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A CASE FOR IMPLEMENTING CAA AND NRC IN BESIEGED ASSAM

The CAA and NRC, framed in a way that reflects the wishes of the nation, its people and its inherent socio-political soul, would perhaps be our best foot forward to deal with the cancer of illegal immigration in the Northeast, especially Assam.

Debaroopa Bhattacharyya

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Have you ever felt like a stranger in your own house? Treated like an alien in your own homeland? Seems like an impossible proposition, but ask any native of Assam and he will cite several instances when he felt homeless in his own land.

The larger Indian psyche, often out of ignorance and, at other times, out of apathy, fails to register that Assam and the Assamese consciousness are as much a part of India as the rest of the mainland’s citizens. And that is where it all begins. Assam’s problem has never been India’s problem and Assam’s story has never been India’s story, be it in the media, history books, cultural manifestos, and political and infrastructural ambitions.

Talk of how, year after year, the state sees perennial floods which affect 2-3 million people in over 27 districts, causing deaths, forcing over 40,000 people into relief camps, submerging more than 1 lakh hectares of agricultural land. Yet, Assam suffers silently and nobody knows about it, thanks to the media looking the other way.

Talk of connectivity issues which the region has struggled with for decades now, with its first MMLP being set up only this year.

Talk of the 600-year old reign of the singular and glorious Ahom dynasty, which shaped the region’s prosperous history, preventing both the Mughals in the Middle Ages and the British until 1826 from setting foot there—and which hardly finds any mention in the history curricula in India. It is no surprise, therefore, that Assamese students shoulder a rich legacy, which the rest of their counterparts hardly know of and, hence, often condescend.

Talk of the Assam Agitation, which claimed young lives over the burning issue of indigenous identity and rights, and gave birth to the Assam Accord, which is a reminder of the courage and uprightness of this peace-loving people. While others take their “Indian-ness” for granted, the Assamese have burnt their own flesh and blood on the pyres of citizenship to protect their Indian identity.

Talk of the state’s demographics. According to the Hazarika Commission report (constituted in 2015), the number of Hindus in some of the most vulnerable districts—Goalpara, Dhubri, Bongaigaon, Kamrup and Nagaon—has been falling drastically while that of the Muslims has registered a sharp rise. This is primarily due to the influx of Bangladeshi immigrants. According to some studies, the Hindu population in Goalpara, for instance, was a little over 54% in 1951. It came down to about 38% in 2011 and is expected to decline further to nearly 23% by 2051, going by current trends. Similarly, in Nagaon, it went from 59% in 1951 to 45% in 2011 and is projected to be 30% in 2051. On the contrary, the Muslim population has gone up from 43% in 1951 to 56% in 2011 in Goalpara, from 40% to 55% in Nagaon, and from 29% to 39% in Kamrup. Going by these figures, at least four districts will turn into Muslim-majority ones, after being Hindu-majority for decades, as a result of illegal immigration.

Independent estimates put the number of illegal immigrants in Assam at 1.5 million to 2 million—or roughly 25% of the total Muslim inhabitation in the state. Obviously, this has led to drastic changes in the demographic profile of Assam, creating social discord and unrest. These illegal immigrants have managed to secure all sorts of state-documents and availed various government schemes, including the MGNREGA and National Rural Health Mission. Thus, they have largely cornered the benefits, sheltered and patronized by the then government seeking to create potent minority vote-banks out of these illegal immigrants—leading to legal citizens losing out.

The Bangladeshi illegal immigration has had security implications for India too. Several armed insurgent groups such as the ULFA based themselves in Bangladesh. It was not just a matter of sanctuary. These outfits have been able to operate because of the networking they created among the illegal immigrants living in India. Besides, some of these organizations are said to have developed contacts with known anti-India groups such as the Harkatul-Jihadi-e-Islami (HuJI).

The Hazarika Commission categorically states that illegal immigrants will reduce the indigenous Assamese population to a minority in the region by 2047. Consider the CAA and proposed NRC against the backdrop of the above facts and figures, and it will not be difficult to comprehend why, while the rest of India cries foul, Assam is in favour of the NRC, albeit with certain modifications. In fact, many opine that the drastic demographic alterations in Assam are a precursor to the fate of India if the NRC is not implemented at the earliest.

Ever since the CAA came into force on 10 January 2020, there have been many voices from the region demanding how the number of tentative migrants could be as low as 40 lakhs. It is expected to be much higher, having built up over decades. Similarly, Assam insists on having a cutoff date for migration from Bangladesh, precisely 1951, instead of March 24, 1971 (while the cutoff date for rest of India is July 19, 1948), irrespective of the religion of the migrant seeking refuge in India. Although, the Indian government seeks to make an exception for Bengali Hindus who migrated to India from Bangladesh before 1971, Assam is completely opposed to this provision, and, if you consider how the state has been economically and socially burdened to the point of dilapidation due to illegal influx over several decades, it makes sense.

The conflict that has erupted in many pockets of Assam is also fallaciously viewed through the prism of Hindu-Muslim tensions alone. The ethnic aspect of the matter cannot be ignored here. A significant chunk of people in Assam is averse to citizenship being granted to Bengali Hindus who fled Bangladesh as refugees. According to them, the present national government is attempting to make Assam a dumping ground for Bengali Hindus through an amendment of the Citizenship Act which seeks to grant citizenship to minority communities in neighbouring countries. In other words, the Assamese are sceptical that the present government seeks to replicate what the Congress regime did for decades – building minority vote banks by legitimizing illegal migration with relevant documents and patronage.

Due to this, there is a significant possibility of the state witnessing a three-way communal strife between the Assamese, the Bengali Hindus and Bengali Muslims. However, there is another section of Assamese people, a much larger section presumably, although not as vocal as the other, who are of the opinion that Bengali Hindus do not pose a threat to their way of life, as compared to Bengali Muslims, and that those primarily responsible for the ongoing influx of illegal immigrants into Assam are Bengali Muslims. Therefore, depending on demography, conflicts have taken a religious angle in some regions and an ethnic angle in others.

However, the dominant response from all over the country, to Assam’s opposition to CAA and NRC in its present form, has been calling the native Assamese as “anti Bengali”. But the facts are far from this and the Assamese is only voicing his existential predicament through protests. Anakshi Dev Choudhury, a consumer insights professional and an Assamese settled in Mumbai, says, “As a proud Assamese, I do not want to be a minority at home. My family did their bit for the state, now how do I watch the culture and heritage be washed away? People who are not considered legal citizens of the nation in other states, how can they get voting rights in Assam?”

Tripura, for example, was home to a diverse mix of over 15 tribal communities. Today, it is a 65% Bengali state. What then happened to the indigenous people? Look at the international borders around the state if you need an answer. The insecurity of the Assamese is due to several factors and a Citizenship Bill and the NRC should aim at assuaging those sentiments rather than opening a can of worms that will erode the socio-political and cultural fabric of this beautiful and peaceful region further.

To these are added the reduction of CAA and NRC into brazen political ammunition, whereby politicians across most political outfits are using it as an election agenda and furthermore as an unabashed tool of harbouring Islamophobia. Assam is a fertile ground for the blossoming of diverse cultures and religions in harmony: Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Bengali, Assamese, Marwari, several tribal ethnicities, all flourishing together without asserting hegemony over the others. However, political motives and vendetta aim to project Assam as averse to cultural and religious multiplicity in the wake of the CAA and proposed NRC.

We have to be realistic about current circumstances. There doesn’t appear to be a solution which would please everybody, and Assam with the entire Northeast appears to be on the verge of turmoil which it cannot escape. Illegal immigration is like cancer and, sometimes, the only solution to chemo. Many a times, even chemo may not help. A forced deportation of 40 lakh people (the numbers might reduce considering they still have time to appeal and prove their citizenship) might be that chemo, although such an exercise appears impossible to carry out. The Assamese, who are very naturally and thankfully still a majority in their own state, feel threatened by existential and political abnegation.

Let us therefore address the elephant in the room for the way it is, and not as a Hindu versus Muslim or Assamese versus Bengali issue. The CAA and NRC, framed in a way that reflects the wishes of the nation, its people and its inherent socio-political soul, would perhaps be our best foot forward to deal with the cancer of illegal immigration under the present circumstances.

The writer is founder and editor-in-chief of Tribe Tomorrow Network. The views expressed are personal.

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I knew that if I go wrong, Bollywood won’t give me a second chance: Darasing Khurana

Actor, philanthropist and model Darasing Khurana joins NewsX to share enthralling insights from his life.

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Actor Darasing Khurana, who comes from a non-acting background, reflected upon his journey so far and said, “I come from a small town called Parbhani in Maharashtra. There has been no exposure of films there. However, I participated in fashion shows and dramas from a young age. I knew that I wanted to be an actor and a model but never said it out loud as I thought people would make fun of me. I kept taking up opportunities, took many internships, and worked in various sectors to understand where my calling was. The ‘Mr Parbhani’ title in 2006 sowed the seeds for my acting career and I dreamt of becoming Mr India someday.”

When asked about his experience of participating in the pageant in 2017 and representing India thereafter internationally, he said, “My dream of becoming an actor and a model completely took a backseat while I was studying B. Com with advertising and then went to King’s College, London, to study Entrepreneurship and Pace’s University, New York to study Entrepreneurship. After getting back, I did my MBA from Narsee Monjee. While doing this, I kept working in nine different sectors to identify what I wanted to do. My eighth career option was to become a stylist.”

“I styled Hrithik Roshan for 2016 Mr India. Once he got back, I took back the clothes. He was going through a very rough patch at that time and talked very little. However, he did look at me and encouraged me to go for Mr India. A couple of months later, while I was crossing Juhu circle in Mumbai, I saw a huge board that said, ‘Calling young boys for Mr India audition.’ That took me back to what Hritik said and my childhood dream. That’s when I started working on my physique and communication skills. I eventually got shortlisted among the Top 25”, added Khurana. Speaking about his Punjabi film debut, he said, “I grew up watching Gurpreet Ghuggi and Upasana Singh and loved them. After I auditioned, I got to know that Smeep Kang is the director of the film. Usually, people start with Bollywood but I thought that there are a couple of things that need to be worked upon as I knew that if I go wrong then Bollywood won’t give me a second chance. I thought that my father, who was a big fan of Punjabi films and who never took me seriously, will be happy. Plus if I go wrong, I will get a second chance and that won’t be the end of my career. Moreover, working with Kang was a very different experience altogether because, unlike usual directors, he seems relaxed in the set and appreciates whatever you bring to the table, instead of treating them like mistakes.”

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ARE CLOUD KITCHENS THE FUTURE OF FOOD DELIVERY?

Vir Bhagat

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In 2003, two friends from Calcutta – Kallol Banerjee and Jaydeep Barman spent time reminiscing about their childhood days and the lip-smacking street food in Calcutta. That’s when the idea hit them to bring a chef from the streets of Calcutta and establish an outlet that provides delicious wraps and rolls and in Pune. Thus was the birth of the former Faasos, now REBEL Foods.

By 2011, REBEL Foods set up 18 outlets around India and soon, jumping on the online bandwagon, and began rivalling with bigwigs like McDonald’s and Dominos. With business booming, soon they introduced their second outlet, Behrouz Biryani.

Now, both rolls and biryani production was taking place under one roof but sold under different brand names. In no time, they could add a plethora of over eight brands, including OvenStory Pizza, to their repertoire. If you thought these brands were different restaurants that physically exist, it’s a mistake.

When food is delivered to your home, you tend to assume that it originates from a full-fledged restaurant. However, with the change in times, including the pandemic, that’s increasingly not the case. This brings us to the cloud kitchenconcept. Without the mumbo jumbo, simply put, the premise of a cloud kitchen, also known as dark, ghost or virtual kitchens, is simple. It’s a fully equipped kitchen space to cook one or many cuisines under the same roof with no dining or storefront. It’s a phone/online delivery-only service via aggregators such as Swiggy or Zomato or the kitchen’s delivery system. Some cloud kitchens may have physical outlets, but essentially they’re backed by a chain of cloud kitchens or a base kitchen. From $400 million in 2019, the cloud kitchen industry is projected to become a $2 billion industry by 2024 in India, according to RedSeer Management Consulting. 

So, what are the magic sauce cloud kitchens dip into and why are they gaining traction? Since the pandemic set in along with the various restrictions, takeaway meal options have been booming in India. But Covid-19 isn’t solely accountable for this seismic shift, it has merely played as a catalyst to accelerate this change. Long before Covid-induced lockdowns, the online delivery market was growing by the double fuelled by the craving for convenience and having the chance to eat every cuisine imaginable from popular restaurants across the city from the comfort of your home.

The food service is an industry that has high overheads and from a business point of view, cloud kitchens eliminate brick and mortar-related costs like rent for a prime location, cost of construction, a well-equipped ambience, training and upkeep of front-of-house staff, and maintenance expenses. Comparatively, cloud kitchens have low margins and need lesser working capital. With less focus on dining space, maintenance cost, designing, furniture, large staff, etc. kitchens can pivot the heart of their kitchen to a better quality of food.

To add to the above, cloud kitchens can take more orders in a day as compared to a dine-in restaurant, which spikes the volume and higher revenue per square foot. Similarly, cloud kitchens can run multiple brands from the same kitchen and serve a larger demographic at the same time. Plus, with limited interaction, the question of poor service is out the window and the food can speak for itself.      

During the Covid times, the relevance of such a set-up has increased manifold, as its excellent method to keep a business afloat while maintaining social-distancing guidelines. Simply put, with cloud kitchens, the number of risks is comparatively lower and they provide a cost-friendly model that helps prepare food with minimal investment tackling the supply gap.

CHALLENGES BEFORE A CLOUD KITCHEN

If you get your products right, you may be able to cook your way to millions. But this very fact poses a few challenges. While cloud kitchens save on labour and rent, the true expense is marketing. Typically, food aggregators charge 20 to 40% as commission. Over and above, cloud kitchens have to ensure a multitude of factors are in places like food quality and safety, competitive price, attractive packaging, top-notch hygiene, fresh delivery, etc. to meet customer expectations, acquire new customers, rank higher in third-party apps and earn good ratings. Building a successful cloud kitchen is not easy and needs continuous attention to detail along with up-to-date marketing and technology solutions.

WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS

Apart from big players like Rebel Foods which has grown to become one of the world’s largest internet restaurant companies, the cloud has space for small, local players and home cooks too. In the current environment and with the continued uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic, cloud kitchens backed by a cloud kitchen network have a better chance of survival and have carved a bigger path for this concept to thrive.

It will take some time for restaurants to return. Until then, cloud kitchens are an excellent way to provide customers with a safe and easily accessible method to enjoy a variety of foods.  Sure, the food and beverage industry is one of the largest in the service sector, and a few upcoming businesses will emerge as unicorns but, will they surpass dine-in restaurants? What the future holds only time will tell. In this time, to keep afloat, when you can’t change the direction of the wind – adjust your sails.    

The writer is from The British School, New Delhi.

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FARMER PRODUCER ORGANISATION: THE BASIS OF PROSPERITY OF FARMERS AND RURAL INDIA

If marginal farmers and educated youth of rural areas together form FPO, then they can change the picture and destiny of their village in the next few decades.

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Many developed countries of the world are not only making their country happy due to better scientific technology and management in the agriculture sector but in countries like Canada, Europe, and Israel, the income of the farmer is increasing tremendously. India has also followed the same path.

When we used to read the story of a farmer in childhood, the title was strength in unity. There is progress in unity. Now smallholder farmers will have to do farming together, this is the need of the time. The size of farmer’s land holdings in India has decreased from 2.3 hectares in 1970 to 1.08 hectares by 2015-16, and the area under cultivation has become much smaller and smaller in the last 40 years.

As per the Agriculture Census of India, the number of small acreage farmers and landless farmers has reached around 86%, that is the number of marginal farmers has increased by over 16% in the last 40 years. Due to the lack of better agricultural technology for small and medium farmers and under the pressure of the moneylenders in the market, the farmers went on becoming poor. As per the 2011 census, the number of landless agricultural labourers in India has exceeded the number of farmers, there are two categories dependent on agriculture: marginal farmer, the middle-level farmer and the landless agricultural labourer. Almost 55% of agricultural labour has crossed the mark of landless agricultural labourers whose number is around 16 crore in the country. The same tenant farmer is about 45%, which is about 12 crore. To reduce the miseries of small marginal farmers, landless agricultural labourers and medium farmers, this is the vision of Prime Minister Modi. If the farmer is organised, he sells his agricultural products in the market in an organised way. He should use crops and certified seeds organised based on new scientific research. Along with better management of irrigation, use of new agricultural machines, a proper system of transportation, and better and qualitative management, he can escape from the demonic forces of the market. So he can get the value of his production in a better way.

If we look at the entire government management policies of the Modi government and study them closely, there are better strategies for farmer welfare. PM Modi believes that even by putting everything at stake, if we keep the farmers alive, then through this we can get everything.

Israel is one of the smallest countries in the world, which is barely equal to the area of ​​Haryana, and the population is only 9 million. It has an important place in the agricultural income of the world. The reason is the best technology, due to only 20% of the accumulated land, Israel has made its place in the 10 largest producing countries of the world. Now the Indian marginal farmers will have to move forward with the agricultural policies of the Government of India, along with traditional farming, we have to adopt new methods. The Modi government has a very ambitious scheme for the marginal farmers called Farmer Producer Organisation (FPO).

FARMER PRODUCER ORGANISATION (FPO)

How can the farmer become self-reliant? Why is the farmer poor even today? How to double his income, the target of 2022 has been set by the Modi government.FPO should be implemented properly all over India.Serious work is being done on this and its positive results are also being seen. The Modi government has set a target of 10,000 FPOs by 2022.

WHAT IS FPO? 

Any farmer in FPO can become a member of this scheme. It is easy to become a member of the organisation. The Modi government has prepared a proposal on how to become an FPO through a simple process. All we need is to establish and cooperate with it with determination.The complete information is available on the website of the local Deputy Commissioner’s office and the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India.

For the formation of the FPO, there should be a minimum 300 farmers. In this, the number of marginal farmers, smallholding farmers should be about 50%. Also, farmers above 2.5 acres can be made members in it. An individual contribution of Rs 2000 will be given to the farmer. Under this scheme, a Rs 2000 per member maximum of 15 lakh rupees is provided by the Government of India to FPOs as an equity grant. A total of Rs 18 lakh is provided as financial support for every three years of FPO formation. Also, there is a plan to give benefits to the FPO from the government’s side, that includes the salary of the employees, management, operations, financial, office expenses, travel, meeting, etc. and even the amount available for furniture in the initial years. Along with this, the Government of India assists Rs 2 crore to each FPO in the form of a bank credit guarantee that covers up to 75% for eligible projects by the bank whereas for bankable projects up to Rs 1 crore, a guarantee of up to 85% assists in the form of cover.

HOW WILL THE MARGINAL FARMERS BE BENEFITED FROM THE FPO?

Agriculture and farming community should have overall benefit, it should be made entrepreneurial along with farming. With this, the Government of India has a plan to develop them economically by making 10,000 FPOs. By getting organised through FPO, small and marginal farmers will not only get a market for their produce but it will become very easy for them to buy better fertilisers, advanced seeds, certified medicines, new technology agricultural equipment, etc. Other services like transportation will also be available at cheaper rates.

FPO also secures the future of farmers. The FPO will contribute significantly to increasing the income of the farmers due to modern managerial arrangements by reducing the cost of agriculture and improving the processing. The work of formation and promotion of FPO is entrusted to Cluster Base Business Organisation (CBBO). CBBO has been given the responsibility of formation of 10,000 FPOs on the ground across the country.

DISTRICT LEVEL BUSINESS ORGANISATION 

To give progress to the FPO with at least five expert persons who are experts in processing, horticulture and service sector, as well as providing information technology, legal accounting etc.

CBBO organisation FPO registration through training of its board of directors as well as scientific and technical know-how. Will be concerned about the benefits to the FPO and provides Madan. I can say with determination based on the FPO yield also if they want, they can form their district level and state level or national level organisation and relationship and organisation of common interests.

In doing so, the group of FPO, assessing their needs and the success achieved so far, improve their produce production, establish food processing in a better way, establish themselves as a better brand through best sustainable packaging and marketing. can be established in the country.

Such domestic and international trade can also impress its quality producers. It will also be able to make a significant contribution to the GDP. The direct benefit of which will be given to marginal farmers and their families.

Small Farmers Agribusiness Association and National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development are working continuously for financial assistance, together with both organisations, more than five thousand FPOs have been registered, the Modi government wants to take it in more numbers. This FPO should work well in rural areas. It has to be enthusiastically participated by the representatives of the Government as well as NGOs, Panchayats, and Panchayats.

This is also a special scheme through the FPO of the Modi government. That special attention should be paid to women farmers, women self-help groups, scheduled castes, tribes and other economically weaker sections. So that together we can fulfil all the hopes and aspirations of the farmers.

If it can be managed in a better way in rural areas, then no one will be able to stop the village from becoming empowered. There will be a spectacular and qualitative improvement of the economy in rural areas through FPO.

The purchasing power of the people will increase, the youth will get employment opportunities in the village itself.

When food processing units will be established in village areas through the FPO, there will be a need for labourers, the youth will get unlimited means of employment at the local level itself.

Perhaps the day will not be far when the rural youth will not migrate to the cities because better employment resources will be available to him in his village.

Prime Minister Modi launched this as a central scheme on 29 February 2020 in Chitrakoot to encourage FPOs to set up, build, and operate 10,000 FPOs by the Government of India.

The operation and guidelines of this new scheme were approved by the Minister of Agriculture. Modi government is going to spend Rs 5,000 on FPO in the next five years. This amount can be increased further if required. After achieving the target of 10,000 FPOs, more FPOs will be required in a huge country like India, the mark of about one lakh can be crossed.

Along with this, State Level Consultative Committee and State Monitoring Committee have been constituted by 35 states and Union Territories for the operation of the FPO. The role of the State Governments is very important in effectively running this important scheme and we hope that they will help in doubling the income of the farmers with the support of the Central government. If marginal farmers and educated youth of rural areas together form FPO, then they can change the picture and destiny of their village in the next few decades only. If we all come together, then in a few years my country will be a country of prosperous farmers. In the coming decades, FPO will set a significant milestone in the economy of rural India.

The writer is MP and National President Bharatiya Janata Party Kisan Morcha.  The views expressed are personal.

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HOW FIXED VS GROWTH MINDSET SHAPES OUR LIVES

IESHAAN PURI

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What is it that separates achievers from quitters? Is there a certain skill or trait that most successful people have in common? It turns out, there just might be. According to Dr Carol Dweck, there are two mindsets we can navigate life with —growth and fixed. The term mindset is defined as an established set of attitudes held by individuals that help guide their behaviour.

One’s mindset is rooted in their experiences, education, interactions, and culture from which one form thoughts that establish their beliefs and attitudes. Those thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes lead to certain actions and with those actions, they have experiences, and those experiences shape their mindset. It is an indisputable fact that humans evolve with age. Therefore, one’s mindset can alter. 

According to science, our brain can be reshaped over time, forming new neural pathways. These neural pathways are developed by doing or thinking particular things. The things that we do or say more often become hard-wired into our brains as habits. These habits can be defined ‘routes’ in our brain, which become easier to use. But you can still change them. The first step is to realise that you need to, and then train your brain in the new skill. 

An individual with a fixed mindset leads to a desire to look smart and therefore, a tendency to avoid challenges. Consequently, they are unable to achieve their full potential. In an educational environment, individuals with a fixed mindset think that learning and intelligence have limitations, and they cannot grow as students.  On the other hand, an individual with a growth mindset leads to a desire to learn and a resultant tendency to see efforts as the path to mastery. In an educational environment, individuals with a growth mindset think that learning and intelligence are limitless; with hard work, one can acquire skills and learn, and as a result, change their levels of intelligence. Those with a growth mindset are less concerned about their perception, and more focused upon learning. In other words, they yearn to learn. According to Dr Dweck, what makes a growth mindset so winsome is that it creates a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval. Persons with this mindset are afraid of but not discouraged by failure.  

Nobody ‘purely’ holds a fixed or growth mindset. More often than not, human beings are born with a desire to self-actualise. In an attempt to do so, we adopt a strategy, form a mindset, learn about our surroundings, etc. Sometimes, we are successful, at other times, not there yet. People with a fixed mindset will join their hands, and resign whereas people with a growth mindset will try again. With their second attempt, they will adopt a different strategy and try to hold onto hope. In other words, a skill is something you can cultivate. You can become more creative, more athletic, and even successful by focusing on the process, and not the outcome. It’s the process that is the prize. 

Over the years, my mindset has developed from fixed to growth. As a child, I believed in my abilities only to an extent. If I performed poorly in school, I would disregard the comments made by the teacher or my parents. If I did not score a goal or make an assist in a football game, I would begin to see my efforts as worthless. Only compliments directed towards me or my achievements could get a smile on my face. 

All this changed when I saw a film called Shawshank Redemption. A quote from the film, “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying” changed my way of thinking. With a fixed mindset, I would not be open to new avenues, instead, be fearful. The film taught me that it is important to go out, find your passion, and be bold. Most importantly, always hold on to hope. 

Over the past year, I set a few short and long term goals: reading a book a month, widening my social circle, and speaking to my teachers to understand where I faltered. We overestimate the importance of a single event and underestimate the importance of making better choices daily. However, it is vital to remember that nobody can develop a mindset overnight. It’s a course of gradual progression. A stimulus must be evoked externally. It is natural to weigh your strengths and weaknesses, doubt your abilities, but what matters the most is your interpretations and the following actions. 

An individual’s true potential is unknown and unmeasurable. Moreover, it’s impossible to forecast what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training. We are a blend of the two mindsets with one more raised than the other. I say this because as we grow older, we experience more things. Both mindsets are two distinct worlds: In one world, the world of fixed traits — success is about proving you’re smart or talented, validating yourself. In the other — the world of changing qualities — it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new, developing yourself. It’s not always about winning or losing, succeeding or failing, loving or hating — nothing is good or bad forever. But, how you emerge out of a crisis or a moment of praise without getting ahead of yourself? It’s the mindset you endorse. 

Today, we are living in a world that is progressing rapidly. Each one of us is grappling with new information, concerns, and so much more. We are constantly receiving approval and rejection. To infiltrate feedbackand act appropriately, being self-aware is vital. Unless, you develop a mindset and believe in it wholeheartedly, your mindset will influence your decisions. Life is a journey filled with highs and lows. Self-motivation is the key and a well-trained mind will help you. A mindset is an interpretative process that teaches us about our surroundings so we must learn to adapt with change and continue to develop our mindset. 

The significance of having a growth mindset is more important now than ever before. When the coronavirus pandemic hit in early 2020, even the best of us were lost on how to combat it. The healthcare industry rose to the challenge, armed with a growth mindset, and developed successful vaccines to inhibit its life-threatening consequences. As children, we did not know what a mindset was, however, we were forming one unconsciously. But, as we grow older and become aware of the term and its significance, we must allow ourselves to live and act consciously by deliberately cultivating a growth mindset.

The writer is a class 12 student from Vasant Valley School. 

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COVID-INDUCED CHALLENGES GALORE, ‘YES, WE WILL’ ATTITUDE IS THE CURE

Prime Minister Narendra Modi needs to convert the crisis into an opportunity to create a ‘New India’ of his dream.

G.V. Anshuman Rao

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“We proved that we are still people capable of doing big things and tackling our biggest challenges,” these were the words of former US President Barack Obama who took the challenges head-on and managed to steer his country through the crisis resulting from economic asphyxiation. “Yes, We Can” call that Obama transformed the recession-hit USA into a nation that regained its past flourishing economic glory.

That is exactly how India needs to overcome the present challenges in economic, health, and other related key sectors, in the wake of the Covid-induced pandemic. “Yes, We Will” should be the guiding slogan for India amid the current crisis. Even though the Covid-driven crisis is assuming complicated proportions, India can and will overcome it. If Obama demonstrated that ‘success comes in cans, not in can’ts’, India can show “where there is a will, there’s a way.” India will use the present crisis as an opportunity to gain new heights on the horizon of development and growth. 

 Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose “Yes We Will”approach fetched the country many laurels so far, is capable of rising to the occasion. There is no denying that so far his tenure is marked with so many achievements, however, there are challenges galore, with a strong negative perception also. What PM Modi has to do is to first break this negative perception and then use the crisis to consolidate everything that would go into the creation of a “New India” which he dreamt of and spoke a lot about.

Several hurdles to growth objectives have to be removed if PM Modi has to fulfil his vow to make India a $5 trillion economy by 2024. Strong leadership with massive willpower and positivity can lead to meaningful steps towards that goal. The only collective voice of “Yes We Will” from a 1.3 billion-strong nation can crush the crisis. When Obama took reins of America, the gloomy wind of economic recession coupled with negativity was sweeping across the country. Similarly, an atmosphere of despondency was prevailing in India when Narendra Modi formed the government in 2014. His dream and vision of “New India” did cut ice with the people. There have been several innovative and outstanding decisions and subsequent successful implementation on social and economic governance issues over the last seven years. Obama indeed converted the crisis into a much-needed opportunity to transform the US and handled the serious economic challenges, which cost millions of Americans their homes and jobs. The economic stimulus package announced by him helped the US tide over the crisis. One may recall that PM Modi had given the call to convert the Covid-induced crisis into an opportunity during the first wave of the pandemic.

Challenges could be the game-changer if tackled with determination, vision, and a positive attitude. The sectors which merit immediate and much-focused attention are related to what affects the lives of the masses. Strengthening the areas of governance will be a major weapon. With a performer government in place, as suggested by the track record so far, goals could be achievable. Economy, vaccination, health, education, unemployment, and negative perception are areas where the government faces major challenges that need to be taken care of on a priority basis to take the country out of its current situation. The economic slowdown turned into a contraction due to the pandemic. The deadly second wave caught the country off guard. Unfortunately, a pandemic does not come with a playbook, and India, like many other nations, has been learning and framing the rules as it progresses through this pandemic. The ongoing economic reforms in various sectors, including banking and agriculture, have faced a slow-down. There are reports about how the rural economy has suffered. Job losses on a massive scale have also been reported. The lockdown shut several businesses and threw people out of their jobs, pandemic and consequent lockdown have made the unemployment situation worse. As per the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), in May, the rural unemployment rate in rural areas and cities reached 13.5% 17.4%, respectively. The national unemployment rate climbed to a new high of 14.7%. Certainly, the government will have to address this.

Now the question is what the government can do. What has been noticed in the past was PM Modi’s immense focus on microeconomics and this should be given fresh impetus. The bold push for encouraging market forces should be given, in view of the agrarian economy having been struck significantly by the pandemic. Empowering grassroots institutions could be effective. What is being suggested by many economic experts is the need to promote MSME down to rural areas to create jobs and stimulate economic growth. It is good that the government has made free ration available to the poor and those who lost jobs. The financial-economic package announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is the beginning of the long therapy that is needed for economic recovery. But many such financial vaccines are needed to bring India to the high table among world economic powerhouses. Another crucial step would be expediting and increasing loan disbursals under Mudra Yojana to help people set up their work and start-up to address unemployment. Under Mudra Yojana, Rs 29 crore loan sanctions, and Rs 15 lakh crore disbursals happened. This will also be of immense help in addressing the economic challenges.

Doubling the income of farmers will be of great help in improving the rural economy. It is a good move that PM Modi recently released over Rs 20,000 crore under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan) scheme. Since agriculture is the mainstay of the Indian economy, the government will have to focus on measures leading to an increase in agricultural production.

Rural infrastructure development is also one of the major components of what forms the very basis of improving the economy of the villages. Hence, there is a need to give a fresh fillip to the mission of electrifying all villages and homes, proper sanitation coverage to every village and tap connection to every single home in the city and village.

Education sector reform can also be a game-changer. Skill development, research, and innovation in science and technology are the three components to create a self-reliant India. It is a positive development that as part of reform in the education sector, the government’s focus is on connecting youth with education, knowledge, and skill to build Atmanirbhar Bharat.

How the health sector left a lot to be desired down to state levels also came to the fore during the second wave of Covid-19. That shifts the spotlight on health infrastructure in rural areas which needs to be further developed. Several hospital projects approved by the government for various districts and blocks should be completed soon. While discussing health sector enhancement, what is worth mentioning is affordable health care to the poor. Ayushman Bharat, also known as Modicare, helped the poor to some extent. But its reach to the people living in remotest areas should be ensured. It reminds one of Obamacare which was launched in 2010 to provide healthcare to those who can’t afford it. The objective of both is the same. Loopholes in the implementation of Modicare down to small rural pockets need to be plugged. The government is also reported to have stressed the need to make its coverage more extensive.   

Covid vaccination is an area where the focus should be greater. The manufacturing of vaccines has grown tremendously but vaccination hesitancy has to be dealt with. A majority of the population needs to be vaccinated at the earliest. The government claims that everyone will be vaccinated by December. But for this to happen, uninterrupted vaccination supply needs to be ensured. In what has come as a significant development underscoring the “Yes We Will” attitude, India has overtaken the US in the total number of Covid-19 vaccines administered so far with over 32.8 crore doses till 28 June 2021, while the US has logged 32.3 crore doses. What is more remarkable is that India began its vaccination drive on 16 January, 2021 more than a month after the US did on 14 December, 2020.

The perception challenge is one of the most baffling issues that the Modi government has to deal with. In the post-Covid scenario, a negative perception is being created about the government led by PM Modi. Questions are being raised over his competence. So PM Modi will have to lead from the front and infuse fresh spells of energy into all the schemes and projects. He has to show the willpower that yes, he can do and he will do. The government must step up efforts to be more proactive to engage with many public and civilian institutions to address the perception challenge resulting also from misinformation campaigns at national and international levels. PM Modi should bring some credible, talented, and professional faces with few seasoned capable people in the Cabinet. This perception is growing that the Cabinet lacks the desired talent and it must be given a fresh look. He knows the significance of perception in politics, the downfall of UPA-Congress is a story to remember. These are all daunting challenges for PM Modi. His track record on meeting difficult situations head-on is well known and that gives the nation confidence that he will face the challenges successfully.

One can go by some major works done by the Modi government. Banking the unbanked through the Jan Dhan Yojana was PM Modi’s innovative scheme under which 42 crore bank accounts were opened. GST was in the pipeline for 17 years before it became a major tax reform in 2017. Free distribution of the LPG cylinders through the Ujjwala Yojana is a milestone achievement. Official data show that Ujjwala Yojana accounts for over 70% growth in total domestic LPG connections in the country. The Swachh Bharat campaign is one of the big socio-political achievements of the Modi government. The toilet-construction programme under the Swachh Bharat campaign to make India an open-defecation free (ODF) country played a significant part. Even Obama lauded PM Modi’s innovative scheme of cleanliness.  

The government has done remarkably well on the strategic front. It was a big achievement for India to push China back from Doklam and Pangong Lake but still, the continued standoff at the LAC remains a big challenge for PM Modi and his strong leader image is facing the most critical time. However, under his leadership, India has renewed its effort to push for a permanent UNSC seat, by launching diplomatic efforts to remove the bottlenecks. Moreover, India plays an important role in Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), the grouping of four countries comprising the USA, Japan, Australia, and India, to counter China’s aggressive behaviour. We know the battle ahead will be long, but always remember that no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change. No matter how onerous and gigantic the task of crushing the challenges might be, India will successfully do it with determination and collective efforts guided by a “Yes, We will do” attitude. It is this strong feeling and commitment that is going to rule everything. 

The writer is a political analyst and former Chairman, Andhra Pradesh Electronics Development Corporation.

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Tushar Mehra & Mallika Puri, Co-Founders, Talentopedia on digitizing India’s freelance economy

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In an exclusive conversation, as a part of NewsX India A-List, Tushar Mehra and Mallika Puri, Co-Founders of Talentopedia spoke about their venture and the importance of focusing on digitizing India’s freelance economy.

In his inaugural comments, Tushar Mehra said, “At Talentopedia, our aim is to digitize the Indian freelance economy and we are doing that by giving an app to freelancers to help them better manage and grow their businesses. There are about 20 million freelancers in India, despite that big number most of freelancing happens offline. The best way to grow your business is not to sell your services on online markets, the best way to do it is to get work through first degree networks.”

Joining the conversation, Mallika said, “I have been a freelancer myself, I’ve worked in the industry for 5-6 years. I have personal experience with respect to being a freelancer and the challenges that we ourselves faced. I have tried to generate business as a single army through online platforms like freelancer.com, fiveearth and I could never generate any business because I would spend my prime hours of working on online platforms just to generate business.”

“I realised these platforms are not build for freelancers and people like myself, they are built for buyers where they come on board, generate as many leads, whereas, the freelancers are just on the platform to bid for those leads that are coming on board. But we are constantly cost-cut, facing a lot of challenges with various different freelancers who are verified by the platform. Thus, we land up with zero work. So, we’d rather switch to offline channels through first degree networks to get our own business and manage work. That’s how Talentopedia was born. So, that we could cater to the freelancers first, make them our focus, focus on their challenges and then cater to the buyers,” said Mallika.

Commenting on how Talentopedia is set apart to help freelancers apart from helping and creating a market place, she added,“Freelancers are our prime focus, they are our customers. We look at providing them business-management tools through our application that helps them to manage their business, generate leads and also grow their business.”

Explaining how Talentopedia works, Tushar stated, “We have an application on the google play store. We have a portfolio to upload projects freelancers have done, list their skills and services they sell. You can even input reviews you get from Facebook and other platforms. You can use our payment links to get easy payments like UPI (Unified Payments Interface). If you are working, getting clients offline through your first degrees, use our tool, manage those clients.”

Recalling their journey so far and future plans for Talentopedia, Puri said, “The journey has been absolutely amazing, we have around 100,000 freelancers on our Android app. In next five years, we want to see 10 million freelancers on our app. We want to create job opportunities for people who are looking at freelancing as their source of income in the pandemic.”

Towards the end, Tushar added, “If you’re a freelancer, this is the perfect time to join our platform and start growing because with the pandemic, a lot of start-ups have recently started to hire freelancers as they have realised the power of freelance.”

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