in igniting values, and morals, and ultimately, develop students holistically,” the duo signs off.

Here’s a demo of distance teaching: 

To know more, look up NexConnect’s website or write to Arina on arina.bardhan@gmail.com.

(Edited by Shruti Singhal)

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5 Engineers Who Became Organic Farmers to Earn Better & Live Healthier!

Engineering was once, and perhaps still is, the most sought after career lines in India, but you’ll all agree that in recent times, more and more people are bidding goodbye to their respectable jobs and hefty pay packages to pursue something in which they really believed.

I personally know friends and acquaintances who took up engineering under parental pressure. Though some chose to make the switch early, others didn’t have the luxury and it would take them years to finally break free.

There are engineers who became filmmakers, kick-started their own startups or pursued their love for cooking. But it takes a great deal of courage to forsake one’s four-years worth of degree (sometimes even more) and well-paying jobs to pursue something as basic as farming.

Why I would say so? Because if tomorrow I tell my parents that I’m done being a journalist and want to pursue farming, they would do their best to convince me otherwise. And I wouldn’t blame them entirely, as we know how unpredictable and risky farming can be given the sad state affairs in the agriculture sector.

Today, we bring you five stories of such remarkable engineers who quit their job to pursue organic farming and are doing exceptionally well too. Check them out! 1. Harish Dhandev, Jaisalmer

A civil engineering graduate from Arya College of Jaisalmer, Harish started working as a junior engineer in the municipal corporation in 2013. His interest in the agrarian sector began when his father decided to pursue farming on their 80-acre ancestral land after retirement and Harish would lend a hand every now and then.

During these sporadic breaks, he observed that many farmers worked hard but not smart, hence failing to achieve their best. Slowly, as time passed, Harish began feeling drawn to the idea of applying the planning and executing skills that he had learnt as an engineer, to farming. But he feared leaving his well-paying, stable government job and taking a leap into the unknown.

A few months and a life-changing incident later, Harish finally acquired the courage to quit his job and take up farming as a full-time career. He chose to grow aloe vera organically and six years later, the annual turnover of his farm ranges from Rs 1.5 crores to Rs 2 crores.

You can read his complete story here.

2. Sachin Kale, Medhpar (Chattisgarh)

It was his grandfather’s unfulfilled desire for farming that led Sachin Kale to take up farming. In 2013, he shifted to his hometown, Medhpar to become a farmer after leaving his luxurious life in Gurgaon, where he was working as a manager for Punj Lloyd and getting a hefty salary of Rs 24 lakh per annum.

He started with paddy and seasonal vegetables

“Everything was a challenge, as I had absolutely no clue about farming. I had to learn everything from tilling the land to sowing the seeds,” he said in an earlier interview.

But his hard work, determination and skills paid off — he set up a model where his farm was useful all year round and gave maximum profit. A year later, Sachin launched his own company, Innovative Agrilife Solutions Pvt. Ltd., which helped farmers with contract farming.

Today, Sachin’s company is helping 137 happy farmers working on 200 acres of land, while drawing a turnover of approximately Rs 2 crore.

You can read his entire story here.

3. CV Srinidhi, Chamrajnagar (Karnataka)

Like every other engineering graduate, Chamrajnagar native C V Srinidhi nursed the dream of clinching a job in the IT sector. But people around him advised him otherwise, given the pressure and competitiveness of the industry.

Because of this, he began contemplating a change in his vocation. Despite knowing nothing about it, farming called him.

About an acre of family property lay unused and he wondered, why not! But his family was vehemently opposed to the idea and wanted him to first make a career in his chosen field before considering farming.

But Srinidhi decided to take the plunge. Through innovative marketing strategies, he managed to overcome initial failures and emerged triumphant with his organic sugarcane and banana. His persistence paid off as he now earns in lakhs.

Read his entire journey here.

4. Rakesh Sihag, Baijalpur village (Haryana)

Growing up, Rakesh Sihag was never keen on following his father’s footsteps. He preferred securing a stable job over working in a farm, so, after passing out of high school, he moved to Ambala to pursue a diploma in Civil Engineering.

Things changed in 2016, when his family was going through financial troubles and Rakesh decided to quit his job.

To help resolve this crisis, he started a nursery with his uncle and brothers and planted close to 70,000 saplings. But, instead of opting for conventional methods of farming, he opted for Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) and multilayer farming.

Through a year of hard work and dedication, Rakesh had finally managed to earn an annual profit of Rs 40 lakh. And things are only getting better for him.

You can read his story here.

5. Bhavya Deepesh, Bengaluru Bhavya (first from left, second image)

A civil engineer by profession, Bhavya often dreamt of owning a small piece of land where she and her husband could set up a farmhouse, inspired by her parents. This interest led her to make several trips to nurseries and farms with her agriculturist friends, where she found how, in many parts of Bengaluru, greens were grown using water containing toxic industrial and domestic waste.

This led her to course through an unexplored path. With ample support from her husband, she began growing organic greens in a plot she had taken on lease after many struggles.

Today, people seek Bhavya to purchase fresh and organic green leafy vegetables that she harvests an hour before delivery. Word-of-mouth worked in her favour, as she sells these greens twice a week in a residential complex and once a week in another, with her customers coordinating with her via a WhatsApp group.

You can read her entire story here.

(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)

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‘I Am Here to Stay’: How One Medical Officer Transformed Health in an U’Khand Village

A small three-room delivery centre nestles amidst tall pine trees at a Maternal and Child Health Care facility. It is part of a primary health centre located in the picturesque hilly terrain of Pathisain village in the Pauri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand.

It is an uneven climb. And until a few years ago, for most women who managed the short trek to the centre, it was a depressing facility to visit. Bare walls stared back, there was hardly any equipment to assess their condition, nursing positions were vacant, and often, an Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM) delivered the baby with an accompanying ASHA worker.

It is not surprising that women came here only to deliver their children. They neither availed prenatal services nor critical post-delivery care for 48 hours, both of which required them to be in the facility. Since they could not afford private hospitals or nursing homes or make it on time to the district health centre farther away, they were forced to come to the Pathisain centre, before returning home to recover.

“I am here to stay”: Brave words by a young medical graduate Dr Arti Behl

In 2013, Medical-Officer-in-Charge, Arti Behl, came to Pathisain after completing her MBBS from the Government Medical College in Haldwani, Uttarakhand. She had signed the bond that mandated her to serve five years in a rural area.

Arti Behl was shocked.

She had not thought that “hill service”, even in a remote area, would be so challenging. Apart from infrastructure issues, she had to battle hostility from the locals who felt she was from the plains and could not understand their issues.

There were long-serving staff members who were used to leading an inactive, uninvolved life. They did not stretch themselves to be change agents or even provide basic services. Taking money under the table for providing medicines was not uncommon.

The local population was disgruntled and at every meeting at the sub-district level, ward and panchayat members openly criticised the dismal conditions at the Pathisain centre.

The most humiliating experiences related to how influential persons in the area expected and demanded services that were clearly outside the purview of a government Medical Officer. Or the countless times Dr Arti Behl was threatened to make medical certificates which were untrue.

Apart from work issues, what took her completely by surprise was the condition of the old living quarters. The ceiling was broken and the house had not been renovated for decades. There were bats, spiders, mammoth country lizards in the house and leopards in its vicinity. Living alone and later through her pregnancy, she would be frightened to go to the kitchen or bathroom at night, both of which were in an open yard outside the main house. She was even scared to speak on the phone or make any noise, lest she invite the ire of her co-inhabitants.

At the health centre, her youthful idealism received a shock when she realised that all essential safety norms were missing. Basic things like gumboots and gloves were in short supply, with there being no urgency to procure them. Aseptic measures, hand washing and hygiene standards were abysmally low. Deliveries were happening in an environment where there was no quality care.

When she tried to change things, she found resistance. The staff was not used to working, and any demand from her meant more work. Her tendency to spot malpractices created greater antagonism.

Although people around the area had accepted the conditions, they continued to visit the centre since they had no other option.

Arti was committed to changing these conditions since it was possible to address things and improve them at her level. Providing healthcare with a smile

Once the old staff retired, she hired Priyanka Saini, a new staff nurse, and Sanjay Baunthiyal, the pharmacist. Slowly, the culture of the PHC began to change. The new staff was resolved to win back the confidence of the people.

“Earlier, hours after childbirth, the new mother insisted on returning home since even safe drinking water was unavailable. Now, they stay the mandatory 48 hours to avail postnatal services. They walk in more confidently, secure in the knowledge they will be cared for. Local ANM and ASHA workers are more motivated knowing they have our support,” says Sanjay.

A few years into the service, Arti felt let down when a majority of the staff left, quitting before the five-year bond ended, without even paying the penalty.

Her resolve became stronger—to not seek a transfer but stay on the premises, in the government accommodation allotted to her and manage a long-distance relationship with her husband who worked in an IT company in Noida.

Once they decided that she was going to be around, it was easier for her to bond with the community through informal counselling sessions and simple check-ups that did not need extensive equipment.

As their trust and confidence in her grew, so did services and infrastructure. Arti knew no miracles would happen and that progress would be gradual but what could change immediately was hygiene standards, a cheerful ambience, smiling faces and caring staff. She was determined to make that happen.

Surmounting odds with a quiet determination Making sure patients are comfortable, healthy and safe

She started by cleaning the three-room facility. From a long forgotten store whose lock had rusted, emerged tonnes of syringes, gloves, sutures and medicine stocks that needed to be checked and verified before use.

She freed up space, made requisitions for new supplies, and requested for filling vacancies of nurses, ANMs and attendants.

Next, she put in requests and followed them up with visits to the Chief Medical Officer at the district level to get sanctions for room heaters, geysers, ROs, overhead lights on the operating table, autoclave, labour tables, newborn care units, all-weather ACs, supplies of life-saving Oxytocin, IFA and calcium supplements, and medical supplies like gumboots and antiseptic solutions.

This was not easy since Pathisain had, for too long, been a faint dot on the Uttarakhand public health service map. Even though 12-15 pregnant women came in every month, it was quite insignificant in the larger scheme of things.

Also Read: Every Week, Odisha Doctor Walks for Kilometers to Ensure Tribals Get Medical Care!

Every little achievement was a victory. They got staff nurses and ANMs to assist them in providing personalised care to pregnant women.

“We try to evaluate pregnancy-related complications beforehand. The area has a high level of anaemia. The lack of adequate supplements of IFA and calcium at the facility meant that women tended to skip these. But now, we make sure that supplies are restored, and there is a flexible system which allows them to receive stocks through relatives and ASHA workers. Something as innocuous as this was not done, denying women essential nutrients during pregnancy,” she says.

Before 2013, only one in ten women received their complete antenatal care (ANC). But by the end of 2018, all pregnant women in this small hill town completed all six ANCs even if they choose not to deliver their baby at the centre.

“Complicated pregnancies are identified in time; procedural updates are carried out systematicall; partographs are maintained to help identify the moment a pregnant woman is likely to go into an obstetric complication. Earlier, in the case of any complications, patients were referred to the district hospital, which is now managed by us right here,” says Priyanka, proudly.

These measures ensure underweight babies receive full immunisation and better care. Adolescent girls are guided on nutrition much before they get married and counselled on family planning. Families are made aware of issues like stunting and wasting of newborns and infants, which is common in the area.

All this is possible since there is a 24X7 medical doctor who stays on the premises and is more than willing to look into their problems and be there for them. Dr Arti has indeed broken the culture of this government health centre. Providing personalised care

Her biggest achievement came last year when she convinced the Chief Medical Officer to prioritise the renovation of the facility as part of the district action plan with new electrical rewiring and installation of pipelines.

She supervised the renovation of the medical facility as well as the living quarters, changing them beyond recognition.

She concludes, “My experience has shown me that the government lacks nothing. We have access to funds, resources and support. We just need the will, commitment and perseverance to make our facilities as good as any private establishment. We do not have to accept rundown, badly maintained, and depressing settings. I am happy about what we could achieve in Pathisain and I am confident that when I leave after 3-4 years, this will continue since our staff is now self-motivated.”

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On any given day, her four-year-old daughter can be found playing outside even as her husband shuttles between Delhi and Pathisain, backing his wife’s decision, taking pride in her contribution to the community.

(Written by Taru Bahl and Edited by Shruti Singhal)

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RBI Relaxes Norms for Basic Savings Accounts: 5 Free Services Banks to Provide

The latest notification of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is aimed at banks that offer Basic Savings Bank Deposit (BSBD) Account. These savings accounts, popularly known as ‘no-frills’ accounts, require no minimum balance.

In 2005, to include a large section of the population in government’s financial plans, the RBI had introduced the concept of a basic ‘no-frills’ banking account. With zero or minimum balance, these accounts are for people from the lower income groups or those who cannot afford to keep a minimum balance of say, Rs 10,000 in the bank (the amount is characteristic of a normal savings account).

Although the account did not require a minimum balance, it did not provide other facilities that are common of other accounts.

RBI’s new rules instruct banks to provide the following minimum facilities to account holders without charge. The rules are to be imposed from 1 July, 2019. Representative image. Source: shameersrk/ Pexels.
  • One such update is the provision of cheque books to account holders without charging for it.
  • Additionally, there will be no limit on the number and value of deposits that an account holder can make in a month.
  • Banks will provide a free ATM or an ATM-cum-Debit card.
  • Banks will now allow a minimum of four withdrawals in a month without imposing a fee for it. These withdrawals include those made at the ATMs. This rule has been tweaked from the old one which allowed account holders a maximum of four free withdrawals in a month.
  • Receipt or credit of money will be provided through any electronic channel or by means of deposit or collection of cheques. Central or State agencies and departments will draw these cheques.

You may also like: Income Tax, Investment, Car Insurance: 3 New Changes That Kick In From April 1

  • “Banks are free to provide additional value-added services, including the issue of cheque book, beyond the above minimum facilities, which may/may not be priced (in a non-discriminatory manner) subject to disclosure. Availability of such additional services shall be at the option of the customers. However, while offering such additional services, banks shall not require the customer to maintain a minimum balance. Offering such additional services will not make it a non-BSBD Account, so long as the prescribed minimum services are provided free of charge,” the RBI said.

It is important to mention that the holder of a BSBD account is not eligible to open any other account in the same bank. In the case that this happens, the account holder will have to terminate other existing savings accounts within 30 days.

(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)

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Meet the Meghalaya Boy Working to Preserve Living Bridges That Can Last 600 Years!

The dense jungles of Khasi and Jaintia hills in Meghalaya are home to unique bridges that can seemingly last forever. Created by weaving and manipulating the roots of the rubber tree (Ficus Elastica), these living root bridges have, for centuries, sustained the War Khasi tribal community living on the southern slopes of the hills bordering Bangladesh.

Since generations, people have been making these bridges as a means of transportation for their products from their farmlands to villages, linking one place to another over rivers and streams, the dense forests. These bridges are often built using scaffolds made of bamboo or the hollowed out trunks of areca nut trees.

First they build a robust bamboo or areca nut-made framework bridge over the river or stream crossing, following which they pull the roots from the branch of Ficus Elastica. Gradually, they manipulate the roots of the trees so that they entwine around the frame. Every two years, this framework needs to change because of the damp and humid conditions that can cause the bamboo to rot.

Over a period of 20-30 years, they keep guiding the roots on the existing bridges till the roots can stand on their own and then you have your living root bridges that naturally require constant monitoring and care. On an average, these bridges grow to 50-100 feet. The longest known living root bridge in the state is of 175 feet located near Mawkyrnot village of East Khasi Hills district.

“These bridges can last forever! According to me, if you take care and maintain the bridge properly, it will continue to grow roots that will replace the older ones unlike other researchers who believe these bridges can last 500-600 years,” says Morningstar Khongthaw, the 23-year-old school dropout and founder of the Living Bridge Foundation (LBF), a foundation dedicated to the preservation of this unique cultural heritage, speaking to The Better India (TBI). However, according to multiple studies, the life span of these bridges is thought to be between 500-600 years.

A living root bridge at a distance.

“Till now, we haven’t found a technique that could help the bamboo last long. Every two years, we need to replace the bamboo scaffolding. In the future, if we can find a way to treat it to last longer, we can definitely make the bridge grow faster. Most of the bridges we have found in Khasi or Jaintia Hills have been around for centuries,” adds Morningstar.

At the initial stages of the bridge, not more than 5-10 people can cross it in a day. Again, the ability of a bridge to carry weight depends on location. Sometimes, the height between the bridge and the said river or stream is very high unlike in Nohwet village, where the gap is just two-three metres.

In Morningstar’s village, the drop is steeper. Taking such risks into account, the bridge can carry a certain number of people at a time.

Morningstar is a native of Rangthylliang village in the Pynursla tehsil of the East Khasi Hills district. Calling himself a ‘living bridge activist’, he’s been involved, for the past five years, in maintaining living root bridges that have gone into disrepair and building new ones. He travels from one village to another, helping people understand the value of this ancient skill and how they can take care of their wonderful heritage.

Thanks to the advent of technology, particularly with the emphasis on temporary concrete bridges, footpaths, and pucca roads, people have forgotten these living root bridges. Through various projects, the LBF is trying to spread awareness among the Khasi community about the value of preserving this traditional skill set and art form.

Morningstar working on a living root bridge.

“I come from a village where we have the highest concentration of these living root bridges. My village has around 20 of them. Sometime around late 2013, while I was studying in Shillong I began involving myself with local communities, and NGOs. Growing up, my father, a farmer, along with a few other relatives, was actively involved in the maintenance of these community-owned bridges,” says Morningstar.

Strangely enough, it wasn’t his family who encouraged his passion for living root bridges, but an American traveller, Patrick Rogers, who came to Meghalaya in the early 2014.

“He was the first person to encourage and support me in this endeavour,” claims Morningstar.

By 2016, after dropping out of high school in Shillong, he began concentrating on his conservation work full time. “Yes, there was some unrest at home. But some of my friends, who have done their BA and MA, are sitting today with no jobs at home. Unless you’re rich or have connections, it’s extremely difficult to get any government jobs. For me, preserving living root bridges is my passion. Although no support came from my family, I persevered in my desire to spread the gospel of this unique local knowledge system,” he recalls.

Living root bridge.

Starting the Living Bridge Initiative in 2016 by himself, Morningstar’s work transformed after he acquired a smartphone the following year. Besides facilitating greater awareness on social media, it also helped him organise and create his own Facebook page.

In May 2018, he started LBF, which today has 10 passionate members. Although he does most of the bridge repair, maintenance and construction alongside local community members, the other nine help with raising awareness, conducting programmes and campaigns.

However, his ‘living root bridge activism’ really took off following a visit in 2015 to the famous Nohwet bridge near Mawlynnong village, a major tourist destination. What particularly pained him was the concrete additions made in the area surrounding the tree. Besides poor aesthetics, these structures reduce the roots’ access to water.

“People were like, ‘we get money, but the bridge sacrifices for us’. These communities didn’t understand the concept of promoting sustainable tourism around the living root bridge. That’s what inspired me to start this initiative to protect them,” he says.

Once a year, in some villages in the Khasi Hills, where the War community reside, locals conduct a cleaning drive on ancient trails that once acted as a key source of connectivity. Everyone in the village participates in this cleaning drives. In places which have living root bridges, these locals also do maintenance work. Last year, the LBF had traversed through 15 villages in the Pynursla area raising awareness about these bridges. They expect to cover more villages this year.

“Local villagers help me with this initiative. When we reach one, we conduct a meeting, and then visit the living root bridge, where we can do some repair work. Some of these bridges are very old, while others are neglected because villages are being connected by roads. We need people to understand the importance of these bridges,” he adds.

For maintenance during the rainy season, the LBF team applies rotten leaf, soil and wood close to the bark of the tree, giving the ficus tree nutrition and helping it grow. Sometimes, they initiate chopping. For example, if there is an old ficus tree with no roots, locals have to chop off any part of the tree bark so that after a few months when the rainy season arrives, they will produce a small branch, from which the roots will emerge.

Even today, these structures are very useful in places that don’t have roads. People still use and preserve them. “When we went to one village, there were elders, who were initially apprehensive about our work. They initially thought we were only interested in removing these living root bridges and building pucca roads. But when I told them about my work, they were very happy and incredibly supportive as well,” informs Morningstar.

An elderly citizen assisting with the maintenance of living root bridge.

The LBF is also working on building two bridges with bamboo scaffolding, that they had built on World Environment Day last year and Earth Day this year. Morningstar is currently documenting how these roots grow at these two locations, and claims they will grow into full-fledged bridges in about 20 years. “It’s not about us, but the future,” he says.

Besides bridges, however, Morningstar is using similar techniques to build other structures in the forest, ranging from ladders, swings, seating platforms to even tunnels. Since it emerges and draws strength from nature, Morningstar calls this ‘living architecture’ and wants these rubber trees to become centres for knowledge about green architecture. He earns as a guide for travellers in these parts, and on occasions, receives additional donations from them to fund his endeavour. Thus far, he hasn’t received any real assistance from local nonprofits and government officials. Help instead has come from unexpected sources like a team from the Technical University of Munich, which supported his initiative and even presented him with a camera to take good quality photos.

Living architecture

Recognition has also come from educational institutions in Shillong like the North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU), which invited him to give a presentation at a conference on March 18, 2019.

Morningstar addressing local villagers.

In fact, next week, he is going to the Garo Hills. As people from his War Khasi community specialise in building these root bridges, the Deputy Commissioner of the West Garo Hills district has invited him to inspect rubber trees in a region where locals don’t know how to build the unique bridges.

Also Read: IAS Officers Raise Money for Meghalaya Farmer’s Son: Why You Should Join Them

“In Meghalaya, we have more than a 100 living root bridges. My region has around 60+. Next month on 20 July, we have LBF’s foundation day when we plan to give awards of recognition to all these living architects and elders in villages involved in planting rubber trees, building living bridges, and maintaining them. They are the real heroes and living root bridge activists. The world should know about them. We must recognise these people, who are actually the scientists behind these living root bridges. However, I would like to do my part and share this knowledge across different parts of India as well,” says Morningstar.

Picture Courtesy: Facebook/Living Bridge Foundation

(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)

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Packaged Food With High Fat, Sugar To Be Marked Red: How To Read Food Labels

When was the last time you read the nutrition information on food labels before buying food products? Even if you do, can you ascertain if you understood them all?

Food labels are essential for consumers, as they help us understand what we are consuming. One mustn’t think that food labels play a role only for those suffering from health issues or are weight conscious.

On the contrary, it is a necessary lifestyle change that everybody should make for a healthier life. As blasé as many of us are about our health when it comes to eating, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is ready with the draft of regulations that might help us all make informed food choices.

How?

It would soon be mandatory for manufacturers of packaged food to display red colour-coding on front-of-pack labels of products high on fat, sugar and salt content. For representation. Source: Food Safety India/ Facebook.

Stated by Kumai Anil, advisor to FSSAI, the draft regulations will soon be released for public comments, reports The Times of India. He further added that following a session on “regulating bad foods”, the authorities concerned identified significant gaps, including in-labelling and claims of companies comparing the nutrient value of their food items to that of healthy products without substantial evidence. The new advertising and claim regulations intend to keep a tab on this issue.

“We are trying to address claims like pure, real, natural and sugar-free and the new advertising regulations comprehensively cover this. There are parameters for comparison, and if you are meeting these parameters, only then you can make a claim. This will be implemented from July 1 to ensure that any wrong claim by companies does not deceive people,” he said.

While this move is welcome, we, as consumers, need to be more aware of food labels, especially when most of us don’t think twice before stocking up on packaged, ready-to-consume food products on each supermarket visit.

The next time you are browsing through the nutritional facts on a food label, the first place to start is to look for the serving size and the number of servings in the package.

Did you even know such a thing existed because I honestly didn’t!

Interestingly, most packaged products contain more than a single serving, and we must compare the nutrients and ingredients we are taking in, according to the amount of the product we are consuming. This should help in adjusting our calculations as suited.

One packaged food-related term that most of us have often heard is “no trans fat”. What does this mean? That there are no trans fatty acids at all in this food item? Source: The India SME Forum/ Facebook.

No.

Though many products claim that they’re trans-fat-free, here’s the catch. Manufacturers can list 0g if the trans fat content is under 0.5g per serving.

So what if the total amount of product is 100gm? How much trans fat are we ingesting then?

As mentioned above, one needs to understand that every packaged food item is more than just a serving which means the total amount of trans fat, no matter how less it sounds can still pose a health risk if we end up consuming the entire product, like a bag of chips, perhaps? Make sure you do read this part.

Also, one should check for the amount of nutrients like vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre in the packaged food item.

Inclusion of such components along with carbohydrates, proteins, fats in a good mix is crucial for a well-balanced diet that can help in reducing the risk of heart disease or high blood pressure. For representation. Source: Pilates in the grove.

Per cent daily values (%DV) is another critical factor often seen in food labels. What does this mean? The %DVs are based on the daily value recommendations for key nutrients for a 2,000 calorie daily diet. Providing an estimate of how specific foods contribute to the total intake, this value helps consumers see quickly whether a food contributes a little or a lot of a nutrient, where 5 per cent or less is considered low, and 20 per cent or more is high.

You may also like: Knew Stapler Pins in Tea Bags Are Banned? 4 FSSAI Bans You Should Know About

For example, it is better to select foods with a low %DV of fat and sodium, and those with high %DV of calcium and fibre.

Lastly, one must always look out for the ingredient list. This will help one while choosing food products that are high on sugar or contain any allergens and even artificial additives. It is mandatory for manufacturers to include this list in the label, especially the allergen tag.

With FSSAI’s crucial move taking flight, hope this article helps you in making informed and healthier food choices.

(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)

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