About three decades ago, in the idyllic locales of Kerala, I was working in the traditional fisheries sector. In an attempt to enhance returns for fishermen who were getting a mere 20% of the market price of fish, we introduced new technology like fibreglass crafts and outboard motors and even launched beach level auctions. However, the greatest challenge which persisted was to open bank accounts for fishermen to streamline payments. In those days, it would take us a minimum of ten months to chase physical banks and manage to register a single account holder. Know Your Customer was an alien concept. Cut to 2021, you can walk into a bank branch and open a bank account in moments with eKYC and biometrics. Reducing the waiting time from months to minutes, digital transformation has truly enabled a paradigm shift.
Marking six years of the Digital India initiative, the Prime Minister has aptly described this to be India’s techade. Technological advancement and the rapid penetration of the internet has integrated over one billion citizens across India into a common financial, economic, and digital ecosystem. With the cheapest data rates in the world and close to 700 million internet users — every three seconds a new Indian user joins the internet. The Union Cabinet has just approved the implementation of BharatNet through a public-private partnership in sixteen states with official fibre connectivity to all inhabited villages. With over a billion plus biometrics, billion-plus mobiles and almost a billion bank accounts, we have built the largest identification system in the world mapping the entire population of India. To date, 1.29 billion Aadhaar IDs have been generated and 55.97 billion authentications have been carried out. Bridging the gap between the government and citizens has become the bedrock of India’s digitisation efforts.
A payment system that connects millions of Indians spanning across the coast of Gujarat to the farmlands of Uttar Pradesh and the mountains of Sikkim, there is a tremendous opportunity to make UPI a global and scalable architecture for digital payments. From powering a large corporate to empowering a vegetable seller, India’s stellar success story in facilitating quick, real-time mobile payments has left the world awestruck. In June 2021, UPI recorded 2.8 billion transactions worth Rs 5.47 trillion. UPI now has more than double the number of transactions that American Express does globally. Recently, Google wrote to the US Federal Reserve, applauding the successful implementation of UPI in India, and recommended the Federal Reserve System of the US to draw inspiration from India.
A notable innovation in the Digital India landscape has been the launch of aG2B (Government To Business) Government e-Marketplace. The GeM portal has successfully leveraged technology to transform the public procurement landscape. So far, the portal has crossed the 19.17 lakh seller registration milestone, about 5 times the number of sellers from last year. Tribal jewellery from Jharkhand, dry fruit from Kashmir, dance lessons from Chennai, textiles from Odisha — the intersection of e-commerce and the internet have created a robust ecosystem for Indian products and businesses to thrive in. The internet has been the greatest enabler for millions of Indians to scale their passion and produce into businesses and interact with customers globally.
Two key sectors that have received a massive impetus under the Digital India programme are health and education. These are crucial for improving the overall quality of life of Indian citizens and describe a holistic growth trajectory. In the hinterlands of India, gold-coloured beneficiary cards are considered to be lifesavers for many, doing away with the various pillars and posts that one had to run to for equitable access to healthcare. The Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana (PMJAY) is a unique blend of healthcare and technology and is the most comprehensive cashless, contactless, paperless and digital health insurance scheme in the world that covers over 500 million citizens in India, equivalent to the population of Europe. PMJAY along with the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) is massively improving end to end healthcare delivery in India, inching towards a system that is totally technology-enabled through data integration and standardisation. An example that truly resounds with this vision for a connected healthcare system, emerges from an aspirational district in western Uttar Pradesh. Chitrakoot, despite its developmental challenges, has wonderfully leveraged common service centres, village level entrepreneurs and ASHA workers to build an effective telemedicine delivery mechanism for all residents of the district. Under this intervention, patients in remote areas can avail specialist care without having to travel from their homes to hospitals, saving considerable time and money.
Digitisation and internet penetration have contributed phenomenally towards improving learning outcomes for students across India. Primary schools in Nawada, a remote aspirational district in Bihar are home to SMART classrooms, completely equipped with digital tools and internet connectivity, bringing knowledge from the world to Indian villages. The model of SMART classrooms and e-learning has been rapidly replicated across states, introducing students from rural areas to a whole new world of learning. During the pandemic, several online learning initiatives deployed by the government – DIKSHA, ePathshala, Swayam played an instrumental role in ensuring continued education for students in the most remote corners of the country.
The transformation of India into a digital society and a knowledge economy has tremendously improved the ease of living for citizens. Universally accessible digital resources like the India Post which is the largest computerised and networked postal system in the world, the AyushSanjivani application, DigiLocker, UMANG app, Tele Law for legal advice, the SVANidhi scheme for street vendors and the launch of 10,000 BPCL CSC points for easy booking of gas cylinders are some of the tools that are maximising governance and minimising government for Indian citizens. Another revolutionary product of Digital India is the MyGov platform which is the world’s largest interactive digital democracy portal promoting participative governance.
As India moves from being data-rich to data intelligent, Machine Learning and AI will find solutions to a vast number of its challenges — water availability, learning outcomes, health improvement and enhanced agriculture productivity. Going forward, I believe that the development of world-class technology products requires critical inputs from data-hungry young entrepreneurs and an AI-enabling policy environment. India should nurture an innovative breed of socially conscious and development-oriented product managers, AI scientists, product designers and software engineers.
Building inclusive technology solutions are about high volumes with the availability of services at low cost and the convenience of video and voice in vernacular languages. This requires a full-stack design approach keeping in mind the unique attributes of India’s diversity, with special emphasis on the needs of people living in remote parts of the country. To script an unprecedented success story of digital transformation, it is imperative to be fully cognisant of the aspirations and the potential of the population residing in rural and relatively disconnected parts of India. How we enable and empower the spirit of entrepreneurship among them so that they leverage technology capabilities and data to provide solutions for not merely the people of India but the next five billion people of the world who will be moving from poverty to middle class, is going to be the cornerstone of the next Digital India techade.
Amitabh Kant is CEO, NITI Aayog. The views expressed are personal.
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The filched Indian Gems
Over time, theft of Indian antiquities and diamonds has robbed India of its demarcation as the “Golden Bird,” or Sone Ki Chidiya. Many ancient artefacts vanished when India was still a colony. Here are some of the listed items:
The renowned Mughal Peacock Throne of Allaudin Khalji was the owner of the Koh-i-Noor. Diamond experts from all around the world refer to it as the “Mountain of Light.” Following the establishment of the East India Company by the British in India in 1849, it was given to Queen Victoria. It is currently kept in the Tower of London’s Jewel House.
The Ring of Tipu Sultan
Tipu Sultan was defeated by the British in a fight in 1799, and after his death, the colonisers took his sword and ring. The ring, which Vijay Mallya had spent a lot of money on, was sold at auction by the British in 2014 for £145,000, while the sword was given back to India.
The wine cup of Shah Jahan
Colonel Charles Seton Guthrie stole the wine cup that belonged to the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the early 19th century and sent it to Britain. The wine cup was donated to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 1962, where it is currently displayed.
The Peacock Throne
A well-known peacock throne has also been taken. According to legend, it served as the sear of the Mughal emperors who conquered North India. This throne was previously located in Delhi’s Red Fort. Shah Jahan, an emperor in the 17th century, constructed this throne specifically for him. This throne was removed by the Persian King Nader Shah in the year 1739.
The marble idol of Sarswati
The goddess’s marble statue was inscribed in the year 1034 AD. This was the most priceless statue in Madhya Pradesh’s Bhojshala Temple. The statue was eventually misplaced, and in 1886 it was mysteriously discovered in the British Museum.
The battle without the gun
The 5th Generation Warfare is a covert attempt to paralyse a nation and a battle not on the ground but of strategies to discredit and stymie its growth.The well-described Sun Tzu Strategy is unquestionably proving to be a great approach to debilitate the growth of any country, which lists down five agendas, i.e.,win all without fighting; avoid strength, attack weakness; deception and foreknowledge; speed and preparation; shape your opponent; and character-based leadership.
Daniel Abbot defines the 5th Generation Warfare as the war of “information and perception” which calls for tactics like social engineering, misinformation and cyber attacks, artificial intelligence and autonomous robots.
The tactic of psychological manipulation in order to decay the intellect, breach privacy, or fleece the people of a country is what can be called social engineering. In recent times, there have been instances where foreign powers have adopted certain methodologies, including baiting, scareware, pretexting, phishing, and spear phishing, to rob the nation.
Deliberately spreading deceptive and misleading information in order to influence actions and the entire persona in long run is a commendable tactic to vanquish the enemy nation. Be it fuelling political agenda or be it triggering extremism, misinformation has a vital role to play.
We need to outsmart the strives of the foreign nations to uproot the culture of our country with subtle poisoning of technology along with Cyber attacks and look beyond petty affairs to see the wider picture.
Indian Embassy in Madagascar decks up with tricolour lights
As India is celebrating Independence Day on Monday, the Indian Embassy building in Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo was seen in the Indian tricolour lights. Meanwhile, Town Hall in Antananarivo also lit up in tricolour on the eve of the 76th anniversary of Independence Day of India.
To commemorate the spirit of Independence, the Embassy of India will organise a flag hoisting ceremony on Monday at the Embassy residence Villa Tanana Finaritra, Analamahintsy, Ivandry. “All members of the Indian community and friends of India are invited to join the celebrations,” the Indian Embassy tweeted.
India and Madagascar share a strong relationship. India is a key trade partner of Madagascar with bilateral trade reaching about 400 million USD in 2020-21.
The ties between the two Indian Ocean neighbours are growing in all spheres. The two countries share healthy and strong ties which are on an upswing and several MoUs in key areas such as health, education, culture, information, and travel have been signed between the two countries.
Meanwhile, in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said the Indian national flag does not contain only three colours in it but is a reflection of the pride of our past, our commitment to the present, and our dreams of the future.
Addressing a tiranga rally in Surat via video conferencing, PM Modi recalled that in a few days’ time, India is completing 75 years of its independence and said that all of us are preparing for this historic Independence Day as the Tricolour is hoisted on every corner of the country.
Celebrating India’s achievements at 75
As India celebrates 75 years of Independence, India has channeled her civilizational strengths and cultural diversity into a brand new shared future, and opportunities for achievement, progress, and prosperity for its billion-plus citizens. Here is a list of what we have achieved since 15 August 1947.
Indian Premier League (IPL)
Indian Premier League (IPL) is an Indian professional T20 cricket league established in 2008. Lalit Modi proposed the idea of IPL and superheaded the IPL effort. It was founded by the Board of Control of Cricket in India in 2007. It is usually held between March and May of every year. In a high-profile ceremony in New Delhi, the first season was slated in 2008. The first season of IPL was won by Rajasthan Royals, captained by Shane Warne. To date, there have been fifteen seasons of the IPL tournament. Moreover, there are 10 teams they are; Chennai Super Kings, Delhi Capitals, Gujarat Titans, Kolkata Knight Riders, Lucknow Super Giants, Mumbai Indians, Punjab Kings, Rajasthan Royals, Royal Challengers Bangalore, and Sunrisers Hyderabad. The teams representing different Indian cities compete against each other. IPL is the most-attended cricket league in the world which revolutionized the game.
Success of Unified Payments Interface (UPI)
India’s Unified Payments Interface (UPI) has become the best-performing real-time ecosystem in the world with nearly 6 billion transactions a month. According to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, India’s digital economy could create $1 trillion in economic value in 2025. Earlier on 11 April 2016, NPCI conducted a pilot launch with 21 member banks by Dr. Raghuram G Rajan, Governor, RBI at Mumbai. On 25 August 2016 onwards Banks started to upload their UPI-enabled Apps on the Google Play store. These are the top seven UPI apps used in India; Google Pay, PhonePe, Paytm, BHIM App, Amazon Pay, BHIMSBI Pay, and MobiKwik. Meanwhile, from 21 banks in April 2016, the total number of banks linked to the UPI platform as of Feb 2022 is 304.
Vaccination Drive of India
The ongoing COVID-19 vaccine drive in India rolled out the world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination drive. The COVID-19 vaccination drive in India was started on 16 January 2021 across 3006 vaccine centers in all its states and union territories. The vaccination drive in India has been initiated with two types of vaccines: Covishield and Covaxin, being manufactured by Serum Institute of India Ltd. and Bharat Biotech International Ltd. On the first day itself, 1,65,714 people were vaccinated and were administered to a sanitation worker at All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. As of now, 2,08,25,13,831 vaccines have been administrated to the people. Earlier, on 30 January 2020, India reported its first case of COVID-19 in Kerala.
Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM)
The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also called Mangalyaan was launched on 5 November 2013 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It is a space probe orbiting Mars since 24 September 2014. The Mangalyaan was launched from the First Launch Pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre (Sriharikota Range SHAR), Andhra Pradesh. For the launch Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket C25 was used. Mangalyaan was the world’s cheapest mission to the red planet which cost just Rs 447.39 crore. “Unlike the Mars mission, which was a one-time project when cleared, the GSAT program envisages launching several more satellites. Therefore, the money saved from its launch is with Isro to be used for future satellites,” a senior official said. The spacecraft instruments which were used are Mars Color Camera, Lyman Alpha Photometer, Thermal Imaging Spectrometer, Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyzer, and Methane Sensors for Mars.
Statue of Unity
The Statue of Unity is the World’s Tallest Monument and is the most prolific creator in recent times. The Statue of Unity is dedicated to one of India’s founding fathers, and the country’s first Deputy Prime Minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel with a height of 182 meters. It has been created as a tribute to the ‘Iron Man of India’. The Statue of Unity is divided into 5 zones out of which 3 are accessible to the general public. It can accommodate 200 visitors at a time and location at a height of 153 meters. It is located at Sardar Sarovar Dam, in Kevadia, Gujarat.
The battle of freedom
In the path of achieving freedom, there have been several instances that let us hold our heads high. Every day had been a battle to expel the anarchist Britishers. Here is a list of the days that helped make August 15, 1947, happen.
The British Viceroy, Lord Curzon, with the aim of weakening the unity and curbing the Nationalist movement, devised a scheme to separate Bengal and reorganise the territorial distributions dividing the Hindus and Muslims in 1905. The “Boycott” resolution was adopted at a conference held at the Calcutta Town Hall on August 7, 1905, thus establishing the Swadeshi movement and bringing its previously fragmented leadership under one leadership. A hartal and a day of sorrow were called in Calcutta on October 16, 1905, the day the division came into effect. People observed a fast, and the kitchen hearth was left unlit. Hindus and Muslims tie Rakhis to each other to symbolise unity. It was successful and the partition had to be annulled.
Azad Hind Bharat
On December 30, 1943, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose hoisted the Indian flag at the Gymkhana ground in Port Blair and declared the island to be independent when the entire nation was clutched under British rule. He further renamed the Andaman and Nicobar Islands as Shaheed and Swaraj to mark the establishment of the Azad Hind Government, which also had its own currency and stamps. Upon raising the Azad Hind flag, Bose, the leader of the Azad Hind Provisional Government, also kept his word that the Indian National Army would be standing on Indian land by the end of 1943.
The peasants in the Champaran district of Bihar were made to endure unimaginable hardships when Europeans compelled them to plant indigo, a blue dye. They weren’t paid enough for the indigo, and they couldn’t cultivate the food they needed. Tired of the agony, the peasants turned to Gandhi. As Gandhi’s first Satyagraha movement in India, the Champaran Satyagraha of 1917 is regarded as a pivotal uprising in the history of the Indian Independence Movement.
Civil Disobedience movement
Civil disobedience, also known as passive resistance, is the act of refusing to comply with the requests or orders of a government or occupying power without using force or other aggressive forms of resistance. Its typical goal is to pressure the government or occupying power into making concessions. On April 6, 1930, M.K. Gandhi started the Civil Disobedience Movement by breaking the government’s salt law by picking up a handful of salt after finishing the illustrious “Dandi March” from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi. He served as the movement’s inspiration and helped to mobilise the population in the liberation battle. Due to the disregard for the salt law, the Civil Disobedience Movement expanded across the nation.
Quit India Movement
August Kranti or the August Movement are other names for the Quit India movement. Mahatma Gandhi began the “do or die” Bharat Chhodo Andolan, often known as the Quit India movement, on August 8, 1942. All of the Congress Working Committee members began to be arrested on August 9 as soon as the movement began. While being placed under house imprisonment, Mahatma Gandhi was brought to Ahmednagar Fort. Approximately 940 persons lost their lives as a result of the British’s harshness during this nonviolent campaign. There were also 1630 injuries. More than 60 000 activists were detained at the same time. However, this movement brought the nation together.
‘We Women Want’: Fitness on agenda
Clinical nutritionist Dr Ishi Khosla, Fitness Expert Vesna Jacob and Dr Rita Punhani IVF Specialist of Indira IVF appeared on ‘We Women Want’ to discuss fitness tips and bust some diet myths.
The panel stressed that it is important to monitor what you eat but also the timing of the meal. Diet such as intermittent fasting and Ketos were discussed with their pros and cons. An important point was also made regarding fitness that its best to exercise when you can even if its for ten minutes and not wait for the half hour – forty minute slot for a warm up. For as Vesna Jacob said our body is primed to be active, the primitive man did not see a tiger and then say wait let me first warm up before I defend myself. Dr Punhani pointed out how a good diet is essential for a woman’s health in various stages of her life from maturity to motherhood to menopause while Dr Khosla talked of the importance of gut health. The show was moderated by Priya Sahgal, Senior Executive Editor ITV Network.
Catch fresh episodes of ‘We Women Want’ every Saturday at 7:30 PM on NewsX. The program will also streamed live on major OTT platforms- Dailyhunt, Zee5, MX Player, ShemarooMe, Watcho, Mzaalo, Jio TV, Tata Play and PayTm livestreams.
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