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Top 8 tips in taking care of mental health | COVID-19 pandemic

At a time when the world is going through a severe health crisis, it is important to take care of one’s mental health along with physical health. The outbreak of COVID-19 has meant that many countries in the world have imposed differing degrees of lockdowns to break the chain of contamination. However, these lockdowns can be both stressful and anxiety causing and hence, taking care of one’s mental health is crucial.

It is important to remember that everyone reacts differently to stressful situations and may be differently affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic is causing panic, anxiety, loneliness, hopelessness, and depression amongst all kinds of people, but especially amongst the elderly, people with chronic diseases, people with already existing mental health issues, children, health care service providers, and caregivers.

Findings of studies
Samantha Brooks had conducted a study on the psycho-social effects of pandemics like SARS, H1N1, and Ebola. This study reveals that long periods of self-isolation can lead to rising trauma, rage, tiredness, and abuse (Brooks et al., 2020). While the practice of physical distancing is an effective strategy to combat COVID-19, it means that we have to be isolated. It is something that humans are not often used to.
In fact, data collected from Google trends (an online search tool that helps in understanding how many times a particular phrase or keyword has been googled in a specified time period) show that stress levels of people in India have increased during this period of lockdown. Along with it, search for therapists has also risen (Dantewadia, 2020). This is an indication of the fact that people are facing psychological problems.
As such, it becomes imperative to reflect on what we as individuals can do to take care of our mental health in these circumstances. Below is a curated list of tips and activities that can help us in taking care of our mental health.

Tip 1: Staying connected
As most of us are practicing physical distancing, it is useful to remember that we can still maintain social solidarity. We can stay connected to our loved ones through digital methods (phone calls, texts, video calls). Regular interaction will help us in sharing stories and experiences that may be similar and can inspire each other (World Health Organization, 2020). We must also stay in touch with people who have been dealing with issues of mental health before the COVID-19 crisis (World Federation for Mental Health, 2020). They require special attention in these times.

Tip 2: Building solidarity
One of the things that can help us keep our mental health in check during these times is realizing that it is a crisis of humanity and that we cannot fight it alone. Hence we should focus on building and maintaining social solidarity as COVID-19 affects all of us. We need to be both empathetic and sympathetic towards each other and think as a global community (Amitabh, 2020).

Tip 3: Maintaining positivity
Listening to positive stories can be an effective way of ensuring good mental health in times of crises. While there is a lot of focus on the increasing number of cases of affected people, it is also essential to talk about stories of people who have recovered, as well as about how people are showing solidarity with each other (World Health Organization, 2020).

Tip 4: Following a regular schedule
While we acknowledge that these are unprecedented times and it is difficult to be productive and efficient, at the same time, we must try and follow a routine as much as possible. It is better to take breaks from the news and follow one’s daily schedule as much as we can (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). But at the same time, it is also important to remember that even if we cannot be productive all the time, it is okay. The pressure of deadlines and accomplishing professional goals can further increase anxiety and worsen one’s mental health (Amitabh, 2020). Therefore, we should focus on maintaining a healthy work and life balance.

Tip 5: Doing exercise and eating a balanced diet
Even if we cannot go out, we can do some forms of indoor exercises like yoga. Climbing stairs can also be a form of exercise that can be done at home. Along with exercise, it is also important to practice healthy eating and consume a balanced diet (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). A good combination of exercise and food can keep one in good spirits.
Getting regular exercise and healthy food is particularly important for people who have chronic forms of illnesses like diabetes and hypertension. These are also the people who are at increased risk from COVID-19 and hence need special care.

Tip 6: Staying away from rumours and unverified news
Most crises lead to the spread of rumours around them and the COVID-19 pandemic is no different. We must stay away from rumours, sensational media coverage, and fake news (Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, 2020). Wrong and misleading information can lead to increased anxiety and panic and hence it is advisable to believe only authorized sources of information. Social media forwards, quick home-based cures, and unverified data can only worsen the situation (Amitabh, 2020). At the same time, it is also important to take a break from watching news that can trigger us mentally and create panic.

Tip 7: Recognizing the importance of mental health
Most of us do not even realize that we may be undergoing issues of mental health and ignore them. But the fact is, in order to deal with these issues, we must acknowledge the importance of mental health. Only then, we will be able to understand how to take care of both ourselves as well as our loved ones (Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, 2020).

There can also be varying needs for different categories of people, and thus everyone needs to take care of their mental health accordingly. For instance, children and adolescents require more attention from their parents as they are at home and their contact with people is reduced. Even amongst children, the ones with special needs require extra care (Lee, 2020). We have to take into account their mental health and deal with it accordingly. Similarly, people with chronic diseases and the elderly, who are more at risk, require constant empathy and care to be able to handle their anxieties.

There is also the need to think about people who have been suffering from mental health problems even before the onset of the crisis. They are especially vulnerable. The importance of mental health, thus, is very important in this situation.

Tip 8: Removing the fear and stigma around COVID-19
As mentioned above, we should be able to deal with our mental health issues and act as a global community. But that is possible only if we treat COVID-19 as just another disease and break the fear and stigma that surround it. It is beneficial to keep in mind that it can be treated and there is no reason to panic even if the disease is contracted. At the same time, we need to treat COVID-19 patients with love and empathy and not stigmatize them. If friends and family are already going through a major health crisis, and as such, need better care. Keeping fear and stigma at bay is good for our mental health.

Summing up
While recognizing the fact that we are going through an unprecedented health crisis, at the same time, we must be thankful to our health care service providers. This also includes mental health professionals. Similarly, we require due recognition of the importance of mental health as well as acknowledgement of the fact that all of us are in this together. A pandemic is a moment of crisis for humanity as a whole, an event in time that should make us think as a whole and maintain positivity and hope. We should stay away from unverified news and act towards removing the stigma attached to the disease. Only then, can we all achieve good mental health. After all, there is no health without mental health.

References:
Brooks, Samantha, R.K. Webster, L. E. Smith, L. Woodland, S. Wessley, N. Greenberg and GJ Rubin, (2020), The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence, Rapid Review, 305(10227): 912-920, accessed on 1st May 2020 from https://www.thelancet.com/action/showPdf?pii=S0140-6736%2820%2930460-8

Dantewadia, Pooja, (2020), Lockdown impact, as per Google, retrieved on 1st May 2020 from https://www.livemint.com/news/india/what-google-tells-us-about-lockdown-impact-on-indians-11587990564001.html

World Health Organization, (2020), Mental health and psychosocial considerations during the COVID-19 pandemic, retrieved on 30th April 2020 from https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/mental-health-considerations.pdf

World Federation for Mental Health, (2020), Mental Health and COVID-19, retrieved on 1st May 2020 from https://wfmh.global/mental-health-and-covid-19-appeal/

Amitabh, Utkarsh, (2020), It’s time you extended empathy digitally as well, retrieved on 1st May 2020 from https://www.livemint.com/mint-lounge/business-of-life/it-s-time-you-extended-empathy-digitally-as-well-11585582386790.html

World Health Organization, (2020), Mental health and psychosocial considerations during the COVID-19 pandemic, retrieved on 30th April 2020 from https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/mental-health-considerations.pdf

Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, (2020), Stress and Coping, retrieved on 30th April 2020 from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html#community

Amitabh, Utkarsh, (2020), Relax, it’s okay if you are not being productive, retrieved on 1st May 2020 from https://www.livemint.com/mint-lounge/business-of-life/relax-it-s-okay-if-you-re-not-being-productive-11586871430443.html

Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, (2020), Stress and Coping, retrieved on 30th April 2020 from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html#community

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, (2020), Minding Our Minds during the COVID-19, retrieved on 1st May 2020 from https://www.mohfw.gov.in/pdf/MindingourmindsduringCoronaeditedat.pdf

Amitabh, Utkarsh, (2020), How a Pandemic Affects Mental Health, retrieved on 1st May 2020 from https://www.livemint.com/mint-lounge/business-of-life/how-a-pandemic-affects-mental-health-11587562021072.html

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, (2020), Minding Our Minds during the COVID-19, retrieved on 1st May 2020 from https://www.mohfw.gov.in/pdf/MindingourmindsduringCoronaeditedat.pdf

Lee, Joyce, (2020), Mental health effects of school closures during COVID-19, retrieved on 1st May 2020 from https://www.thelancet.com/action/showPdf?pii=S2352-4642%2820%2930109-7

FACT FILE | No-Confidence Motion in Lok Sabha | Monsoon Session 2018

A Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to Lok Sabha and it remains in office till it enjoys confidence of majority of the members in Lok Sabha. Thus, a motion of no-confidence is moved to remove the council of ministers and thus oust the government from office.

While Article 75 of the Indian Constitution specifies that the council of ministers shall be collectively responsible to the House of the People – there is no mention of a no-confidence motion. All it indicates is that the majority of Lok Sabha members must be with the Prime Minister and his Cabinet.

Article 118 of the Constitution permits each house of Parliament to make its own rules for conduct of business. Rule 198 of the Lok Sabha specifies the procedure for a motion of no-confidence. Any member may give a written notice before 10 am; the Speaker will read the motion of no-confidence in the House and ask all those favouring the motion to rise. If there are 50 MPs in favour, the Speaker could allot a date for discussing the motion – but this has to be within 10 days. However, this cannot be done in conditions of din or confusion in the House.

Conditions of a no-confidence motion:

  1. A no-confidence motion can be moved only in the Lok Sabha (or state assembly as the case may be). It cannot be moved in the Rajya Sabha (or state legislative council);
  2. It is moved against the entire Council of Ministers including the Prime Minister and not individual ministers or private members; and,
  • It needs support of at least 50 members when introduced in the Lok Sabha.

Censure Motion and No-confidence motion:

  1. Both censure motion and the no-confidence motion can be moved in the Lok Sabha or State Legislative Assembles;
  2. While the no-confidence motion is moved against the entire council of ministers, censure motion can be moved against individual ministers or members; and,
  • The Government of the day is not impacted by the censure motion being passed by the House whereas it has to resign if a no-confidence motion is passed.

History of No-Confidence Motion

-The First No-Confidence Motion was moved in the Lok Sabha by Acharya Kriplani against the the Congress government led by Shri Jawaharlal Nehru in August 1963.

-So far over 30 no-confidence motions have been moved.

-15 no-confidence motions were moved against the government led by Mrs. Indira Gandhi.

-In the History of Indian Parliament, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Sh. Atal Bihari Vajpayee became the first ever to lose a no-confidence motion in India in 1999.

In 1990, when V P Singh had tabled a motion of confidence and a member had given the notice for a no-confidence motion, the Speaker had given precedence to government business and taken the motion of confidence.

Washout of Parliament Session, a Breach of Privilege of the Houses, MPs By Dr. N.Prasad

parinews

Another idea will hold good if the Parliament adopts the principle of ‘the Disruptors Pay’ and levy heavy penalties on the disrupting members and deduct from their salary and allowances.

A near complete washout of the second part of the Budget Session 2018 has raised some alarming issues. Right to be heard in the Parliament is democratic but taking the Parliament to ransom is outright undemocratic.

Continue reading Washout of Parliament Session, a Breach of Privilege of the Houses, MPs By Dr. N.Prasad

No to ‘Vote on Account’: A Welcome Reform By Dr N Prasad.

After Mr. Narendra Modi took over as the Prime Minister of India, expectations on several fronts, including parliamentary reforms rose. The status quoist attitude of the previous governments influenced people’s thinking and turned Indian bureaucracy lethargic.The change of power happened in 2014 on the promise of change. It took around two years to bring the goods and services tax preliminary legislation on track, which will be a landmark reform in our indirect taxation system. The Planning Commission gave way to Niti Aayog thus reducing one major wall between the people of states and the Centre. On the Parliamentary front, the promise to approve the national budgetary grants before March 31, 2016 will go down in the annals of history as major reform with far-reaching implications. Passing general budgets before March 31 would mean no ‘vote on account’ – no delay in implementation of developmental projects and thus no loss in revenue collection.

Vote on Account
Vote on account had become an integral part of our budgetary exercise. The concept entails a special provision given to the Indian Government to obtain the vote of parliament to withdraw money when the budget for the new financial year is not released or elections are underway, and the caretaker government is in place.
In simple terms, Article 266 of the Constitution makes it mandatory for the Indian Government to seek approval from the parliament before raising any funds from the consolidated funds of India. The vote on account represents the expenditure side of the government’s budget; i.e. government gives the estimate of the funds required during the first two months of the financial year. It stays valid for two months which can be extended if the year is an election year and it is anticipated that the main demand and the appropriation bill will take longer to be passed by the House.
It is very clear from the above definition that vote on account should be applicable only in an election year i.e. once in five years or when there is a caretaker government in place. However, the practice of vote on account became a regular feature in the normal years too. Additionally, the period of vote on account sometimes extended even beyond two months.

Projects forced to wait
During the period of vote on account, the ministries/departments can only use the funds meant for the expenditure side i.e. salary disbursements, loan interests and other non-plan expenses, meaning thereby no new projects would be taken up till the budget is finally passed by the Parliament and individual notices/communications are received by the ministries/departments which takes around two to three months. Thus the nation loses crucial time every year on development works as no project is initiated or built upon during this period. The bureaucracy also postpones every new initiative and waits for the final passage of the budget.
One of the essential features of a vote on account is that it cannot alter the tax proposals since the Financial Bill needs to be passed by the Parliament. Which means the nation loses financially also as the altered taxes though proposed in the budget documents, but can not be implemented for two to three months which amounts to a loss of around 1/3rd of the revenue in a year. The last minute rush of spending the budgets allocated to the Centre and state level governments have resulted in many anomalies at the cost of the beneficiaries. Many a time budgets get reduced due non-spending of the full amount in a financial year.

The Proposed reform and its impact
As proposed by the new Government, the budget for 2017-18 will be presented in the Parliament on February 1, 2017. It will be given 30-40 days scrutiny by the Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committees which examine the individual demands for grants thread-bare and give their reports to the Parliament. Earlier this process used to spill over to April end and sometimes early May and hence the vote on account was needed. Once the entire budget exercise gets over by March 31, there will be no need for a vote on account and the government can straightway start implementing projects from April 1.
This will also not leave any excuse to the bureaucracy for delaying the project. On an average the efficiency of the government was 75 per cent and an equal proportion of revenue was collected. Now the time available for implementation of all the projects will be the full 12 months and the revenue collection will also be 100 per cent.

Conclusion
The crucial time lost due to vote on account earlier will now be available with the government for implementation of many social projects in the states and it will usher in a new era. This will also put a stop to the last minute rush of spending the budgets allocated to the Centre and state level governments. Many such reforms are needed to make the parliamentary democracy a success and turn the common people of the country into beneficiaries.

Opinion: News that Congress is out of a key parliamentary committee is a worrying development

According to recent media reports, the Congress has lost the chairmanship of a key parliamentary panel in the Rajya Sabha. If true, this is not good parliamentary practice and certainly is not a good sign for India’s democracy.
A report in the Hindu on September 21 said that the Congress had lost the chairmanship of the standing committee on personnel, law and justice, which was headed by Anand Sharma. It said that Sharma is likely to be replaced by the BJP’s Bhupender Yadav and that a formal order was expected soon.
Parliamentary committees assist the legislature in discharging its duties by regulating its functions effectively. They are expected to function in a non-partisan manner. They review bills that may be referred to them as well as policies and budgets in order to influence, advise, scrutinise and ensure accountability. Their recommendations are not binding on the government.

Undemocratic decision
The chairmanship of Parliamentary committees is decided on the basis of the strength of each political party in the House. There is a set procedure for this. There are 245 members in the Rajya Sabha today. For allocation, 13 main committees are usually taken into consideration. These include eight department-related committees, four standing committees and the house committee.
Dividing the total number of Rajya Sabha members with 13 (the number of committees counted) throws up the rounded-off figure of 19. This is the number of members a political party would require to get chairmanship of one committee. However, the Bahujan Samaj Party with five Rajya Sabha members holds chairmanship of the assurances committee, and, according to the Hindu report, the Shiromani Akali Dal is set to get chairmanship of a committee despite only having three MPs in the Upper House.
One of the justifications of the move to divest the Congress of the chairmanship of a committee is that the party has been losing seats in the Rajya Sabha. However, after Manohar Parikkar resigned as defence minister in March to take over as Goa chief minister and surrendered his membership of the Upper House in September, the Congress is still the largest party in the Rajya Sabha with 57 MPs against the BJP’s 56.
As of today, out of 13 Parliamentary committees, the BJP holds chairmanship of five. These are committees on house, petitions, papers laid on the table, human resource development, and commerce. By contrast, the Congress chairs only four committees – subordinate legislation, home affairs, science and technology, and personnel, public grievances, law and justice. Considering that both parties have a near similar strength in the Rajya Sabha, why does the BJP have more committees than the Congress?

Electoral reforms The standing committee on personnel, law and justice was in the midst of finalising a report on electoral reforms, specifically regarding the current first-past-the-post system of elections vs proportional representation. In August, this committee sent a questionnaire on electoral reforms to all political parties and the Election Commission, seeking opinions on whether election systems other than the one currently used in India can be considered.
It highlighted concerns that the first-past-the-post system may not be the best, given the results of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls in March, in which the Bharatiya Janata Party won 312 of the 403 seats (or 77.4% of the seats) despite getting 39.7% of the vote share. In contrast, the Samajwadi Party won 11.7% seats with 21.8% of votes, and the BSP only 4.7% seats despite bagging 22.2% of votes.

Tenures of committees
The media has indicated that one reason the Congress is protesting against being divested of a committee is because Anand Sharma has not yet finished the work he started on that panel. According to the rulebook, this is not a valid argument. However, this draws attention to the issue of the tenure of parliamentary committees.
As per the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Council of States (Rajya Sabha), parliamentary committees have a tenure of one year. However, this timeframe is strictly adhered to only with respect to department-related committees – those that cover various ministries or departments of the Union government. Other standing committees, such as those on petitions, assurances, subordinate legislation and ethics, continue till they are reconstituted. This could take between one and three years. It is beyond comprehension why diverse yardsticks apply to different committees.
Further, in Chapter 22 of the Rules of Procedure, Clause 269 (3) says: “A member of a Committee shall hold office for a term not exceeding one year.” This can lead to an interpretation that the committee can remain functional to maintain continuity, while its members may be rotated.
But in reality, department-related committees become dysfunctional as soon as they complete a year, bringing all business to a grinding halt. Since, by convention, the new committee is not bound to carry on the unfinished work of the previous committeee, it results in a huge waste of the country’s resources.
One year is indeed too short. In the past, by the end of a year, several committees have been unable to complete the work they have taken up. This should not happen.
Each committee handles issues of national importance. Besides electoral reforms, committees are involved in other pertinent issues such as climate change and air pollution. However, they are often unable to complete their work because of time limitations. Our parliamentary procedures must be revisited so that tenures of these committees can be extended in order to bring their work to a fruitful culmination.
Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu, who appoints the heads of Rajya Sabha committees, does not deserve to be dragged into unsavory controversy. The committees are supposed to be non-partisan instruments, and the chairman of the Rajya Sabha must display exemplary non-partisanship.
Narmadeshwar Prasad is the former additional director of the Rajya Sabha Secretariat.