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Is India’s Opposition Rising Above Partisan Politics In Battle Against COVID-19?

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Are The Indian Opposition Parties Playing Responsible Role Amid COVID-19 Crisis?

India has entered the next phase of its unique lockdown strategy with the Central and State Government doing their best to contain the deadly COVID-19 virus. As on Wednesday, India’s tally stands at 15,474 active cases with 640 deaths. Amid the crisis, all parties, small or big, is trying to ease the difficulty of people either by announcing relief package to the poor or relaxing lockdown for their native stranded in other states. Here is how other parties are playing a role during the pandemic that has infected over 25 lakh people worldwide.

Major Opposition Party Congress:

A crisis provides a good opportunity for the bipartisanship and Congress managed to identify it at an early stage of the outbreak in the country. The Congress president Sonia Gandhi wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioning several recommendations that the country can undertake to combat the menace of the coronavirus.

Congress, in fact, is voicing its opinions, as well as, constructively criticizing the Modi Government’s shortcomings and decisions. Congress’ is appearing to be trying to deal with a serious problem instead of playing political games or bringing down the BJP Government.

Rahul Gandhi had warned about COVID-19 in his tweet of February 12, where he said, “The Coronavirus is an extremely serious threat to our people and our economy. My sense is the Government is not taking this threat seriously. Timely action is critical.” He had also tagged an article of the Harvard Gazette, dated February 7, predicting about the probable widespread outbreak of the virus, in his tweet.

Gandhi offered an excellent outlook to battle COVID-19 in the best possible way according to him, in a media interaction. He recognized health and economy to be the most critical factors to be dealt with. For the health sector, Gandhi made it clear that the current lockdown is no permanent solution but a “pause button” against coronavirus. He reiterated his demand to increase testing and urged the Government to stop chasing the virus by testing symptomatic patients and focus on pre-empting the virus by random sampling. He warned that the virus might relapse once lockdown is lifted if proper use of architecture and resources are not done strategically.

In case of economy, Gandhi believes that the financially backward people would be the worst hit and therefore the Government needs to develop a “safety net” along with higher amounts of “cash transfer and a minimum financial net” for the underprivileged, proper distribution of food to the marginalized, and a “defensive package” for smaller organizations so that they can provide job security to the massive population of migrant workers who are on the verge of losing their livelihood.

Seemingly, the Modi government has implemented many of Rahul Gandhi’s suggestions to aid the marginalized to deal with the imminent economic crisis by announcing the Rs.1.7 lakh crore Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi addressed a letter to the Prime Minister on April 7, putting forward five austerity measures to divert the required funds towards the corona crisis. It was mentioned there that the Government should impose a two-year ban on media advertisements, raising discontent from the media houses.

Congress had a rich experience of handling the humanitarian crisis with a broader approach and motivation catastrophes pragmatically. It has actively responded to the crisis by streamlining communication network across India and formed task force committees to help the citizens.

All India Congress Committee (AICC) General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi coordinated with chief ministers and other stakeholders to develop a competent mechanism to facilitate migrant workers hailing from Uttar Pradesh who are stuck in various parts of the country.

Arvind Kejriwal Urges People to Stay at Home:

The Delhi Chief Minister believes that staying at home would the best way to show patriotism at this juncture of time. He supports the BJP Government’s lockdown decision and recognizes it to be the ‘mantra’ to fight COVID-19.

As concerns were raised over migrant worker exodus triggered after the 21-day lockdown, Kejriwal assured that food and lodging arrangements would be provided in schools and stadiums had also been vacated to serve the purpose.

Kejriwal says the Delhi Government is providing lunch and dinner to about 4 lakh people each day. He mentioned about his appeal to employers to pay full salaries to their employees and labourers, his request to landlords not to force tenants in paying off rents currently, and stated that the state Government would help the poor to pay rents if needed. He also emphasized to maintain solidarity and restrain from politicizing the crisis.

Uddhav Thackeray’s Take:

Shiv Sena, sharing power with Congress and NCP in Maharashtra, praised Rahul Gandhi on Saturday for taking a positive stand as a responsible opposition party to avert the crisis. Shiv Sena appreciated Rahul’s view on public interest and political maturity when Rahul said that though he has differences with Modi, it is not a time to engage in a political quarrel, but to deal with the situation collectively.

Non-NDA Chief Ministers’ Part:

Punjab’s Amarinder Singh led Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee party has gained acknowledgement for making his police force implement lockdown rules with sensitivity.

Rajasthan’s Ashok Gehlot has managed to raise considerable alertness for restraining community transmission of Coronavirus in Bhilwara. Jharkhand’s Hemant Soren is playing a significant role in preparing the state to combat a potential outbreak of community transmission, and making the lockdown bearable for the poor.

West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee is seen actively spreading awareness among the masses, forming a state fund to accept donations to help the victims, urging the people and the police to maintain strict quarantine rules.

Kerala’s communist part led by Pinarayi Vijayan has also is playing a pioneering role to fight against corona by announcing a comprehensive package of Rs.20,000 crore before any other state.

Though the opposition parties are taking positive stands, it is somewhat challenging to limit the unprecedented situation when movement is restricted.

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All You Need To Know About National Institute Of Food Technology Entrepreneurship And Management Bill 2021

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National Institute Of Food Technology Entrepreneurship And Management Bill 2021

On July 26, 2021, Lok Sabha passed a bill under the ministry of Food Processing Industry. The bill is titled as National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management Bill, 2021. The main motive of this bill is to address issues with the Food Processing Industry, Entrepreneurship and one Institution for National Importance. With the passing of this bill, the Indian Institute of Food Processing Technology (IIFPT) and National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management (NIFTEM) is now merged as Institutions of National Importance, and it aims at providing various research and advancement in learning about the Food Industry and its associated branches. The bill was first introduced in the house in February 2019 but was pending due to protest by the opposition.

Significance of Institutions of National Importance (INI)

With the passing of this bill, the institutions enjoy greater autonomy through which they can carry out various courses, research attracting skilled faculties and students from all over the country and overseas. Good standards in education will be adopted to improve the present and future of education in this branch and sector, overcoming the technological gap in the country. This law aims to improve and introduce new changes in food, bio-nanotechnology, cold chain technology etc. The desired efforts will be taken in terms of human resources and infrastructure developments, labs for research etc. Liberty to open centres anywhere in India is also granted to INI and include courses regarding food technology certification and improving the workforce of the country.

Some other important features of this act are the Institution has been authorized with the Board of Government, Senate and other acting Authorities. The Council of Board will include 16 members from different branches from the same field. The Head will be Chairperson, who will be a skilled person from the Food Industry, the Director, Dean and Registrar. Members appointed from Centre and State Governments, Members from FSSAI and Council of Agriculture Research, as mentioned in the bill. The 16 members of the board will carry out work of taking administrative decisions, creating annual budgets and paths for institution progress as an organization, establishing departments, their appointment terms of services, faculties etc. The Board of Council also holds power to grant Honorary Degrees and Diplomas. The Senate shall be the principal academic body of the Institute, consisting of the people such as Director as the Chairperson; Registrar; Full-time skilled level Professor; and Three academically skilled Individuals nominated by the board from the field.

The Union Minister of Food Processing Industry, Mr Pashupati Kumar Paras, expressed his gratitude to PM Modi for this landmark step in this industry from his Twitter handle, indicating new opportunities in Food Technology Industries. Therefore, this Act looks promising on paper with new opportunities and in Educational Development. Amidst the Pegasus Spyware and repeal of the farm laws, this looks positive from the Modi Government.

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Fake News: Accountability Of News Organisations

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Fake News II News Aur Chai

Fake news is false news stories or hoaxes, which are deliberately released to misinform and to create chaos in society or among readers. Fake news is one of the main reasons behind the disruption of peace in society and it becomes more dangerous in volatile places. Fake news is generally shared with propaganda to mislead the audience by hiding or twisting the truth. However fake news isn’t new to the web, it recently became an enormous problem in today’s digital world. Fake news mostly comes from sites that are bogus or have sensationalized stories.

Most of the users do not check the facts before sharing the information on their social media, which can be a reason for widespread fake news. So, it is important to differentiate between fake news and authentic news to maintain harmony in society and to avoid false news and its repercussions.

Fake News Stories

  • On 2nd April, a team of doctors, health workers, and revenue officials were attacked by the family members of a 65-year-old man who died of COVID-19 in Indore, Madhya Pradesh because of the fake video which claimed that healthy Muslims were being injected with the virus, reiterating the risks and physical manifestations of misinformation.
  • On March 22, 2020, Mr. Modi’s new term ‘Janta curfew’ has sparked a buzz on the Internet. Social media users started interpreting PM Modi’s concept of ‘Janta curfew’ in their own ways. Social media was flooded with a certain ‘scientific explanation’ behind the curfew as to how it will break the chain of transmissions of the deadly coronavirus infection. The claim was found out to be misleading. PM Modi, while announcing the curfew, didn’t mention this particular ‘scientific’ logic behind it.
  • Rumours were circulated on WhatsApp groups about a kidnapping gang operating in India’s western state of Maharashtra in 2018. The rumors eventually cause a mob lynching, that killed five migrant workers because they were suspected of being kidnappers.
  • On November 13, 2016, when the government of India has demonetized Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes and planned to replace them with new Rs 500 and Rs 2000 notes, rumors were spreading about Rs 2000 notes. Rumors claimed the new higher denomination currency comes with a Nano-GPS chip which acts as a reflector, giving precise location coordinates of the currency to permit every note to be tracked. However, the RBI officials had dismissed these as false and said the new Rs 2000 note does not have a Nano-GPS chip as is being claimed on social media, WhatsApp.
  • In the pandemic situation, where vaccination has become crucial, in a series of viral videos it was seen that people are claiming that magnet was attracted to the arms of alleged COVID-19 vaccinated recipients. This kind of fake news can create misconceptions about vaccines and people may not take their jab of vaccines. The Centre has declined the claims that Covid-19 vaccines can make people ‘magnetic’. It has also dismissed theories about microchips in coronavirus vaccines.

Need of Accountability

False information on social media can cause huge problems. It is often done to influence political processes. Need for Accountability increases in such situations because the false information provided by certain news organizations can create a ruckus in society. Before publishing the news, it is necessary to check the facts.

If the news organizations, shared misinformation unintentionally they must remove the content right away and they should apologize to the readers. If fake news is spread with propaganda to create chaos in society, then the news organization should be punished under the law. The information must be checked before sharing it with other people.

 

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Curious Case Of Pegasus: Explained

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Pegasus II News Aur Chai

Pegasus is a spyware that can hack the victims’ mobile phones and read their SMS messages and emails. The Pegasus spyware is owned by an Israeli software company named NSO Group. According to the various reports, this company has targeted more than 50,000 phone numbers at the Global level, of which 300 are in India for surveillance.

The news broke out after the 17 media partners investigated. This investigation brought into the picture information about a leaked database of mobile telephone numbers of Indian Ministers, Opposition leaders, journalists, the legal community, business people, government officials, scientists, activists and many influential personalities of the nation.

Pegasus Spyware and India

According to the report by the agency, the Israeli company which sells Pegasus around the world says that its clients are confined to ‘vetted governments”, believed to number 36. The NSO Group also says that ‘the target list in India is not ours, never was.’ Their refusal of the leaked database has created a loophole in understanding this case.

This whole case has violated the integrity of democratic institutions. According to the report by the agencies, after the mobile phones of the opposition leader Rahul Gandhi and various other leaders were hacked under the Pegasus spyware surveillance. Multiple tweets were made against the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) government in India. This whole case has become one of the major threats in the political arena and the Indian Democracy.

Though at the start, it was used for national security purposes. The explosive expansion of surveillance technology vendors has become a vast human rights and a global security issue. If such surveillance technologies increase, it might cause a lot of problems to countries around the globe. Hence, as a precaution, all these countries need to work on regulating this technology.

According to the reports by the agency, one of the targeted phones by the Pegasus spyware was of the former election commissioner of India, Ashok Lavasa. Various such people and such opposition leaders were somehow against the BJP government having their phones hacked with the NSO-owned spyware. All these instances and the names in the leaked list have pointed figures towards the Modi Government.

The Modi government’s stand on this case was put forward in Lok Sabha by two serving ministers, Ashwini Vaishnaw and Prahlad Singh Patel. These two leaders were also featured in the leaked database. The recent Information Technology Minister, Ashwini Vaishnaw defended the BJP government in the parliament by saying, “the expose was an attempt to malign Indian democracy and its well-established institutions.” She even said, ‘any form of illegal surveillance is not possible with the checks and balances in our laws and robust institutions.’

This case has adjourned the parliament proceedings due to the protests inside and outside the house of parliament by the opposition party.

Pegasus Spyware and World.

 In the statement given to the agency, Access Now, an organisation defending the digital rights of global users, said it was outraged that products sold by NSO were allegedly “used to hack and invade the private communications” of thousands of people across the globe.

At a global level, France’s Emmanuel Macron was targeted in the Pegasus spyware case. As the phone of French President Emmanuel Macron was hacked, the investigation was carried out and later on was published which was directed by the Paris-based non-profit journalism group Forbidden.  After this case came in front of the whole world, the Pegasus spyware surveillance came into the picture.

If this continues for some more time, it will ruin India’s Democratic values at a global level. As well as this might become a huge technological threat between the different nations around the globe.

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