New Delhi, Dec 29: The Health Ministry agreed to bring into force larger pictorial warnings on tobacco products from next year as the issue remained in news for most of 2015, which also saw launch of an ambitious programme to immunise children against life-threatening but preventable diseases.
This year also saw the Ministry taking the decision of introducing new vaccines as part of India's Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) in its bid to protect children from more vaccine preventable diseases and it will done in a phased manner.
The nationwide drug resistance survey was also launched with an aim to provide the Revised National TB Control Programme with a better estimate on the burden of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis in the community.
As part of the survey, the samples will be subjected to susceptibility testing for 13 anti-TB drugs (5 first line drugs and 8 second line drugs) and the results are expected in a month's time. The ministry's plan to implement larger pictorial warnings ran into rough weather early this year when it had to indefinitely delay the matter pending the decision of a parliamentary committee which was examining the issue.
The committee was looking into the contentious issue of amendment to the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Rules, 2008, to increase the size of the warnings from the current 40 per cent to 85 per cent.
The panel courted controversy when its chairman Dilip Gandhi of the BJP along with other members like Shyam Charan Gupta and Ram Prasad Sarmah claimed there is no clear proof linking cigarette puffing and cancer and there are "nil" effects of smoking.
The Rajasthan High Court on September 9 ordered the Centre to ensure that larger pictorial warnings are carried on all tobacco products by September 29. This forced the ministry to hurriedly come out with a notification just a day before a hearing on the matter saying all tobacco products will carry warnings covering 85 per cent of the package area from April 1, 2016, up from 40 per cent at present.
The Ministry also launched the ambitious "Mission Indradhanush" early this year, to fully immunise more than 89 lakh children who are either not vaccinated or partially vaccinated or those who have not been covered during the rounds of routine immunisation for various reasons.
The aim of the programme is to fully immunise children against seven life-threatening but vaccine preventable diseases like diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, measles and hepatitis-B.
Till now, through two rounds conducted by the ministry, Till now, through two rounds conducted by the ministry, 189.2 lakh antigens have been administrated under 94 lakh sessions while as many as 75.5 lakh children have been immunised and almost 20 lakh children are fully immunised.
The ministry said that more than 20 lakh women are vaccinated and 11 lakh are fully immunised. The first National De-worming Day was also observed in February. Touted as a major initiative, it was implemented in 277 districts covering 11 states and UTs across 4.7 lakh schools and 3.67 lakh anganwadi centers.
The year also saw the ministry deciding to introduce new vaccines as part of India's Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) in its bid to protect children from more vaccine preventable diseases.
This will be done in a phased manner. While the ministry has already launched the Inactivated Polio Vaccine which will benefit 2.7 crore children every year, it also taken the decision to introduce Adult Japanese Encephalitis (JE) vaccine in 20 high burden districts which have been identified in Assam, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
The Ministry also decided to introduce a Rotavirus vaccine as rotavirus is the leading cause of severe diarrhoea among infants and young children. Each year, approximately 2 lakh children in India die due to diarrhoea of which around 1 lakh deaths are caused by Rotavirus.
The Ministry said that it has expedited work in the nine new All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) proposed to be established in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh and Assam.
This is in addition to the six new AIIMS at Raipur, Bhopal, Patna, Bhubaneshwar, Rishikesh and Jodhpur where the ministry claimed that hospital work has begun for the last one year and high-end clinical care is being provided besides the MBBS teaching activities.
As far as these nine new AIIMS are concerned, the ministry kept itself busy in completing pre-investment activities for AIIMS at Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Maharashtra while site inspection was completed completed in Assam and Tamil Nadu. The process will be completed soon for Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, it claimed.