Hours after being sworn in, President Joe Biden informed United Nations Director-General Antonio Guterres about the US’ decision to re-join the World Health Organisation. He also reversed Donald Trump’s controversial ‘Muslim travel ban’, which blocked travel to the United States from several predominantly Muslim and African countries, and signed an executive order to rejoin the Paris climate accord.
Walking back on the former administration’s plan to withdraw the US from the WHO, Biden said: “This letter constitutes a retraction by the Government of the United States of the letter dated July 6, 2020, notifying you that the Government of the United States intended to withdraw from the World Health Organization (WHO), effective July 6, 2021. The United States intends to remain a member of the World Health Organization.” In the letter, the President said that the US will be part of WHO’s fight against the coronavirus.
“The WHO plays a crucial role in the world’s fight against the deadly Covid-19 pandemic as well as countless other threats to global health and health security. The United States will continue to be a full participant and a global leader in confronting such threats and advancing global health and health security,” he said.
Former President Donald Trump had in July last year pulled out the US from the WHO after criticising the body for covering up the outbreak of Covid-19, which emerged in China in 2019. The US had also backed out of a joint global effort led by the WHO to develop, manufacture and distribute a vaccine to cure coronavirus. The decision would have come into effect from July 6 this year.
Besides retracting from WHO, Biden has also taken the decision to re-join the Paris Agreement, from which Trump had pulled out in November last year.
“I, Joseph R Biden Jr, President of the United States of America, having seen and considered the Paris Agreement, done at Paris on December 12, 2015, do hereby accept the said Agreement and every article and clause thereof on behalf of the United States of America,” read the order. “We are going to combat climate change in a way we have not done so far,” Biden said.
Paris accord goal is related to limit global warming to well below 2° Celsius, and preferably limit it to 1.5° Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. It was adopted by 196 countries at Conference of the Parties COP 21 in Paris in December 2015 and signed on 22nd April 2016. However, US President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement in November 2020 making the signatories nation number to 195.
The move by Biden has drawn accolades from Sundar Pichai, Google CEO who applauded him with the tweet, “We applaud @POTUS’s quick action on Covid relief, the Paris Climate Accord, and immigration reform. Google has supported action on these important issues & we look forward to working with the new administration to help the US recover from the pandemic + grow our economy”.
Hours after taking the office, Biden signed 17 executive orders memorandums and proclamations including ending the Muslim travel ban. He has directed the State Department to restart visa processing for individuals from the affected countries and to develop ways to address the harm caused to those who were prevented from coming to the United States because of the ban, The New York Times reported.
Implemented in 2017 during Trump’s first week in office, the Muslim Ban initially restricted travel from seven Muslim-majority nations: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The ban faced several legal challenges, but the Supreme Court in 2018 upheld the final version of the measure. The Muslim travel ban so far restricts citizens from 12 countries—Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria, Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan, Tanzania and North Korea—and some Venezuelan officials and their relatives from obtaining a broad range of US visas, NPR reported.
Biden has also halted construction of Trump’s border wall with Mexico. The order includes an “immediate termination” of the national emergency declaration that allowed the Trump administration to redirect billions of dollars to the wall.
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POTENTIAL OF TECHNOLOGY FOR TEACHER TRAINING
The quality of teachers has been a much-debated issue in India for decades now. The nation as a whole, as well as states independently have grappled with the quality of teacher training, trying to ensure that our teachers are learning, learning well, and are able to serve our children better.
Most states have elaborately planned training, often designed as a cascade model. This model involves top officials getting trained on teacher content, taking this learning and then training their immediate subordinates. This goes on for about 3-4 levels before reaching the teacher. While the intention exists and it solves for the vastness of this problem, the quality of content, the facilitation and the motivation to deliver gets diluted at each level of the cascade model. Now, with new approaches on curriculum coming out, the need to deliver content with minimum compromise on quality in an interesting and engaging manner, and also in a language that works best for a teacher, technology can play a very interesting role in addressing these gaps.
Before we get into what technology can do, it is also important to understand why it is important that we leverage this now more than ever. With India bringing out the NEP, there is an emphasis on making sure that teachers have access to quality capacity building and professional development that also takes into account relevant factors like continuous professional development and access to reference material, etc. Now that children need effective remediation post the pandemic, building a workforce of quality teachers who can ensure that foundational literacy and numeracy goals are met is critical. To do this at a fast pace, technology is the only enabler that can help us strengthen the existing model of training. This has been proven across various sectors and it is about time the educational sector adopted it as well.
During the pandemic, multiple surveys found that teachers catering to even the low-income communities had access to at least one internet enabled smartphone at home. This opens up opportunities to try and test integration of technology in teacher capacity building.
Below are some key advantages of integrating technology into training-
Online training makes it possible for teachers to access learning material in the form of videos. While content is present in the form of readings and papers, most teachers who seek learning are unable to access it in their preferred language. Videos provide this flexibility of adding voice overs in the identified language, allows replaying of content and overall require lower time commitment from teachers since they can consume knowledge in smaller bytes.
FLEXIBILITY IN TIME AND PACE
Online modules, once created, can remain accessible for an extended period of time. This provides the option for teachers to access learning content in small packets, at a time that is convenient for them and at a pace they are comfortable with.
PROVIDES IMMEDIATE FEEDBACK
Teachers require feedback to be able to self-correct which takes effort and time. Organising assessment for teachers to test their own learning is an ordeal in terms of finding a venue, communicating dates, managing travel etc. Integration of technology for this can make it possible for teachers to test their knowledge at any point from the comfort of their homes.
HELPS IN GROWTH AND LEARNING
Tech can be created to track the learning content teachers are accessing and the progress they are making. This can help the teacher see their own growth, and in turn, be more motivated to improve their classroom practices.
PROVIDES PROOF OF COMPLETION
Providing certificates to teachers has a number of logistical challenges which include tracking attendance, assessments, printing and delivering. Online modules available these days are able to automate and provide digital copies of certificates to teachers which they can access easily at any given time as long as they have internet enabled.
ENABLES PEER LEARNING
Tech can make it possible for teachers to connect with peers across districts and states and expand their perspectives on teaching practices. Online discussion forums, webinars and chats can allow for cross learning and a greater sense of community.
These features, if leveraged, can make capacity building of teachers less intensive on the trainers within the cascade, and can be scaled to provide access to remote areas easily. While the above solutions may not solve for enabling effective reflection, motivation and practice, they would definitely add value to the existing model of training by making trainers and officials more equipped to support teachers better in the classrooms. A hybrid model needs to be explored in order to make capacity building for teachers complete.
The author is Co-Founder and CEO, Key Education Foundation
THE PARADOXES AT DAVOS 2022
It has been interesting being in Davos this year. And, yes, it did feel different after a two-year pandemic-induced hibernation. Attendance understandably was down; but thankfully the temperature, it being May and not January, was up!! The World Economic Forum’s annual meeting returned with an appropriately weighty theme — ‘History at a Turning Point: Government Policies and Business Strategies’.
History indeed is at a turning point. Climate change, followed by the Covid pandemic, followed by global supply chain disruptions, then the ongoing war in Ukraine, followed by levels of inflation that the world has not seen for decades, has meant considerable panic and uncertainty. No one is even pretending any longer to know the answers. In this context, it was good to hear so many varied views at the WEF. However, it would have been even better to hear from those who were missing. Attendance from China, Japan and Korea was sparse this year and of course we heard nothing from Russia or much from Ukraine attendees. In fact, it was a rather one-sided WEF gathering.
And, frankly, this one-sidedness is a cause for concern. It reflects, perhaps, a growing close-mindedness that became a characteristic of the global response to the pandemic, as countries withdrew behind their borders. The response to the pandemic, around the world, has been a strange mix of ingenuity and global cooperation on the one hand and blatant selfishness on the other. Take, for instance, the speed with which vaccines were developed by scientists collaborating across borders (including in India) and contrast it with the deep mistrust, suspicion, prejudice, and greed inherent in the vaccine rollout, their availability and their pricing, leading to several layers of fracturing within nations and across nations.
The same pattern of response is evident in the turmoil over energy. Developed nations that were setting targets and giving stern lectures about climate change to the rest of the world now appear to be less censorious as their own energy security is threatened and prices spiral. Very few are willing to admit that there had been an overswing on the side of green solutions and technologies that were still in their nascent stage and that this fragility has been totally exposed by the crisis in Ukraine. Perhaps better sense will now prevail about what pragmatic energy transitions might look like as opposed to green transitions based on little more than magical thinking. It would have been worthwhile to have had more of this debate at the WEF, to have heard more about how we might realistically come together to enable a global green transition based on collaboration and mutual understanding rather than finger-wagging and scolding.
More than climate change, though, the topic several of the delegates I met at Davos ended up discussing was defence. Clearly, the world has been shaken by the war in Ukraine, as well as the pulling out of troops from Central Asia and the Middle East. When you overlay these concerns with resentment over the uneven distribution of Covid vaccines and the uncertainty around energy supply, it is understandable that nations (even those that are in NATO) are beginning to see sense in augmenting their border security. Almost every leader I spoke to acknowledged, and some even explicitly stated, that a new and more sophisticated arms race may now be coming on. Alliances will form and re-form around defence agreements and many countries may prioritize defence manufacture and procurement as a non-negotiable aspect of self-reliance.
This state of global affairs has forced us to confront the resulting realpolitik directly rather than hide behind a façade of global cooperation. On one side we are too connected now, bound together by trade and the brute logic of the supply chain. But on the other, a combination of the pandemic, followed by the war in Ukraine and the effort to limit climate change, has exposed the limits of global cooperation.
International alliances and pacts are mutable, built on slippery foundations of self-interest. Indeed, many of the most economically developed nations on the planet are scrambling to find alternatives to a world they have largely brought about, recognizing belatedly that in the quest for hyper efficiencies they have become too reliant on some nations to meet manufacturing needs and too reliant on others to meet energy needs. A flat world, we now know, was largely a fantasy. We must learn to navigate the bumps and the curves rather than assume a flattening of our world is possible or perhaps even desirable.
I went to Davos to learn how the world’s leaders saw this present time, and how they might define a ‘global’ agenda. For instance, if ‘sustainability’ is the agenda and the pressing concern of the hour, then the world’s convictions should not be swayed by either war or pandemic. We must accept that there is a price to pay to make the changes we say we must make. For me, sustainability is as much about the health of society as it is about the health of the environment. We must see that equality and dignity are crucial aspects of any effort to combat climate change. The time has come for global collaboration rather than cooperation. “You must cooperate with me” cannot imply coercion. Cooperation cannot only mean cooperate with the existing world order.
Therefore, as a response to global conditions, I am convinced that our Prime Minister’s Atmanirbhar Bharat scheme is precisely the catalyst India needs to step up and strengthen self-reliance across all sectors – be it vaccinations, defence or semiconductors. It is clear, in this uncertain time, that there is little alternative to effective, confident self-reliance and that we are now onto this era of self-reliance.
As we go through this process there will be pushbacks – and we will run into controversies in other parts of the world. So be it. Many will try to stop us building semiconductor plants. Many will dissuade us from investing a larger portion of our GDP in defence. Our principles will come under criticism. What we must keep in mind is that many of those who set targets for emissions reductions for India are also those that shy away from acknowledging the disproportionate responsibility borne by a small number of developed countries for the climate crisis. In other words, it is far easier to talk than to walk the talk.
I must admit that the very large presence of India at the WEF, even in these times, was reassuring. It showed that India is no longer shy about asserting itself in the global arena. It was a sign of our growing confidence. It was a sign of our belief in the India story, and I am glad I was in Davos to experience this for myself!
India is right to focus on self-reliance, while also seeking to provide an alternative to a world in need of alternatives. If there is a rejigging of the world order, it needs to be one that is based on respectful multipolarity. The world need not be flat. Not when flatness really just means that the world has been forcefully flattened. Instead, let’s seek a more stable world order built around countries that are self-confident, self-reliant and willing to speak to each other in terms of mutual respect rather than coercion and condescension. This is the paradox we must solve!
This piece was shared by Gautam Adani, Chairperson of Adani Group, on Linkedin.
INDIA’S COVID-19 RECOVERY RATE IS 98.75%, SAYS CENTRE
The cumulative tally of recovered patients in India, since the beginning of the Corona pandemic, stands at more than 42.6 million, with a recovery rate of 98.75%, says Ministry of Health and Family Welfare press release. Meanwhile, in the last 24 hours, 2167 patients have recovered.
India’s total COVID-19 vaccination coverage till 7 am on May 26 has exceeded 192.82 crore (1,92,82,03,555) as per provisional estimates. This phenomenal coverage was achieved through 2,43,56,591 sessions.
There is some respite in the weekly positivity rate in the country, says the press release, as currently the number of people affected with the disease stands at 0.51% and the daily positivity rate is reported to be 0.58%.
According to the Health Ministry release, “India’s active caseload currently stands at 15,414. Active cases now constitute 0.04% of the country’s total positive cases.
“COVID-19 vaccination for the age group 12–14 years was started on 16 March, 2022. So far, more than 3.33 cr (3,33,02,653) adolescents have been administered with the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Similarly, the COVID-19 precaution dose administration for age group 18–59 years also started from 10th April, 2022 onwards,” informed the press release.
Over 4,52,580 COVID-19 tests were conducted in the last 24 hours. And India has so far conducted over 84.84 cr (84,84,11,356) cumulative tests.
ED RAIDS 7 PLACES LINKED TO SHIV SENA MINISTER ANIL PARAB IN CORRUPTION CASE
Everything is not well in Maharashtra these days. First Anil Deshmukh, then Nawab Malik and now Anil Parab’s name has come up in a money laundering case.
BJP leader Kirit Somaiya has clearly said that now it is Anil Parab’s turn to go to jail. The way Enforcement Directorate (ED) raided seven places in Pune and Mumbai linked to the Maharashtra minister and Shiv Sena leader on Thursday, it clearly indicates that now Parab’s troubles have begun. And if this happens, it can be a big problem for the Thackeray government.
Anil Parab has remained a favourite of the Thackeray family since the times of Bal Thackeray. Once upon a time, Parab’s name used to be a big name in the cable operating business. But, he also practised in court and at the same time had a good reach inside the most influential address of Mumbai – Matoshree.
Parab was not just a cable operator and legal adviser to Shiv Sena. His role was much bigger than that. When Bal Thackeray wrote his will in his last days, he also recorded the name of Parab as a witness. However, later in 2015, Bal Thackeray’s second son, Jaidev Thackeray, approached the court questioning this will. Jaidev had called the will fake, considering it as one-sided in favour of Uddhav Thackeray. When the matter escalated, Parab appeared in the court and presented his side. The court considered the will to be correct which brought great relief to Uddhav Thackeray.
In 2012, during the last days of Bal Thackeray, Parab was sent by Shiv Sena to the Legislative Council. After Bal Thackeray died in November 2012, the command of Shiv Sena came in the hands of his son Uddhav. Parab also had a deep relationship with Uddhav and it still remains.
Parab’s relationship with Thackeray family or Shiv Sena may be old and holds importance, but now many serious allegations have been made against him. The Thackeray family is not able to help the government because the investigative agencies are under the central government and the possibility of getting any help from the Centre is negligible.
Dismissed assistant police inspector Sachin Vaze claimed that Parab allegedly received crores of rupees through Nagpur’s deputy regional transport officer Bajrang Kharmate as a bribe for transfers of 10 police officers in Mumbai.
The ED has registered a fresh case under criminal sections of the Money Laundering Act (PMLA), after which raids are being conducted at several places in Dapoli, Mumbai and Pune. The three-time elected member of the Maharashtra Legislative Council, Parab is currently the Transport Minister of the state. The ED action pertains to allegations related to Parab’s purchase of a land in Dapoli in 2017 at a consideration value of Rs 1 crore. This land was registered in 2019.
It is alleged that this land was later sold to Mumbai-based cable operator Sadanand Kadam for Rs 1.10 crore in 2020. Meanwhile, a resort was built on this land from 2017 to 2020. The Income Tax Department’s investigation had earlier said that the construction of the resort started in 2017 and Rs 6 crore in cash was spent on it. Earlier, the ED had questioned Parab in another money laundering case involving former minister Anil Deshmukh.
CLIFTON IN KARACHI IS DAWOOD’S ABODE, DISCLOSES DON’S FAMILY
Confessions made before ED confirm Pak’s lies about Don’s whereabouts
Dawood Ibrahim, the fugitive most wanted by Indian investigating agencies, lives near Ghazi Shah Peer’s tomb in Clifton area of Karachi in Pakistan.
This revelation has been made by none other than Ali Shah Parkar, the Don’s nephew, according to the charge sheet filed by the Enforcement Directorate here on May 25 in a money laundering case involving Nawab Malik.
The confessions nail Pakistan’s lies about the Don’s whereabouts in the country, which have been largely in the realm of speculations. Indian investigating agencies have time and again accused Pakistan of providing Dawood a safe haven, which the neighbouring country has always denied.
The fugitive is wanted in India for 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts, which had killed more than 250 and injured more than a 1000 people.
Alluding to the confessions made by Ali Shah, the ED charge sheet says Dawood sends Rs 10 lakh every month to his siblings in Mumbai through his network of operatives. Ali Shah, who is an approver in the case, is the son of Dawood’s sister Haseena Parkar. Dawood’s brother-in-law Saud Yusuf Tungekar has also made several revelations before the investigators. Apart from giving exact details of his Mamu’s (uncle’s) residence in Pakistan, Haseena’s son has divulged information about his mother’s associates and Dawood operatives, suggesting that the D-Company is alive and is operating with impunity in Mumbai.
According to the ED investigators, Ali Shah has told them that his uncle left India before he was born. They are living in Clifton area of Karachi in Pakistan. Dawood’s wife calls them on festivals from across the border. In his confessions, according to the ED charge sheet, Ali Shah has provided a good deal of information on Salim Patel, a close associate of his mother Haseena, as well.
According to the ED, his mother Haseena and Patel settled the dispute over the Goawala Building in Kurla and took over a portion of the building by opening an office there. Later, Haseena sold her possession to Nawab Malik. Haseena was a housewife, who took to settling petty financial disputes for a living. Being Dawood’s sister helped her wield influence and made her job easier.
The ED also interrogated his mother Haseena Parkar in connection with the money laundering case. Among his kin interrogated by the ED was Saud Yusuf Tungekar, Dawood’s brother-in-law. His statement was recorded on February 16.
According to the ED, 61-year-old Tungekar is living a retired life in Mazagon area of Mumbai. Tungekar in his statement has said that Dawood Ibrahim is the elder brother of his wife Farzana. He met the Don the first time during his marriage with his sister. He met Dawood only on a couple of occasions after that. He has not met Dawood since the underworld king moved to Dubai in 1987–88. Dawood’s wife Mehjabeen calls his wife Farzana during Eid and other festivals.
Tungekar has also made some revelations to the ED about his sister-in law Haseena. According to Tungekar, says the ED charge sheet, Haseena used to settle property disputes for a living and her driver Salim Patel helped her in this enterprise.
Since she was Dawood’s sister, people feared her. Although he knew what business Haseena operated, he did not have any knowledge about what her son Ali Shah did for a living.
As the ED threw wide its dragnet, further investigation led them to Salim Qureshi, who is a close aide of Chhota Shakeel. Qureshi alias Salim Fruit has been arrested and interrogated. Shekeel is a trusted lieutenant of the fugitive don, who also stays in Pakistan. Qureshi, according to the ED charge sheet, was in touch with Shakeel till 2006. He stopped talking to his relative after that because of his illegal activities.
Qureshi also visited Shakeel’s residence in Pakistan three to four times between 2000 and 2006. He stays in Phase 5 Defense Area, Clifton, Karachi. As the address suggests, Clifton is a military cantonment area.
In his interrogation, Qureshi also revealed that Chhota Shakeel used to work for Dawood Ibrahim and Dawood lived near Ghazi Shah Peer’s tomb in Clifton area of Karachi. Although he had never met Dawood personally, he knew it well that all illegal activities of Dawood Ibrahim in Mumbai were looked after by his relative Chhota Shakeel.
CBI SUMMONS TMC MLA SAOKAT MOLLA IN COAL SMUGGLING SCAM
KOLKATA: The Central Bureau of Investigation on May 26 summoned Saokat Molla, TMC MLA from Canning East (South 24 Parganas), to their Nizam Palace office in connection with a coal smuggling case.
According to CBI sources, Molla is suspected to be involved in a coal smuggling case. After recording the statements of witnesses in the case, Molla’s name has figured prominently in the investigations. CBI officials are expected to interrogate Molla.
CBI has asked Molla to report to its Nizam Palace office on 11 am on Friday. Molla has been asked to turn in his passport, Aadhaar card, voter ID card and PAN card.
Molla has also been asked to turn in all relevant documents if he owns a company, say CBI sources. The investigators will examine his bank transactions. After former School Education Minister Partha Chatterjee and successor Paresh Adhikari, Molla is the latest TMC leader to be hauled by the CBI over the coal.
Another TMC leader Anubrat Mandal, Birbhum district president of the party, is also under the CBI scanner. The central investigating agency has been unearthing scam after scam much to the discomfiture and embarrassment of the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC government. As if the twin SSC recruitment scams were not enough, the CBI has unearthed the coal scam.
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