Publicise milk banks for malnourished babies

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While the concept of breastfeeding an infant has finally succeeded in scoring a significant victory over the baby food industry, it may still take time to set up a chain of human milk banks for babies who may have lost their mothers or whose mothers are unable to feed them for medical or other reasons. For instance, although the usual prescription is that a child must be breastfed for the first six months, it has been found that working women of the middle classes are not always able to adhere to this. This inability is different from those cases where a fashion-conscious upper class woman has erroneously convinced herself that breastfeeding spoils her figure.

Whatever the reason, it has always been known that where mother’s milk is not available, the next best alternative is the breast milk of another woman. Hence, the time-honoured concept of “wet nurses”, especially for infants whose mothers may have died in childbirth. But, since wet nurses are not always available, or are not suitable for social or economic reasons, milk banks provide the answer. But their establishment entails a highly organised and sanitised process where milk from lactating mothers are collected, pasteurised and stored. As in case of blood banks, the donors have first to be screened.

Ever since the American Academy of Paediatrics established the guidelines for milk banks in 1943, the practice has been adopted by many countries. After the first such bank was opened in Mumbai in 1989, over a dozen similar efforts have been made in other parts of India. The Infant and Young Child Feeding chapter of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics has called for formulating national guidelines for the subject. The government, health experts and the civil society must join hands, therefore, to propagate the concept of milk banks for the sake of lakhs of babies who suffer from malnutrition.

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Civil society in Kolkata protests rapes, atrocities

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Members of civil society, rights organisations and various women’s fora Friday marched in large numbers through the streets of Kolkata protesting atrocities on women and a spate of rape cases in West Bengal recently.

Poets, painters, authors, film and theatre personalities, singers, social activists walked alongside thousands of common people decrying the incidents of sexual violence and the “insensitive” reactions of the Trinamool Congress regime of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Poet Sankha Ghosh, painter Samir Aich, theatre personalities Rudraprasad Sengupta, Suman Mukhopadhyay – who had been leading figures of the protests against the alleged police and CPI-M atrocities in East Midnapore district’s Nandigram in 2007-08 – were among those who spearheaded the huge rally from College Square to Metro Channel at Esplanade, about three km away.

The protests against the Nandigram police firing during the erstwhile Left Front rule on March 14, 2007, and the alleged CPI-M atrocities in November that year triggered widespread protests and the civil society rallied against the then government.

The Nandigram protests are believed to have played a major role in the ouster of the Left Front and the installation of Banerjee as the chief minister.

Nonagenarian film maker Mrinal Sen, among the conveners of the march, could not participate due to his advanced age but expressed solidarity through a letter.

“This protest is not only against atrocities on women, but also against the misdeeds of the government and its tendency to browbeat people,” said Sen.

Many political figures also joined the protests, sans party flags. Among them were Congress’ Nirbed Roy, and former state finance minister Ashok Mitra. One-time Maoists Ajijul Haq and Asim Chatterjee were also present.

Actor Sabyasachi Chakraborty, writer Amit Chaudhuri, painter Wasim Kapoor, film director Tarun Majumdar, womens’ groups like Sramjeebi Mohila Samiti, the Paschim Banga Khetmajur Samiti, students and teachers of leading city colleges, also joined in the rally, which swelled in numbers as it moved forward.

A number of rape victims and their families from various corners of the state also took part.

The gang-rape-murder of a college girl from Kamduni village in North 24-Parganas district June 7 acted as the trigger for the mammoth rally.

Chief Minister Banerjee visited the village Monday, but ended up shouting at women protesting against the incident and seeking to talk to her. An enraged Banerjee screamed “shut up” at the women and called them Maoists and CPI-M activists, drawing flak from the civil society, media and the opposition.

Civil society seeks security for women activists

Lucknow, May 23 (IANS) Safety and well being of social activists involved in development work in Uttar Pradesh came under focus Thursday when an independent panel of women groups released a fact-finding report on an attack on Dalit women at Lalitpur.

Addressing the media here, members of the panel — retired police officer S.R. Darapuri and women’s rights activist Madhavi Kuckreja — highlighted the pathetic state in which women trying to empower others lived in.

They said that despite the arrest of Shaba Singh Yadav, a local goon who assaulted five women activists, the “state of fear and apprehension prevailing in the area continued”.

The panel recommended that the state government take preventive action against such lumpen elements to safeguard the well being of the Dalit and tribal community.

They also sought the creation of a forum in the next six months where activists, civil society groups and members of the community can discuss challenges they face during the course of their work.

They called for training policemen at the state level on the new Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013 and compensation to survivors of such assault.

Women activists from other parts of the state also shared their anxiety and experiences during their duties and said they felt insecure while working for the Dalits and other oppressed sections of the society.

Meena, the district coordinator of Sahjani Shiksha Kendra (SSK), shared the details of the violence with the media persons.

She related harrowing details of how on May 12, during the opening of a literacy centre for Dalit women in Digwar village in Lalitpur, they were brutally assaulted by Sahab Singh Yadav, resulting in serious body and head injuries to five women activists.

Despite the arrest of Yadav, she said, he continued to intimidate them and threaten them with dire consequences if they gave a statement against him. The accused is in judicial custody now.

Calling for stringent action against such people, Roop Rekha Verma, a former vice chancellor of Lucknow University, rued that socially marginalized sections continued to face exclusion.