Though there is an economic boom in India there is a flipside to it too. According to estimates there are 80.7 million urban poor in India and a housing shortage of 24.7 million, says Kumari Selja, minister of state (independent charge), housing and urban poverty alleviation.

Multiple agencies set up for the implementation of the UPA government's flagship and anti-poverty programmes such as sarva shiksha abhiyan, national rural health mission and national horticulture mission are undermining the role of panchayats in the country, minister for panchayati raj Mani Shankar Aiyar said on Wednesday. Aiyar called for the abolition of all the development programs or their merger so that they could be brought under the supervision of panchayats for better implementation and impact.


THE State Government has decided to set up poison treatment centres in all districts in Tamil Nadu. The Directorate of Public Health and Preventive Medicine will set up these centres with support from the National Rural Health Mission, said Director of Public Health Dr P Padmanabhan. "Poisoning is becoming a modern epidemic," said Dr C Rajendran, Professor of Medicine and Chiefin-charge of the Intensive Medical Care and Poison Centre, Government General Hospital. Last year alone, the GGH saw nearly 2,500 cases of poisoning, he said.

It is clear from Budget 2008 that the UPA, instead of abandoning its neoliberal agenda in an election year, has decided to stick to it resolutely. R.V. MOORTHY

Activities of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) in the State will get a new dimension by the first week of April, with some new components expected to be included in the coming budget. "Preliminary discussions with regard to district-level health plans are under way and so far, 24 districts have been covered as part of the State-level exercise,' according to a senior official. A meeting of health officials of 12 districts was held in Madurai on Friday. The proposals will be forwarded to the government. According to the official, it is for the first time that the NRHM has decentralised its budget planning activity by going to the districts. Stating that a major announcement is likely by April, he says the focus will now include health management. "The NRHM is ready to extend financial support to need-based health projects. But, due to procedural delays in districts, the time taken to release the funds is getting longer,' says another State-level official based in Chennai. A meeting covering the remaining five districts will be held next week. "Till now, health projects were taken up on an ad hoc basis. It will not be the case in future,' the official avers.

The health sector is on a roll with schemes in place to widen the reach of medical services

One of the primary aims of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), which was launched with much fanfare in April 2005 in order to make "architectural corrections" in the rural health infrastructure, was to provide universal access to equitable, affordable and quality health care.

Continuing his emphasis on the power sector, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot presented the Budget on Wednesday while also stressing on social sectors by announcing that pulses, rice and wheat will now be tax-free.