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Struggle Of Health Workers Amid Coronavirus Pandemic – An Explainer

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Health Workers Worst Hit By COVID 19 Pandemic

The deadly COVID-19, brought the whole world to a standstill spreading faster than the speed of light, people started getting affected at an alarming rate, stock markets crashed, corporate bodies had to close down, economies fell, recission is at the doorstep leaving everyone clueless.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the deadly virus has infected over 2.97 million across the globe, killing more than 2 lakh people, affecting 213 countries and territories as on April 27.

Out of the entire population the people working in the frontline–the health workers– are the most struggling due to this pandemic. Being at the forefront with the lack of protective gear makes them the most vulnerable section of this outbreak. As of mid- April over 22,000 health workers across 52 countries have been hit by the COVID-19, reports WHO.

Role of medical staff in crucial time

We all can agree, without a doubt, that the role of the doctors and nurses gained utmost importance after the outbreak of the virus.

The sick are relieved that there are medical practitioners to take care of them, but when it comes to these healthcare professionals, its scenario is quite disturbing.

These hardworking souls serve 12-13 hours per shift, risking their lives to protect humankind. In this process, they go through a lot of hardship, such as getting physical bruises to fatigues. The medical staff around the world are working as one in fighting this pandemic.

Do they have a choice? Maybe not, some of these professionals are compulsorily allocated in special wards built for treating patients affected by coronavirus. Amid this, the shortage of health care staffs burdens the medical students as they are being placed in the COVID-19 care units.

The doctors and nurses are being abused around the world.

Shocking right? Despite being in the frontline of this battle against the virus, these healthcare professionals are given the least human treatment possible. Some of the instances are as follows:

Mexico

According to a report of CNN (Cable News Network) by Mexico’s National Council to Prevent Discrimination, “At least 44 attacks against medical personnel have been registered across the country since mid-March.”

Canada

Doctor’s Association in the Canadian Province — Ontario–says that the help received from the Government is not enough to tackle COVID-19. Clinics do not get sufficient grants from the Government, and the proposal from the provincial Government’s to offer advance payments will not be adequate to keep the clinics open during the pandemic.

The United States of America (USA)

Many medical practitioners in the states of New York and Oklahoma are being targeted due to the fear that these health workers are exposing others to the virus. Their vehicles’ tires are being slashed, and they have been facing violence from patients.

India

“Several healthcare workers in India have been attacked as they battle to stop the spread of the coronavirus. According to a report by BBC News, doctors have been spat at and chased away from homes, and there have been cases where the patients directed abusive and used vulgar language towards female nurses.”

Also, the Union Minister, Prakash Javadekar, had said that the crimes against health workers would be cognizable and non-bailable. The Central Government has brought an ordinance to end violence against health workers by amending the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, which will allow imprisonment from 6 months to 7 years for those found guilty.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had declared via his speech addressed to the entire nation of March 9, 2020, that all citizens should clap their hands or bang the utensils from their balconies, in recognition of the service rendered by the ‘brave 24×7 workers’. Many doctors took to social media to demand much more than mere applause. Noticeable tweets by some of the doctors are as follows:-

https://twitter.com/unkittenish/status/1241344915306467328

Dr. Harjit Singh Bhatti, President of the Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum, had told Anadolu Agency that, “My main concern is that we, the healthcare professionals, are at the highest risk of getting infected. Many professionals around the world have lost their lives while treating patients. Thus I urge the Prime Minister to provide us with adequate protective gear, like masks, gowns, head covers, etc. A doctor can become a super spreader; patients can get affected. If we remain safe, we will help keep others safe.”

How governments across globe are tackling problems faced by medical staff?

The WHO in early March in a news release stated that the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) would endanger the health workers. The WHo had shipped above two million sets of personal protective equipment to more than 74 countries; however, the demand keeps on increasing.

As per a report by Forbs, the US healthcare workers are using office supplies, or reusing existing supplies of PPE due to the shortage. While in Italy, one of the country worst hit by the pandemic, around 61 doctors have scummed to death by mid-March. Similarly, as per the New York Times report, in Spain, nearly 14 per cent of the health workers have been reported infected.

In Pakistan, on April 25, 2020, dozens of Pakistani doctors and nurses have gone on a hunger strike to protest against the lack of PPE available for frontline medical staff treating coronavirus patients.

Response of Indian Government:

As far as India is concerned, the same issue is surfacing. Due to this, the doctors were forced to use raincoats and motorbike helmets to protect themselves, wherein the demand for PPE keeps on rising.

The Federal Ministry of Health, on April 9, 2020, had placed orders for 17 million PPE kits, which is more than the estimate of the same stated by HLL Lifecare Limited, a government-owned body that has been tasked to procure PPE. In Kerala, over 300 women-led micro-enterprises under the Kudumbashree have manufactured more than 14.50 lakh cloth masks.

Public expert, Anant Bhan told the BBC that the Government had not taken quick decisions in this regard and that expecting doctors to go to work without proper protection is not commendable.

It is also to be noted that prison inmates in Jammu & Kashmir are involved in making face masks as well under the supervision and guidance of the Jail Superintendents.

It is quite evident from the above that the Governments around the world are yet to take any productive steps to ensure the safety of these warriors. The safety of these healthcare workers is as important as a COVID-19 infected patient, as, without Corona Warriors, we will lose this battle for sure.

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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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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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Modi Cabinet 2.0: Young and Dynamic Leadership or Otherwise

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Cabinet II News Aur Chai

On the 7th of July, the union government announced the biggest cabinet expansion in the 7 years of NDA rule. The recent expansion increased the size of the Council of Ministers from 53 to 77. About 43 new ministers were sworn in, 15 of which were Cabinet Ministers and 28 Ministers of State (MoS). This is the first cabinet overhaul in the second term of NDA governance.

Experts however claim that the new cabinet expansion is a pre-emptive measure to balance electoral formulae in different states ahead of the 2022 State Assembly elections. It is also conjectured that the reshuffle comes as rectification of prolonged criticism about BJP’s governance in the past 2 years, including the Healthcare management during the Pandemic.

The Performance Paradox

This recent cabinet expansion is a report card of the BJP government’s performance in the last 2 years. Major ministerial changes, such as the resignation and replacement of Dr. Harshvardhan as the Health Minister indicate a confession of their mismanagement of the pandemic.

He has been replaced by Mansukh Mandaviya, a 2 time Rajya Sabha MP who has also been awarded by the UN for initiatives in Women’s healthcare in the past. His appointment as the Health Minister is one of hope for BJP, to change and streamline (a.) the COVID-19 Pandemic response and (b.) BJP’s image in the name of healthcare management.

On the contrary, Anurag Thakur’s promotion from MoS Finance to a Cabinet Minister defies all logical explanations for awarding performance. Not only has India’s economic condition worsened under his management, his controversial statements like “Desh ke Gadaaro ko…” do not present a strong case for him. His appointment is a political investment by BJP in Himachal Pradesh’s state elections next year which happens to be Thakur’s home state.

Similarly, Sitharaman’s finance ministry has remained untouched, after historical mismanagement of our Finance capabilities. All of this reflects a selective approach adopted by BJP, which is one of political hesitation and hyperopic ignorance.

BJP’s Political Calculator

Apart from the ‘punishment’ narrative, the new cabinet expansion has also given an insight into BJP’s political planning.  This expansion has incorporated key leaders from several states that go to elections next year. Moreover, it has also been carefully planned to cover the losses BJP has incurred in the past two years.

As a reward for dismantling the elected Madhya Pradesh government and tipping scales in BJP’s favor, Jyotiraditya Scindia was appointed as the Cabinet Minister for Civil Aviation (a post held by his father as well in ’91) almost after 3 years.

On the contrary, Pashupati Kumar Paras got an early reward for breaking down Lok Janshakti Party’s (LJP) representation in Lok Sabha. He was appointed as the Union Minister for Food Processing, after the attempted coup on Chirag Paswan’s leadership.

Sarbananda Sonowal, who was replaced by Himanta Biswa Sharma as the Chief Minister of Assam after the fresh elections, was also awarded a berth in the Cabinet. It is conjectured that this development was in talks ever since Himanta Biswa Sharma was chosen as the CM.

As the Uttar Pradesh elections near, BJP also made sure to improve representation from the state. Major appointments such as Niranjan Jyoti (MoS Food Processing), Anupriya Patel (Mos Commerce and Industry), and Bhanu Pratap Singh Verma (MoS MSME) were made majorly because of their heavy support base in UP.

Following the same lead, Ajay Bhatt from Uttarakhand was appointed as MoS Defence and Tourism. As seen earlier, BJP has made major organizational changes in Uttarakhand which goes to elections next year.

Some Positives

In the mirage of calculated placements and image reconstruction, BJP has hit a few rights with this organizational change. The new cabinet includes a maximum number of women to have ever served in a Union Cabinet, a first in a nation with largely patriarchal tendencies.

The cabinet has also tried to focus on bringing people with commendable background experience and education on board. Ashwini Vaishnav, former IAS and an alumnus of Wharton School have been given major ministries such as Railways, Communications, and IT. Similarly, Anupriya Patel who has been given the Commerce and Industry as an MoS has also served as an educator at Amity University.

Moreover, the diffused reliance on regional strength has become the overarching theme in this cabinet reshuffle. Even though the ruling party intends to balance the voter dynamics, this regional unity has become something to watch out for.

Yet, the big story remains the ouster of major politicians who have served loyally and faithfully to this government. Ravi Shankar Prasad, Prakash Jaavedkar, and Dr. Harshvardhan are major losers in this dynamic reshuffle. While the current government has tried to modernize the leaders of this nation, it has set a new precedent that loyalty is not the most critical virtue anymore; Election Commission’s schedule is.

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