Ndtv | 2 months ago | 28-03-2023 | 12:16 am
India has been witnessing an uptick in COVID-19 cases in the country recently.New Delhi: A total of 610 cases of Covid's XBB.1.16 variant, which might have been behind the recent rise of coronavirus cases, have been detected across the country, according to INSACOG data.The samples have been found across 11 states and Union Territories.The highest number of Covid cases caused due to this variant has been found in Maharashtra and Gujarat at 164 each, followed by 93 Telangana and 86 in Karnataka, according to INSACOG data.The XBB 1.16 variant was first found in January when two samples tested positive for the variant.India has been witnessing an uptick in COVID-19 cases in the country recently.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comIndia logged 1,805 new coronavirus cases, while the active cases have surpassed the 10,000-mark after 134 days, according to the Health ministry data updated on Monday.(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
The NCERT has removed the chapter ‘Periodic Classification of Elements’ from the Class X curriculum in its latest rationalisation exercise. The course load has been taken down by 30 per cent in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. Even though the Class X Chemistry textbook dropped the chapter that introduces students to the periodic table, it continues to be a part of the syllabus for Class XI.Generally, students start learning and understanding the reactivity series in class VII and extended learning on the same topic continues in grades VIII, IX and X. This topic is like the “motherboard of chemistry”. It forms the foundation of the subject. How will students study chemistry in Class XI if they don’t get acquainted with the periodic table in Class X? They are likely to lack even basic knowledge on the subject. Students will be in the dark about concepts like valence, bonds, molecules and basically chemistry itself. This will be burdensome for them later.The pandemic is over. There is no need to remove vital topics from the syllabus. The NCERT is still reducing topics in the syllabi to bring down students’ load, while colleges have gone back to pre-Covid times. I strongly advocate, despite the rationalisation exercise, this topic should be taught even if it is not going to be assessed. It can be made interesting by incorporating a plethora of activities with the amalgamation of art integration. I have taught it using the following interesting techniques.I used the method of storytelling to explain the history of the periodic table from Dmitri Mendeleev to Henry Moseley, the father of the modern periodic table. Then, I created a wall display board in the corridor, wherein the students would see the elements constantly. Because of it, the contents of the periodic table got drilled into their subconscious. Finally, students created one element card each where the element photo was displayed with vital information about the element, including its atomic number, atomic weight, name and symbol.Students arranged themselves according to their position in the periodic table and explained trends in the properties, moving from top to bottom or from left to right in the table. Conducting on-the-spot quizzes, crossword puzzles and a fun song based on the periodic table are a few activities that can make the subject fun and interesting.The writer teaches Chemistry at DLF QEC School Summer Fields
The connection between maestro AR Rahman and legendary playback singer SP Balasubrahmanyam, who would have celebrated his 77th birthday on June 4 if he were still with us, was a unique and cherished one. From the very moment they embarked on their creative journey in 1992, giving birth to the timeless masterpiece “Kaadhal Rojave,” audiences were consistently blessed with the sublime synergy they shared. However, the untimely passing of SP Balasubrahmanyam in 2020 marked the end of their magnificent collaboration, leaving a void in the hearts of music lovers everywhere.The duo has blessed their fans with timeless songs, ranging from “Anjali Anjali” and “Kathalikkum Penin Kaikal” to “Balleilakka”, “Oruvan Oruvan”, “Thanga Thamarai”, and “Sakkarai”. Their songs such as “Puthiya Manidha”, “En Kaadhale”, and “En Veettu Thottathil” too have left a lasting impression. Even the duo’s live concerts have consistently attracted admirers.However, the two geniuses couldn’t materialise the last concert they planned together. Though the duo had extended discussions about it, SPB’s untimely departure left the dream unfulfilled.“In January (2020), I saw a recording of him singing ‘En Kadhale’ and it sounded just the same. After seeing the recording, I called him and said, ‘Why don’t we take songs that you have not sung for me, of the past 10 years, and do an unplugged version?’ He was very excited. We almost planned the recording and even the arrangement was fixed and that’s when Covid-19 happened. We thought prayers were going to help him. There’s no use brooding over his loss, we should celebrate him,” Rahman had told The Hindu with a lump in his throat.“SPB was a superman. 40,000 is almost 1,000 people’s bandwidth. Some people do just 20 songs in their lifetime. But, he succeeds every time. He was amazing in every way,” he added.“My entire five years in the Telugu industry was just waiting for SPB. He almost sang every song (that the industry was producing). I used to go to the respective studios at 7 am, set up my equipment, and rehearse everything. At 12 o’clock we’ll be waiting. (If we ask someone) what happened? (They will say) SPB has to come, he is singing for Ilaiyaraaja. He’ll finish that, come at 12.45 pm and learn our song in 10 minutes or so. Finish recording it by 1.15 and then boom, he’s gone. This was what I watched every day,” Rahman said recalling his initial days of working with SPB as a technician.SP Balasubrahmanyam passed away at the age of 74 on September 25, 2020, following coronavirus complications. SPB was tested positive for Covid-19 in the first week of August. He was later shifted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of MGM Healthcare in Chennai after his condition deteriorated. He remained on ventilator and ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) support till his last breath.Widely regarded as one of the finest male playback singers with a 50-year-long career, SPB transcended barriers by singing in 16 languages, including Hindi, Telugu, Kannada and Tamil among others.From MG Ramachandran, Sivaji Ganesan, Gemini Ganesan to Kamal Hassan, Mohan and a slew of actors in the present day, SP Balasubrahmanyam’s voice was a fixture for all of them. That he held the Guinness Book of World Record for singing the highest number of songs ever (40,000 songs) was just another feather in his cap.
On April 6, MeitY announced the IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023. The rules, amongst other anticipated provisions, introduce “fact-checking units” to tackle the menace of fake news. These fact-check units have been tasked with the duty of identifying false, fake or misleading information pertaining to the central government’s business. Interestingly, the IT Amendment Rules, 2021 had previously introduced provisions to tackle information “which is patently false or misleading in nature but may reasonably be perceived as a fact”. Therefore, by introducing a provision for notifying a fact-check unit, the new rules have created regulations that further insulate social media users from misleading content.In the last half-decade, governments across the world have begun to recognise the threat posed by fake or false information, especially on digital platforms. More than ever before, authorities began to realise the hazards of fake information during the Covid-19 crisis. The pace at which false information began to spread was unprecedented. Eventually, governments realised that the dangers of fake or misleading news are in their ability to spread like wildfire on social media. Scholars at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology even found that falsified content spreads six times faster than factual content on online platforms. What this effectively means is that people are more likely to spread fake and misleading news than verified truthful information. Upon realising the reach of falsified news, governments have begun to take concrete steps, such as creating task forces (in Australia, Canada and Denmark) and laws (in France and Germany).So as to fully understand the gravity of the issue that we are grappling with, reflection on past instances of the spread of government-related fake news is needed. A study conducted by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions found that India was a hot-bed for Covid-related fake news. Such misleading information ranged from the vaccine drive to the symptoms and aftermath of the virus itself. It is thus unsurprising that an absurd falsified claim that all vaccinated persons will die within two years was being aggressively shared and reshared by social media users in India.As we enter the next sphere of the digital realm, it is becoming doubly important for governments to prepare themselves for the dangerous interplay of fake news and AI-related technologies such as deepfakes. For instance, imagine a viral deepfake (a digital manipulation used to create fictitious persons or fictitious videos of persons) of the Prime Minister making misleading statements about government schemes, policies or even communities and groups. Although it might sound far-fetched, the use of deepfakes to spread disinformation is already a reality. In February this year, deepfakes of purported news anchors praising China’s role in geopolitical relations were spread across accounts on Twitter and Facebook by pro-China accounts. Deepfakes of the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announcing a surrender were also circulated across platforms last year. This convincing ability of deepfakes, and connectedly, the inability of people to separate them from truthful content, is what makes them prone to being used to spread false information.Against this background, the government’s announcement of the new rules shows foresight. It is not hard to envisage the detrimental impact that falsified information has on the government’s ability to manage emergencies; for instance, carrying out essential vaccination initiatives. Any roadblock in the easy and quick implementation of such initiatives could be life-threatening. Further, such falsified information is rarely ever positive, since its very purpose is to create a state of alarm amongst the public. This can have dangerous law and order consequences and lead to pandemonium. However, compulsive contrarians have raised their usual objections, vociferously arguing that the rules have a “chilling effect” on the public. This criticism is wholly unsubstantiated considering that the fact-checking units, which form the fulcrum of the rules, are still to be notified by the government. Even the Bombay High Court, whilst hearing a challenge to the rules, orally remarked that at this stage they are presently “inoperable or sterile” owing to the non-notification of the fact-checking units. It is only upon the notification of the units that further nuances will be discerned. Thus, any arguments against the rules right now would be premature, if not illusory. Critics would do well to, if not understand the legitimate intent behind the rules, at least hold off tired objections until the fact-checking units are notified.While the rules continue to be debated, online and in court, one must keep in mind that over 80 million Indian citizens are online. This fact, coupled with the perils of false information, leads to a worrying cocktail that the government has to proactively tackle to prevent chaos. Although the trend of compulsive contrarians continues, it seems that in introducing these rules the government has caught onto the macro perspective, the one that Jonathan Swift warned us of in his essay in 1710, “Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after”.The writer is vice president, BJP Mumbai Pradesh and Managing Partner, Parinam Law Associates
Prime Minister Narendra Modi often says, we have not come here to enjoy power, but to bring about fundamental changes in critical areas of governance. Nine years is enough time to prove that he walked the talk.The new Parliament built in record time, abrogation of Article 370, pushing up the economy into the world’s top five despite Covid, amalgamation of 10 state-owned banks to four and getting them into prime health, the Goods and Services Tax, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, digital public infrastructure yielding six billion payment transactions in a month, 74 airports built and operationalised, delivery of six notoriously delayed infrastructure projects (one delayed by over five decades), repeal of 1,400 archaic laws and 39,000 compliances, permanent commission for women in the armed forces, highest ever defence exports, becoming the third largest producer of renewable energy — these are but a few outcomes of the fundamental changes made in the way we are governed.The need for fundamental change in the way we are governed was not a cliché. The lethargy, the stasis in governance, were deep-rooted and, dare I say, a result of unstable governments or dynastic rule. It must be recognised that there have been attempts to break away from this even earlier. However, they didn’t make much progress. Prime Minister Modi’s political will and stability, vision, relentless pursuit of set goals and putting nation above self are yielding results. The role of the Opposition has, sadly, been less in Parliament. It has been more to disrupt and delay through filing petitions in the courts of law rather than debate and discuss in the House. Over 15 cases, including on the GST, Article 370, vaccination, triple talaq, Central Vista, were vigorously argued only for them to lose in each one of them. In each of these cases, if the time spent in the courts is reconciled, then we have perhaps delivered outcomes in less than nine years’ time.It would not be an exaggeration to say that three of the nine years saw challenges beyond our control. The pandemic and its second wave, volatility in fuel and fertiliser prices, and the Ukraine war, have had spill-over effects globally. To provide immunity to our large population, there was a pressing need to have a vaccine in time. Thereafter, the emphasis was on manufacturing sufficient doses to meet the urgency. Then again, to get our people vaccinated. India conducted the biggest vaccination drive administering 220 crore vaccines — free of charge. If our prime minister strongly supported and encouraged speedy development and production of our vaccines, he had another sensitive job to perform. He used the trust that people have in him to appeal to all citizens to accept vaccination. He took the vaccine himself publicly, when he was eligible as per the policy. Why was this necessary? Because, some of our Opposition parties raised doubts, creating vaccine hesitancy among the people.In his speech in the new Parliament, the prime minister drew a comparison: If parliamentarians needed a new House to discuss issues related to the common people, people needed a pucca house to live in. More than 3.5 crore pucca houses have been constructed in these nine years. 11.72 crore toilets have been constructed, with 100 per cent saturation achieved in rural areas. 12 crore households have been given access to clean drinking water.It is with untiring work, rooting out corruption, delivery on promises and by remaining continuously responsive that Prime Minister Modi has earned the trust of the people. Trust is also earned by standing by those in distress. During Covid 2.97 crore Indians who were caught up in various parts of the world were safely brought back home. Similarly, over 20,000 Indians who were stuck in strife-torn countries were brought back.The encouragement and support given to youth has shown in the results achieved in various global events. The number of higher educational institutions built and made operational is staggering, to say the least: 700 medical colleges, 15 AIIMS, over 69,000 medical seats, 7 IITs, 7 IIMs, 15 IIITs and 390 universities — all new.Efficiencies have increased dramatically in many sectors such as fish production. It had taken 63 years to take the production level to 59.14 lakh tonnes. In just nine years, we have added another 59.89 lakh tonnes and globally we now rank third.We rank second in fruit and vegetable production, next only to China. Our dairy sector which employs more than eight crore farmers today ranks first in world milk production —India contributes 22 per cent to the global milk production. We are the second largest honey producers in the world. Indian poultry sector ranks third globally in egg production.Eliminating pilferages of benefits meant for eligible beneficiaries is a duty of a responsible government. Misuse of taxpayers’ money had to be removed. 3.99 crore duplicate/fake ration cards and 4.11 crore fake LPG connections were cancelled. This has resulted in a saving of more than Rs 2.73 lakh crore (2021-22). However, in these nine years, total transfers through direct benefit transfer (DBT) are more than 29 lakh crore. For two years since the pandemic, over 80 crore people were given free foodgrain and pulses, so they do not remain hungry.Approaching national security issues comprehensively and with a greater sense of purpose is a hallmark of this government. Gone are the days when we were told by the Raksha Mantri that there are no resources to better equip the forces. Our border roads and villages were left underdeveloped because, we were told, that if developed, they would be useful for the enemy. Now, PM Gati Shakti and the Bhaskaracharya National Institute for Space Applications and Geo Informatics (BISAG-N) are bringing resource efficiencies and real-time monitoring.Transformative changes are happening in empowering women. For the first time, there are 1,020 women per 1,000 men. Maternal mortality rate has declined to 97 (2019-20). Under the MUDRA Yojana 68 per cent beneficiaries are women. Paid maternity leave has been increased from 12 to 26 weeks. Jan Aushadhi Kendras dispensed over 27 crore sanitary pads. Girls get admitted to Sainik schools now.The past nine years were dedicated to lifting India from the hopeless morass it had been thrown into. The next 25 years leading to India@100 need similar dedicated, corruption-free governance. Policy stability and continuity are critical. PM Modi, as a sevak, has given India that stability.The writer is Minister of Finance, GOI
The NDA government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will complete nine years on May 30. The past nine years have witnessed several landmark events, including demonetisation of high-value currency notes (2016), the introduction of Goods and Services Tax (2017), the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, a call for making India self-reliant (Aatmanirbhar) amid aggression on borders, and an emergence of a new class of beneficiaries — the “Labharthi Varg”.Modi, who ascended to the top post by getting a clear majority and took oath as the PM on May 26, 2014, is the fourth-longest serving PM after Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, and the longest serving PM from a non-Congress party. Here are nine charts showing the journey of the last nine years:India became the world’s fifth largest economy by overtaking the United Kingdom last year. It is now behind only the US, China, Japan and Germany. However, India’s GDP growth trajectory has remained uneven in recent years. The main reason is Covid-19, a global outbreak with severe domestic repercussions that resulted in a contraction of the economy during the financial year 2020-21. Even before Covid halted economic activities, the economy was on a downward track after registering over an 8% growth rate in 2016-17 — the year that saw demonetisation of high-value currency notes of denominations Rs 1,000 and Rs 500. In the following years, India’s growth rate slowed down to 6.8% in 2017-18 — as the businesses adjusted to the change in indirect tax system after the introduction of GST with effect from July 1, 2017. It came down further to 6.45% in 2018-19 and 3.87% in 2019-20. During the Covid lockdown (financial year 2020-21), the growth plummeted to -5.83%. However, it bounced back to 9.05% in 2021-22, primarily on the previous year’s low base. In 2022-23, the growth again moderated to 7%.Per capita income followed the same trajectory as the rise and fall in the GDP. The annual rate of growth in the Per Capita Income has been recorded in the range of -8.86% to 7.59% during the last nine years. (See Chart-1).One area that has remained in focus of the Modi government is investment. The Centre has taken various steps to encourage domestic entrepreneurs and to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Be it ‘ease of doing business’, focus on minimising compliance, liberalisation of the FDI policy for various sectors of the economy or ushering in legislative reforms, the government has taken several initiatives to create a favourable atmosphere for investment. These efforts have yielded some fruits. For instance, FDI inflows increased from $45 billion in 2014-15 to $84.83 billion in 2021-22. However, it registered a fall in the following year and declined to $70 billion in 2022-23. (See Chart-2)One of the indicators of rural distress is the performance of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, which was launched to provide a guarantee of 100-day employment in a financial year to every rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. The rise in the number of NREGS beneficiaries is a sign of growing distress in rural areas. Data available on the NREGS portal shows that 4.14 crore families availed the rural job scheme in 2014-15. This number peaked during Covid and reached 7.55 crore during 2020-21, when many migrants walked back to their villages in view of the pandemic. Thereafter, it came down marginally to 7.25 crore in 2021-22. However, it is still over the Rs 6 crore mark (6.18 crore families availed the scheme during 2022-23). (See Chart-3)Infrastructure has been one of the priority areas of the Modi government in the last nine years. Be it roads, railways, or airports, infrastructure projects have increased in number and size. This has reflected in the growing capital expenditure on them over the years. One of the success stories has been highways construction. However, several big-ticket projects, like the bullet train project, are yet to see the light of day. The total length of highways in the country had increased from 97,830 km in 2014-15 to 1,44,955 at the end of December 2022. (See Chart-4)One of the biggest challenges the NDA government has faced in the last nine years was the Covid pandemic. However, data shows that health expenditure (as a percentage of the GDP) has not seen a big change. (See Chart-5). In the period 2014-15 to 2022-23, the expenditure on health remained in the range of 1.2-2.2%. The Central government’s share in the current health expenditure is just a little over 2%. According to National Health Accounts Estimates for India 2019-20, “Of the Current Health Expenditures, the Union government’s share is Rs. 72,059 crore (12.14%) and the State Governments’ share is Rs.1,18,927 crores (20.03%). Local bodies’ share is Rs. 5,844 crore (0.99%), households’ share (including insurance contributions) is about Rs. 3,51,717 crore (59.24%), out-of-pocket expenditure being 52.0%.Like health expenditure, spending on education too has remained low. Though the education sector has witnessed a big reform push with the introduction of the New Education Policy, the expenditure on education (as percentage of GDP) has remained in the range of 2.8-2.9% during the last nine years. (See Chart-6).The government took a bold decision to demonetise high-value currency notes in November 2016. The move was expected to hit the black economy and move towards lesser use of cash. However, data shows that neither has the tax-GDP ratio increased, nor has the use of cash gone down. For instance, the direct tax-GDP ratio has remained in the range of 4.78-6.02% during the last nine years. (See Chart-7). On the contrary, the currency to GDP ratio has increased from 11.6% in 2014-15 to 14.4% in 2020-21. However, it came down marginally to 13.7% in 2021-22. This shows that despite a push for digital transactions through new initiatives like UPI, the use of cash is still on the rise. (See Chart-7)In recent years, the government has focused on Make in India. It even launched the Aatmanirbhar Bharat initiative during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, data shows that India’s share in world merchandise exports has stagnated in recent years. From 1.69% in 2014, it has increased marginally to 1.77%. (See Chart-8)The last nine years have seen the emergence of the ‘labharthi varg’ — a new class of beneficiaries of Central government schemes. The Modi government used the architecture of the DBT (Direct Benefit Transfer) scheme, which is based on JAM (Jan-dhan, Aadhar, Mobile) trinity. Between 2014 and 2023, 49 crore bank accounts were opened under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana. The figure of deposits in the Jan Dhan accounts has increased from Rs 17,219.70 crore in May 2015 to Rs 1,97,193.67 crore in May 2023. Besides, other welfare schemes like the Swachh Bharat Mission, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, PM Ujjwala Yojana and PM Mudra Yojana have seen an unprecedented scale of implementation in recent years. For instance, 11.72 crore toilets were built under the Swachh Bharat programme, while over 3 crore rural and urban houses were built under the PM Awas Yojana. The government also provided free foodgrains to 80 crore people under PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana.