healthcare

In the news: PM announces aid to pregnant women, Karnataka rethinks chewing tobacco ban and more

A wrap of the week's health news

Government to directly transfer Rs 6,000 to pregnant women

In his address to the country on New Year’s Eve, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a number of welfare schemes including monetary assistance of Rs 6,000 for pregnant women who underwent institutional delivery and vaccinate their children.

The scheme aims to help reduce maternal mortality by ensuring better nutrition for the woman before and after delivery and improving the health of both mother and child. Modi said that pregnant women in 53 districts were already being given financial assistance of Rs 4,000 rupees, under a pilot project.

Although the Prime Minister described this as a “new scheme” in his speech, the National Food Security Act, which was passed in July 2013, provided a universal maternity benefit of Rs 6,000 but has not been implemented yet. States like Odisha and Tamil Nadu that operationalised the scheme have been using their own resources.

As per Saturday’s announcement, the financial assistance of Rs 6,000 will now be transferred directly into bank accounts of the scheme’s beneficiaries.

Karnataka to weaken its ban on chewing tobacco?

In a move that is worrying health activists, the Karnataka government is re-examining its recent ban on chewing tobacco, according to a report in The Hindu. The state has passed an order banning chewing tobacco that is sold in sachets as an alternative gutka earlier this year following Supreme Court directions.

In a November 24 circular, the State Food Safety Commissionarate had directed its officers to enforce the ban on flavoured chewing tobacco, and gutka and pan masala containing tobacco or nicotine. The review of this circular, The Hindu reports follows lobbying by manufacturers who hold that, under the law, chewing tobacco can be banned only if mixed with gutka or pan masala.

Karnataka Health Minister KR Ramesh Kumar told the newspaper that the health department has sought legal opinion on the issue and, while it will safeguard people’s, the department will correct the circular if needed.

Rourkela on high alert for bird flu

Bird flu of the H5N1 strain has been detected at Keranga village in Khurda district of Odisha, following which dead birds were found in the neighbouring Keonjhar and Rourkela industrial areas. The bird flu reports have triggered a high alert call, district officials said.

A team of experts has been called in to Rourkela from Bhubaneswar and a task force meeting among officials from the administration, health department, Rourkela Municipal Corporation and Rourkela Steel Plant has been held to assess the situation. The district administration has also shut down Indira Gandhi Park for an indefinite period as a precautionary measure.

In the past week, dead crows were found in Rourkela city’s Central Industrial Security Force colony. Three pelicans, two white ibis and one duck were found dead in quick succession after which samples were sent to a Bhopal laboratory that confirmed the presence of H5N1. The Odisha government had begun culling of chickens on December 28 to ensure that people are not affected by the outbreak.

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