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BACK-A-THON: Pushing back illiteracy

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By Srishti Jaswal

Back-A-Thon (1)

People across 23 cities in India walked backwards to spread awareness, and to empower, aid and protect the vulnerable children living in shelter homes in an event called ‘Back- A- Thon’ on Sunday, September 13. The event, which was more of a social gathering than a sporting affair, was hosted nationally by a non-profit organization, Make a Difference (MAD).

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People participated in this atypical marathon by walking backwards in a uniform fashion. The event was held with the agenda of connecting the society to its children by sensitizing the community about the harsh conditions they faced in shelter homes.

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Shelter homes across the country face multiple challenges ranging from financial crunches and staff quality to lack of emotional support for children. Along with these, the stigmatization of the vulnerability of children and shelter homes causes additional stress to this already precarious situation. Even the budget for child related schemes in the union budget 2015-2016 has dropped by a massive 29 per cent. It is with the aim of raising awareness about these issues, that MAD held ‘Back-A-Thon’ across 23 cities in India.

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MAD tries to promote the importance of literacy for individuals, community and society. Literacy is a term that is understood by all without realizing that it is a complex, dynamic and lifelong intellectual process of gaining knowledge and interpreting it. Children living in shelter homes need support and care to help them in this world.

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All over India, nearly 11,892 people across the nation turned up for the event and walked backwards. Coimbatore had maximum participation of 1,500 people, Delhi and Vizag both had 800 and above participants, Chandigarh had 700 and Mumbai had 489 participants walking backwards for the cause.

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“Seven hundred is a huge number. It was so over whelming to see such a splendid response of the people in the wee hours of the morning. This is just self-explanatory to say that the society is all out to bring in the change. It wants to push the evils backwards. We just need to aware the community about it. Events like these help us do better. People are ready to Make a Difference”, says Rimjhim Bathla, PR fellow at Make a Difference, Chandigarh.

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On being asked why people were walking backwards, Shaurya, a student of St Jones Chandigarh, replied, “We are pushing illiteracy backwards.”

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‘Back-A-Thon’ attracted active participation from all sections of society; one could see students, working class, elderly people and even people from slums and shelter homes.

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‘Back-A-Thon’ was able to create an impact in the minds of thousands of people throughout the nation.

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The number of people who turned up for ‘Back-a Thon’ in each city:

  • COIMBATORE : 1500
  • TRIVANDRUM : 647
  • KOLKATA : 423
  • MYSORE : 500
  • VIJAYAWADA : 650
  • BHOPAL : 452
  • LUCKNOW 330
  • AHEMDABAD : 300
  • VELLORE : 350+
  • PUNE : 370+
  • DEHRADUN: 576
  • DELHI: 800+
  • COCHIN: 200+
  • VIZAG: 800+
  • MUMBAI: 489
  • BANGALORE: 780+
  • GUNTUR: 500+
  • KOLKATA : 370
  • GWALIOR : 900+
  • CHENNAI : 250+
  • COCHIN : 200+
  • HYDRABAD : 500+
  • CHANDIGARH : 700

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WHO Releases New Guidelines to Fight Global Childhood Obesity

India ranks second in the number of obese children in the world with China taking the first spot

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OBESITY
Obesity exposes an individual to multiple health problems. VOA

New Delhi, October 12, 2017:  In 2016, an Official data in had revealed that over 41 million children below the age of 5 were affected by obesity. Without due attention and efficient treatment, they are likely to remain obese throughout their lives, with an increased risk of developing a host of diseases and physical and psychological consequences like anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and even premature death.

In view of an escalating number of people constantly coming under the ambush of obesity, and with childhood obesity becoming a cause of worry globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) released new guidelines on October 4, emphasizing the growing importance of healthcare experts and professionals, underlining their positive role in helping kids and teenagers fight the global menace.

What is Obesity?

Obesity is defined as ‘excess adipose tissue’. In other words, it is a body-weight disorder involving excessive body fat that exposes an individual to multiple health problems.  In case a person’s body-weight is nearly 20 per cent higher than it should be, he is considered obese.

obesity
Excessive body fat that exposes an individual to multiple health problems. Pixabay

There are different ways to calculate excess adipose tissue, the most common one being the Body Mass Index.

Index :

Overweight – BMI greater than or equal to 25

Obesity – BMI greater than or equal to 30

Global Data

According to data obtained by WHO, one half of all overweight children or obese children lived in Asia, and one-quarter of the total obese children lived in Africa.

According to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in June, India ranks second in the number of obese children in the world with China taking the first spot.

The global menace continues to rise rapidly in low and middle-income countries.

Also Read: Obesity leads to 13 types of Cancer, including that of Pancreas and Esophagus: Study

WHO Guidelines

The new report released by WHO on October 4 is titled ‘Assessing and Managing Children at Primary Healthcare Facilities to Prevent Overweight and Obesity in the Context of the Double Burden of Malnutrition’.

The report provides guidelines and updates for the Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI). The guidelines attempt to confine the spread of childhood obesity from expanding further, and prescribe undertaking proper assessment of dietary habits along with weight and height measurements. It also recommends dieting and proper counseling by healthcare experts.

Recommendations by WHO

  • WHO has recommended that primary healthcare facilities should be made available to all children below the age of 5 years and infants. These should include measurement of both weight and height of the children to determine their weight-for height and nutritional status as previously defined by WHO child growth standards.
  • For children and infants identified as overweight, healthcare experts should provide counseling to parents and caregivers on nutrition and physical activity, which includes creating awareness about healthy practices like exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months and continuing the practice until 2 years or more.
  • WHO also prescribes that an appropriate management plan should be devised to counter the menace in obese children. This can be developed by a trained health worker at primary healthcare facilities, or local hospitals.

Healthy Eating Tips to Fight Obesity

Here are a few healthy eating tips that will not only help you maintain a healthy weight but will also prove be be beneficial for your metabolism, physical strength and general well-being,

  • Refrain from unnecessary indulgences or random snacking and encourage healthy snacking choices like popcorns, yogurt, fruits, etc.
  • Reduce your sugar intake to less than 10 per cent of the total calories for an individual with normal weight.
obesity
Obese and binge eating junk food? Red Flag! Pixabay
  • Consume a gracious serving of seasonal vegetables and fruits everyday that are rich in soluble and insoluble fibres, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
  • Make healthy food selections- include whole grain products, avoid excessive use of oil and salt and refrain from processed or packaged food.
  • A balanced diet must be complimented with regular exercise to counter unnecessary weight gain

– prepared by Soha Kala of NewsGram. Twitter @SohaKala

 

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Research Reveals That Breastfeeding Can Protect Your Child From Asthma Exacerbation

Research has revealed that children who are breastfed have a 45% lower risk of asthma exacerbation later in life

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Breastfeeding can protect your child from Asthma.
Breastfeeding can protect your child from Asthma. Pixabay
  • Breastfeeding creates a protective shield for your child against various diseases
  • A child suffering from Asthma who was breastfed is less prone to Asthma aggravation
  • Breastfeeding strengthens child’s immunity system by providing all necessary nutrients, minerals, antibodies to the child

Washington D.C., September 4, 2017: When a baby is born, the initial few months are very crucial for the baby’s immunity system. Research says that breast milk develops the immunity system of a child and this immune system protects the child from various health problem throughout his life.

A research was conducted on 960 children aged between 4 to 12 years who were consuming regular asthma medicines.

According to the analysis made on the children suffering from asthma, those children who had been breastfed had a 45% lower risk of asthma exacerbations later in life as compared with children who had not been breastfed.

Dr. Anke Maitland-van der Zee, the senior author of the study, said that although breastfeeding can be seen as a protective factor for asthma exacerbation, the causal relation is still unclear.

According to another research conducted by Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, children who were fed other milk or solids in addition to breast milk in first 4 months had an increased risk of wheezing, dry cough, and persistent phlegm as compared to children who were exclusively breastfed in their first 4 months.

In the early stage of life, changes in the composition and activity of the gut microbiome influence the immune system and these changes might indirectly lead to changes in asthma later in life.

Scientifically, the causal relationship between breast feeding and asthma is not still unknown. But research says that breast feeding plays a vital role in developing a child’s immune and respiratory system. So, in this way, breast feeding does reduce the child’s vulnerability towards Asthma.

-prepared by Shivani Chowdhary of NewsGram. Twitter handle: @cshivani31

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Rapist Ram Rahim Case: What Draws Millions of Indians towards Self Styled Godmen Even after their Conviction in Rape to Fraud and Murder Charges

There are an estimated three thousand big and small "deras" headed by gurus in the northern states of Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana, where "godmen" are popular

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Rapist Ram Rahim
Unidentified persons sit outside the store belonging to Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, after it was closed down by authorities near Sonipat, India, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
  • Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was handed a 20-year prison sentence this week for raping two of his followers
  • Ram Rahim, who positioned himself as the reincarnation of “the Supreme Creator,” acquired rock star popularity
  • Although Singh is now in jail, a number of his devotees continue to believe that he has been framed

Sep 02, 2014: Quirky spiritualism? Solace? The assurance of food and healthcare? What draws millions of Indians towards gurus whose allure has not dimmed even after some high-profile “godmen” landed behind bars in recent years for crimes ranging from rape to fraud and murder?

The latest guru to be discredited is 50-year-old Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who was handed a 20-year prison sentence this week for raping two of his followers. The judge who ruled in the case said he acted “like a wild beast.”

Asaram Bapu, a controversial spiritual guru who was arrested on Sept.1 on a rape charge filed by a teenage girl is brought to a hospital for a medical check up in Jodhpur, India, Sept. 9, 2013.
Asaram Bapu, a controversial spiritual guru who was arrested on Sept.1 on a rape charge filed by a teenage girl is brought to a hospital for a medical check up in Jodhpur, India, Sept. 9, 2013. VOA
At least two more gurus who once had big followings are in jail. Asaram Bapu is accused of raping a 16-year-old girl and Sant Rampal is accused of committing murder.

Scholars say the growing clout of Indian gurus is fueled by poverty, illiteracy and the failure of government to meet such basic needs as education and healthcare.

Also Read: Quick View on Dera Chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Case: 20 Years of Imprisonment enough for a Rapist in India? 

The power of ‘deras’

Rahim Singh’s sprawling 75-acre campus in Sirsa town did not offer itself as just a spiritual center. It ran schools, colleges, a hospital and virtually functioned as a parallel administration. The “godman” boasted of ridding thousands of drug and alcohol addiction.

“These ‘deras’ [facilities] have somehow managed to give this impression that there is a world altogether different,” said Sukhdev Singh Sohal, history professor at Guru Nanak Dev University in Punjab state.

He said they offer an escape route in a country where blind faith is part of the culture. “They go there, they see that infrastructure and they get infatuated. How they are exploited, they are not aware in the long run.”

There are an estimated three thousand big and small “deras” headed by gurus in the northern states of Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana, where “godmen” are popular. Not all are under a cloud. Many do charitable work and offer spiritual sustenance. And in a country where traditional religion has long marginalized the lower castes, they also offer a sense of community and equality.

But increasingly many gurus are tapping into India’s illiterate millions to build a mass following, with some even offering magical powers of healing.

Komal Ghodiwal, who works as a housemaid in Gurugram, has twice traveled with her alcoholic husband to a guru in Rajasthan state. She can barely explain what he does but is convinced that his supernatural powers help her husband get rid of his addiction, at least temporarily.

“He stays away from drinking for a year, but then he starts again,” she said.

The illiterate woman, who donates about $25 at a temple where the guru presides during each visit, does not know where else to go. There are no government-run addiction centers close to where she works. She said many in her slum go to him believing he can cure sick people or help childless couples.

FILE - Sikh protesters hold a poster of Indian religious sect Dera Sacha Sauda chief Baba Ram Rahim Singh's debut film “MSG: The Messenger of God” in Jammu, India, Feb. 13, 2015.
FILE – Sikh protesters hold a poster of Indian religious sect Dera Sacha Sauda chief Baba Ram Rahim Singh’s debut film “MSG: The Messenger of God” in Jammu, India, Feb. 13, 2015. VOA

“The spiritual component of these “deras” is very wonky and people are looking for some kind of a superman who will solve their problems,” said M. Rajivlochan, history professor at Punjab University. “In the case of Baba Rahim, he posed himself as that superman, dressing weirdly, demonstrating that he could do close to everything.”

Rahim Singh, who positioned himself as the reincarnation of “the Supreme Creator,” acquired rock star popularity because he was not just a cult leader. He made films, he was a singer, he dressed flamboyantly and lived opulently. And although the rape charges against him surfaced 15 years ago, they did little to diminish the faith among his followers.

FILE - An Indian spiritual guru, who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan, attends the premiere of the movie 'Jattu Engineer' in New Delhi, India, May 17, 2017.
FILE – An Indian spiritual guru, who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan, attends the premiere of the movie ‘Jattu Engineer’ in New Delhi, India, May 17, 2017. VOA

The larger-than-life image of gurus like Rahim Singh is reinforced by political leaders cutting across party lines who pay them obeisance and sometimes make donations to these centers hoping to plug into a voter bloc during elections. Several ministers had visited Rahim Singh. Some legislators even defended him after his conviction, saying he had done good work.

The rich are not immune from the culture. Several high profile gurus count the wealthy among their followers.

Also Read: Criminal Babas in India- Rapist Ram Rahim and Rapist Asaram: Why Delay in Justice of these Godmen? 

Political clout

With their political clout, the gurus also escape close financial scrutiny, making it difficult to assess how some accumulate vast wealth.

Although Singh is now in jail, a number of his devotees continue to believe that he has been framed. Such emotions led his followers to go on a rampage after his conviction. The rioting killed 38 people as government buildings and vehicles were set on fire.

Still, his flock might slowly disperse, given the massive coverage he received on national television, the sealing of his centers, and the swirl of murky stories since his conviction. Among them, stories that he made 400 men undergo castration “to come closer to god.”

But the phenomenon of the “godman” is not about to go away. “There is no end,” said Professor Sohal. “Such tragic things would happen time and again and they [the devotees] think that God is there to rectify them.” (VOA)