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Sunday, 20 April 2014

FLAX: A WONDERFUL GIFT OF NATURE

Flax (also known as common flax or linseed) (binomial name: Linum usitatissimum) is a member of the genus Linum in the family Linaceae. It is native to the region extending from the eastern Mediterranean to India and was probably first domesticated in the Fertile Crescent.

 Description

Flax is an erect annual plant growing to 1.2 m (3 ft 11 in) tall, with slender stems. The leaves are glaucous green, slender lanceolate, 20–40 mm long and 3 mm broad. The flowers are pure pale blue, 15–25 mm diameter, with five petals; they can also be bright red. The fruit is a round, dry capsule 5–9 mm diameter, containing several glossy brown seeds shaped like an apple pip, 4–7 mm long. In addition to referring to the plant itself, the word "flax" may refer to the unspun fibers of the flax plant.

Flax is grown both for its seeds and for its fibers. Various parts of the plant have been used to make fabric, dye, paper, medicines, fishing nets, hair gels, and soap. Flax seed is the source of linseed oil, which has uses as an edible oil, as a nutritional supplement and as an ingredient in many wood finishing products. It is also grown as an ornamental plant in gardens.

Flax seeds come in two basic varieties: (1) brown; and (2) yellow or golden. Most types have similar nutritional characteristics and equal amounts of short-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Flax seeds produce a vegetable oil known as flaxseed or linseed oil, which is one of the oldest commercial oils, and solvent-processed flax seed oil has been used for centuries as a drying oil in painting and varnishing

Nutritional value per 100 g
Energy
2,234 kJ (534 kcal)
Pantothenic acid (B5)
0.985 mg (20%)
Carbohydrates
28.88 g
Vitamin B6
0.473 mg (36%)
Sugars
1.55 g
Vitamin C
0.6 mg (1%)
Dietary fiber
27.3 g
Calcium
255 mg (26%)
Fat
42.16 g
Iron
5.73 mg (46%)
Protein
18.29 g
Magnesium
392 mg (106%)
Thiamine (Vit. B1)
1.644 mg (126%)
Phosphorus
642 mg (92%)
Riboflavin (Vit. B2)
0.161 mg (11%)
Potassium
813 mg (17%)
Niacin (Vit. B3)
3.08 mg (21%)
Zinc
4.34 mg (43%)
               Source: USDA Nutrient database

Flaxseeds are slightly larger than sesame seeds and have a hard shell that is smooth and shiny. Their color ranges from deep amber to reddish brown depending upon whether the flax is of the golden or brown variety. While whole flaxseeds feature a soft crunch, the nutrients in ground seeds are more easily absorbed.

Training to farmers on Flax cultivation:

240 youth were trained in cultivation of flax seeds and making of value added products out of them. The project area comprises four villages namely Mundla Kasampura, Parlia, Bhimpura, Dagariya and Nayagaon in Digod Tehsil of Kota District in Southeastern. The total area of these villages is around 28 sq. km. The training covered the following activities.

i)                    Cultivation of Flax crop
ii)                  Collection of flax seeds
iii)                Marketing of Flax seeds
iv)                Making of value added products from flax seeds like Biscuits & Namkeen etc
v)                  Use and marketing of flax seed products.

Health Benefits

Flaxseeds are rich in alpha linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fat that is a precursor to the form of omega-3 found in fish oils called eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA. Since the fats are found in their isolated form in flaxseed oil, it is a more concentrated source of ALA than the seeds themselves (although it doesn't have the other nutrients that the seeds do). ALA, in addition to providing several beneficial effects of its own, can be converted in the body to EPA, thus providing EPA's beneficial effects. For this conversion to readily take place, however, depends on the presence and activity of an enzyme called delta-6-destaurase, which, in some individuals, is less available or less active than in others. In addition, delta-6-desaturase function is inhibited in diabetes and by the consumption of saturated fat and alcohol. For these reasons, higher amounts of ALA-rich flaxseeds or its oil must be consumed to provide the same benefits as the omega-3 fats found in the oil of cold-water fish.

Yet research indicates that for those who do not eat fish or wish to take fish oil supplements, flaxseed oil does provide a good alternative. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that flaxseed oil capsules providing 3 grams of alpha-linolenic acid daily for 12 weeks-an amount that would be provided by 3 tablespoons of flaxseed oil a day-increased blood levels of EPA by 60% in a predominantly African-American population with chronic illness.

Anti-Inflammatory Benefits
Omega-3 fats are used by the body to produce Series 1 and 3 prostaglandins, which are anti-inflammatory hormone-like molecules, in contrast to the Series 2 prostaglandins, which are pro-inflammatory molecules produced from other fats, notably the omega-6 fats, which are found in high amounts in animal fats, margarine, and many vegetable oils including corn, safflower, sunflower, palm, and peanut oils. Omega-3 fats can help reduce the inflammation that is a significant factor in conditions such as asthma, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, migraine headaches, and osteoporosis.

Omega-3-rich Flaxseeds Protect Bone Health
Alpha linolenic acid, the omega-3 fat found in flaxseed and walnuts, promotes bone health by helping to prevent excessive bone turnover-when consumption of foods rich in this omega-3 fat results in a lower ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats in the diet.(Griel AE, Kris-Etherton PM, et al. Nutrition Journal). Other studies have shown that diets rich in the omega-3s from fish (DHA and EPA), which also naturally result in a lowered ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats, reduce bone loss. Researchers think this is most likely because omega-6 fats are converted into pro-inflammatory prostaglandins, while omega-3 fats are metabolized into anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. (Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances made in our bodies from fatty acids.)In this study, 23 participants ate each of 3 diets for a 6-week period with a 3 week washout period in between diets. All 3 diets provided a similar amount of fat, but their ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats was quite different:

Protection Against Heart Disease, Cancer and Diabetes
Omega-3 fats are used to produce substances that reduce the formation of blood clots, which can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in patients with atherosclerosis or diabetic heart disease.

Omega-3 fats are also needed to produce flexible cell membranes. Cell membranes are the cell's gatekeepers, allowing in needed nutrients while promoting the elimination of wastes. While important for everyone, flexible cell membranes are critical for persons with diabetes since flexible cell membranes are much better able to respond to insulin and to absorb glucose than the stiff membranes that result when the diet is high in saturated and/or hydrogenated (trans-) fats. In the colon, omega-3 fats help protect colon cells from cancer-causing toxins and free radicals, leading to a reduced risk for colon cancer.

Flaxseeds Help Prevent and Control High Blood Pressure
Individuals whose diets provide greater amounts of omega-3 fatty polyunsaturated fatty acids-and flaxseed is an excellent source of these essential fats-have lower blood pressure than those who consume less, shows data gathered in the International Study of Macro- and Micro-nutrients and Blood Pressure (INTERMAP) study.
The INTERMAP is a study of lifestyle factors, including diet, and their effect on blood pressure in 4,680 men and women aged 40 to 59 living in Japan, China, the U.S. and the U.K. Blood pressure was measured and dietary recall questionnaires were completed by participants on four occasions. Dietary data was analyzed for levels of omega-3 fatty acids from food sources including fish, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils.

Average daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids was 2 grams. Participants with a high (o.67% kcal) omega-3 fatty acid percentage of their daily calorie intake had an average systolic and diastolic blood pressure reading that was 0.55/0.57 mm Hg less, respectively, than participants with lower intake. Previous research has found that a decrease of 2 mm Hg reduces the population-wide average stroke mortality rate by 6 percent and that of coronary heart disease by 4%.

Flaxseed Provides Comparable Cholesterol-Lowering Benefits to Statin Drugs
In a study involving 40 patients with high cholesterol (greater than 240 mg/dL), daily consumption of 20 grams of ground flaxseed was compared to taking a statin drug. After 60 days, significant reductions were seen in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and the ratio of total to HDL cholesterol-in both groups. Those receiving flaxseed did just as well as those given statin drugs!

Body mass index, total cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, triglycerides, and the ratio of total cholesterol/HDL-cholesterol were measured at the beginning of the study and after 60 days.
In those eating flaxseed, significant reductions were seen in total cholesterol (-17.2%), LDL-cholesterol (-3.9%), triglycerides (-36.3%) and the ratio of total cholesterol/HDL-cholesterol (-33.5%) were observed in the diet+flax group, compared to baseline. Similar reductions were seen in those taking the statin. Benefits did not significantly differ between the two groups.

Flaxseed Oil Lowers Blood Pressure in Men with High Cholesterol
Greek researchers looked at the effect on systolic and diastolic blood pressure of a three-month trial during which 59 middle-aged men used either flaxseed or safflower oil in their daily diet.
Flaxseed oil is rich in the omega-3 fat, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which the body can metabolize into the cardioprotective long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, while safflower oil is a concentrated source of the omega-6 fat, linoleic acid (LA). The men received flaxseed oil supplying 8 grams of ALA daily or safflower oil providing 11 grams of LA per day.

Rich in Beneficial Fiber
Flaxseeds' omega-3 fats are far from all this exceptional food has to offer. Flaxseed meal and flour provides a very good source of fiber that can lower cholesterol levels in people with atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease, reduce the exposure of colon cells to cancer-causing chemicals, help relieve constipation and stabilize blood sugar levels in diabetic patients. Flaxseeds are also a good source of magnesium, which helps to reduce the severity of asthma by keeping airways relaxed and open, lowers high blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke in people with atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease, prevents the blood vessel spasm that leads to migraine attacks, and generally promotes relaxation and restores normal sleep patterns.

A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine confirms that eating high fiber foods, such as flaxseed, helps prevent heart disease. Almost 10,000 American adults participated in this study and were followed for 19 years. People eating the most fiber, 21 grams per day, had 12% less CHD and 11% less CVD compared to those eating the least, 5 grams daily. Those eating the most water-soluble dietary fiber fared even better with a 15% reduction in risk of CHD and a 10% risk reduction in CVD.

Flaxseed Puts the Brakes on Prostate Cancer Growth
Flaxseed, a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and lignans, put the brakes on prostate tumor growth in men who were given 30 grams of flaxseed daily for a month before surgery to treat their prostate cancer. The 40 men taking flaxseed, either alone or along with a low-fat diet, were compared to 40 men only following a low-fat diet, and 40 men in a control group who did not alter or supplement their usual diet. Men who took flaxseed, as well as those who took flaxseed combined with a low-fat diet did the best.

Special Protection for Women's Health
Flaxseed meal and flour have been studied quite a bit lately for their beneficial protective effects on women's health. Flaxseed is particularly rich in lignans, special compounds also found in other seeds, grains, and legumes that are converted by beneficial gut flora into two hormone-like substances called enterolactone and enterodiol. These hormone-like agents demonstrate a number of protective effects against breast cancer and are believed to be one reason a vegetarian diet is associated with a lower risk for breast cancer. Studies show that women with breast cancer and women who are omnivores typically excrete much lower levels of lignans in their urine than vegetarian women without breast cancer. In animal studies conducted to evaluate lignans' beneficial effect, supplementing a high-fat diet with flaxseed flour reduced early markers for mammary (breast) cancer in laboratory animals by more than 55%.

Flaxseed Reduces Hot Flashes Almost 60%
Researchers recruited 29 postmenopausal women who had suffered from at least 14 hot flushes each week for at least one month, but would not take estrogen because of a perceived increased risk of breast cancer. After taking 40 grams (1.4 ounces) of crushed flaxseed each day for six weeks, the frequency of hot flashes decreased 50%, and the overall hot flash score decreased an average 57% for the 21 women who completed the trial. J Soc Integr Oncol. 2007 Summer;5(3):106-12.

Fend Off Dry Eyes
Dry eye syndrome (DES) afflicts more than 10 million Americans. Artificial tears offer only temporary relief. Expensive prescription drugs promise help, but at the cost of potentially serious side effects.
Could Mother Nature provide a cure? Yes, suggests research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition involving nearly 40,000 female health professionals aged 45-84 enrolled in the Women's Health Study.

"These findings suggest that increasing dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of dry eye syndrome, an important and prevalent cause of ocular complaints," Miljanovic and colleagues conclude. In addition to tuna fish, omega-3 fatty acids are richly supplied by other fatty fish (such as salmon, mackerel, halibut, sardines, and herring), flaxseeds and flaxseed oil. Due to concerns about mercury levels in tuna, to lower your risk of DES we recommend enjoying a variety of cold-water fish and adding flaxseeds and flaxseed oil to your Healthiest Way of Eating.

The Flax seeds can be used in following ways:
  1. A teaspoon of ground flaxseed can be added to the breakfast cereal, where a nutty flavor is appropriate.
  2. While making a sandwich, a teaspoon of ground flaxseed can be added to mustard or mayonnaise.
  3. Flaxseed is often used as a galactagogue (food that stimulates milk production in lactating mothers).
  4. A teaspoon of ground flaxseed can be blended to a cup of yoghurt.
  5. While baking breads, muffins, cookies or other baked products, add ground flaxseed before baking.
  6. Flaxseeds can be used to replace eggs in baking process by binding other ingredients together.
  7. Sprouted flaxseeds are also edible with a slight spicy flavor and can also be added to salads, soups and vegetables.
  8.  Different parts of the plant can also be used to produce a tea which can be consumed for the various health advantages. Flaxseed tea is excellent for providing important health components such as omega fatty acids, lignans, and fibers that can help improve the health of the body.


Monday, 31 March 2014

PLANT TISSUE CULTURE TECHNOLOGY: COMMERCIAL ASPECTS

During the past two decades Biotech was developed into an independent and maturing industry. There are about 5000 biotech companies around the world with market capitalization of about US$ 200 billion with an annual sales of US 50 $ billion.

National facility for Virus diagnosis and Quality Control of Tissue culture raised plants has been opened with main centre at IARI, New Delhi and five satellite centres at National Chemical Lab, Pune, Institute of Himalayan Bioresources Technology, Palampur, IIHR, Bangalore and SPIC, Chennai. The Maharashtra state is advancing in cultivating TC plants.

Many crop technologies have been standardized remains unexplored in Tissue culture. If tissue culture plants are released to meet the demands, the production level improves along with improvement in quality. Many promising varieties have been identified in banana, sugarcane, cardomum, papaya, gerbera, chrysathemum, orchids etc which are in heavy demand in commercial market can be micropropgated and was multiplied. Some of the crops which can be commercially explored by tissue culture are as follows.

SUGARCANE

Tissue culture plants are of tremendous use in vegetative propagated crops like sugarcane that will improve the yield levels by reducing the incidence of this disease.  The sugar mills require 75 lakh tonnes per mill @15 lakh plantlets (@ 15000 plantlets per ha) in the form of breeder seed (setts). These breeder setts will be raised in primary nursery by the mill and will be multiplied in the farmer’s field with seven-fold increase each time in the secondary nursery followed by tertiary nursery. These breeder seeds can be supplied to the required mills as tissue culture plantlets.

Successful shoot formation is observed after 8 days of inoculation using Thiodiazuron (TDZ) for micropropagation. There was also an increase of 10- 15 % increase in tissue culture plants.

 BAMBOO

Now a days Bamboos uses in present day life becomes increasing. Besides using it as a building material it is used for paper making, making dress materials like shirts, socks, sarees etc and as edible food. In India, This is cultivated in an area of 9 .57 lakh ha and this covers 12.85 of our forest area. Bamboo grows faster than any other forest trees. Reports are there that the species Dendrocalamus giganticus can grow even upto a height of 3 feet per day. Totally 200 plants are needed to plant one hectare. Auxiallary buds can be used as successful explants. This is highly useful in afforestation programme. Introduction and cultivation of thornless bamboo will be more effective to the end users and propogating them by Tissue culture would also help affoerstation in tropical areas where bamboos are not cultivated. 

 STEVIA

The stevioside is a good alternate for sugar and can be used in the place of sugar but without lesser calories than the cane sugar. This stevioside is 20 to 30 times sweeter than cane sugar. This is caloree free sweetener of high quality. 50 grams of stevia leaf replaces 1000 grams of cane sugar. One kg of dried leaves of stevia replaces 20 kg of cane sugar. In India it is estimated that 30 million people are diabetic and for them such sweeteners are the only alternative. The soft drink companies depend on this product. Besides this has antifungal and anti bacterial properties and maintains BP and weight in human.

BANANA
Lot of Banana varieties are cultivated in India. Tissue culture banana are marketed by various companies like SPIC, Jain drips etc. The variety Grand nine is most popularly grown in south India. These plants are preferred due to its uniform maturity, improved yield, quality fruits, uniform sized fruits etc. The hill banana is revamped by the tissue culture techniques, Production of virus free stock was made possible in this variety and was reintroduced in their native hilly regions.

CARDAMOM

India is the land of spices wherein the queen of spices the cardamom are cultivated in an area of 72,400 to 1,02, 400 ha. Cardamom is cultivated for its essential oils and oleoresin apart from it being a spice crop. Tamilnadu and Kerala are the main states that cultivate cardamom. In Tamilnadu, it is cultivated in areas like Kodaikanal hills, cumbum foothills and bodi etc. The dreaded diseases like katte, kokkekandu, necrosis, soft rot, clump rot and pests like thrips, white flies, root grubs, shoot borers etc cause severe yield loss.

The estimated Global consumption is 15000- 24000 tonnes of which majority comes from Gautemela. Cardamom has a tremendous export potential to countries like Saudi which are the largest consumer in the world followed by India. Out of 15, 250 tonnes produced nearly 7000 tonnes were exported while the rest is used for domestic purposes. Hence this has a potential for both export and domestic uses.

Successful micropropogation is achieved by culturing immature inflorescence as explants. Both large and small cardamom can be propagated by tissue culture methods. The productivity in India is only 250 kg /ha while in country s like Guatemala it is around 200 kg/ha. This may happen because of the diseases and pests that are mentioned. The yield level also increased upto 63. 5 %, which is higher than the cultivation of conventionally propagated plantlets. The tissue culture plants produced in Cardamum will be disease free and the yield level will also be increased.

 VANILA

Vanila is cultivated in temperate orchards of Tamilnadu and Kerala. Due to its high rate in the market and increased demands to meet food and confectionary industries, the area under Vanila increased tremendously. But diseases like Fusarium rot affected the Vanila plantation drastically. In Kerala, various land races of Vanila are vanished due to the infestation of diseases like wilt and rot. It has been proved that they can be cultivated extensively in the shade of coconut plantations along Pollachi and Palani foothill and even in plains under polyhouses with perfect care. Shoot tips and meristem tips serve as a good ex-plant for propagation. Vanila can be multiplied, hardened and distributed for commercial plantations based on demand by tissue culture technology, which are free from wilt and other diseases.
CUTFLOWERS
Certain type of flowers is grown as cutflowers because of their special features, particularly long stem or stalk. For example, rose, carnation, gerbera, gladiolus, Chrysanthemum, tuberose, anthurium, etc. There is also varietial preference for them according to the choice of consumers. The cutflowers apart for its domestic use it is also a good foreign exchanger.

In modern "Hi-tech" method the cutflowers are grown in polyhouses/greenhouses requiring high capital investment. But the quality of flowers produced is superior, because inside climate or micro-climate such as temperature, humidity, light, ventilation etc is controlled. Even water application is also controlled. Even water application is also controlled. Therefore, the quality of flowers is better. They are uniform in size, colour, freshness etc. Moreover flowers can be produced throughout the year to meet the market demand-domestic as well as foreign. Since flowers are of better quality, they fetch higher prices

Final consumer use of cutflowers is different from other flowers. Their use is of more sophisticated nature in educated and well to do segment of consumers. Cutflowers are mainly used for preparing bouquets, which are used in functions and ceremonies to welcome guests, VIPs and to felicitate great utility and hence fetch high prices.


SED is popularizing these techniques among farmers at Gramin Vigyan Kendra (GVK) at village Digod in Kota district of Rajasthan. 

Sunday, 9 March 2014

HEALTH STATUS OF WOMEN MINING WORHERS IN SOUTHERN RAJASTHAN

Most people take health as merely an absence of disease and its value is not realized as long as it is not lost. Health is usually taken as an affair of doctors, nurses, clinics, wrong food habits and hygiene etc, however, a new consciousness has emerged which takes health out from personal and medical domains.

Today, health is largely seen as a social issue and there has been gradual realization that interventions in non medical field can bring significant changes in pattern of diseases. The focus has shifted from ‘germ theory’ to multi-causal approach and from curative to promotional, preventive and rehabilitative interventions. An integrated and interdisciplinary approach has made health a citizen’s right. This change is manifested and effected through a series of International and National declarations, legislations and other paper endeavors.

Alma Ata declaration of 2000 defined HEALTH as, ‘a state of complete physical and mental wellbeing, and not merely absence of disease or infirmity.’

Our recently amended National health policy 2002, lays special emphasis on promotion of women’s health. The various policy recommendations are with regard to expansion of primary health care infrastructure, and facilitate increased access to basic health care. The Policy commits the highest priority of the central government to the funding of the specific programmes running for women’s health. Also, the Policy recognizes the need to review the staffing norms of the public health administration to meet women’s needs in a more comprehensive manner. It emphasizes on Environmental and Occupational health and periodic screening of workers, especially for high risk diseases for their kind of occupation.

HEALTH OF MINING WOMEN IN SOUTHERN RAJASTHAN

There has been a lot of talk about mining and its impact on human health. There is scorching heat, whirlpool of dust, howling machines and back breaking labour. In environmental journals, we often discuss of silicosis, asbestosis, tuberculosis and other fatal diseases of mines.

An attempt was made to ascertain, how much the women mine workers themselves know about the risks they are subject to. 306 respondents i.e. 95.3% of women had no idea that working in mines has with it some hazardous occupational diseases. Only 15 (4.6%) women answered that they knew about cough, feeling of weakness, problems due to dust and heat.  The bio-medical details of the diseases were however missing.

This data provides evidence for the lack of awareness among women. Mere disseminating of information in such a case would bring about significant changes in the health scenario. Making women aware will not only improve the health her individual health but also impact the health of the family altogether.

On asking about the health problems that they face, 168 of them denied having any manifest problems. The following pie chart shall provide a detail of their health issues as given by 153 respondents:


It is to be noted that all the respondents stated the symptoms of the disease as disease would inevitably lead to reducing the seriousness of the illness and an effort to deal with symptoms rather than disease. Taking from the above example, the woman may take medicines or try traditional system of healing for cough only and the real disease may, itself. For instance, cough may be a typical symptom of   tuberculosis but it was not the disease or  its knowledge, but the symptom that the woman knew and worked towards. This meantime continue to worsen and still be unrealized.

It is also important to note that all respondents denied access to any heath facility or reasonable treatment. In spite of the provision for regular check up for employees in mine at the cost of owner, no such facilities are made available and the legal obligation is evaded because even if these women have worked for years together in the same mine, they still remain daily wage earners through contract labour and do not become permanent employees. Due to this daily wage nature of employment, there are no Maternity benefits, sickness leave or health insurance that these women are entitled to.

148 respondents said that they were not subject to any addiction. Out of the rest, 112 were addicted to Tobacco, 35 to Gutka and 26 to Bidi. It is noteworthy that although there is widespread liquor production and consumption of indeginious liquor in the area, not women considered its habitual drinking an addition. It was a part of their culture, without stigma and with full social acceptability.

As to the direct availability of government facility, there is a Primary Health Center (PHC) in almost all villages. We met the Para medical staff, ANM and Anganwadi worker in villages. The trend that appears from their records and responses are:

Ø  There are more men who access health care facility than there are women. Out of total patients in a month, only 35% are women.
Ø  Maximum women suffer from RTIs and STDs, some of which cannot be treated successfully at village level. They are then referred to Udaipur.
Ø  Most common medicines are distributed free of cost from the PHC. However, the functionaries too admit that irregular and insufficient supply of the medicines from the government creates problems.
Ø  PHC staff claim that all major government programs like, pulse polio, family planning etc are coordinated through PHC and have led to increased consciousness among women.
Ø  Many mine workers come for general treatment like of joint pain, headache or malnutrition. The exact men- women ratio was not available with them.
Ø  PHC functionaries also work hard to reach out to people and deliver services at their door step.
Ø  Special attention is paid to pregnant and lactating mothers and their nutrition.

However, some crucial shades of color are missing in this picture painted by PHC. Why is the number of men patients significantly larger than women? Do more men fall sick and women are the healthier lot or have better immune system for self recovery? Or can there be some element of whose need is given more value and priority in society. Women usually ignore their concerns themselves or there are significant restrictions on their mobility which makes them dependent on male help. Unfortunately, data for how many women, who are referred to Udaipur city, do actually go and carry forward the treatment could not be made available. However, it will not be a difficult guess for any of us.
As for increasing consciousness, one hopes that it may certainly be the case, however, the size of the family and data for number of children speak against any popular method of family planning.  A trend for more awareness among women who have had at least primary education has been definitely noticed in Focused group discussions.

What is important to consider here is, even after that consciousness how much of it can transcend into practice will depend on the economic and social pressures that a women experiences. She may understand and wish to have the benefits of small family, but it also depends on how much of right does she has over her own fertility. Beyond consciousness, there are issues of availability, accessibility and affordability.
The real picture is reflected in the questionnaire where all i.e. 100% respondents have denied any opportunity of treatment within their capacities.

A young woman’s health is of special concern because it revolves around in a cycle and it extends beyond ‘just her’, it passes on to her children and affects their life cycle. Health of a woman does not only affect her merely as an individual, it has an impact on general well-being and health of the entire family, particularly, children. National Policy on Health- 2002 recognizes the catalytic role of empowered women in improving the health of the family and community.

Health is an issue of social justice. For long it has been delayed and denied to many. Its time for them to get it. And not as employer’s charity or government’s ambulance service of last resort. But; as a citizen’s right in a Socialist- Democratic- Republic.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

STATUS OF WOMEN SCIENTISTS IN S&T INSTITUTIONS IN DELHI

On the occasion of National Science Day (28th February), I would like to share with you our research findings came out few years back from a study entitled “STATUS OF WOMEN SCIENTISTS IN S&T INSTITUTIONS IN DELHI” carried out by Society for Environment & Development (SED) in association with National Commission for Women (NCW), Delhi. Following are the summary of the project.

There are several dimensions to consider with regard to issues about Indian women in science, first, they are professionals in the academy, and as such their lives and work are affected by the overall environment, ethos, and policies in the Indian higher education system. Second, by virtue of the fact that they are women, they face situations that are quite distinctive and related to their role and status in the society. Again, since we are considering very male-dominated disciplines in particular, specific factors, such as the peculiar nature of the disciplines come into play.

The research study has tried to incorporate many of the basic factors, which initiates naturalistic inquiry. As stated earlier, some of the significance of such an inquiry is a natural setting, the human instrument for data gathering, qualitative methods, purposive sampling and emergent design. To elaborate: assuming that reality cannot be understood in isolation, the research has been carried out in the natural setting or context of the entity, data have been gathered primarily through personal interviews and observations, and through questionnaire methods both by direct interviews, by post and by E. mails. 

It is now recognized by all modern societies that education and career is not only the right of women, but also a key factor that contributes to the economic and social development of country. Women scientists focusing upon their lives as university academics, as researchers in the hard sciences and as women. The overarching research question addressed here may be stated as follows: what patterns and difference emerge in the perceptions and attitudes of academic women scientists toward themselves as women in science; their career routes; their relationships with colleagues-male and female; their research interests, communication strategies and linkages: the manner in which their family life intersects with their careers; and the discipline of science and its value? What emerge from this is a comprehensive description of the lives and careers of individual women who struggle in a male-dominated workplace that marginalizes them.

The following are salient observations:
·         The number of women scientist coming in for this profession shows only negligent increase.
·         A total of 28 R&D/S&T institutions are in the study. This includes a combination of Central Govt. Institutions, Universities, Deemed universities, corporate, NGO’s etc.
·         The total samples are 280 women scientists working in various institutes.
·         68% of women scientists are in the age group of 30-50 years.
·         Maximum number is in life sciences while minimum in genetics & agricultural economics.
·         Out of total 280 women scientists 206 are married and most of them are married to similar profession. 127 out of 206 got married by arranged manner.
·         Religion-wise out of 280 women scientists, 259 are Hindu, 3 Muslim and only 1 Christian.
·         Caste-wise very poor representation of SC, ST and OBC category.
·         84% women scientists has done their schooling from city while only 1% from the villages.
·         Majority has become scientist by default as out of 280 respondent, 65 never planned to become scientist while 128 planned at college/university level, only 79 has planned at school level.
·         59% of women scientist has not visited abroad.

As is readily appreciated the issue of family commitments, particularly child rearing is perceived as the foremost and major barrier and as such has received considerable attention. However, gradually an appreciation has evolved of the more subtle factors that influence the issue. Among these are certain preconceived notions and stereotyping that is instrumental in discouraging young women from taking up a career in science. Even for women in professional scientific careers, some attitudes and values of the traditional male bastion retard progress. We would like to enumerate the mind-sets that unconsciously discriminate against women and are potential barriers to the entry and progress of women in the sciences.  

First and most common is the assumption that one has to work long hours to demonstrate commitment. Women who cannot or do not spend as much time in their work places as their male colleagues are automatically regarded as less dedicated. This assumption however is not always true. It is now realized that women tend to give better 'quality time' to their work that compensates for their shorter working hours. Their time management in terms of output is   believed to be better than men.  

Secondly, very prevalent is the preconceived notion that family commitments are incompatible with scientific competence. Single mindedness, that is absorption in science to the exclusion of all else in life is perceived as an essential quality for a successful scientist. In our opinion it is not single mindedness but perseverance and dedication that are required in a good scientist.  

Thirdly, in science as in other areas, men tend to regard assertiveness as a quality essential for leadership. Strong cultural biases tend to make women less assertive than men, which automatically excludes them from leadership positions. But is assertiveness really an essential quality for a leader. In our opinion it is not, at least in science. What is needed is not assertiveness, but thoughtfulness, tolerance and nurturing to realize fully the potential of ones team.  

To many women professionals, this sounds horribly familiar. In some professions, women have a choice. They can leave and find other work. They can work independently, without joining an organisation. In science, this is difficult. And in India, it is even more difficult as most scientific research organisations are government-run. They provide security, but they also leave you with little space to negotiate, to fight for a change of culture, to innovate.