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Aarogya Setu is an innovative solution to tackle virus: Ravi Shankar Prasad

Rishabh Gulati

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Ravi Shankar Prasad
Ravi Shankar Prasad

The Union Law and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad tells NewsX’s Managing Editor on how telecom networks have held despite many people staying at home.

Q. Why is it important to download the Aarogya Setu App?

A. We must understand Digital India is an important program of Government of India led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is himself tech savvy and understands the power of technology. India has a population of 130 crore plus and home to nearly 120 crore mobile phones. Aarogya Setu is an app you download which gives you a system whereby you know you are okay if it is green, if you come in contact with some person who is likely to be impacted, the colour will change. If you come in contact with someone afflicted, it will turn red. Therefore, you can digitally map your Covid-19 condition. How it works is that if a person is detected positive usually later on, this process alerts everyone he has met or come in contact. They will be told that you have come in contact with a person who has tested positive, be on guard, undertake isolation and take appropriate measures. Let me clarify, the privacy issue has been taken good care of. You have to give your consent before installing it on your mobile phone. Therefore, the world bodies and WHO are appreciating this development by my department in IT, NIC

Q. How we can mobilise AI and technology and use it for national service? How will this benefit people? We were also discussing how difficult is to do contact tracing with share labour involved with this app. How would that become easier?

A. This is an innovative product which is homegrown, no foreign element and developed by Indian innovators with Indian administrators and an Indian system. The alert system will be completely sensitized. Suppose one person goes to Patna or Lucknow and returns, and is found to be positive. Then the system will alert them on the movement part because they will be also captured in this. This works on smartphones and for feature phones, we have got Aarogya IVRS that also is an automatic system. If you give a missed call, it alerts you, guides you and counsels you. It is available in all languages and started with Tamil Nadu Government and the rest are following it. The third thing which I wanted you to know is that working from home is a new norm. We have facilitated by relaxing rules and I am happy to tell you that as per Nasscom projection nearly 85 to 90% work of India›s IT services is now being done from home. I have asked my department in the IT to come with robust architecture whereby working from home becomes new norm. And lastly one thing, more video conferencing must be an innovation of India. Therefore, I approve the scheme where we are launching a competition where start-up entrepreneurs can join. We will pick 10, give them a grant of Rs 5 lakh, of which we will pick up 3 and give them a grant of Rs 20 lakh and the best would be selected. They will be given a further Rs 1 crore incentive so that video conferencing can become a new norm.

Q. Despite the increase in working from home, our telecom networks and our ISPs have not failed since the lockdown started. How has this been managed and what needs to be done to replicate this?

A. Tough monitoring and incentivizing them right through the occasion. Since people are at home, they are using internet more now and there was a lot of load on video. We sensitized all players to relax high definition a little so that it takes lesser load. I am happy to share that they incorporated this and the load on mobile data consumption has come down to nearly 50 to 60%.

Q. You made the announcement a few days ago and from our understanding, you are sensitizing postal workers so that medicine sent by post is prioritised. How will this work out?

A. It is already working out. Let me explain, I held a meeting by video conferencing with the chief post master general and chief general manager of BSNL and also the other postal departments. I told the postal department that please ensure the delivery of food to the needy and poor of the country and I want to place on record my deep appreciation to postal operators from postmasters to postmen, all of them worked enormously. Whenever they got a complaint that people are hungry, they reached the areas because postal department has the reach. Then I found that they are already delivering medicines and other equipment through cargo planes. They are doing a good job and I found that life-saving drugs are becoming a big problem because normal drugs are available. For instance, a man was sending a life-saving drug to his retired army major father in the hills of Uttarakhand. Now he approached me and asked how will I send this life-saving drug to my father, who has kidney ailments. I asked my postal department to work it out and later it was delivered. Similarly in Madhya Pradesh, a cancer patient was not getting his drugs from Mumbai. I ensured that the medicine should be delivered, thereafter I asked postal secretary to have a suitable mechanism where if someone wants to transfer or send life-saving drugs to an area where it is needed, and where the lockdown prevents its sending, to use speed post or other system and deliver.

Q. How does one avail this facility, should we mark on the envelope that these are life-saving drugs or essential medicines? How will post offices know that this is important and are on high priority, how should we inform them?

A. First of all, it is for emergency drugs. Suppose it›s a cancer drug or any particular person is delivering drugs to them. We take the drugs from the person when the people who wants the drugs approach this system and at a legitimate cost, a minimum cost, this system delivers the drugs. We are doing it like this because postal operation is exempt from lockdown.

Q. Apart from Aarogya Setu app, what more can we do?

A. In fact, I would like to tell you that we have got MyGov platform, which is open for all Indians in which we are offering the people of this country to come up with innovative ideas. You have seen the Prime Minister appealing to young scientists and young professional innovators to come up with ideas and medicines to combat this virus. During these tough times, you must create hope. We shall overcome and the leadership of the Prime Minister and the entire country. We must put on record that it›s a rare moment in the history of India that Team India is working as one. Prime Minister and Chief Ministers regardless of the political divide. Other people also, including the civil society, and you have seen how lockdown is causing inconvenience. But the people of India have themselves accepted that if the lockdown needs to be extended for their life, they must continue to generate hope. I am sure the inherent talent and sense of enterprise of Indians will surely overcome the danger posed by coronavirus.

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STERLING’S STRIKE HELPS ENGLAND DEFEAT CROATIA

Raheem Sterling, center, celebrates after scoring goal during the Euro 2020 soccer championship match between England and Croatia at Wembley stadium in London.

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A thunderous goal from Raheem Sterling helped England defeat Croatia 1-0 in the Group D encounter of the ongoing European Championships here at the Wembley Stadium on Sunday. England managed to gain full three points from the match against Croatia and now the Three Lions will lock horns against Scotland on June 18 while Croatia will square off against Czech Republic on the same day.

The first half between England and Croatia saw no goals and as a result, the scoreline remained 0-0 at halftime. In the first half, England held on to the ball for 58 per cent of the match, while Croatia held on to it for 42 per cent. The deadlock was finally broken in the 57th minute as Raheem Sterling registered the goal for England. This was Sterling’s first goal at a major tournament. Kalvin Phillips made a stunning run as he beat two players and then he went on to pass the ball to Sterling, and he did not disappoint and successfully netted the ball into the goalpost.No more goals were possible in the match, and in the end, England went away with a 1-0 victory. Austria will lock horns against North Macedonia while in another match, Netherlands and Ukraine will be squaring off against each other.

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Mizoram man who headed world’s largest family dies

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Ziona Chana, the man from Mizoram believed to head the world’s largest family with at least 39 wives and 94 children and 33 grandchildren, died on Sunday at the age 76.

Taking to Twitter, Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga on Sunday bid farewell to him. “With heavy heart, Mizoram bid farewell to Mr. Zion-a (76), believed to head the world’s largest family, with 38 wives and 89 children. Mizoram and his village at Baktawng Tlangnuam has become a major tourist attraction in the state because of the family. Rest in Peace Sir!” he tweeted along with a group picture of the huge family.

Zion-a featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not in 2011 and 2013 for having the world’s largest family.

He reportedly lived with his family in a large 100-room, four-story building.

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We will be part of the next Union cabinet expansion: JD-U chief

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Amid the speculations of the Union Cabinet expansion, R.C.P. Singh, National president of the NDA-ally Janata Dal (United) on Sunday said that JDU is part of the alliance of the ruling NDA coalition at the Centre and the party will be part of the Cabinet whenever there is an expansion.

“There is no confusion. We are a part of NDA. Whenever there will be an expansion in the cabinet in Centre, JD (U) will be part of it,” he said.

At present, the JD(U) has no representation in the Union Cabinet. the JD(U) contested the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in alliance with the BJP.

However, RCP Singh chose not to comment on the inclusion of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) in the ‘cabinet expansion’.

Singh also mentioned that everything is good in the alliance in Bihar and there are no clashes in the NDA-led government in the state. “Everyone is together in the NDA in Bihar. The NDA government will complete its present term in Bihar. Everyone is working towards the development of the state,” the JD(U) chief said.

“The RJD is spreading rumours that nothing is good in the NDA to keep its MLA together. There is everything good in NDA but there are clashes in the RJD,” he added.

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First three desi nuclear attack submarines to be 95% made in India

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In what would be a major boost for the submarine building capability within the country, the first three nuclear attack submarines to be built indigenously would be having 95 per cent Made in India content in them and it would further go up in the next three. The Cabinet Committee on Security is considering a proposal worth around Rs 50,000 crore for indigenously building three nuclear attack submarines which would be built by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in Visakhapatnam. This project is separate from the Arihant class project under which six nuclear-powered submarines are being built with the capability of launching ballistic missiles.

“The nuclear attack submarine project would be a big boost for the indigenous submarine capability as 95 per cent of it would be made in India. This would provide a big boost to the domestic defence sector including both private and public sector,” government sources told ANI.

For the six nuclear attack submarines, the planners are confident that they would be able to complete the project without any external help but if required, they may take help of one of its strategic partner countries, they said.

The project would also be very helpful for the economy as it is expected to generate a large number of jobs in the defence sector, the sources said.

The Navy and DRDO would first get a clearance for three of these boats and will have the option of building three more after the completion of this project. The Indian Navy proposal to have six indigenous nuclear attack submarines was one of the first few major defence modernisation proposals to have been cleared by the Narendra Modi government soon after it came to power in 2014.

Even though marred by some delays, India has been making big headways in the field of indigenous submarine building capability. The first Arihant class boat was commissioned a few years ago and the second one INS Arighat is also undergoing sea trials and is expected to be commissioned in near future.

India has plans of building 24 submarines including six nuclear attack ones which would give it long legs to operate in the Indian Ocean Region and will help it to keep its adversaries in check at long distances.

The first six conventional boats are already under construction in Mumbai under the Kalavati class project while the tender for the next six with greater capability would be issued soon after recent clearance by the Defence Ministry. There is a plan to build six more conventional submarines under the Project 76 but it will take a long time to be initiated.

ANI

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SECOND WAVE WASHES AWAY DABBAWALAS’ HOPES, FORCES THEM TO TAKE OTHER JOBS

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Currently, many dabbawalas are jobless, some of them have returned to their villages while others had to find new ways to earn their livelihood. According to the members of the Mumbai Dabbawala Association, many bicycles can be seen outside railway stations in this lockdown but there are not as many dabbawalas.

The pandemic has brought a halt to their lives. Only some of them are working and delivering dabbas in hotels and hospitals while the rest are earning their livelihood through other means. Some dabbawalas have become auto drivers or are selling vegetables to earn money.

Mumbai’s 130-year-old dabba delivery system has over 5,000 dabbawalas like Kailash Shinde who now operates and provides dabbas for hotels and travels from Andheri to Malad to Borivali and Bandra.

Since trains are being used only for essential services, dabbawalas face a lot of problems in travelling. Due to the lockdown, the places have been shut where they used to deliver dabbas.

Subhash Talekar, President, Mumbai Dabbawala Association says “we demanded the state government to allow us to travel in local trains as essential workers are being allowed. We should also get a nod to commute in trains as it gets difficult to go by any other vehicle to far off places. Lockdown has affected our economy drastically”

A dabbawala told us how this lockdown has impacted his life. Kailash lives in a chawl system in Andheri with his wife and two children. The pandemic and the lockdown have caused a lot of damage to dabbawalas. Kailash showed us his house and opened up about the difficulties he is facing due to the lockdown. 

He says, “Before the lockdown, I had a team of 18 people and used to earn from Rs 12,000 to Rs 15,000 from one house and had over 400 orders. But after the lockdown, I have a team of only three people and fewer orders. Now we get only Rs 5000 to Rs 6000 in which we have to survive as the money is divided among three people.”

Kailash and his wife earn to manage somehow and give good education to their children. His wife also works to support her husband and family, yet this is not enough.

Due to the pandemic, Kailash had to face commuting hurdles as half of the money earned goes into travelling. In an emotional appeal to the government, he says, “I request the government to look into the matter and allow us to travel in trains as the lockdown has greatly affected our economy. If trains are opened for dabbawalas, then it will be a ray of sunshine for them from the dark clouds of lockdown.”

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Experts find no proof of 3rd wave hitting kids hard, but states in no mood to take chance

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With 80,834 Covid-19 reported cases in the last 24 hours, India continued its declining trend of new infections and reported the lowest single-day count in 71 days, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said on Sunday.

The new cases pushed the Covid case tally in the country to 2,94,39,989. India has been witnessing a continuous fall in the active caseload and the current active number of Covid cases stands at 10,26,159 with a net decrease of 54,531 cases in the last 24 hours.

The weekly positivity rate further dropped to less than 5 per cent and currently stands at 4.74 per cent while the daily positivity rate stands at 4.25 per cent today. It has remained less than 10 per cent for 20 consecutive days now.

Despite the downward trend, most states seem to be gearing up for the anticipated third wave, especially on creating infrastructure for paediatric wards, given the buzz that the coming wave might hit kids particularly hard. In view of the pandemic, the states have kept the health budget of 8-14 % for the current year. The Delhi government allocated Rs 9,934 crore or 14% of the total budget to health. CM Arvind Kejriwal on 12 June cautioned that the chances of the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic were quite real, while he asserted that his government was preparing on a “war-footing” to combat it.

The Kerala government allocated Rs 2,800 crore to deal with the health emergency. The third wave of Covid-19 is expected to arrive in October, necessitating a larger budget for Covid mitigation.

Bihar has kept Rs 13,264 crore on health this year. The health department has focused its attention on arranging beds with medical facilities for children who, experts fear, could be mostly affected in the third wave. Currently, there are 816 beds for children in the nine medical college hospitals in the state. Of these, only 225 have oxygen facilities.

Uttar Pradesh allocated 5.5 per cent of its total expenditure for health. CM Yogi Adityanath said that the state is now preparing for a probable third wave. Paediatric ICUs in district hospitals and mini-PICU in community health centres were being operationalised. A new 20-bed PICU has been planned for Deoria and a mini-PICU in Laar.

Incidentally, as the states gear up to ramp up their paediatric wards, a new report says that there’s no substantial evidence to suggest that children will be more affected or have greater illness severity in the anticipated third wave.

The Lancet Covid-19 Commission India Task Force prepared the report after convening an experts group comprising leading paediatricians from the country to examine the issue of ‘paediatric Covid-19’ in India. It said that the infection’s symptomatology in children in India appears to be globally comparable.

“Most children with Covid-19 are asymptomatic, and amongst those symptomatic mild infections are predominant. Most children have fever with respiratory symptoms, and often present with gastrointestinal symptoms and a typical manifestation compared to adults. The proportion of symptomatic children increases as age increases as does the severity in such age groups,” the report started.

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