The story of Kerala braving the coronavirus pandemic is now discussed and appreciated across the globe. The world’s second-largest populated country has reported more than 11,616 cases and 452 deaths from the virus as on April 17.
In the beginning, the odds seemed to be accumulated against the scenic southern state, gods own country as it is known, making it a significant tourist spot. The coastal state receives more than 1 million tourists every year.
In January, the state reported the first COVID-19 case in India. The number of cases rose steadily, making it one of the hotspots. Surprisingly, after two months, half a dozen states are reporting more infections than Kerala.
How vulnerable is the state?
Kerala has highly penetrable borders, a massive number of migrant workers, and one-third of its 33 million inhabitants are expatriates. Apart from tourism, it is these expatriates, whose remittances oil the state’s economy. Another notable factor is that hundreds of students from the state study in China.
How Kerala was able to flatten the curve?
More than three months after the outbreak of the pandemic in the country, the state has reported three deaths and more than 388 positive cases of the infection. More than 100,000 people remain in isolation, either at home or in hospitals.
Many believe Kerala has been successful in flattening the curve of the virus, while the infection is reportedly on the rise across India.
Kerala was vigilant from the very beginning. It was one among the first few states that had imposed a lockdown a day before the nationwide lockdown (which was announced to commence from the midnight of March 24).
The state’s communist Government did rigorous contact tracing, using detailed “route maps” of people coming in from abroad. Temporary quarantine shelters were set up to accommodate tourists and other non-residents.
By February, Kerala had a 24-member state response team coordinating with the police and public officials across the state. It declared state emergency by February 3, 2020.
Screening at airports were tightened, and travellers from nine countries — including coronavirus hotspots such as Iran and South Korea — were required to quarantine at home two weeks before the Central Government announced similar restrictions. In one instance, more than a dozen foreign nationals were removed from a flight before takeoff as they had not completed their isolation period.
It’s not that Kerala tested aggressively. Testing was bound strictly by and limited to federal protocols. Health Minister K. K Shailaja as on April 5, said that the PCR test is going on in nine laboratories, and the state has tested more than 8,000 samples so far. Throughout the first week of April, Kerala had conducted more than 15,000 tests.
Commendable healthcare system
Experts compliment, Kerala’s robust public health system, and the culture of thriving grassroots democracy with power devolving effectively to the village councils. This mainly helped in community outreach, meticulous contact tracing and mass quarantine. The Government released sufficient information about the developments every day, which helped the people to be aware of the situation.
The state was able to contain the virus to such an extent due to the decentralisation of the health care system. Village councils took it upon themselves to enforce and monitor mass quarantine with the consent of the people. Statewide shutdown also played a vital role in containing the infection.
The fastidious action from the grassroots of authorities combined with very supportive citizens helped the state to tackle two consecutive floods and an outbreak of the vicious Nipah virus in the last three years.
Health workers supported people with special needs and the elderly living alone. Counsellors made more than 3,40,000 telephone calls to personnel working in affected areas to counsel them on how to handle stress.
However, what is interesting is that the state which reported the first COVID 19 case, the number of new cases in the first week of April dropped 30 per cent from the previous week. With just two deaths, 52 per cent of positive patients have recovered in the state, higher than elsewhere in India.
Kerala has always seen giving importance to the health and education of its people and has the highest literacy rate in India–with 93.91% literacy.
Experts say Kerala’s proactive measures, such as early detection and broad social support measures, could serve as a model for the rest of the country.
Even after taking such rigorous actions, still, some slipped through. The arrival of a local couple from Italy in the last week of February who did not report to health officials caused alarm. By the time they were detected, they had already attended several social gatherings and travelled widely.
Nearly 900 primary and secondary contacts were traced and isolated.
Robin Thomas, 34, the son-in-law of the couple who returned from Italy, tested positive for the coronavirus, as did his wife and her grandparents. He, along with his wife and his wife’s grandparents, were discharged last week. He stated that apart from “excellent treatment” he received, the medical staff also helped them overcome stigma.
There were many such known and unknown cases, who skipped the procedure of reporting to health sectors after returning from abroad, because of which the number of infected cases increased.
The state was also criticized for going ahead with a local festival (Attukul Pongala) in early March that drew thousands of people.
Economic Package by the state Government
Kerala also announced an economic package worth Rs. 20,00 crore to fight the pandemic days before the Central Government instituted a harsh lockdown that left many states scrambling. It delivered uncooked lunches to school children, linked up with service providers to increase network capacity for the Internet at homes and promised two months of advance pension.
Kerala took the lead in deploying rapid testing kits, which officials say they continue to use in hotspots to check community spread. Last week, Kerala introduced walk-in testing, which reduces the need for protective gears for health workers.
As on April 16, the Kerala Health Minister said that the mortality rate in the state is below 0.5 per cent when compared to the other places. She added that the discharge/cure rate in the state is also very high due to the systematic work. During the early days of March, six states of India had approached Kerala for its assistance in dealing with the outbreak said a senior health ministry official.
As per analysts, so far Kerala has stuck to the script and done it well it. Cases have slowed down, recoveries are high, and the mortality rate is low. The state has once again proved its efficiency in tackling a crisis.
All You Need To Know About 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.
लोकसभा में आज, राष्ट्रीय खाद्य प्रौद्योगिकी, उद्यमिता और प्रबंध संस्थान विधेयक, 2021 (निफ्टेम विधेयक, 2021) को पारित किया गया।
इस विधेयक के पारित होने पर इससे जुड़े हर व्यक्ति को बधाई देता हूँ और साथ ही खाद्य प्रसंस्करण से जुड़े छात्रों को भी बधाई देता हूँ। @MOFPI_GOI
— Pashupati Kumar Paras (@PashupatiParas) July 26, 2021
Fake News: Accountability Of News Organisations
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.
Curious Case Of Pegasus: Explained
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.
Project Zaraat by Enactus DCAC
Retake 2022 is on its way!
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