Tuesday December 18, 2018

National Cancer Institute at Jhajjar: PMO pushes but ministry delays?

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New Delhi: The Rs 2,035 crore National Cancer Institute (NCI), touted as one of the biggest government-run health projects in the country, has got a nudge from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). The project was delayed by almost a year, but the PMO directed that it should be completed before September 2017 deadline. And there lies the catch — a key minister doesn’t have the time for it.

The institute is slated to come up at Jhajjar (Haryana campus) of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) at about 60 km from Delhi. It will offer tertiary care facilities other than those that are meant for cancer.

However, AIIMS sources say the delays have mainly been because of the inability to hold a meeting of the Institute Body headed by Health Minister JP Nadda to award the tender for the construction work. Such important decisions are taken by the Institute Body that is the apex decision-making panel for AIIMS. The Institute Body also chooses the governing body members. However, after the Narendra Modi government assumed power last May, the new Institute Body has not even been appointed.

After a meeting chaired by principal secretary to the Prime Minister Nripendra Misra, on July 11, 2015, a decision was taken which stated, “The project of NCI should be viewed as a flagship health institute project and the construction should be completed six months before the deadline.” IANS has seen the document.

The meeting was attended by secretary of the union health ministry, the chief secretary of the Haryana government, the AIIMS director, the joint secretary in charge of AIIMS in the health ministry, the AIIMS deputy director (Administration), the chief of the Institute Rotary Cancer Hospital (IRCH) at AIIMS.

A senior health ministry official,  revealed, “The ministry had taken a decision to grant total autonomy to the new AIIMS. Greater powers in terms of administration and financial decisions should be given to the institute bodies. That is why a decision has been taken that the contract for the campus in Jhajjar should be granted by the institute body and not by the ministry. This will give them a sense of empowerment, responsibility and help in expediting the decision making in the long run. The AIIMS Institute Body is all set to be constituted within a fortnight and the contract for the construction will be granted immediately after that by the newly-appointed body. This would make the AIIMS’ project run more efficiently in a particular time frame.”

cancer-390322_640The parliamentary standing committee on health and family welfare, on August 11, had also observed that the development of AIIMS campus-II in Jhajjar, Haryana, was an ambitious project and would require not only massive allocation of funds but also sustained monitoring.

The committee wanted health ministry to ensure that development of the project was executed within the initial estimated project costs and time-frame to avoid any time-overruns and cost escalation.

The cabinet approved the project on December 26, 2013. About 300 acres has been earmarked; out of which 32 acre has been allotted for the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which has been assigned more than 700 beds.

But the question remains whether the project will be accomplished within the targeted date. The proposed date of the start of the project was January 1, 2014, and the duration of the project was 45 months. The target date of completion is September 2017.

“The award of work for the institute block at NCI should have been completed within nine months (September, 2014) of the start of the project (January 1, 2014) and the construction should have started in October, 2014. It’s been more than year-and-a-half now, but still the award of work has not been done. How is it possible to complete the work within the stipulated time-frame,” asked an AIIMS source.

The decision to award the tender to Shapoorji Pallonji & Company Limited was taken in the standing finance committee (SFC) meeting of AIIMS on May 26, but the approval had to come from the highest decision-making bodies of AIIMS. The Institute Body has to convene to constitute the Governing Body of AIIMS. The Institute Body meeting is now likely to take place in October.

“The award of work has been stalled for four months, even if it was decided in the last SFC meeting. The Institute Body meeting which was scheduled on August 6 was cancelled by Health Minister JP Nadda. By doing so, the project is getting delayed further,” the source added.

Reacting to this, the AIIMS deputy director (Administration), V Srinivas said, “Statutory clearances from the Ministry of Environment & Forests, National Board of Wildlife, State Board of Wildlife, Haryana, and the Departments of Town & Country Planning, Fire, Irrigation, Electricity Board, PHED and Labour in the government of Haryana for the National Cancer Institute have been received. All efforts are being made to ensure timely commencement of work and adherence to prescribed timeline.”

The other institutes proposed for the Jhajjar campus are National Cardiovascular Centre, General Purpose Hospital, National Transaction and Training Centre, National Centre for Child Health, Digestive Diseases Centre, National Institute of Geriatrics, Comprehensive Rehabilitation Centre and National Institute of Nursing Research.

(Sidhartha Dutta, IANS)

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The Risk of FGM Hangs Above British Schoolgirls During Holiday Break

Ending FGM requires multiple entry points (and) enabling families and communities to be proactive in ending the practice of FGM is ultimately the most effective channel

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Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, judge
A badge reads "The power of labor against FGM" is seen on a volunteer during a conference on International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 6, 2018. (VOA)

As many families prepare to holiday abroad during the festive season, British charities on Monday warned that girls taken overseas could be at risk of female genital mutilation(FGM)

Known as FGM, female genital mutilation is a ritual that usually involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia, including the clitoris. Some girls bleed to death or die from infections.

Cutting affects an estimated 200 million girls worldwide and is a rite of passage in many societies, often with the aim of promoting chastity, with the highest prevalence in Africa and parts of the Middle East.

An estimated 137,000 women and girls in England and Wales have undergone FGM. Many cases go unnoticed because they had happened at a young age and abroad, campaigners say. Campaigners say teachers should look out for warning signs, such as when a child is taken abroad for a long time to a country where there is a high prevalence of female genital mutilation.

FGM
– A doctor checks her phone as she poses for a photograph in Mumbai, India, June 8, 2016. The 50-year-old woman defends what is widely considered female genital mutilation within her small, prosperous Dawoodi Bohra community in India. VOA

“The best way of preventing the practice is by working with girls and their families … and training professionals like teachers and social workers to spot girls at risk of FGM,” said Leethen Bartholomew, head of Britain’s National FGM Center.

Some warning signs that a girl might have been cut include difficulty walking or sitting down, spending a long time in the toilet or becoming withdrawn, said the Center, run by children’s charity Barnardo’s and the Local Government Association.

FGM has been a criminal offense in Britain since 1985. Legislation in 2003 made it illegal for British citizens to carry out or procure female genital mutilation abroad, even in countries where it is legal.

In 2015, it became mandatory for health professionals, social workers and teachers in Britain to report known cases of FGM to police.

FGM
FILE – A T-shirt warns against female genital mutilation. Its wearer attends an event, discouraging harmful practices such as FGM, at a girls high school in Imbirikani, Kenya, April 21, 2016. VOA

The practice mostly affects immigrant communities from various countries including Somalia, Sierra Leone, Eritrea, Sudan, Nigeria and Egypt.

British-based charity Forward, which supports FGM survivors from African communities, said though teachers have a crucial role to play, they should not stigmatize certain communities.

“While teachers need to be alert at all times about safeguarding children in their care, we also need to ensure that some communities are not unduly targeted and stigmatized,” said Naana Otoo-Oyortey, executive director of FORWARD.

Also Read: Female Genital Mutilation Unconstitutional: Michigan Judge

“Ending FGM requires multiple entry points (and) enabling families and communities to be proactive in ending the practice of female genital mutilation is ultimately the most effective channel,” she said in emailed comments to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Britain in November pledged $63 million to combat female genital mutilation in Africa. (VOA)