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The Daily Fix: If India’s cricketers had looked beyond the boundary, they’d have worn smog masks too

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The Big Story: Cover up

The scenes at Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla cricket stadium on Sunday were a useful reminder of how ineffectively the Indian authorities have responded to the terrible air quality that has afflicted much of North India for the past month. Most members of the Sri Lankan men’s cricket team walked out on to the hazy field wearing pollution masks. The air-quality indicator levels were in the mid-200s, levels at which Beijing’s emergency plan kicks into effect but have become quite normal in Delhi and other North Indian towns. Members of the Sri Lankan team were facing evident difficulty, halting the action twice. One of their fast bowlers threw up in the morning session.

Yet India’s response was annoyance, anger and a bit of whataboutery. Indian captain Virat Kohli was visibly unhappy at the stoppages in play, and eventually declared the Indian innings to get on with it. At one point, Indian coach Ravi Shastri marched onto the field to demand that the umpires get on with the game. In the stands and online, Indian fans claimed that the Sri Lankan team was stalling play because India was batting so well. Afterwards, acting president of the Board for Control of Cricket in India, CK Khanna said, “If 20,000 people in the stands did not have a problem and the Indian team did not face any issue, I wonder why the Sri Lankan team made a big fuss.”

Ironically, only a couple of weeks ago, the same Virat Kohli appealed to the people of Delhi to take action the pollution. Yet when it came down to the match itself, a Sri Lankan team that was evidently not able to handle the smog was only a source of annoyance, not solidarity.

Imagine if the Indian team had also come out wearing pollution masks. Consider what might have happened if the team told the cricket board that they would play in cities where the air quality index level endangers their health. Imagine the message that might have gone across to those in the capital and elsewhere who insist that the pollution isn’t all that bad because it is not killing people (at least not right in front of our eyes).

A month after North India had a heated discussion about pollution, the concerns have abated from the front pages and the talk shows. But while it may not be as horrible outside, the air is still treacherous. The sight of the Sri Lankan team wearing masks is a useful reminder that we should not take this horrible air quality for normal. We need more of that and less of Indian authorities trying to wish the smog away.

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  1. Gautam Bhatia in the Hindu writes about an alarming trend of creeping judicial censorship, increasingly across large domains.
  2. “You are not a Christian or a Parsi or a Muslim or a Jew. You are a non-Hindu. Sit on the sidelines and watch us fight over who the real Hindu is, is the message BJP and Congress have driven home,” writes Robin David in the Times of India.
  3. Industry bigwigs in Bollywood have no stakes in freedom of speech, they push no boundaries, writes Bhaskar Chawla in the Indian Express.
  4. It is satisfying that the slide in economic growth has ended, but the actual strength of the recovery will only become clear after a few quarters,” says a leader in Mint.
  5. “Ultimately, until the media is truly free, and its journalistic capacity is bolstered, we will not know which protests have traction, and which are media-manufactured at the behest of vested interests,” writes Huma Yusuf in Dawn.


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Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), 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. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

On 10th of October, trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, made a visit to a community health project centre in Devangere, Karnataka. The project, started by The Association of People with Disability (APD) in 2010, got a much-needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people suffering from mental illnesses and spreading its program to 6 Taluks, making a difference at a larger scale.


During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. 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.