Letters to the editor

Readers’ comments: Ramchandra Guha’s resignation should prompt the BCCI to clean up

A selection of readers’ opinions.

Cricket controversy

This explanation by Ramchandra Guha should put to rest all the speculations being trotted about in the media about the reasons for the purported Anil Kumble and Kohli spat (“Full Text: ‘Superstar culture afflicts the BCCI,’ writes Ram Guha as he resigns from panel”). His resignation should prompt the BCCI to ensure that experienced senior cricketers with no conflict of interest but with a strong commitment to the development of the game should be inducted, irrespective of age limit. We should commend the honesty and sincerity Guha who certainly has enough other things to do than be a lame member of a committee with administrative and accountability problems. – SN Iyer

***

Guha writes better than he speaks and has a fertile mind. The likes of him cannot be dispensed with and l hope the Supreme Court ensures his services are retained. We need more such people to serve as watchdogs and pressure groups because the scourge of corruption. It’s akin to cleaning up the Ganga. But the highest court in the land has taken up the challenge. They need the help of hundreds of foot soldiers and Guha is one of them. – Nawal Seth

***

A timely farewell indeed to an incompetent Committee of Administrators. When will other members put in their papers? – Ajit Shirodkar

Old-school

What a great story; the old lady used to go on her bicycle to the market to buy the raw ingredients (“Mrs N Fernandes: The woman whose pickles inspired Salman Rushdie and a legion of British soldiers”). The old house still stands next to the church in Khadki. At her grandsons wedding, the Bishop, when raising a toast, said if you want to examine a person’s integrity, look not at their children but their grandchildren. There can be no higher praise than that. – Clement DeSylva

***

The late Mrs Fernandes’ son George was my father’s shipmate in the Indian Navy. When I was a kid, though I have no memory of this, our fathers were neighbours in Chanakyapuri in New Delhi in the early 60s. Her grand-daughter Lilian Fernandes was my classmate in St Mary’s School in Pune. My dad, a doctor in the Navy, was posted in AFMC then. Lilian and I also attended the pre-degree course in Fergusson College and were batch-mates I lost touch with them after 1975. Amita Nayar Bajaj

Dravidanadu demand

The best solution to secessionist sentiments is to have more federalism in India (“#Dravidanadu on Twitter: Can a pressure group of southern states take on New Delhi?”). States must have more powers over sectors such as education and health. The Centre should confine itself to being a presiding entity to synthesise all the state’s activities. Each state’s mother tongue should be the dominant mode of communication but to ease mobility, English and Hindi could also be taught as second and third languages. If necessary a second constituent assembly must be formed to examine and revise the Constitution based on India’s journey so far. There should be two constitutions: one for India as a whole and another for each state. – R Venkat

Teaching India

India should seriously consider setting up an All India Education Services for primary to higher education (“Interview: What is wrong with India’s teacher training system and how to fix it”). The country needs to design and execute a robust professional educator certification system on a war-footing. We have been tinkering with education and teacher-training for several decades, with no great success. To attract and retain the best talent, a National Service Cadre and Certification system will go a long way. It has to be a time-bound, bold initiative with sustained investment and passion. – KV Simon

***

This article focuses on systemic issues. The bigger challenge is to attract the best minds to teaching. There should be a five-year integrated course, with programmes in science, maths, humanities, linguistics and early childhood. We need a joint entrance exam, and a joint “exit” exam too. The top-ranked teachers will have the option of either opting for the Indian Teaching Services or take up a job in private schools and or schools in other countries. There is a worldwide shortage teachers. This is one job that robots and AI will not take over. We need to reboot this system. – Sita Giri

Tuning in

I enjoy the reviews of music from films that Scroll.in publishes periodically (“Audio master: An unapologetic courtesan and Vanraj Bhatia’s terrific music in ‘Sardari Begum’”). This one and others that you have published earlier are wonderful way to revisit the songs. Through this section, have also discovered music that I had missed or not paid attention to earlier. Keep it going. – Naresh Podila

Cattle rules

How is publicly slaughtering a calf or organising beef festivals in response to the government’s rules on cattle sales any different from the acts of cow vigilantes (“Centre’s new rule has not banned cow slaughter or beef consumption: Kerala High Court”)? As noted journalist Farid Zakaria observed, “Liberals think they’re tolerant, but they’re not.” All the self-appointed liberals, secularists and Leftists in India, please note! – P Raghavendra

***

The new rules on cattle sale for slaughter are making headlines. But another issue that not too many know about is the condition of working equines (horses, mules and donkeys) have been left out of ambit of the rules. Horses are not slaughtered for consumption, but their plight needs to be looked into. Here’s a brief description of what happens at equine fairs. A large number of poor horse owners, traders and contractors congregate at private and government-organised fairs to buy and sell working horses, not racing horses. These animals are used in brick kilns and pilgrimage and tourist sites.

Equine fairs usually go one for one to two weeks and attract more than 2 lakhs working equines. These fairs are held in remote locations. Animals are put under tremendous stress during transportation. They are made to undergo long journeys without proper food and adequate nutrition, they are loaded and unloaded in a cruel manner and and veterinary facilities are either not present or limited. They are also at the risk of contracting several fatal diseases.

The government should also come up with similar regulations for equine fairs. – Amit Kumar

***

This move is driven by the Sangh Parivar’s ulterior motive of gaining control of the huge cattle and leather market by disenfranchising the minority community which controls most of this business. They saw a good opportunity here and are anyway experts at whipping up emotion using religion as a tool. – Sunita Katyayan

IT Unions

Though this is partly true, unions are not just for negotiating payment and agreements (“Don’t need employees’ union in IT industry as engineers are ‘well-paid’: Ex-Infosys CFO Balakrishnan”). They look into cases of employee exploitation, fair treatment, support, ethical practices and the like. But all this demands a dedicated and courageous leadership. If a union is only looked at as a tool to to achieve their own goals and survival, then the purpose is lost. – S Ambardekar

Student deaths

It is hard to believe that every student’s death at IIT is a case of suicide due to stress (“IIT Delhi: PhD student’s body found hanging in her campus room”). Some of them are homicides but swept under the carpet as suicides after hasty autopsies and cremations. For instance, the death of IIT-Guwahati student Tushar Yadav in 2014, at the time termed a suicide, is now being reexamined by the police after a judicial enquiry into the case. – Ram Krishnaswamy

Educating our girls

This is a very interesting story and we need such movements led by girls everywhere to effect change (“School is still too far for many girls in Haryana, and they are now rising in protest”). Kudos to all these girls. I hope they will get teachers soon as well. Thanks to Shreya too for working on such a nice story. – Rashmi Gupta

Coaching trouble

Removing Gopichand won’t do any good for the sport (“Disadvantage Pullela Gopichand? BAI proposes to do away with the National Coach position”). Instead, relegating some of his powers to others, introducing more coaches and setting up more academies is the way to go. Gopichand is a great coach and has done wonders for Indian badminton, so he most definitely should be the national coach. – Pranav Singhal

Modi in Russia

It is very good that we are cementing our relationship with an old friend who has helped in the present scenario, when terrorism has become a global nuisance and needs to handled jointly (“Modi in Russia: We will always support India in its fight against terrorism, says Vladimir Putin”). – RC Chaudhary

Flavours of India

Hats off to Lulu’s tribal kitchen and hope she keeps up with the good work (“Lulu’s Tribal Kitchen: A Naga food truck is serving traditional cuisine in Belgium”)

. I would love to taste their food once. There is nothing greater than Naga cuisine in the Northeast when it comes to meat. – K Hazarika

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
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Removing the layers of complexity that weigh down mental health in rural India

Patients in rural areas of the country face several obstacles to get to treatment.

Two individuals, with sombre faces, are immersed in conversation in a sunlit classroom. This image is the theme across WHO’s 2017 campaign ‘Depression: let’s talk’ that aims to encourage people suffering from depression or anxiety to seek help and get assistance. The fact that depression is the theme of World Health Day 2017 indicates the growing global awareness of mental health. This intensification of the discourse on mental health unfortunately coincides with the global rise in mental illness. According to the latest estimates from WHO, more than 300 million people across the globe are suffering from depression, an increase of 18% between 2005 and 2015.

In India, the National Mental Health Survey of India, 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) revealed the prevalence of mental disorders in 13.7% of the surveyed population. The survey also highlighted that common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. Perhaps the most crucial finding from this survey is the disclosure of a huge treatment gap that remains very high in our country and even worse in rural areas.

According to the National Mental Health Programme, basic psychiatric care is mandated to be provided in every primary health centre – the state run rural healthcare clinics that are the most basic units of India’s public health system. The government provides basic training for all primary health centre doctors, and pays for psychiatric medication to be stocked and available to patients. Despite this mandate, the implementation of mental health services in rural parts of the country continues to be riddled with difficulties:

Attitudinal barriers

In some rural parts of the country, a heavy social stigma exists against mental illness – this has been documented in many studies including the NIMHANS study mentioned earlier. Mental illness is considered to be the “possession of an evil spirit in an individual”. To rid the individual of this evil spirit, patients or family members rely on traditional healers or religious practitioners. Lack of awareness on mental disorders has led to further strengthening of this stigma. Most families refuse to acknowledge the presence of a mental disorder to save themselves from the discrimination in the community.

Lack of healthcare services

The average national deficit of trained psychiatrists in India is estimated to be 77% (0.2 psychiatrists per 1,00,000 population) – this shows the scale of the problem across rural and urban India. The absence of mental healthcare infrastructure compounds the public health problem as many individuals living with mental disorders remain untreated.

Economic burden

The scarcity of healthcare services also means that poor families have to travel great distances to get good mental healthcare. They are often unable to afford the cost of transportation to medical centres that provide treatment.

After focussed efforts towards awareness building on mental health in India, The Live Love Laugh Foundation (TLLLF), founded by Deepika Padukone, is steering its cause towards understanding mental health of rural India. TLLLF has joined forces with The Association of People with Disability (APD), a non-governmental organisation working in the field of disability for the last 57 years to work towards ensuring quality treatment for the rural population living with mental disorders.

APD’s intervention strategy starts with surveys to identify individuals suffering from mental illnesses. The identified individuals and families are then directed to the local Primary Healthcare Centres. In the background, APD capacity building programs work simultaneously to create awareness about mental illnesses amongst community workers (ASHA workers, Village Rehabilitation Workers and General Physicians) in the area. The whole complex process involves creating the social acceptance of mental health conditions and motivating them to approach healthcare specialists.

Participants of the program.
Participants of the program.

When mental health patients are finally free of social barriers and seeking help, APD also mobilises its network to make treatments accessible and affordable. The organisation coordinates psychiatrists’ visits to camps and local healthcare centres and ensures that the necessary medicines are well stocked and free medicines are available to the patients.

We spent a lot of money for treatment and travel. We visited Shivamogha Manasa and Dharwad Hospital for getting treatment. We were not able to continue the treatment for long as we are poor. We suffered economic burden because of the long- distance travel required for the treatment. Now we are getting quality psychiatric service near our village. We are getting free medication in taluk and Primary Healthcare Centres resulting in less economic stress.

— A parent's experience at an APD treatment camp.

In the two years TLLLF has partnered with APD, 892 and individuals with mental health concerns have been treated in the districts of Kolar, Davangere, Chikkaballapur and Bijapur in Karnataka. Over 4620 students participated in awareness building sessions. TLLLF and APD have also secured the participation of 810 community health workers including ASHA workers in the mental health awareness projects - a crucial victory as these workers play an important role in spreading awareness about health. Post treatment, 155 patients have resumed their previous occupations.

To mark World Mental Health Day, 2017, a team from TLLLF lead by Deepika Padukone visited program participants in the Davengere district.

Sessions on World Mental Health Day, 2017.
Sessions on World Mental Health Day, 2017.

In the face of a mental health crisis, it is essential to overcome the treatment gap present across the country, rural and urban. While awareness campaigns attempt to destigmatise mental disorders, policymakers need to make treatment accessible and cost effective. Until then, organisations like TLLLF and APD are doing what they can to create an environment that acknowledges and supports people who live with mental disorders. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.