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‘Unlocking’ India: Learning To Live With Coronavirus

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‘Unlocking’ India: Learning To Live With COVID-19

India had entered into a series of lockdown phase starting from March 22, 2020, with the ‘Janta Curfew,’ with each stage having its own set of Do’s and Dont’s. Despite the increasing number of positive cases in the country, providing relaxations to the much-required lockdown, is a bit odd. These relaxations will give a sense of relief that one is no longer confined to the same four walls every day—however, a small doubt, as to whether leaving their home is a good idea.

Nation’s population have different views about this decision of the Government.

Expert’s Opinions

  1. According to trusted sources, a top Expert from the World Health Organization (W.H.O.), had stated that “The coronavirus disease has not ‘exploded’ in India, but the risk of that happening remains as the country moves towards unlocking its nationwide lockdown that was imposed in March to contain the COVID-19.” The impact of the pandemic is different in different states of India. Some states were able to control its spread, whereas the others were not entirely successful in containing the virus;
  2. Michael Ryan, W.H.O.’s Health Emergencies Programme Executive Director, had added that in countries belonging to South Asia (like India, Bangladesh and Pakistan), there is always a risk of the virus getting spread, even though it looks as if under control;
  3. Soumya Swaminathan, W.H.O.’s Chief Scientist had stressed that it is critical for India to keep track of of the virus’ growth rate and to ensure that the infection does not get worse. She mentioned that as India gets ‘unlocked’, people must pay heed to take up the necessary precautions.

Like lockdown, unlocking is also in phased manner with each step being taken with utmost caution. The question is, are these heeds enough?

Highlights of Unlock India 1.0

  • Home Ministry introduced unlock in phased manner, Wherein Unlock 1.0 came into effect from June 1, 2020;
  • Night curfews will continue, with the timings reduced from 9 P.M. to 5 A.M.;
  • States can decide on relaxations to its residents also decide on the prohibitions in the Containment Zones, as the situation so demands;
  • Religious places, Hotels, Restaurants and Shopping malls are allowed to open in those areas which are not in the Containment Zone. However, the states have to take the final call;
  • Interstate borders can be opened; depending upon the state’s decisions;
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs’ (M.H.A) Circular was silent on the reopening of offices and provision of public transportation services;
  • Lockdown in the Containment Zone remained extended;
  • The M.H.A. Circular does not specify the Quarantine guidelines for travellers and are unclear on opting for flights and trains for transportation purposes.

Highlights of Unlock India 2.0

  • Phase 2 of unlocking the country came into effect from June 8, 2020;
  • Centre gave a list of strict rules to be followed during the relaxation;
  • Social distancing (a distance of six feet) must be maintained, and keeping the mask as mandatory while stepping out;
  • New Delhi launches the app, Aarogya Setu app, to track beds for the COVID-19 positive patients.
  • Investigations have shown that there is a mismatch between what the result shown by the app and reality.
  • There have been cases where the app has shown vacant beds, with hospitals denying the same;
  • Senior citizens above the age of sixty-five and pregnant women are advised to stay at home;
  • Citizens with comorbidities are required to stay indoors;
  • For private offices, only ‘asymptomatic’ staff/visitors (i.e. those individuals showing no symptoms of the coronavirus) are allowed;
  • Religious places, shopping malls and restaurants can start functioning, except those in the Containment Zones.

A few of the positive effects of Unlocking

  • People will no longer have to sit confined in their homes, because of which mental sickness or depression caused by the virus can be eliminated to a large extend.
  • Businesses will be back in action, with a new start, with a vision to revive the broken economy.

Some of the adverse effects of Unlocking

  1. The healths of people are at risk, as everyone need not comply with the principle of maintaining ‘social distancing’ and using ‘masks and soaps’;
  2. COVID-19 virus is a ‘sanitizer’ for Nature, as various Creations healed themselves. The Nature which had revived could be affected by the increase in pollution;
  3. Community spread can increase quickly;
  4. When the cases are rising rapidly, hospitals are running out of bed to accommodate all the patients. As a result, several patients are left either unattended or in desolate rooms.

According to M.H.A, the only possible way to handle the coronavirus is by maintaining hygiene. Sooner or later, we will have to overcome the situation to resume our daily routine, which must be tweaked with changes, to live with the ‘post-COVID’ earth. As the days go by, one can only Hope, have Faith and not lean on one’s understanding. 

 

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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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