On the occasion of World Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Day, Multiple Sclerosis Society of India (MSSI) has organized a seminar ‘Living with Multiple Sclerosis’ on Wednesday, 30th May 2012 at Bombay Hospital, S P Jain Auditorium from 9.30 am to 1 pm. Issues faced by MS patients and their families at work and in public will be discussed in the seminar. Entry is free of cost RSVP- 022-24037390/7399, Geeta: 9820793288
Advancement in diagnostics has enabled early detection of multiple sclerosis (MS), a rare disease that affects the functioning of the central nervous system and occurs unexpectedly resulting in disability in young people. Four decades ago, the situation was different. For people with MS and their families, lack of awareness of MS meant complete confusion and a huge emotional burden. Take the case of Sheela Chitnis. When her husband was diagnosed with MS in 1977, she was unable to understand his problem. His repeated illness, frequent mood swings and locking of body were symptoms that left her at a loss. “There was no one to understand our situation. I knew he was in pain. But I couldn’t understand,” says Ms Chitnis. Her efforts to help her husband gave her an opportunity to meet many doctors. It was during one such meeting that she learned about AH Tobaccowala, the then chairman of Voltas, who was associated with what is now called the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation (MSIF). This got her thinking about other families who were also struggling to deal with MS patients and led her to set up the Multiple Sclerosis Society of India (MSSI) along with social worker Rehmut Fazalbhoy.
“I was certain that, like me, many people were struggling to understand MS. There was also an apprehension that an organisation like ours wouldn’t work because there weren’t many MS patients. But Rehmut was supportive and we got started in 1984,” explains Ms Chitnis, who firmly believes in the power of collective advocacy.
MSSI was started with only three patients, one being Mr Chitnis. Mr Tobaccowala was the first president of MSSI and helped with office space from Voltas. A year later, it was registered as a trust with the charity commissioner in Mumbai. Its awareness drives and interaction with homebound MS patients and their families saw the number of patients growing to 19 in six months. From one branch in Mumbai, MSSI grew to eight other cities. Soon it rolled out new projects with little help from donations. “I designed programmes based on the problems that I had faced. People needed to know that MS can happen to anyone, but it is manageable and is rarely fatal,” explains Ms Chitnis, the vice-president of MSSI. They organised medical camps, discussed issues and provided wheelchairs and walkers for patients.
In 1993-94, MSSI faced a crisis. Mr Tobaccowala retired from Voltas and MSSI lost its office space; Ms Fazalbhoy also shifted to Pune. “MSSI was on the verge of fizzling out,” says Ms Chitnis. She then decided to move MSSI to her own flat in Dadar, from where it operated for the next eight years, before moving to its current owned office in Sion. During that time, Ms Chitnis also quit her job to dedicate herself full time to the cause. MSSI has now expanded its programmes. It provides home physiotherapy which is free or subsidised for needy patients. MSSI has appointed a nurse to visit patients who need care such as catheterisation, injections, bedsore treatment, etc. It provides medicines and MRI scans at concessional rates at hospitals like Saifee and Nanavati in Mumbai.
MSSI assists patients in getting doctors’ appointments at concessional fees. The NGO provides expensive methylprednisolone injections, used in the treatment of MS, free of cost to needy patients and at subsidised rates for others. Other services include counselling, helping patients to get disability certificates and enabling them to obtain benefits from government schemes. MSSI organises an annual MS Walk to raise fund. MSSI is planning to have its own respite and rehabilitation centre to accommodate patients for one or two months, giving them sufficient care.
You can spread awareness about multiple sclerosis by volunteering at MSSI, apart from helping financially. All donations are exempted under 80(G) of the Income-Tax Act.
Did you hear from Citibank recently about the discontinuance of the 12-year old Citibank-Jet Airways co-branded credit cards? Citibank and Jet Airways are both trying to tug you into their direction. Here are some pointers to make your choice…
Citibank and Jet Airways first came together in the late 90s to offer one of India’s first airline co-branded credit cards. Airline co-branded credit cards help you by offering additional benefits on the airline such as additional check-in baggage allowance, lounge access, discount codes for ticket purchases etc.
The Jet Airways Citibank Credit Card was one long standing partnership in this space which survived for more than 12 years. In this timeframe, Kingfisher Airlines’ partnership with American Express came and went due the bad situation the airline is at this moment, and no other international airline credit card could establish a strong brand franchise and wallet share such as this credit card.
So, last week, an email communication from Citibank went out to all the product holders for this card informing them that the partnership is being discontinued with effect from July 16th 2012. As a result, Citibank is now offering a new credit card called the Citibank Premier Miles Credit Card (Review here: http://bit.ly/CitiPMReviewML) to all the existing card holders. A special offer from Citibank has been extended to all the holders of the Jet Airways card, offering them the new product for discounted fees of Rs1,000 per annum, as compared to the Rs3,000 for all the other customers. In return, they are giving away a welcome bonus of 10,000 Premier Miles for those who sign on.
The benefits of the new Citibank card are numerous, the key one being that you can use these miles against tickets on any airline—domestic or international—rather than just Jet Airways. However, limitations also exist, something which you will be able to read in the review linked above.
If you are a current card holder, I’m sure you are receiving multiple calls from Citibank to switch over to the new product. Here Citibank is trying to rush you and retain current card holders to their best extent possible and acting desperate in a way as well. However, I just hold on to your current card till as far as you can. In a moment, I will tell you why...
Quite clearly, something did not go alright between Citibank and Jet Airways, which is why they went their own separate ways. Jet Airways is apparently working with more than one banks at this point of time to launch another product which will help you earn Jet Airways’ JP Miles on their new product. They have publicly disclosed that they will be announcing their new partnership in the next couple of months (at best by 15th July). In the meanwhile, they have sent out a communication to all the cardholders that they are offering triple JP Miles to cardholders of the Jet Airways Citibank Credit Cards, and asked them to use the current card. This means, you could potentially be earning 16 JP Miles per Rs100 spent as compared to the four JP Miles per Rs100 spent earlier.
Given this tug-of-war for the customer, what should you do? I would recommend you hold on to the current Jet Airways Credit Card for another month or so since the Citibank offer of the new Premier Miles Credit Card at Rs1,000 plus taxes is valid till 30 June 2012. Switch your card after your June billing cycle will be completed and you would hopefully receive the details of the new Jet Airways card by that time.
If you prefer holding multiple credit cards, you will then need to apply for and receive the new Jet Airways co-branded card if you like it. However, if not, you always have the option to cancel your current Citibank credit card or hold on to it. At the end of the day, the call is yours. But don’t just be pushed into making that choice without having heard what is best for you.
(AJ writes a travel and aviation focussed blog from India at www.livefromalounge.com. You can follow him at @livefromalounge on Twitter.)
On 23rd May, Moneylife wrote on how a Kerala citizen was denied access to Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel Report (WGEEP). The Central Information Commission and the Delhi High Court ordered the ministry to make it public. It has now been uploaded on its site
Just when one wondered whether the ministry of environment & forests (MoEF) would turn to the Supreme Court after the Delhi High Court on 17th May, upheld the order of the Central Information Commissioner (CIC) to make the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel Report (WGEEP) public, it came as a pleasant surprise that the RTI (Right to Information) route taken by a Kerala citizen to access this report bore fruit when the ministry promptly uploaded it on the website.
However, perhaps to keep the political bosses happy, the MoEF authorities have put a disclaimer on its website www.moef.nic.in stating: “The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel report has not been formally accepted by the ministry and that the report is still being analyzed and considered by the ministry.” The reason is obvious: The WGEEP report submitted by the 13-member panel headed by noted Pune-based ecological expert Madhav Gadgil has damned the construction of big dams; the ongoing mining activities; the devastation of chemical industries on the fragile environment of Western Ghats that comprise 1,29,000 odd km stretching over six states (Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat.).
What’s going to hurt the powerful developmental lobbies are the stringent recommendations made by the WGEEP in terms of making all the 142 talukas that come under the Western Ghats, into Environmental Sensitive Zones (ESZs) of three categories—ESZ I, ESZ II and ESZ III as per order of fragility. This translates into: “Regions of highest sensitivity or Ecologically Sensitive Zone 1 (ESZ1); Regions of high sensitivity or ESZ2; and Regions of moderate sensitivity or ESZ3... A number of specific proposals received by the panel from individual Gram Panchayats as well as NGOs from different parts of the Western Ghats are referred to as Ecologically Sensitive Localities (ESL).”
WGEEP recommends that no new dams based on large-scale storage be permitted in Ecologically Sensitive Zone 1 as defined by the panel. Thus, the controversial Athirappilly and Gundia Hydel Project of Kerala and Karnataka respectively fall into the most sensitive ESZI category and WGEEP has recommended that the projects “should not be accorded environmental clearance.”
Similarly, for Goa, the WGEEP recommends “an indefinite moratorium on new environmental clearances for mining in Ecologically Sensitive Zones 1 and 2, phasing out of mining in Ecologically Sensitive Zone 1 by 2016 and continuation of existing mining in Ecologically Sensitive Zone 2 under strict regulation with an effective system of social audit.”
The WGEEP has also cautioned about the environmental stress due to mining and chemical industries on the coastal plains of Maharashtra’s districts of Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg which fall outside the purview of the Western Ghats but were partially studied by the team. On the basis of this, it recommends that the mining, power production and polluting industries in Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts should have “appropriate course of further development.”
For these districts, the panel recommends “an indefinite moratorium on new environmental clearances for mining in Ecologically Sensitive Zones 1 and 2, phasing out of mining in Ecologically Sensitive Zone 1 by 2016 and continuation of existing mining in Ecologically Sensitive Zone 2 under strict regulation with an effective system of social audit.”
“It also recommends that in Ecologically Sensitive Zones 1 and 2, no new polluting (red and orange category) industries, which would include coal-based power plants, should be permitted to be established; the existing red and orange category industries should be asked to switch to zero pollution by 2016, again with an effective system of social audit.”
The WGEEP suggests that the National Institute of Oceanography, Goa should ‘immediately’ undertake the study of “various development activities in these tracts, ideally in conjunction with Raigad district of Maharashtra and the state of Goa.”
The discomfort factor for powers that be across the six states is that, for all these three ESZs, the WGEEP has sternly recommended “large scale public consultations” before any project is undertaken. The panel report states: “In these zones, the panel recommends that development activity needs to be decided through a participatory process involving the gram sabhas” and broad guidelines have been also given to “extensive consultations with officials, experts, civil society groups and citizens at large.”
Noting a severe lacuna in the “deficit in environmental governance all over the Western Ghats tract” the WGEEP panel states it is very impressed with participation of locals, citizens and citizen groups in helping to preserve the Western Ghats environment in various places. The report observes: “The panel is impressed both by levels of environmental awareness and commitment of citizens towards the cause of the environment, and their helplessness in the face of their marginalization in the current system of governance. The panel urges the ministry of environment and forests to take a number of critical steps to involve citizens.”
Hence it suggests that: “The panel urges the ministry of environment and forests to take a number of critical steps to involve citizens. These would include: pro-active and sympathetic implementation of the provisions of the Community Forest Resources of the Forest Rights Act, establishment of fully empowered Biodiversity Management Committees in all local bodies” and various commendable programmes undertaken by different local self governments.
Predictably, the WGEEP report is not to the liking of the political and bureaucratic bosses as most of the times the so-called developmental projects are aimed towards an ‘influential’ instead for the good of the people at large.
The MoEF has invited the suggestions/objections of stakeholders’ comments/views are invited within 45 days from today (23rd March) on the following emails: [email protected], [email protected]. The comments/views may also be sent by fax/mail.
These issues with the approval of the Competent Authority.
(Dr. Amit Love)
Email: [email protected]
For the background of how this report went public, read the 23rd May story in MoneyLife http://www.moneylife.in/article/make-western-ghats-ecology-status-report-public-cic-hc-direct-govt/25853.html.
(Vinita Deshmukh is the editor of Life 365 (www.life365.in). She is also the consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of a Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte. She can be reached at [email protected])