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Multi-agency Magical Approach, Without Spending An Extra Penny

While the nation is moving towards adopting the central government’s ambitious Ayushman Bharat-National Health Protection Mission (SB-NHPM) targeted at providing a comprehensive and cashless health cover to 10 crore poor and unprotected families, the cash strapped Punjab government, treading its own path, appears to have done some ‘out of the box thinking’ to achieve universal healthcare without having to allocate an extra penny.

Under its own healthcare mission ‘Tandarust Punjab’, formally launched by Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh on the occasion of Word Environment Day on June 6, the state government is banking heavily on half a dozen departments, including Health and Environment, to overnight show ‘magical’ results with their existing resources in an effort to create a clean and disease free environment across the state, so that people can live a ‘tandarust’ (healthy and robust) life. It is also assuming that the awareness drives planned to be launched on a massive scale will create an awakening among the citizens to become active participants in the mission.

Multi-agency Magical Approach, Without Spending An Extra Penny, Lifeinchd

Photos By : Life In Chandigarh

With Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) as the nodal agency for implementing and monitoring all activities under the mission, the departments of Health, Water Supply and Sanitation, Local Government, Transport, Agriculture, Horticulture, Cooperation and Sports are expected to intimate to the Environment Department the funds they have earmarked for various activities under the programme.

Mission Goals

The four goals laid down under the mission, as spelled out by state Additional Chief Secretary Environment Dr. Roshan Sunkaria, are to provide clean drinking water, improve ambient air quality, ensure that only unadulterated food and food products are produced and consumed and improve physical and mental health of the people. 

Among the onerous tasks handed out the departments, the health department has been asked to get cracking, among other things, on effective implementation of the Food Safety Act to especially ensure prescribed quality of milk and milk products, prevent sale of spurious and unauthorised medicines and operation of unlicensed chemists, effective implementation of the School Health Programme and health screening of all citizens above 30 years of age.

The Local Government Department is to ensure safe potable drinking water supply to cities, open defecation free cities and towns and scientific management of urban solid waste and sewage treatment. Transport Department is to check that sanctioned Pollution Under Control (PUC) certification centres are functional and effective and ensure regular drives are organised to check polluting vehicles.

Whip has also been cracked on PPCB to get more proactive in laying down protocols for safe drinking water in urban and rural areas, ensuring ambient air quality and drilling sense into owners of polluting industries and farmers burning stubble. It is expected to also closely monitoring that plastic and bio-medical waste is disposed off as per prescribed rules.

Multi-agency Magical Approach, Without Spending An Extra Penny, Lifeinchd

Will Departments Deliver ?

In the state level programme held in the auditorium of IISER (Indian Institute of Science Edcation and Research), Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh, Forests Minister Sadhu Singh Dharmsot and Environment Minister Om Parkash Soni vociferously voiced their commitment to ensure a ‘tandarust’ Punjab as spelled out in the mission. But given the proven capacity and commitment of various departments, and the limited staff and financial resources at their command, a big question mark hangs over the prospects of effective implementation of the programme.

Also, the mission appears to focus purely on preventive aspects of healthcare and wellness, which is a long drawn out exercise. It does not spell out immediate steps to be taken for making available quality and cashless comprehensive curative healthcare to the poor and the unprotected sections of the society, as envisioned in the National Health Protection Mission. The healthcare delivery system in Punjab, as in many other states, does not inspire much confidence. And considering the lingering financial woes of the state, the sick and the infirm among the deprived sections have just the blue sky to look up to for succour.

CM Speak

Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh reiterated his government’s commitment to providing ambient air quality and clean drinking water to the people, for which a clampdown will be ordered on polluting units and discharge of municipal waste into water channels. He also called for stringent measures to preserve ground water by preventing the misuse of free electricity for its overexploitation. Emphasising the need for using new crops and new technologies for optimum utilisation of water for irrigation, he also wanted plantation of traditional varieties of trees for a greener Punjab.  The chief minister also had a dig at the lax extension services of the Agriculture Department and the Punjab Agricultural University Ludhiana, saying they needed to play a more active role in dissuading farmers from excessive use of pesticides, which were infusing poison into the food chain.

8 Crore Plantations This Year

Forests Minister Sadhu Singh Dharmsot informed that last year’s target of planting 2 crore trees had been met and this year the target had been increased fourfold to 8 crore trees. Farmers are also being provided 1 lakh ‘chandan’ trees for high value commercial farming, he said, adding that under a new scheme aimed at raising the incomes of farmers, they can offer their vacant farmlands ranging from 10 acres to 20 acres to the state forest department, which at its own cost will plant trees on them, maintain them for two years and then hand them back to the owners.

Give Me 6 Months : O.P. Soni

Acknowledging that untreated municipal waste from towns and cities was the biggest source of pollution of water channels and rivers in Punjab, Environment Minister Om Parkash Soni vowed to put brakes on this practice within the next six months.

Baba Sewa Singh

Multi-agency Magical Approach, Without Spending An Extra Penny, Lifeinchd

Renowned social worker and environmentalist Padma Shri Baba Sewa Singh while ruing the fact that the land of five rivers was staring at a water crisis, exhorted the people of Punjab to take a pledge to protect water, air and earth at all costs for their own survival. He also appealed to the farmers to desist from burning crop stubble as it was leading to large scale collateral damage to trees and flora and fauna. 

Green Warriors Honoured

More than a dozen individuals who made a significant contribution to environmental protection in the state were honoured by presenting each of them a tree sapling smartly planted in a porcelain dish. The contributions ranged from extracting harmful metals from furnace dust for commercial use, being the first industrial unit to go fully CNG, practising large scale organic farming, adopting zero emission technologies in dyeing and electroplating industries, developing a dust collector for paddy cultivation, developing environmentally friendly practices for polluting poultry birds droppings, developing a technique for extracting bio oil from plastic waste, using paddy straw ash to the extent of 20 % in the manufacture of bricks, undertaking to clean up a highly polluted choe and get tree plantations done on a massive scale to create green belts.

Mohali To Plant 1 crore trees

It was announced on behalf of Mohali Deputy Commissioner Gurpreet Kaur Sapra that the district administration has undertaken to plant one crore trees under the Hariyali Mission in three years.

All Dignitaries Presented Saplings

To give the greening drive a push, all dignitaries on the dais, including Baba Sewa Singh, Capt. Amarinder Singh, Sandhu Singh Dharmsot, Om Parkash Soni, Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh, former PGI Director K.K. Talwar and IISER Mohali Director Prof. Debi. P. Sarkar were also presented a sapling each.

Launch Of iHariyali App

With a click of the mouse, the chief Minister also launched an ‘iHaryali’ App of the Forest Department. By downloading and using the app, citizens of Punjab can request for free plants and saplings of their choice from designated nurseries nearest to them.  

Enthusiastic Rush For Saplings

Multi-agency Magical Approach, Without Spending An Extra Penny, Lifeinchd

Multi-agency Magical Approach, Without Spending An Extra Penny, Lifeinchd

A heartening take away from the programme, organised to mark World Environment Day, was the spontaneous love for plants shown by the audience in the jam-packed auditorium as the organisers invited each one to carry home one or more plants from the nurseries arranged by the state Forest Department in the lawns outside. People jostled with each other to get their favourite plants. Policemen were also seen joyously carrying away multiple plants to ado their homes.

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