This has been quite a year for April Stone. The young mother returned to school to get her high school diploma and, along the way, wrote a published short story, received a nomination for the Council of Federation Literacy award and won a Student Leadership Award. She also lost her home and belongings to an electrical fire. “It’s been a heartbreaking year, but I never gave up with my learning,” said Ms. Stone. “I am very proud of everything I’ve accomplished and for the opportunity Nova Scotia Community College gave me.” This year, more than 500 students across the province will receive the high school graduation diploma for adults through the Nova Scotia School for Adult Learning. Today, June 16, Ms. Stone is one of 17 students receiving their diplomas from the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC)in the Strait Area. The Nova Scotia School for Adult Learning co-ordinates a range of education programs for adults who want to improve their reading and math skills, or complete their high school diploma. This year marks the school’s fifth anniversary and the graduation of almost 2,000 Nova Scotians with a high school diploma for adults. “The Nova Scotia School for Adult Learning is meeting a significant need in our province,” said Jamie Muir, Minister of Education. “In just five years, more than 20,000 students have enrolled to improve their education, and ultimately, their job skills. I’d like to congratulate them for taking steps toward a brighter future for themselves and their families.” The Nova Scotia School for Adult Learning works in partnership with the NSCC, regional school boards, Université Sainte-Anne and community-based learning organizations to offer programs at more than 170 sites across the province. “The beautiful thing about the Adult Learning Program is the fact that it immediately opens up a million and one doors,” said Mike Smith, dean, school of access at NSCC. “We now know a high school diploma is essential for skill development and further learning. NSCC is proud to partner with the Department of Education in this progressive initiative that continues to improve the lives of many Nova Scotians.” The Nova Scotia School for Adult Learning is part of the provincial government’s Skills Nova Scotia initiative, which involves training and skills upgrading, from basic literacy to workplace learning and job skills training.
Nova Scotia has one of the lowest rates of at-risk gambling in the country and fewer people are gambling overall, according to the 2007 Nova Scotia Gambling Prevalence Study released today, Oct. 16. Gambling rates are down in almost every category with the exception of lottery draw tickets. Thirteen per cent of Nova Scotians don’t gamble at all. Of those who do, the majority, 80.9 per cent, are no risk gamblers, meaning they are not at risk of developing problems related to gambling. A smaller group, 6.1 per cent, experience problems with finances, family relationships and more. Within that group, the number of Nova Scotians who are considered problem gamblers has remained stable at 2.5 per cent, while the rate of those at risk of developing difficulties has gone down, from 4.8 per cent in 2003 to 3.6 per cent in 2007. “I’m pleased to see that the majority of Nova Scotians who gamble are doing so responsibly,” said Barry Barnet, Minister of Health Promotion and Protection. “That said, I continue to be concerned about those people who are having problems. We have a provincial Gaming Strategy and we’re working on many initiatives to reduce the harm gambling brings to these individuals and their families.” According to the study, lottery draws, instant tickets and charity raffles are the most popular gambling activities. Age is a factor, with younger adults being most at risk. In the 19- to 24-year-old age group, 7.8 per cent are at risk of developing problems. The risk for problem gambling declines with age. For example, 2.9 per cent of problem gamblers are in the 35 to 44 age range. In terms of money spent gambling, problem gamblers spend $6,414 per year on average compared with $2,256 for at risk gamblers and $458 for no risk gamblers. Results for individual gambling products are also included in the study. Use of VLTs is down from 19 per cent in 2003 to 14 per cent in 2007. Casino slots gambling is down from 22 per cent in 2003 to 16 per cent in 2007. About 1.6 per cent of adults have engaged in Internet gambling. Daily ticket lotteries gained popularity, with the number of adults purchasing tickets doubling to 13.8 per cent. “The number Nova Scotians who are at risk of developing an addiction to gambling is down. The results are telling us that we’re moving in the right direction,” said Mr. Barnet. “They’re also showing us where we need to focus our efforts. We’ll continue to implement our Gaming Strategy, working with community partners, district health authorities, the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation, the Nova Scotia Gaming Foundation and others to further lower problem gambling rates.” The Department of Health Promotion and Protection has invested $4.3 million in prevention and treatment this year alone, in addition to investments by other government departments and agencies. Initiatives include: “We know there are some Nova Scotians who are at risk, who may already have a problem, or know someone with a problem,” said Mr. Barnet. “We are committed to ensuring those individuals know there is help available and where to get it so they can make informed choices for themselves and their families.” District health authorities are also working to reduce problem gambling in their communities using a number of innovative programs. South West Health targeted junior high youth through a two-hour program called Get Your Game On. The program was delivered to 285 students in Shelburne, Yarmouth and Digby counties. After participating, 66 per cent of students said they thought differently about gambling and 89 per cent of teachers agreed it was effective in meeting its intended goals. “Engaging youth early is important,” said John Moore, director of addiction services for South West Health. “This program arms them with valuable knowledge and helps them develop critical thinking about gambling in their lives and communities. We’re very pleased with the success so far and we look forward to expanding the program to other schools.” This is the fourth Nova Scotia Gambling Prevalence Study. Other studies were conducted in 1993, 1996 and 2003. The 2007 study involved telephone surveys with 2,500 Nova Scotians between October and December 2007. The study is available on the department’s website at www.gov.ns.ca/hpp . funding to hire more prevention and treatment staff in the district health authorities more accessible resources for those experiencing problems a campus awareness and education program for post-secondary students in most universities and colleges in Nova Scotia two provincial marketing campaigns, with calls to the problem gambling help line increasing as a result
A student showcase about renewable energy is allowing the minds and talents of Grade 9 students to shine on the province’s green energy future. Grade 9 students from across the province are displaying renewable electricity projects today, June 7, to family, educators, and elected officials in Truro. The projects include a solar powered drawbridge, video and power points, and a wind power debate. The student showcase is part of The Energy Around Us, a pilot program developed by the Departments of Education and Energy to encourage learning about renewable energy, its potential uses, and the role it plays in the province’s electricity and environmental sectors. “Government understands decisions made today will impact future generations,” said MLA Lenore Zann, on behalf of Energy Minister Bill Estabrooks and Education Minister Marilyn More. “Educating our young people about the importance of renewable energy in creating good jobs and a greener province is the right decision for today and for the future.” By 2020, Nova Scotia intends to supply 40 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources. Today that number is 12 per cent. The Energy Around Us program encourages students to use science, math, social studies and art to explore the world of renewable electricity through hands-on projects. The program connects to social studies, science and language arts outcomes within the Grade 9 curriculum. Kathryn Creaser, a teacher in New Germany, said the program encouraged students to look at how renewable energy affects their daily lives. “The students really embraced the opportunity to research the topic of renewable energy and how it relates to them and their community. They enjoyed the freedom to explore the subjects that mean the most to them when it comes to renewable energy, and they made a real effort to present their findings in a creative and informative way,” said Ms. Creaser. “It’s wonderful that students will have a chance to share what they’ve learned, see projects from other schools and meet peers from other parts of the province, especially with a shared focus on greener energy and a stronger economy for their future.” Schools participating in the showcase are: Park West School; Pugwash District High School; Shelburne Regional High School; New Germany Rural High School; Canso Academy; Central Kings Rural High School; Inverness Education Centre/Academy; Advocate District School; Rockingstone Heights School; and Digby Regional High School.
CAPE BRETON REGIONAL MUNICIPALITY: Keltic Drive Keltic Drive from the tracks east for two kilometres to Sydney River Bridge, will be reduced to one lane for milling, upgrading and repaving until Tuesday, Nov. 30. A pilot vehicle and traffic control are on site. Alternate route: Highway 125 to Exit 4 and 6. Work takes place from sunrise to sunset. Local Area Office: 902-565-6841
NOTE: A social media version of this release with hi-res, downloadable photos and video clips is available at http://gov.ns.ca/news/smr/2011-05-30-My-NS. A complete list of winners follows this release. FOR BROADCAST USE Winners in the My Nova Scotia campaign are enjoying their moment in the spotlight. The talented Nova Scotians have won an opportunity to star in the My Nova Scotia regional tourism campaign. They are featured in television commercials airing in the Maritimes this summer. Percy Paris, Minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism says he is very pleased to have had almost 400 talented Nova Scotians participate in the contest. He says their passion and enthusiasm for our beautiful province will make potential visitors from around the world realize they must come and see Nova Scotia. -30- Winners in the My Nova Scotia campaign are enjoying their moment in the spotlight. The talented Nova Scotians have won an opportunity to star in the My Nova Scotia regional tourism campaign. They are featured in television commercials airing in the Maritimes throughout the summer. “The My Nova Scotia campaign has been a great success,” said Percy Paris, Minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism. “We are very pleased to have had almost 400 talented Nova Scotians participate in the contest, and many more show their support, either online or at the auditions. “Their passion and enthusiasm for our beautiful province will make potential visitors from around the world realize they must come and see Nova Scotia for themselves.” Each week, for 21 weeks, different people will be featured. Some will also be included in a regional newspaper ad campaign. Each commercial will highlight the best festivals, events and experiences to enjoy in Nova Scotia this summer. Winner Elyse Delaney, a singer and performer from Cheticamp, called the My Nova Scotia contest a wonderful learning experience. “I am very grateful to be given the opportunity to promote the beautiful province I am proud to call home. I always look forward to seeing new faces and I know that they will always remember their time here in Nova Scotia, and hopefully come back.” “I gave an impromptu audition when I was stopped by the crew on the street in Wolfville,” said winner Lydia Stevens of Chester. “When asked why I love the province I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share all the reasons why I love this province. “Nova Scotia has given me many great experiences, surfing, sailing, snorkeling, competitive ski racing, completing a science degree at Acadia University and continuing research in the field of biology. So, when given the chance to share my love for Nova Scotia I couldn’t resist.” So many outstanding auditions were submitted that 12 people have received honourable mentions. Their names are included with the winning entries on novascotia.com. “We are so impressed with the amazing Nova Scotians that have come out to show us their star power,” said Mr. Paris. “We have seen auditions from talented dancers, artists and singers from across the province. Alton MacKinnon from Sydney Mines even wrote and performed a My Nova Scotia theme song.” Contestants were invited to participate in the My Nova Scotia campaign by uploading their own videos, or auditioning at one of 14 events that took place across the province this spring.To view the commercials, go to novascotia.com.
The province and Mi’kmaq leaders of Unama’ki (Cape Breton) are working together to improve health care for first nations people on the island. Health and Wellness Minister Maureen MacDonald joined the Mi’kmaq Chiefs from Cape Breton, today, June 15, to sign the Unama’ki Client Registry Data Sharing Agreement. This registry will provide Cape Breton’s First Nations with a better understanding of patterns of disease and injury, and their use of health services. This will provide them with access to timely, reliable and accurate population health status information. “An agreement like this is unprecedented in Canada, and speaks to our strong commitment to improving the health of First Nations individuals in Cape Breton and across the province,” said Ms. MacDonald. “We are committed to providing better health care to all Nova Scotians and their families, and this agreement will ensure that the programs and services provided to the Mi’kmaq are meeting their needs.” The Unama’ki Client Registry will create a list of health card numbers that will link data from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada’s Indian Registry System with data from the MSI Health Card Number Registry, while protecting privacy. This will provide information from doctor or hospital visits, pregnancies, births, cancers and other health conditions that affect Cape Breton Mi’kmaq people. This information will be used in the planning of health promotion, disease prevention and treatment programs for the Mi’kmaq people in Cape Breton. “This is a significant achievement and an important step forward in enhancing our capacity to meet the health needs of our community members,” said Chief Denny. “We’ll now have the right tools to focus on our specific needs and better use our available resources.” Since 2008, the Tui’kn partnership, a health partnership of the five Cape Breton bands, has been working closely with the province, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Dalhousie University, Medavie Blue Cross, Health Canada and the Public Health Agency to create the registry. Health Canada, through its Aboriginal Health Transition Fund, provided more than $430,000 over three years, and the Public Health Agency of Canada, through its Enhanced Surveillance for Chronic Disease Program, has provided almost $200,000 over two years to fund the registry. “The government of Canada is pleased to be working with the province of Nova Scotia and Unama’ki First Nations to enhance sharing of health information among communities, health authorities and government,” said Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health. “This important data sharing agreement will lead to greater access to health information and towards improved health outcomes for First Nations. The registry is active and organizations such Cancer Care Nova Scotia, Reproductive Care Program of Nova Scotia, Cardiovascular Health Nova Scotia and the Population Health Research Unit at Dalhousie University are producing reports for the Tui’kn partnership to help plan the future health care of the Mi’kmaq in Cape Breton. Province Signs Historic Health Agreement with Mi’kmaq
VICTORIA COUNTY: Englishtown Ferry The Englishtown ferry will be out of service today, Jan. 26, from 8 p.m. until midnight for repairs. Local Area Office: 902-860-2430 -30-
New Department of Business will help create one of the most competitive and business-friendly environments in Canada, allowing the private sector to drive economic growth in Nova Scotia. Provide strategic planning and policy direction, foster entrepreneurship and innovation, and ensure business development is co-ordinated across government and beyond Department will house the Office of Regulatory and Service Effectiveness to implement regulatory recommendations in the Nova Scotia Tax and Regulatory Review and work with New Brunswick to create a modern, consistent and fair regulatory environment $2 million this year to Invest Nova Scotia for initiatives that provide broad economic benefits across the province $400,000 for Brilliant Labs in all eight school boards, to help teachers incorporate technology, creativity and entrepreneurship in the classroom $1.6 million this year for the Graduate to Opportunity program Begin to right-size the civil service by reducing 320 full-time equivalent jobs as government restructures programs and services Program Review to date will save taxpayers $119 million. Program Review has become a permanent initiative with future savings contributing to sustainable finances Department of Health and Wellness spending will rise 0.8 per cent, the smallest increase in more than a decade. Five other departments have smaller budgets than last year Invest an additional $20.4 million this year to renew, refocus and rebuild our education system Protect our vulnerable citizens by increasing funding to a number of programs HEALTH AND WELLNESSNova Scotians invest greatly in their health system, yet the province faces significant economic, fiscal and demographic challenges that put exceptional pressure on that investment. Budget 2015-16 will ensure the more than four billion health dollars are spent wisely to address the health needs of the population today, and the future. TAX MEASURESGovernment will take a long-term, measured and thoughtful approach to implementing changes to Nova Scotia’s tax system. Fairness, simplicity, competitiveness and sustainability will guide government decision-making, as it makes every effort to ensure that changes to the taxation mix do not harm vulnerable Nova Scotians. Program Review to date will save taxpayers $119 million. Savings come primarily from: program changes ($10.2 million) that include converting seven underutilized camping parks to self-registration, closing two underutilized visitor information centres, and ending the Environmental Home Assessment Program and a duplicated flood-mitigation program grant and tax changes ($56.8 million) that include rebalancing support to the creative sector by revising the Film Industry Tax Credit and phasing out equity investments in film projects. The changes also include refreshing the Sustainable Transportation Strategy and eliminating the out-of-province university student bursary structural changes ($42.7 million) that include eliminating the Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism, phasing out the Nova Scotia Gateway Office, merging Nova Scotia Lands and Waterfront Development Corporation Ltd. to eliminate duplication, eliminating Film and Creative Industries Nova Scotia and consolidating Land Registry Offices to five locations to reflect declining office visits and increased online use other changes ($9.4 million) that include various revenue adjustments and administrative efficiencies Program Review is now a permanent part of government that will deliver more savings and efficiencies as government moves to sustainable finances $3.6-million increase for grades Primary to 2 class-size caps, $3.45 million for grades 3 and 4 class-size caps $3-million increase for the math strategy; $4.4 million for early literacy (a $973,000 increase) $6.5 million towards Nova Scotia’s Action Plan for Education Offer early intervention in math for grades Primary to 3 students $1.3-million increase to reduce the wait lists for community-based Early Intervention $700,000 increase for Early Learning Initiatives; $500,000 increase for four new SchoolsPlus sites $3.2 million to increase university operating grants by one per cent Allow universities to make one-time market adjustments to tuition, to charge similar amounts for similar programs. Maintain the three per cent cap on tuition increases for Nova Scotia undergrads once market adjustments are applied; remove cap for out-of-province and graduate students $1.6 million in up-front grants to help more Nova Scotia students pay for school Forgive up to $15,000 in provincial student loans for Nova Scotia students at Nova Scotia universities through the Nova Scotia Loan Forgiveness Program $24.8 million to maintain the Nova Scotia Bursary, which automatically takes $1,283 off tuition for Nova Scotia students studying here at home $3.8 million for the 0 Per Cent Interest Program, to pay the interest on provincial student loans for Nova Scotia graduates PROGRAM AND SERVICE REVIEW AND STRUCTURAL CHANGEOver the decades, government has introduced a complex web of often overlapping programs that need rigorous examination and review to respect and maximize taxpayer dollars and ensure value. Maintain the volunteer firefighter and ground search and rescue tax credit, as well as HST rebates on children’s clothing, footwear and diapers, feminine hygiene products and printed books, and maintain the Affordable Living Tax Credit Increase tobacco taxes by two cents per cigarette, two cents per gram of fine-cut tobacco and two cents per pre-proportioned tobacco stick Lower the non-eligible dividend tax credit, which has not kept pace with changing conditions, from 5.87 per cent to 3.5 per cent The Film Industry Tax Credit will give companies the first 25 per cent as refundable, but the remaining 75 per cent of the credit will be applied to any taxes owing These changes take effect July 1, 2015 to ensure projects currently in progress can continue Eliminate the Healthy Living Tax Credit which is not helping low-income Nova Scotians STUDENT SUCCESSBudget 2015-16 directly supports Nova Scotia’s Action Plan for Education. Funding will help to ensure children have the support they need for a positive start to school, and that students benefit from a quality Primary-to-12 education, doing better in core areas like math and literacy. Budget 2015-16 also provides the funding universities need to protect quality over the long term. Budget decisions are also focused on keeping education accessible for Nova Scotia students studying at Nova Scotia universities. The Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) came into place April 1, 2015, with a new, streamlined leadership team and volunteer board Work with the NSHA and IWK Health Centre to develop the province’s first, multi-year provincial health plan that will ensure the most effective and efficient use of resources $2.6 million to develop the One Person One Record plan, which if fully implemented, will become a single, secure electronic record that connects all of a person’s health information $700,000 to expand the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program to two more areas $2 million more to help address orthopaedic surgery wait times, providing 450 more surgeries Increase age of eligibility from 19 to 25 years for insulin-pump funding Expand vaccinations for meningococcal meningitis, including introducing the quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine in the school program Add the Human Papillomavirus Vaccine (HPV) for Grade 7 males through the school program Provide Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention to meet the needs of pre-schoolers with autism preparing to enter school $1.8 million to provide the Caregiver Benefit to support 385 more families (additional funding) $3.8 million for home-care services (additional funding) BUSINESS AND INNOVATIONGovernment has an important role to play in clearing the way for the private sector to pursue growth by maintaining a policy and regulatory environment that creates a climate to enable business and social enterprise growth. Budget 2015-16, will take a bold new approach to economic development and innovation, supported by major structural change. WAGE CHALLENGEThe inflated wage pattern of the past several years has prevented a return to balance. The fact that economic growth stalled in tandem with this wage pattern made the situation even more difficult. The generosity of two, 2.5 and three per cent wage increases has left a major burden for all Nova Scotians Real economic growth in this period was only 1.6 per cent Over $700 million in total was added to government’s labour costs over the last three years – these costs are now embedded permanently 58 per cent of our departmental spending is spent on wages – about $5.2 billion of the province’s total budget of $8.9 billion If labour settlements had matched the real growth in the economy, our wage bill would be $300 million lower and we would have a $200-million surplus Government has announced a three-year wage freeze for excluded employees and froze their public service awards CREATIVE ECONOMYThe contributions made by all businesses in the creative sector help to drive our economy. Budget 2015-16 will align the creative sector with Nova Scotia Business Inc. to provide business development support and promotion for creative industries. Government will provide almost $70 million this year in support of the cultural sector, including: Budget 2015-2016 holds the line on spending, restructures and reduces the size of government, and continues to clear the way for private-sector growth. BUDGET OVERVIEWThe budget focuses on the core responsibilities of government and makes the changes needed to protect key government priorities like health care, education and support for seniors and low-income Nova Scotians. Revenues for 2015-16, including net income from government business enterprises, are an estimated $9.9 billion, a 3.7 per cent increase from 2014-15. Expenses are an estimated $10 billion, an increase of 0.9 per cent from 2014-15. The projected deficit is $97.6 million. DEPARTMENTAL SPENDINGBudget 2015-16 holds the line on spending by focusing on the core responsibilities of government and making structural change that will make it work better and cost less. By making thoughtful, strategic spending decisions and reductions, overall departmental spending is up 0.7 per cent over 2014-15, when taking into account wage increases that were some of the highest in Canada for the sectors. $12.5 million in direct culture and heritage development programming, including $2.6 million for Arts Nova Scotia $14 million for libraries $10 million in operational funding and programming, including museums and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia $24 million for the Film Industry Tax Credit $7.5 million for the Digital Media Tax Credit Government will rebalance industry funding, creating a climate that supports entrepreneurship, innovation and growth in business and social enterprise The $6-million Creative Economy Fund will begin April 1, 2016, and NSBI will work with the sectors in establishing the criteria for the fund
Fifty-seven school administrators, including principals and vice-principals, graduate today, May 29, as the second class of the Nova Scotia Instructional Leadership Academy. “Congratulations to all of this year’s graduates for their commitment to teaching and leadership excellence,” said Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Karen Casey. “This program directly helps students by ensuring the leaders in their schools have modern, practical and proven teaching strategies that will help students and teachers.” Introduced in September 2010, the Nova Scotia Instructional Leadership Program is a three-year diploma program that provides principals and other instructional leaders with the skills and knowledge they need to improve their instruction and leadership abilities. “The program has been a great support for me,” said Ben McNeil, vice-principal, Digby Regional High School. “It provides well-reasoned, evidence-based approaches to education instruction that I can use when working with staff to provide the best quality learning environment.” The program was designed with principals, school boards, the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, the Nova Scotia School Boards Association, universities, and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. Principals had asked for more effective instructional leadership support. For more information on the program, visit nselc.ednet.ns.ca/ .
The Department of Health and Wellness has received results of water samples for Bayswater Beach in Lunenburg County. The new samples meet recreational water guidelines. The beach was posted as unsafe for swimming on Aug. 27. The public is reminded that the Nova Scotia Lifeguard Service has ended supervision for the beach season.
Mumbai: Union minister Nitin Gadkari was leading by 3066 votes in Nagpur, while Union minister Subhash Bhamre was leading in Dhule by 13128 votes, as per the trends available so far for the Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra. Maharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan was trailing by 2876 votes in Nanded while former Union minister Sushilkumar Shinde was trailing in Solapur by 4627 votes. Parth Pawar, Sharad Pawar’s grand nephew was trailing in Maval by 43,979 votes, while the NCP chief’s daughter Supriya Sule is leading Baramati by 6486 votes. Union minister Hansraj Ahir was leading in Chandrapur by a margin of 49 votes. Union minister Anant Gite was trailing in Raigad by a margin of 1064 votes. Mumbai Congress president Milind Deora has trailing in Mumbai South by 15,904 votes. Counting for the 48 Lok Sabha seats in the state, where elections were held in four phases, began at 8 am Thursday.
Health infrastructure, especially in rural areas, is going to be one of the most challenging tasks ahead for the new government. In its last tenure, it brought the Ayushman Bharat scheme, the government-run health insurance programme which was seen as a major health policy intervention. However, according to experts, the scheme was unable to solve the larger crisis in the health sector. There is an urgent need to invest in building healthcare infrastructure, especially in the periphery, says Joyti Ghosh, a professor in Jawaharlal Nehru University’s (JNU) Centre for Economic Studies and Planning. “The much-celebrated insurance scheme has only filled the pockets of the insurance companies but has neither improved health infrastructure nor helped the people,” she added. Also Read – A staunch allyGhosh stressed that the new government must increase its public health spending up to at least three per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP). Currently, India’s GDP for health is less than 1.5 per cent. With almost all neighbouring countries investing 2-3 per cent of GDP, the country has one of the lowest in the world. Another area to be looked into is the escalating prices of essential medicines. A Parliamentary standing committee report on drug pricing, submitted in February 2019 noted that the government has actually failed to check the rising cost. Also Read – Cuban pathos”The government has allowed the firms to set the prices as per the market-based system rather than what they accrue as costs of production. However, while pharma firms are making a lot of profits, the common man is suffering. The government must without delay ask the firms to go back to cost-of-production pricing system,” Jan Swasthya Abhiyan’s Amitava Guha said. Ghosh pointed out that the practice of granting secondary patents has added to the cost. The new health minister should completely stop it and make the patents’ office more transparent, she noted. Further, the government needs to tackle the acute shortage of manpower in the health sector and triple it, Ghosh suggested. According to a study published by Indian Journal of Public Health in 2017, India would need more than 20 lakh doctors by 2030. But, the sub-centres and Primary Health Centre (PHCs) are short by more than 10,000 Auxiliary nurse midwife (ANMs) and 99,000 male health workers, reveals the Rural Health Statistics 2017. “Any new government must see to it that ASHA workers get a fixed remuneration rather than incentives based on paltry services. They are the backbone of our rural healthcare and we depend on them heavily for improving our health indicators, however, we don’t treat them the way they should be treated,” Ghosh said. Experts also stated that the ultimate goal of the new government should be to achieve Universal Healthcare Coverage (UHC). For this, they need to cut down the out of pocket expenditure of hospitals as well as of outpatient departments (OPD). According to the recent study by Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, more than 100 constituencies of the country spend more than Rs 763 on ODP in catering to OPD services and another more than 100 spend Rs 559-Rs 763 for the same. OPD services are not part of Ayushman Bharat Scheme. More capital should be invested in providing cheap drugs and diagnostics services to people, they suggested. (The views expressed are strictly personal)
New Delhi: For the first time in the history of Indian Railways, massage services will be made available for passengers on board running trains. This facility will be made available in 39 trains departing from Indore. These include Dehradun-Indore Express (14317), New Delhi-Indore Intercity Express (12416) and Indore-Amritsar Express (19325), a railway official said Saturday. This was a proposal from the Ratlam division of Western Railway zone, the official said. Also Read – Pak activated 20 terror camps & 20 launch pads along LoC”This is the first time in history of railways that we will provide massaging service for passenger comfort on running trains. It will not only increase revenue but also add passengers. Railways to earn an additional revenue of Rs 20 lakh annually and an estimated increase of Rs 90 lakh per year through additional sale of tickets from about 20,000 passenger who will be the service providers. “This is the first time that such a contract has been signed,” said Rajesh Bajpai, director, media and communication, railway board. The service is likely to commence in 15-20 days and will be available from 6 am to 10 pm. Rs 100 each will be charged for head massage and foot massage. Three to five massage providers will travel on each train. The railways will provide them identity cards.
How does one determine the finances of a country where the growth rate is slowing, banks are sceptical to lend and tightening fiscal space leaves little scope for adventurism? That is the impossible conundrum facing Nirmala Sitharaman, India’s first woman Finance Minister in the Modi government’s new Cabinet. It will be interesting to note how she addresses these pertinent issues facing the Indian economy when she rises in Parliament on July 5 to deliver her Budget address. Also Read – A staunch allyIt would not be a stretch to argue that Sitharaman is facing the toughest task of all ministers in the Modi cabinet. The two significant hurdles currently ailing the economy are that of growth and employment. As soon as the new government was sworn into power, the data released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) revealed that the GDP growth had fallen to a 5-year low in the last quarter of the previous financial year while another report released by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) stated that the unemployment in the country had touched a 45-year high of 6.1 per cent in 2017-18. Although the government has said the latter figure is not comparable to previous years, it is still an issue that Sitharaman will look to address in her first budget. Also Read – Cuban pathosAt first glance, it might seem that issues of growth and unemployment are linked and solving the former would address the latter. However, this would be a dangerous assumption to make for the Indian economy. India has had an infamous trend of jobless growth due to its economy being primarily service-led. In fact, even during its fastest-growth period between 2004 and 2009, only a million jobs were created in the five-year period when more than a million jobs were needed on an annual basis. This only goes to show that both issues need to be resolved independently and, at least for the latter, the problem is more structural in nature. So, solutions must be a combination of short-term and medium-to-long-term. Even though these solutions will pertain to policy decisions that extend beyond the Budget, allocating finances in the right places of the economy is a good place to start. No electoral compulsions are also tied to this Budget, so it has the potential to be bold and as target-oriented as possible. To address the issue of a growth slowdown, it is necessary to go to its root cause. There are two sides to the story: supply and demand. In the supply side, to put it simply, India’s credit system is clogged. The capital of Indian banks is locked up in Rs 14 lakh crore of stressed assets and, despite all efforts to the contrary, the resolution mechanism is still slow. The public sector banks (PSBs), which account for two-thirds of the banking system, are facing serious capital shortages, which has made them risk-averse and, thus, wary of lending. As credit availability dries up, the fuel that drives investment vanishes, slowing the latter. Gross fixed capital formation, or investment in plant and machinery has dipped to 31 per cent from 34.3 per cent of the GDP in 2014. Meanwhile, the demand side of the issue lies in falling domestic consumption as evidenced in the latest data provided by the Ministry of Finance, which shows the growth in the sale of two-wheelers falling into negative territory. However, this is only a sign of the slowing economy as people are left with less disposable income to spend on goods. Once investment revives, the money will flow through the system and consumption will pick up. So, the Budget needs to focus on reviving investment and the obvious tool of boosting public investment is also not available as the fiscal deficit is well above its target already. Moreover, history shows that governments have a tendency of reducing expenditure post-elections. And the target to revive investment should be to allay the prevailing risk aversion of banks. One way is to use the surplus RBI capital for bank recapitalisation. There will be more clarity on this front once the Bimal Jalan Committee submits its report later this month. An additional solution, which is also more structural in nature, would be to implement the recommendation of the PJ Nayak Committee to set up a Bank Investment Company as the holding company for various state-owned banks. This would create a certain autonomy in operations of public banks without government interference and improve their lending behaviour. The second issue of job crisis is a long-standing problem for India and cannot be resolved in a Budget or two. The Budget can only provide a fiscal stimulus package like the one India saw implemented in 2009 as a response to the financial crisis. But a more long-term redressing of the problem is crucial as I’ve argued through these columns before. Improving the productivity of India’s labour through education and skilling is indispensable. Beyond that, a data-based approach towards policymaking can also prove helpful here. Employment elasticity, a measure of how employment varies with economic output, can be measured for the economy and each sector within it. Targeting investment within sectors with the highest employment elasticity can maximise the job-creating capacity of the economy. India is in dire need of such novel ways to resolve its most challenging facets of the economy. (Amit Kapoor is chair, Institute for Competitiveness, India. Manisha Kapoor, a senior researcher at Institute has contributed to the piece. Views expressed are strictly personal)
New Delhi: The Centre will initiate work on the infrastructure development of Sultanpur Lodhi town as proposed by the Punjab government at the earliest, Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri assured Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday. The Chief Minister had called on Puri, the Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs, here to press for early approval for the Rs 321 crore infrastructure development projects proposed by the state government for Sultanpur Lodhi town. Also Read – Modi formed OBC commission which earlier govts didn’t do: Shah The town holds historical significance due to its association with Guru Nanak Dev, whose 550th Prakash Purb is being celebrated this year. Puri said he had already instructed the department to immediately vet the proposals and secure the necessary approvals to start work on priority, an official spokesperson told IANS after the meeting. To the Chief Minister’s request for inclusion of the three Municipal Corporation towns of Patiala, Bathinda and SAS Nagar in the Smart Cities Project being assisted by the Central government on a sharing basis, Puri assured to consider the same as and when the project is expanded to cover new cities. Also Read – Prohibitory orders lifted from Mumbai’s stir-hit Aarey Colony The Union Minister said he was committed to helping Punjab in any way he could and would look into the demands of the state. He later told mediapersons that he would ensure maximum flights from Punjab to cater to the demand for global travel. The Chief Minister said, in response to media queries after the meeting, that the Union Minister had promised to look into the state’s demands related to urban development and aviation. Earlier, during the meeting, Amarinder Singh said Patiala, besides being an old heritage city, had also been declared a Counter-Magnet Town to the national capital region (NCR) by the NCR Planning Board. Strengthening infrastructure in all the Counter-Magnet Towns would also help in reducing migration to Delhi, he pointed out. The Chief Minister also urged Puri to approve early clearance for a NCR Planning Board loan for the Patiala Nadi Hydrology project, for which the state government would soon submit a formal proposal. Bathinda, he said, was a fast growing and principal town in southern Punjab while SAS Nagar (Mohali) was a satellite town of Chandigarh with the highest growth potential in Punjab. To strengthen the state’s global connectivity, the Chief Minister sought inclusion of Chandigarh under the Open Skies Policy for Asean countries, while asking for an urgent review of the current policy of bilateral spots to facilitate more international flights out of Chandigarh, especially to the Gulf countries and Turkey, thereby enabling greater connectivity with the rest of the world. The Chief Minister also asked the Union Minister to consider the proposal to name Adampur Airport as Jalandhar Airport for easy booking of flights by tourists and NRIs. On the occasion, Puri presented his book “Delusional Politics” to the Chief Minister.
A group of farmers in Gujarat’s Bhavnagar, who have long been opposing limestone mining in the district, recently wrote to a court-appointed panel highlighting how the proposed project would undermine the ecology apart from endangering livelihoods. Farmers sought that the committee, appointed by the Gujarat High Court, recommend that all mining on agricultural lands of Mahuva and Talaja talukas of the district be stopped with immediate effect. They also sought that the panel advises the court to cancel the mining permission and lease. Also Read – A special kind of bond”The issue is not of livelihoods alone but of the loss of the entire ecosystem, water bodies, biodiversity and the endangered and protected lion population in the area,” said Sagar Rabari, president of Khedut Ekta Manch Gujarat, a farmers’ platform. The farmers wanted the committee to advise concerned departments to ensure that before sanctioning of any land for non-agriculture use, prior informed consent of affected people be made mandatory—not only from Gram Panchayat but Gram Sabhas as well. They called for a mandatory livelihood loss survey too. Also Read – Insider threat managementRabari submitted a letter to committee members in late June on behalf of several organisations opposed to leasing out of land to a cement company for mining limestone for 50 years. Farmers of around 13 villages have kept the company out of the land in question. After some violence on January 2, 2019, farmers approached the high court seeking action against the police for alleged custodial torture of agitators including women and children. The court in May reportedly transferred the case to the state Criminal Investigation Department after preliminary judicial inquiry findings pointed to police atrocity. It then formed a three-member committee to find out the repercussions of a mining lease in agricultural lands. It also has to report on police atrocities in three months to the court in Bhavnagar. The farmers listed several reasons for their stand: Pointing towards the specific impacts of limestone mining in 1,300 hectares over the 13 villages of Talaja (Jhanjmer, Talli, Methala, Madhuvan, Reliya, Gadhula, Bambhor, Nava Rajpara, Juna Rajpara) and Mahuva (Nicha Kotda, Uncha Kotda, Dayal, Kalsaar) talukas, they claim 98 per cent of the acquisition was of private agricultural land. Limestone, they said, was responsible for the availability of sweet water. Referring to Mahuva—referred to as Kashmir of Saurashtra—they said its coconut plantations and Jamadar mangoes would face extinction. They also requested the committee to refer to scientific data and studies on salinity ingress in the area in the last four decades and also probable impact on fertility. They sought an invitation to the forest department officers to gauge the number of lions, vulture and migratory birds in the region and the potential impact of mining on biodiversity. They pointed out that mining would entail excavation, blasting, drilling and manual shattering of rocks, loading, and transportation, etc. This would lead to disbursement of dust on fields, water bodies and standing crops, which could eventually lead to desertification and stunting of crops like cotton, onion, garlic, jowar, millet, and vegetables. Water sources would also be polluted. A check dam built on Bagad river by the people of Methala and Kotada to check salinity ingress would also be endangered. The letter underscored that the local population was dependent mainly on agriculture. Villagers were earlier compelled to migrate in search of work post-Diwali in the absence of permanent irrigation. The children suffered academically and the migrants had to live in precarious conditions in the Ankleshwar-Vapi industrial area. “The check dam assured a regular source of irrigation, greatly raised the water table and improved the quality of water only in one monsoon,” the letter pointed out. Bhavnagar district, particularly the two talukas, are known for their onion and garlic. Based on them, around 1,102 dehydration plants function there, each employing 200-250 people, for around 100 days every year. Dehydrated onions and garlic are exported to Russia, the Middle East, Germany, France, and the USA. There are also around 30 cotton ginning mills in the talukas, providing seasonal employment to 2,500-3,000 people. “If the fertile agriculture land in the area is mined and polluted, not only the entire agro-industry but the farmers, the farm workers, the cattle-rearers and the workers working in agro-industries would lose their employment and will be forced to migrate elsewhere thus falling into poverty and vulnerability,” the letter claimed. The letter inferred to the Report on Development of Coastal Areas Affected by Salinity (November 1981) by the Planning Commission. The report dwelt on the problem of salinity ingress in coastal Saurashtra right from the 1950s. It also emphasised on findings and recommendations of a 1976 high-level committee. “We are awaiting what the committee submits to the court. Thereafter, we will chalk out our agitational programme. We will not give up the fight,” Rabari told DTE. Gujarat might just see another battle around ecology and livelihood. (The views expressed are those of DTE)
Lucknow: With the Centre on Tuesday declaring the Uttar Pradesh government’s move to include 17 OBC communities into the scheduled castes list beyond the state’s power, the state opposition parties accused the Adityanath government of trying to mislead people.The state government had on June 24 directed district adminstration to issue SC certificates to 17 OBCs – Kashyap, Rajbhar, Dhivar, Bind, Kumhar, Kahar, Kewat, Nishad, Bhar, Mallah, Prajapati, Dhimar, Batham, Turha, Godia, Manjhi and Machua. Also Read – How a psychopath killer hid behind the mask of a devout laity!Responding to a Zero Hour mention by BSP member Satish Chandra Misra in Rajya Sabha, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot Tuesday said shifting one caste to another category by the Uttar Pradesh government was “not proper” and only the Parliament has the power to do so. Maintaining that the UP government move was not in accordance with the Constitution, Gehlot said if the state government wants to go ahead with its proposal, it should follow the procedure and send a proposal to the Centre. Also Read – Encounter under way in Pulwama, militant killedIn Uttar Pradesh, the BSP, which has been in the forefront of opposing the state government move, said the Adityanath government’s order was against the spirit of the Constitution and the Centre has cleared the misunderstanding over the issue. “It was an unconstitutional order and a fraud with these castes as this would have left members of these castes deprived of benefits even under the OBC category,” a senior BSP leader said on condition on anonymity. “Even the President (of India) does not have the power to tinker, alter or make changes (in the list),” BSP MP, Satish Chandra Misra told the Rajya Sabha earlier in the day.
New Delhi:The Supreme Court sought the Maharashtra government’s response on Friday on pleas challenging a Bombay High Court order that upheld the grant of reservations to the Maratha community in education and jobs. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi did not stay the Bombay High Court court order upholding the constitutional validity of the Maratha quota law, but made it clear that the aspect allowing the reservation for Marathas with a retrospective effect from 2014 would not be made operational. The bench was hearing two appeals, including one filed by J Laxman Rao Patil challenging the high court order that upheld the constitutional validity of the quota for the Maratha community in education and government jobs in Maharashtra.
Kolkata: Concerned over the dearth of rainfall in the districts of South Bengal, the state Agriculture department is working on alternative agricultural methods to ensure that the farmers can carry out cultivation without much difficulty.The preparation for sowing of Kharif crops kick off during June and by the middle of August, the process gets over. But the monsoon has been very feeble till date and as a result, the preparation of sowing could not be started yet. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari Puja”Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is concerned about the abnormal weather conditions and has given us necessary directions to ensure that the farmers are not inconvenienced in pursuing agriculture. She had instructed the department to adopt alternative agriculture methods, so that crops can be sown even if there is scanty rainfall. We are pinning hopes that the rain gods will smile at least in the last few days of this month. If there is reasonable amount of rain even during this period, we will be able to start preparations for Kharif sowing and by August it can be done,” said Asish Banerjee, state Agriculture minister. Also Read – Bengal civic volunteer dies in road mishap on national highwayThe average deficiency of rainfall in the state till date is 27 percent, courtesy of heavy rainfall in most of the districts of North Bengal. But in South Bengal, the percentage is as high as 60. As per figures of the department, the deficiency in rainfall is 62 percent in East and West Burdwan, 58 percent in North 24-Parganas, 55 percent in Nadia and 50 percent in East Midnapore. In districts like Birbhum, Bankura, Murshidabad, Purulia, South 24-Parganas and Howrah, the scarcity of rainfall is over 40 percent. The low amount of rainfall has led to minimum storage of water in the dams, which is also an area of concern for the state government. The minister said that the department is working on procedures of river lift irrigation and usage of submersible pumps at a number of places to facilitate sowing of Kharif crops. “We have already introduced the Bangla Krishi Sech Yojana to extend support to farmers in setting up micro-irrigation facilities that will ensure cultivation using less amounts of water. The technological intervention ensures that cultivation of crops, mainly fruits and vegetables, can be done with minimum water. We are also planning to extend this scheme to the maximum extent,” an official in the state Agriculture department said. The department has started campaigning among the farmers to create awareness on conservation of water and at the same time, urging them not to extract groundwater in an indiscriminate manner. The move comes in the wake of Chief Minister Mamata Banejee laying special emphasis on the ‘Jal Dharo Jal Bharo’ project for conservation of water.
Los Angeles: Actor Samantha Morton has said she has no “regrets” of working with embattled filmmaker Woody Allen. Before she became famous with films such as Lynne Ramsay’s “Morvern Callar” and Steven Spielberg’s “Minority Report”, Morton featured in Allen’s 1999 comedy “Sweet and Lowdown” alongside the likes of Uma Thurman and Anthony LaPaglia. The film earned her a nomination for Best Supporting Actress at the 72nd Academy Awards. In an interview with Vanity Fair, the 42-year-old British actor said working with Allen changed her life. Also Read – I have personal ambitions now: Priyanka “I don’t have any regrets. I’m terribly sorry for the situation that is publicly known. It’s heartbreaking. I was sexually abused. Some of the people that hurt me can’t be brought to justice for complications of time. I have full sympathy for anybody who says that happens to them, and it needs to be taken incredibly seriously,” Morton said. “But if I look back at the situation that I was in, where I was working for a director who was kind, funny, and wonderful to work with. It changed my life. And I’m forever grateful for that. I can’t now go back (and change anything)” she added. There is a renewed focus on the filmmaker in the aftermath of #MeToo movement over his daughter Dylan Farrow’s allegations of sexual abuse against him, which he has repeatedly denied.