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Screaming Mind, Stapled Mouth : Mental Health and its Stigmatisation

Screaming Mind, Stapled Mouth : Mental Health and its Stigmatisation

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Interviewer:

Ms. Namrata Chandorkar

Research Associate,

IDEA

In order to clear the hush around mental illness and related issues, IDEA interviewed Mr. Shiv Kumar, a renowned psychologist, who speaks of the stigma around mental health issues. In talks with Mr. Kumar, he explains how a harmful narrative is created in society, propagated and how its repercussions deny many mentally ill individuals the treatment they deserve.

Profile of the Interviewee:

Mr. Shiv Kumar academically holds several professional qualifications and is
currently working as a Counsellor with the National Career Service (Ministry
of Labour & Employment) Govt. of India New Delhi. He also holds expertise as
a Psychological Counsellor, a Clinical Psychotherapist and is qualified to conduct Psychometric assessments, and formulate strategies as to how to restructure the pattern of irrational thinking of emotionally distressed, unpleasant and dysfunctional persons. He has a rich experience of more than 30 years in related sectors. Mr. Kumar works as a Professional Counsellor for IDEA. IDEA offers a wide range of services, one of them being, academic counselling. Mr. Kumar plays a vital role in our scientific process of
counselling students. In addition, he guides IDEA’s Core Team’s perspective in other research interventions. According to Mr. Kumar, psychology is an essential aspect of life, for individuals of all streams and stature. To help the society with his expertise, he engages with educational institutions to guide the students of today in aspects of team building, motivation, and research.

Theme of the Interview:


Today, mental health issues are no longer a one in a hundred case. Due to the drastic changes in lifestyle, higher level of peer pressure, hectic lifestyle, people today experience lower levels of good mental health. And the problem is not limited to only working people or adults in general. Today, children, as young as adolescents struggle with mental and emotional health. To add to the problem, there is an immense cloud of taboo around the topic of mental health. People tend not to disclose having ill-mental health, and often suffer in silence, presumably due to the fear of judgment. The issue goes unaddressed for years and may lead to unfortunate cases of self-harm or even suicide. Mr. Shiv Kumar, as a recognised psychologist, is here with us today to talk about this issue.

Questions: 

What constitutes mental health? 

Mental health is an internal equilibrium or dynamic state which includes the emotional, psychological and social well-being wherein every individual identifies his or her own potential and limitations, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively & fruitfully, and is able to make contribution to her or his community. Basically, the emotional and psychological health of oneself is our mental health. Just like our physical health, which relates to our body, mental health refers to our mind. How do people recognise their ill-mental health? Mental health, like physical health, does not show any outward signs. So when we break our leg, we know our physical health is not doing good because we can see the signs of illness. But diagnosing or recognising ill mental health is often trickier than we might think. But generally, there are signs that we can recognise to ascertain the state of our mental health. Observing and examining changes in our behaviour, pattern of thinking and attitude towards others are some signs and symptoms we might be at risk of ill mental health.

Such signs may be:

  • Being withdrawn or lost in thought,
  • Losing their sense of humour,
  • Being erratic, unusually agitated, tearful, or, conversely, emotionless,
  • Changes in appetite, weight or sleep hygiene patterns,
  • Increased alcohol consumption.


Which are the major mental health issues students struggle with today and
why?

Mental health issues are caused by a number of factors that affect human
development at the prenatal, natal, and postnatal stages of life. The effects can be temporary or long lasting. In general, the causes are considered to be a
variety of Genetic predisposition, Environmental factors, Childhood abuse &
trauma or biopsychosocial factors, like academic grades, or social media. Even social conditions contribute to poor mental health, such as experiencing societal stigma & discrimination, social isolation, socio-economic conditions poverty & debt, bereavement.


As we all know, adolescent children also face many stress-inducing situations in life. Society has evolved and life is not as simple as it was for the older generations. There is immense pressure of expectations from families, teachers, peers and society in general. Nowadays, right from a young age, children are expected to make mature decisions pertaining to education, career, life. Teenage dating is also a normalised enough concept in society. The issue of alcohol and drug abuse is also known in the student community. All these issues, although not openly addressed by the Indian society, are prevalent and culminate into inducing stress and depression in children of tender age. 

 

The age of the internet also has a causative effect on the poor mental health of school and college students. The endeavour to present the perfect life on

social media leads students to experience anxiety and mental stress. The
emphasis on a “perfectness,” of life, of body and skin, has become a major
reason for children experiencing anxiety and stress.

This was about the social instigations, In medical terms, the major mental
health issues that students of today suffer from are depression , anxiety &
mood disturbances, addiction & substance abuse, suicidal behavior, eating
disorders like bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating, stress, trauma, ADHD &
autism.

 

What is the treatment for poor mental health?

 

Mental health treatment depends on the type of mental illness an individual
person is experiencing. Treatment is also based on severity and chronic
conditions. There are some strategies of treatments, mostly in many cases
successful combinations are of Therapeutic Psychiatric medications include
are (Antidepressants, Antipsychotic, Anti-Anxiety, Mood stabilisers) along with Psychotherapies interventions Such as (Behavioural therapy, cognitive
therapy, Interpersonal therapy, Psychoanalysis, Psychodynamic Psychotherapy and Supportive psychotherapy.


One can access such treatment from a therapist, who is a qualified psychologist. There are many such doctors who operate from government and private hospitals or run independent clinics. Such information is available on the internet.

 

Is treatment for poor mental health accessible in India?

 

There has been an attempt to fix the cyclic link between mental health and
poverty in India.


The government, doctors and businesses have taken action which aims to increase treatment and guarantees more rights to persons with mental illnesses. In 2016, the Indian parliament passed the Mental Health Care Act, 2017. This legislation provides for State Health Care Facilities, claiming that anyone with mental illness in India has the right to good quality, affordable health care. Individuals with mental health now have a guarantee of informed consent, the power to make decisions, the right to live in a community and the right to confidentiality. Anyone who violates or infringes on the right of those with mental illnesses is punishable by law. Hence, support of primary health care facilities, district level mental health care teams, more affordable care and expanded services of doctors in rural areas drawing significant links between mental health and poverty.


But despite such actions by the government, awareness pertaining to mental
illness is low in the rural sections of India. Uneducated individuals are not capable of recognising the state of their own mental health because they do not understand the concept of mental health itself. They are not aware of the fact that mental health is a scientifically accepted issue. There is a notion that merely being sad or low is okay and fixable by oneself. But such is not always the case, and patients have to rely on doctors and medicine.


The Constitution of India envisages the establishment of a new social order and it directs the States to record improvement in public health as one of the primary duties and aims at securing HEALTH FOR ALL. As we all might know, “health” is a subject in the State List but “mental health” is in the Concurrent List in the Indian constitution. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is the apex executive organisation dealing with health and family welfare issues in the country. There have been many Government schemes for the promotion of mental health. In 1982, the Government of India launched the National Mental health programme (NMHP) for the treatment of mentally ill individuals. Later on, District mental health was added in the year 1996.


There are many Helpline services, suicide prevention helplines like Sneha (Chennai), Aasra (Navi Mumbai), Samaritan Sahara (Kolkata) and Aasha in Chandigarh.


Does the Indian society accept discussion on mental health?


Indian society in general has stereotyped views about mental health and how it affects people in the community. Many people believe that people with
mental ill health are violent and dangerous, but the truth is patients are more
at risk of being attacked or harming themselves than harming others.


Ignorance and social stigma tends to make people think that poor mental health occurs due to black magic. Often people seek treatment from local healers as well as local temple priests.


Mental illnesses are considered equivalent to craziness. Which is why families do not wish to disclose that someone is mentally ill. Indian households also do not engage in talks on sex education, peer pressure, ragging, bullying, social media presence of children, which is why all students handle the stress of such issues alone. It is primarily because of this communication gap, that parents do not understand their children’s mental health. It is a dual error effect. Indian society, in the garb of culture and traditions have maintained a communication gap with their children all while harmfully dictating their children’s lives without addressing the essential issues, and this has resulted in an increase in poor mental health of children/students.


Indian society has a different take on mental health. The stigma around mental health illness is fuelled by many misconceptions about mental health popularly held to be true. Hence removing these myths is the first step towards reducing the stigma and discrimination and facilitating better access to mental health care.


There are many wrongful considerations like,


  1. Does seeing a psychologist mean that I am crazy?
  2. Mental illnesses are not real illnesses.
  3. Children don’t experience mental health problems.
  4. Mental illnesses are caused by personal weakness.
  5. People with Mental health problems are violent and unpredictable.
  6. Mental illnesses are lifelong / never recover from it.
  7. Mental illnesses can be treated by prayers, witchcraft , magical rituals and
    positive thoughts.
  8. There is nothing that can be done to someone with mental health
    problems.


Therefore, the ill-effects of this stigma in the Indian society due to ignorance
of mental health leads to aggravation of mental illness symptoms like stress and anxiety. There are many negative influences due to lack of coordination and understanding amongst the parents and children regarding mental health.


Do your patients accept their own mental illnesses openly?


As I have mentioned before, the stigma in society disallows patients to accept
their mental illnesses openly. Such individuals are prone to ridicule, social judgment and this often escalates the stress in patients. Thus, people choose to keep the hush around the matter of mental health intact. Many times, this stigma prevents patients from getting the support and help they need. Because to get treatment, one has to acknowledge the mental disorder. And the same is difficult in this society.


What is your advice to your student audience today?


Mental illness is a common problem, in fact 1 in 5 people will experience some sort of mental illness in their lifetime.


So, do not be afraid to reach out for help. Your family doctor is a good place to start. Doctors are obligated to maintain professional privilege, which means that they cannot disclose any of your details to anyone. Feel free to trust your doctor. Also, talk about the cause. Amongst your friends and peers. Initiate healthy discussion that aims at destigmatising the issue. Communicate with your elders also. Parents and teachers. Educate them also. Generational gaps often result in such stigmas. It is up to the youth of today to lead the charge and create change.


If someone’s family or society is not supportive of treatment, what can that person do?


There are many free clinics that offer mental health therapy. You may approach any such institution. Many NGOs and organisations also operate in this field, and can get you the help you need. The key lies in acknowledging the problem. You will face stigma but it is important not to bow down to it. Remember, for every person who stigmatises mental health issues, there is an advocate who talks about it openly. So, you are not alone.


And the same works the other way around as well. If you know someone who is going through a hard time, it is important to respond sensitively and to aid them in getting a medical diagnosis. There are a number of ways to encourage and help a friend, relative or colleague to talk openly about mental illness. It is important to provide an open and non-judgemental space with no distractions, build up a rapport and a relationship of trust to speak out courageously. Make sure you do not concoct assumptions or jump on your own diagnosis or solutions. Ask open-ended questions, talk about well-being with unconditional support, listen carefully and understand and paraphrase their concern, provide professional support and set boundaries and limits.


How can the education system of India aid in creating awareness about mental health?


Schools and colleges are microcosms of the world around us. Which is why it
is imperative to sensitise students right from a tender age. Normalising discussion and discourse about mental health at the school level will create a generation of people who will not stigmatise such an important issue. There must be a good quantity of discussion between educators and students on the issue. Students must be exposed to case studies, relevant laws and policies. Relevant seminars and talk shows can be organised for students to better understand this issue.


From including mental health narratives in the academic curriculum and removing discrimination and allowing early detection to empowering stakeholders for early detection and simple interventions, the educational system yields myriad opportunities for enhancing mental health awareness. An effective paradigm of mental health awareness includes combating stigma, enhancing prevention, ensuring early recognition and also stimulating simple and practical interventions within the community. Regularly organising free mental health screening, sharing information locally, spreading messages of hope to those in need, taking time for your own mental health, is the key to being a mental health champion.


But mere discussion is not enough. In practice, schools and colleges must tend to the mental health needs of their students. There must be a system of addressing the mental health of the students. Engaging a counsellor in every school and sensitising children about visiting the counsellor in times of need is also a step worth taking. A procedure for therapy must be established in every school where the privacy of the student is intact. Relationships of trust must be built between teachers and students. Often teachers complain to the parents of the child when the child confides in the teacher. Such only erodes
the students’ confidence. Instead the school should sensitise and guide the parents as well when a child is showing symptoms of mental illness. At college level, every institute must create a centre for mental health that advocates the positive discussion of mental illness.

A Student’s Manual to Being a Campus Ambassador

A Student's Manual to Being a Campus Ambassador

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Ms. Atifa Naaz, Research Associate, IDEA, is in charge of coordinating IDEA’s Campus Ambassador Programme. She has penned down her thoughts in this blog where she elaborates on how a Campus Ambassador Programme helps individuals gain valuable skills (in addition to boosting your CV!)

Let us find out what Ms. Atifa has to say:


What is a Campus Ambassador Program?

A Campus Ambassador Program is a process of hiring representatives for any organisation or company from college campuses aiming at a certain campaign or promotion. The objective behind Campus Ambassador Programmes is to establish the presence of a brand among the student community by creating awareness about the vision, mission, services and products of the organisation or the Organising campaign. Thus, campus ambassadors are the messengers of an organisation in their respective colleges, they work upon strengthening the cognisance of an organisation among the student community. Giving consideration to the necessity for active participation in extracurricular activities, it has become indispensable for students to switch gears between different activities happening on their college campuses. It is, thus, crucial for students to create relationships with companies or organisations on deck for career opportunities. And what better way to learn the ropes than being a Campus Ambassador.

 

How does being a Campus Ambassador benefit a student?

A Campus Ambassador Programme’s mechanism is beneficial for both the Student and the Organisation. Working as a committed Campus Ambassador can open up a lot of opportunities for students to acquire a new set of skills as well as improve upon the skills they already possess. Above all, being a Campus Ambassador gives you a face and a voice different from the crowd and gets you direct reach into the internal connections of a company, which ultimately develops your professional network.

 

While working as a Campus Ambassador, students get various opportunities to develop manifold skills, including social media marketing, communication skills, team building skills, leadership skills, presentation skills, content marketing, organising workshops. The most interesting part is students can earn goodies, cash incentives, gift vouchers, and other amazing offers from the organisation, in addition to an official certificate.

 

What are the responsibilities of a Campus Ambassador?

After being appointed as a campus ambassador, the candidate has to actively work for the organisation as per their requirements and has to regularly present, before the organisation, a report of their progress. The activities which could be undertaken as a Campus Ambassador includes:

1. Creating awareness about the products, services and other related information pertaining to a organisation through:

a. Social media marketing,

b. Word of mouth publicity,

c. Distributing pamphlets, posters, flyers, and other printed material.

2. Organising events like workshops/seminars to create a campaign for any specific purpose of the organisation or to search for candidates for any required assignment of the organisation.

3. Providing feedback to the organisation and sharing innovative ideas from the college community with the organisation for better implementation of plans.

 

How is being a Campus Ambassador different from an internship?

Internships are temporary employment agreements between a student and an organisation that requires different work conditions i.e. full-time, part-time or remotely working. In most cases, interns are provided with an elementary training to get their hands on the task assigned to them and build familiarity with the organisation’s work environment and other necessary elements of the organisation. Internships could be paid or unpaid depending upon the norms and discretion of the organisation. On the contrary, campus ambassador assignments are completely restricted to remote operations which allows students to make time for other commitments on their plate. Being a campus ambassador gives you the recognition in any concerned organisation and aids you in building an influential image of yourself on your college campus. 

 

Why is IDEA’s Campus Ambassador Programme useful?

Ms. Atifa says, “As Campus Ambassadors for IDEA, students get to learn social media marketing and gain valuable sales experience. Since this job requires communication skills, campus ambassadors get to understand how to present themselves and boost their relationship building skills. Achieving such assets outweigh the mere award of a certificate. 

 

Being a part of IDEA’s Campus Ambassador Programme is an investment in oneself. By performing well in our Programme, our Ambassadors are eligible to be involved in the services we offer, like academic counselling. This way, Campus Ambassadors gain a double benefit.”

Case Analysis: Satish v. State of Maharashtra

Case Analysis: Satish v. State of Maharashtra

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Intent of Legislation > Strict Interpretation of Statute

 

Just a week ago, in yet another heartbreaking incident of child molestation, the judgment of the Bombay High Court (Nagpur Bench) has stirred a discussion over the interpretation of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (hereinafter referred to as the “POCSO Act”).

 

The factual matrix of the incident pertains to sexual assault as defined by the POCSO Act in Section 7. The undisputed facts of the concerned case are, the Accused, aged 39, isolated the Prosecutrix, aged 12, in a room, and pressed her breast while attempting to remove her salwar. When she yelled, he locked her in the room and walked away. Shortly after, her mother arrived who found her crying in the locked room. The Prosecutrix narrated the whole incident to her mother, upon which the mother filed an FIR against the Accused. 

 

The Accused was charged with offences punishable under Section 309, 354, 361, and 342 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hereinafter referred to as the “IPC”) and Section 8 of the POCSO Act.

 

The case was heard by the Special Court, as established by Section 28 of the POCSO Act. The Court, in the particular case, held the Accused guilty of, amongst other offences, sexual assault as defined under Section 7 of the POCSO Act. The Accused appealed his case before the Bombay High Court (Nagpur Bench). The Single Judge overturned the judgment of the Special Court, and acquitted the Accused under the POCSO Act. This is where the question of interpretation of statute arises. Justice Ganediwala, who constituted the coram of this case, gave the following reasoning for her judgment:

 

1. The single question of consideration was whether “pressing of the breast” and “attempt to remove salwar” falls within the definition of “sexual assault” under POCSO Act. To constitute an offence under Section 7 of the POCSO Act, the following have to be established:

 

a. Touching of the vagina, penis, anus, or breast of the child

b. Presence of sexual intent

 

In this particular case, both these ingredients are satisfied by the factual scenario. Despite this, the Court held that since there was no evidence suggesting that the Accused tried to remove the top garment of the child, hence the offence of “sexual assault” is not established. The Court further held that since this offence is punishable with a higher quantum of imprisonment, “stricter proof of serious allegations” is required. 

 

2. The Court compared the essence of the offences punishable under Section 354 of the IPC with Section 8 of the POCSO Act, and determined that the Accused is guilty under only section 348 of the IPC (reproduced hereunder). 

 

“Section 7 (POCSO Act). Whoever, with sexual intent touches the vagina, penis, anus or breast of the child or makes the child touch the vagina, penis, anus or breast of such person or any other person, or does any other act with sexual intent which involves physical contact without penetration is said to commit sexual assault.”

 

“Section 354 (IPC). Assault or criminal force on a woman with intent to outrage her modesty. – Whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any woman, with the intention to outrage her modesty, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than one year but which may extend to five years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

 

The Court held that it is a basic principle of criminal jurisprudence that the punishment for an offence shall be proportionate to the seriousness of the crime. Section 354 of the IPC, which makes assaulting a woman an offence, is punishable with a sentence of minimum 1 year, and Section 8 of the POCSO Act prescribes a minimum sentence of 3 years. The Court interpreted this comparison to mean that sexual assault on a child, should be of such a degree, that it is graver than using criminal force on a woman. By this rationale, the (mere) pressing of a 12 year old’s breast without skin-to-skin contact, does not pass the bar of gravity set by Section 7 of the POCSO Act.

 

Critical Analysis of the Interpretation

 

While on any other day, this comparative analysis would have garnered much applause, it fails to qualify for any credit in the given case. While it is true that interpretation of statute requires us to approximate the intent of the legislature from the designated punishment to any offence, the same is only logical when the offences are of a similar genre. The POCSO Act was enacted to protect children from sexual assault and sexual harrasment. Its preamble testifies to the same. Its conception was necessitated after it was realised that the usual mechanism of the IPC and the Criminal Procedure Code lacked the intensity of action required to prevent the horrific crime of child abuse. Under the POCSO Act, operation of procedural law also differs. As per Section 29 of the Act, the burden of proof shifts to the accused, as opposed to the general rule of burden of proof, which lies on the defence to prove the accused’s culpability. An enactment of such kind suggests that the law is endeavouring to protect children from sexual offences.

 

Keeping all these factors in mind, Section 7 of the POCSO Act must be interpreted in consonance with the intent of the legislature. To compare a provision of the IPC with that of the POCSO is not only an unfair comparison, but it is an interpretation that shall undermine the very existence of any special legislation. Children, as victims, suffer psychological and physical trauma of a much different level than as adults. They have special needs and one cannot oversee the fact that the law sets, for minors (individuals below the age of 18), different rights and liabilities. Thus, giving Section 7 such a restricted interpretation defeats the purpose of the Act.

 

Every judgement has an effect that goes way beyond its actual case. As a judicial precedent, this judgment translates into stating that as long as the clothes of a child are on, to violate that child’s dignity is not sexual assault. The ramifications of such an interpretation are devastating and prone to instigate crime rather than halt it. 

 

Thankfully, the Supreme Court, on the 27th of January, 2021, has stayed the said order of the Bombay High Court. The issue is now under the consideration of the Apex Court.

MeraBills: A Step towards Financial Inclusion

MeraBills: A Step towards Financial Inclusion

Recently, Innovations in Development and Empowerment Alternatives (IDEA) undertook consultancy on a financial literacy initiative named “MeraBills.” In conversation with Ms. Narayani Gupta, Programme Officer, IDEA, let us understand what this initiative was all about.

 

What is “MeraBills?” What is its inspiration? Its vision?

 

Imagine a situation where a small grocery shop owner is experiencing difficulties in maintaining his financial records in terms of salaries, costs, small debts or his income. Such small businesses see a hoard of small transactions on a daily basis and keeping a reliable track of the same may turn out to be a nightmare.

 

“MeraBills” is a free android application that helps business owners run their enterprises more efficiently in terms of finance. The App consists of a suite of carefully curated, basic (but crucial) functionalities in aspects of accounting, reporting, insights, and more.

 

The vision of the initiative is, “MeraBills hopes to democratize business efficiency software and make its benefits available to everyone.”

 

It aims at enabling micro and small entrepreneurs to efficiently run their businesses, to access digital opportunities and be at par with the age of the internet, which is our future.

 

Who started MeraBills?

 

MeraBills has been developed by a Hyderabad based company named Peabody Soft LLP MeraBills development commenced in April 2019, (when Peabody was incorporated) and the Minimum Viable Product was released on the Google Play Store in June 2020.

 

What are the unique features of MeraBills?

 

MeraBills is a simple, easy-to-use app that helps small-business owners run their businesses more efficiently. Growing your business in today’s competitive environment requires timely information – what your biggest expenses are, are your sales increasing month-on-month, are you running low on money, etc. Seeing who owes you money (udhaar khata) is important, but it is not enough – MeraBills gives you all the information you need to maximize profits and avoid costly mistakes.

 

In addition, a user can invite customers, employees, owners, investors, accountants, etc. to be part of their business. Payments can be made and received online. Invoices may be sent by SMS and WhatsApp.

 

Financial reports can be filtered, viewed, shared and printed. There is automatic backup to the cloud. 

 

Who does MeraBills cater to?

 

For micro and small entrepreneurs, there are many difficult questions that cannot easily be answered by account books. These are called business metrics and most medium to large companies have something called ERP or Enterprise Resource Planning to help them make decisions like these. The other major problem that micro entrepreneurs face is while raising money to grow and expand their businesses. Even if they are doing well, it is extremely difficult to raise a loan from the formal financial system. 

 

Both these issues of managing your business and keeping accounts accurately can be resolved with the use of technology. Not the kind of accounting software that is complicated, or expensive to use, like Tally, or QuickBooks, which many entrepreneurs try but ultimately hand over the task to an accountant. What is rather needed is an easy to use, cutting edge technology product that allows small business owners to keep track of their businesses, and create a digital footprint of their profits and losses, cash flow, information pertaining to debtors or creditors, and the like. MeraBills does all this and more for its users. 

 

How did IDEA engage with the Project? What services did IDEA provide?

 

IDEA was recommended to Peabody Soft LLP by very eminent professionals.

 

To answer how IDEA has engaged with the Project till date, we are extending our support in terms of Business Development, interaction with various concerned government departments, agencies, companies, and drafting of Project Proposals.

 

How many people use MeraBills as of today?

 

Over 2000 micro entrepreneurs are using the MeraBills app as of today. These entrepreneurs are extremely satisfied with all that the App has to offer. With the much needed ease and convenience, in just one click, the user can get the information pertaining to pending payments of customers, vendors, etc. This app has loads of in app features that make it unique to other apps in the same market. If micro entrepreneurs want to receive a loan from the banks, a profit and loss sheet can be easily generated through the App.

 

Where can we find the MeraBills app? How does one get to understand its usage?

 

The MeraBills app is available on Google Play Store. It’s usage is free of cost.

 

To know more about the app, visit https://merabills.com/

 

To understand what the app is about, watch MeraBills introductory video linked on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLbBTAoR9hY

 

To understand the working of the app, visit:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1D991wp8EwFWioYxHYS-fg/videos

 

The link above has all the videos MeraBills has created to enable a user to understand the functionalities of the App. Training videos are available in English, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Telugu and Assamese (more languages will be added soon).

What does IDEA have to say about this Initiative?

"In our firm belief, this App forwards financial literacy amongst the backbone of this economy, that is the MSME sector. It is a highly innovative project that addresses the very basic need of any micro or small entrepreneur in maintaining books of accounts and related financial data. It is an extremely cost effective tool which can go a long way in achieving financial inclusion and gender empowerment."

India’s Covid Vaccination Response

India's Covid Vaccination Response

“When an apple a day could not keep the doctor away”

 

Four days ago, dispersion of the much awaited vaccination for the novel coronavirus commenced. There are two vaccines available in the market by two separate companies, namely the “Covaxin” manufactured by Bharat Biotech International Ltd., and the “Covishield,” licensed from the Oxford University and AstraZeneca, and locally manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.


The inoculation drive started in phases, first being available to three crore front-line workers. These include health sector workers, safai karamcharis and the Army, to name a few. This first phase of vaccines is being delivered free of cost. As of today, almost 6 lakh people have been delivered with the vaccine. The phase is currently ongoing.


This mass vaccination drive is a commendable feat for a country that took a huge hit in 2020, when the virus initially hit us. The Indian Government, in coordination with International Organisations like the United Nations, has committed to making these vaccines available to the non-essential workers and community members as and when production catches up.


The Indian Ministry for External Affairs has also stated that India shall export batches of the covid vaccine to six countries under grant assistance. These countries are Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles.


It is important to note here that while various news sources have reported a few deaths caused by the covid vaccine, the same has not been attributed to the vaccine ultimately. But such incidents do tend to initiate something known as “vaccine hesitancy.” Many nurses and healthcare workers in the past few days have denied themselves compulsory vaccination. Health Secretary of India, Mr. Rajesh Bhushan, in this regard, stated that vaccine hesitancy is normal in novel diseases like covid-19, where little to no information was available. But vaccination is essential and the general public must be educated about it.


While this is definitely a happy moment, it is important to note that the covid vaccine comes with certain caveats. Immuno compromised individuals, pregnant ladies, individuals with bleeding disorders, allergies, or any other serious health-related issue as determined by the healthcare officer supervising the vaccination, should be careful before opting for the vaccine. One must also keep in mind that vaccination is not fool-proof and universal, hence, wearing of masks must be continued under all circumstances.


India, in the next few months, will see the roll out of newer vaccines, and boosted production of doses. It is finally time to say goodbye to the virus that stopped this world!

Multilingualism under the National Education Policy, 2020

Multilingualism under the National Education Policy, 2020


“A rose smells just as sweet called by any other name.”


The National Education Policy of 2020 (hereinafter referred to as the “NEP 2020”) garnered much scrutiny and interest from stakeholders across the country. Many believe that the Policy is only impressive in essence seriously while doubting its viability.


Amongst the many facets of the Policy, multilingualism (the training of more than one language) is stressed upon as a crucial asset to a child’s educational growth. The Policy states that wherever possible, the medium of instruction until at least Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond, will be the home language/mother-tongue/local language.


Although the Ministry of Education, in its subsequent statements, has clarified that no language shall be imposed on any student, the mandatory language (“will be the home language/mother-tongue/local language”) of the NEP 2020 tends to mystify the Government’s intent.


India has several languages, the 2011 census identified 270 mother tongues. Keeping this in mind, let us see if the NEP 2020 can play out in reality.


What challenges present themselves for educational institutions like schools?

For educational institutes (both schools and universities), the first step will be to invest in teachers speaking multiple languages. As of today, most teachers are trained to impart education in English, regional language and/or Hindi. To implement the vision of the NEP 2020, schools and colleges would have to either train the existing teachers to teach in different languages or employ additional educators. This will be an arduous task as most teachers today are trained to teach in either English or Hindi, and very few are armed with teaching expertise in a regional language.


The Policy fails to understand that cultural demarcations in India are not strictly defined. Metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai or Kolkata and the same are cultural melting pots with a student population composed of people that hail from different States. This means that schools of every State have to employ teachers equipped with the knowledge of not just the regional language of that State, but of every language spoken in this country. Achieving effective employment to actualise the same seems likely impossible.


Even if such employment was possible, at the school level, it will be tedious to provide teachers for every language spoken in this country. It is likely that schools shall establish a minimum quota requirement which is needed to be fulfilled if a language specific educator has to be employed. For instance, if only one student in a class of 40 opts for studying in his/her mother tongue then it will not be feasible for that particular school to appoint the required teacher.


Is the three-language policy feasible at University level?


At the higher education level, however, things are different. Technical education in the subjects of engineering, medicine, or law will prove to be much  more difficult to be translated into regional languages.


“An engineering student may find it tough to get a Tamil or Bangla teacher to explain technical concepts. We just don’t have faculty who can translate pure mechanical or computer science engineering terms to the local languages. Say even if we train these teachers, won’t these graduates find it tough at an employer where English is the primary language used,” said an IIT professor.


What challenges present themselves for students?


The Policy unduly assumes that all students of this country complete their schooling from one school. The fact is many students pursue schooling from different schools in different States due to their families possessing transferable jobs. It is a serious concern for students to find relevant schools if their parents get transferred. For instance, if a student studies in the State of Gujarat with Gujarati as the medium of instruction till Grade 7, only to be transferred to the State of Tamil Nadu, they will find it almost impossible to adapt to a different medium of instruction.


Education for 20 years is what prepares us for the next 60 years. Undergoing education in a regional language will hold students back from finding jobs or applying for graduate education abroad, should they choose their mother tongue as their educational medium of instruction.


Does the NEP 2020 make multilingualism compulsory?


A subsequent statement issued by the Ministry of Education states that “no language will be imposed on any student,” it is yet unclear to what extent a student will be able to opt for a particular language.


Most students are bound to select English or Hindi as their medium of instruction due to the challenges mentioned above.


What is the alternative?


Studying all subjects at school and university level only in a regional or home language will prove to render students inept when they have to compete with a global population for jobs and graduate education. Almost all worthy job and academic opportunities in India and abroad demand a high proficiency in the language of English. The study of multiple languages independently is favorable but appointing a regional language as a medium of instruction does not seem like a bright idea.


Conclusion:


It is true that using the language the child is most comfortable with in the early school years improves attendance and learning outcomes, and the ability to learn new languages. Effective education realises itself when children have high self-esteem, are well-adjusted in a classroom that provides a positive and fearless environment. If the child is taught in a language they are unable to comprehend, none of this will happen.

Indian MSMEs and the Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan

Indian MSMEs and the Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan

Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (also known as “MSMEs”) are amongst the most influential drivers of economic development, innovation, and employment in the country. MSMEs registered with the Udyog Aadhaar Memorandum indicate that micro enterprises constitute a majority, both in terms of number of enterprises (88 per cent) and personnel employed (62 per cent). A comprehensive package under the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan’ of Rs. 20 lakh crore, i.e., about 10 per cent of the national GDP, has been announced for the revival of the Indian economy. 


Numerous questions are being raised about the efficacy of the Package, with some clamouring that it hardly matches even 2 per cent of GDP. In this Package, there are some specific initiatives taken to support MSMEs. Majority of the recent steps taken to support MSMEs, such as credit guarantees to MSMEs, subordinate debt scheme, creation of a fund to infuse equity, global tenders banned up to Rs. 200 crore, e-market linkage, and CGTMSE, hardly benefit micro and small entrepreneurs. 


Even the revision of the definition of an “MSME” hardly benefits micro and small enterprises as they are at the bottom of the pyramid. The overall mood of the small players in the Indian MSME sector remains pessimistic. In order to pragmatically address the challenges of micro and small enterprises, incisive, systematic and sustainable structural reforms are required.

Impact of COVID-19 on MSMEs: Results of a Survey Conducted in May 2020

Impact of Covid-19 on the Indian MSMEs Sector

In India, one of the sectors badly impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic and the resulting lockdown was the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) sector. There were 63.4 million crore unincorporated non-agricultural enterprises in India in 2016, as estimated by the National Sample Survey 73rd Round in the Jul 2015-Jun 2016 period. A vast majority, 84.2% were “own account enterprises” (OAEs), that is, units run entirely by the proprietor and his/her family members, with no hired worker. Still, the employment in the sector, including the owner-workers was 111.3 million workers, which was only second to employment in the agricultural sector. The upper end MSMEs, though only 11.4% in number, accounted for about 40% of the employment.


To understand the issues being faced by MSMEs, a telephonic survey was undertaken. Of the total 421 respondents (75% male), about 36% were from manufacturing and the rest were service enterprises. About 43 % were below Rs 0.1.5 million per annum turnover, and 58% had less than ten workers. Only 27% had a Unified Aadhaar Memorandum (UAM) number of registration with Government of India, and only 50% were members of any professional business MSME association.


About 71 % of the respondents felt that their business has been/would be adversely impacted by COVID-19 related lockdown to the extent of 90% of the earlier prevailing levels. Only 4% of the respondents also stated that their business has improved during the lockdown. Yet, there seems to be an optimism for the future with 80% of the respondents expecting their business to swing back to the original level within a year. As many as 56% of the respondents did not expect to retrench any workers while a little less than a quarter of the respondents felt that they would have to retrench more than half of their existing workers.


The major constraint in re-staring their business was lack of demand or opportunity, as cited by 28 % of the respondents. Lack of adequate capital was cited by 22 % of the respondents. This was more pronounced in the Manufacturing as compared to the Services sector.


The GoI’s package giving a Rs 3 lakh crore guarantee for additional working capital loans to existing borrower MSMEs had not reached many, with 27% of the respondents not being even aware of the package at all. Over half i.e., 53% of the respondents felt that the package announced by the GoI will not benefit their enterprises. This was despite the fact that 90 % of the respondents had loans (because we chose the sample from the MYUY scheme) and were eligible for the additional working capital loan.

Mapping of SDG with the Aspirational District Action Plan of Sukma (Chhattisgarh, India)

Transformation of the Aspirational Districts Programme (TADP) is a highly ambitious initiative of Government of India, which intends to effectively transform some of the most backward districts in the nation in time bound manner. In total, there are 115 aspirational districts identified by NITI Aayog. Five themes have been identified as priorities under the initiative. Each Aspirational District is mapped to specific CPSEs for financial support through CSR. The Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all the United Nations Member States in 2015, stipulates a vision for universal peace and prosperity. There are 17 SDG and 169 targets. Under the requirements of TADP, every TADP district in the country has drawn up an implementable Action Plan. Paper attempts to map the Action Plan (2018-20) of Sukma district (in state of Chhattisgarh, India) with Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). While undertaking the mapping, the concerned schemes under each ‘budget head’ of the action plan of Sukma were comprehended, and accordingly, the allocation was done for the different SDG. It is seen that there is a mismatch between the ‘challenges’ and the ‘strategies’ as defined in the Action Plan. There are some of the ‘challenges’ for which no strategy has been proposed. The SDG 1 (End Poverty) seems to attract maximum budget in Sukma. The SDG 3 (Health) seems to attract the next highest allocation of funds in the Action Plan. Despite this, the Delta Ranking of the Sukma for the Health Sector is quite alarming (96th out of 115). Though the Convergence activities have been prudently identified in the Plan, how to achieve the same is not spelled out. The SDG 5 (Gender Equality); SDG 6 (Water & Sanitation); SDG 10 (Reduce Inequality) need more financial support than as allocated in the Action Plan.

The Significance of Micro and Small on the Canvas of UAM registered MSME

The MSME sector is one of the significant contributors to the Indian economy in terms of GDP and employment. The MSMED Act 2006 gave a definite direction to the sector. Another significant development for this sector was by way of introducing Udyog Aadhaar Memorandum (UAM) from 2015. It was a path-breaking step to promote ease-of-doing-business for MSMEs. Since the introduction of UAM, a unique dynamic real-time data is being maintained by the Ministry of MSME, GoI. Taking a clue from the same, analysis was done to comprehend the various aspects of MSMEs in the country. It was seen that as on 12th May, 2020, there were about 94 lakh MSME registered with UAM, in which 5.20 crore people were employed, these had financial investments to the tune of Rs. 12.73 crore. Micro enterprises constituted a majority in terms of – number of enterprises (88 percent) and personnel employed (62 percent) in the Indian MSME canvas. Albeit the maximum employment and investment per Unit was seen in Medium sized enterprises. Male proprietorship accounted for almost four times that of the female proprietors. There was an extremely low proportion of ST and SC ownership of MSMEs. The Services segment of MSME not only provided significantly more (64.7 percent) employment than the manufacturing segment (35.3 percent), it also attracted more investments (65.8 percent) than the Manufacturing segment (34.2 percent). Of total enterprises, 93.8 percent of enterprises were with less than Rs. 25 lakh of investments; and only 6.2 percent more than Rs. 25 lakh of investments. It is ironical to note that the – government policies, financial support packages, institutional credit, research, etc., have all been manifestly focused on large entrepreneurs. It is cardinal to appreciate that ‘one fits all’ treatment for MSMEs cannot work. Time has come to give the small aspiring entrepreneurs sufficient succour and support to enable them to proactively contribute in India’s growth aspirations. There is an exigent need to have more deep systematic reforms for the Micro and Small entrepreneurs in the nation.

Source: Malhotra Rakesh and Gupta Narayani The Significance of Micro and Small on the Canvas of UAM Registered MSME”. Published in International Journal of Research in Engineering, Science and Management Volume-3, Issue-5, May-2020 http://www.ijresm.com | ISSN (Online): 2581-5792. Pp: 935