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Forest fires: Not a priority for government

In 2019-20 alone, India lost nearly 38,500 hectares or 14% of its tropical forests. With about one-fifth of it going up in flames each year, Indian forests are no more carbon sinks but carbon emission areas. Why then is the Ministry of Environment turning a blind eye to the issue?

Amita Singh

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Since March, there have been more than a 1,000 major forest fires across the country. Last month, when the Jodibill Reserve Forest near the Similipal Biosphere Reserve in Odisha was ablaze, many other pristine forests and wildlife reserves in many other states in the country were also burning. Fire alerts have been continuously coming from Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, many Northeastern states and Uttarakhand. The peak forest fire season in the country began as usual in March with 3,308 incidents this year, as compared to 1,004 in the corresponding month in 2019. Two major causes which emerge are the failure of forest governance and of disaster governance. After every forest fire, debates are diverted towards assessment of the government’s capacity to douse forest fires but a demand for accountability from those who failed on preparedness gets muted. Only a few question the government’s intention as a causal factor for forest fires.

While I was writing this piece, I received a petition for support from the communities of the Sattal lakes and the forests in Kumaon. Despite the massive devastation that Uttaranchal has been facing due to vanishing forests and ongoing forest fires, it is bent upon invading the pristine biodiversity area and wreaking havoc through the construction of children’s parks, hotels, shops and parking spaces. Uttarakhand’s uncontrollable fire has already scarred more than 700 hectares and remains unstoppable. The government has admitted that in the current month alone a monetary loss of Rs 14,18,909 is estimated, but if the value of ecosystem services obtained from a rich forest biodiversity is also added to it, this loss may multiply manifold. Replying to a question in the Rajya Sabha, the Minister of State for Environment revealed that in 2019 the area affected by forest fires was a massive 93,273 hectares, suggesting an equally baffling figure for damage and losses.

Interestingly, forest fires are not even recognized as a natural disaster in the framework of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). Initially, in the 2009 National Policy on Disaster Management, only earthquakes, floods, wind, cyclones and landslides were recognised as disasters. Later, glacial lake outbursts and heatwaves have been added to the list. But the much needed recognition of forest fires as a disaster is shockingly still missing.

The Forest Protection Division of the Ministry had formulated a National Action Plan on Forest Fires in April 2018 and a report ‘Strengthening Forest Fire Management in India’ was also published. The Ministry also launched a faster and more robust version of Fire Alert System in January 2019 through the Forest Survey of India (FSI) Dehradun. In the meantime, the National Green Tribunal, unsuccessfully, directed the Ministry to constitute a National Monitoring Committee to monitor the National Action Plan on Forest Fires. NDMA’s failure to recognise forest fires as a natural disaster has prevented a synchronized preparedness exercise in accordance with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. A previously constituted Standing Fire Advisory Committee of the NDMA had a highly deficient record of equipment, rescue vehicles and trained manpower which prevented any monitoring of funds allocated for fire prevention to state governments.

Forest fires have been the main reason for the loss of forest cover, and with no immediate afforestation, this land is occupied by encroachers making the rest of it still more vulnerable to fires. The Forest Survey of India in 2019 found more than 36% of forest cover in the country as severely vulnerable to fire.

Who could be behind forest fires? There is enough evidence in the history of forest fires about an unholy nexus of miners, the timber mafia, poachers and their representatives in the government who surreptitiously get forest land released for non-forest purposes. The arrest of two men behind the recent Jodibill incident confirms the presence of criminals behind forest fires. A 2002 Down to Earth report had said that the Terai region’s timber smuggling is linked to the poaching of tigers, panthers, elephants, Himalayan black bear and musk deer to such an extent that more than 20-30 trucks get past through most check posts illegally. The forest departments can do nothing before these well armed and well connected mafia agents. Many forest guards are killed every year trying to save animals or timber from criminals. Only last month while a forest guard was shot dead by mafia goons in Dewas, three other forest guards suffered critical injuries in Panna Forest Reserve of Madhya Pradesh after being attacked with axes, choppers and spades. A forest guard is a Group C, non-gazetted, non-ministerial post with a starting salary of Rs 5,200 and is given neither weapons nor life-saving boots, appropriate uniform and protective headgear. They are always overpowered and outnumbered once caught patrolling inside the criminal-occupied forest areas.

Fires push endemic species to extinction as they have location-based lives. While the administration gets busy dousing the fire, traffickers drive off with their wanted reptiles and exotic mammals. Tigers and elephants are dedicated sentinels who guard these forests against illegal human trespassing and lose their lives like the forest guards. Many species of wild cats such as panthers, leopards, tigers and cheetahs have already become extinct due to fires and the subsequent loss of habitat. Many historians and conservationists such as Mahesh Rangarajan have recorded how thousands of tigers had been shot down in the years prior to Independence to vacate forest land for saleable property by the royals. Documentaries on elephants by filmmakers like Mike Pandey and Sangita Iyer highlight cruelties perpetrated by human beings and the diminishing impact of the law on protecting forests. A recently published report by the Global Forest Watch (GFW) has brought out shocking facts about India’s forests. In just one year of 2019-20, India has lost nearly 38.5 thousand hectares or 14% of tropical forest. GFW is an initiative of the World Resources Institute with an open source web application to monitor global forests. It recorded the deadliest forest loss in Mizoram (47.2% loss) followed by Manipur, Assam, Meghalaya and Nagaland, which when put together lost more than 52% of all tree cover in India in 2019-20. Our ‘Look East Policy’ is becoming a ‘Fire East Policy’.

Diversion of forest lands for non-forest use was made difficult by the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 (FCA 1980). Subsequently, the rate of diversion of forest land within a decade came down from 1.43 lakh ha to around 15,000 ha per annum. Many subsequent amendments to this restraining Act and, in supersession of the Forest (Conservation) Rules, 1981, many changes were brought in between 2014 and 2017. Most of these changes were not even displayed on the MOEFCC website which is considered quite mandatory for modern governance. The Web Measurement Index (WMI) reflecting upon the government’s intention of what it wants to hide or wishes to display reveals how interested the government is in protecting forests.

The changes to the Act further diluted Environment Impact Assessment procedures and eliminated any scope for assessing wildlife before granting clearances to projects on forest lands. Many forest animals who guarded their sacrosanct forest entry points, like the nilgais and monkeys were declared vermin in 2014-15 by short-sighted policies of the MOEFCC and instead of giving them a green cover they were eliminated within weeks in a brutal bloodshed unleashed upon them and abetted by the Ministry. There is also suspected data fuzzing on forest diversions. The Union Minister of Environment Prakash Javadekar in his 20 March 2020 statement in the Parliament divulges a figure of 3,616 projects involving 69,414.32 ha of diversion of forest land since 2014. But the MoEFCC’s e-Green website mentions a much higher diversion, a total of 72,685 ha of forest land. This e-Green website is a product of a Supreme Court directive to the Ministry for effective monitoring of the compensatory afforestation in the country through an authority named “Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA)”. So if two figures with an error of almost 3000 ha are available simultaneously on two government websites, is there yet another figure to which citizens have limited or no access?

Huge forest lands which have sketchy forest cover and immense vulnerability to fire await afforestation through CAMPA. This Division within the MoEFCC was constituted in 2009 by the Supreme Court order after a writ petition involving TN Godavarman Thirumulpad vs. Union of India & Ors. The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, 2016 further provided for the establishment of funds under the public accounts of India and of each state to credit the monies received from the user agencies towards compensatory afforestation recovered under the FCA1980. It’s laughable to accept that compensatory afforestation is actually possible despite the Court orders. Where is the land for it? If land was available then there wouldn’t have been any need for encroaching into forest land. Consequently, CAMPA became a dragging and rejected division as the minutes of its seven crucial meetings reveal. In fact the first four meetings between 2009 and 2012 were so casual that the minutes neither had the Chairman’s signature (who is the Union Minister for MoEF) nor his name. Later meetings had both but no decisions were ever taken on direct forest management. A simple demand of the DG of FSI for much needed High Resolution Satellite Imagery like the Cartosat-1 and Ikonos for multisectoral and panchromatic imagery which could have increased fire detection capacity of forest personnel was dragged from the 5th to the 7th CAMPA Advisory Gp. meetings of 2015, after which no record of these meetings are displayed on its website which was last updated in November 2019.

Another scuttling of fire prevention efforts occurred when the government rejected every move to consolidate community network, awareness and fire fighting training proposals such as that from the Barefoot College which were brought to its meetings for approval. India’s forest story is saddening with only 3.02% of real dense forest in a forest cover of merely 21.67%. Sustainable and healthy human life needs at least 30% of forest cover but most of the forests we are left with are moderately covered or open forests. Appallingly, it appears that the MoEFCC engages more in the diversion of forest land than in forest fire prevention.

Is there a possibility that we can still blame climate change for forest fires in the first place? India’s forests are no more carbon sinks but carbon emission areas as one fifth of the 70.82 mha of forest land goes up in flames every year. The carbon emission to the atmosphere from these fires would be much higher than the Californian fire estimation of 91 metric ton released from a forest fire area of only 1.4 mha. In this background, the tall claim of the Environment Minister made in 2017 that India’s 1.56 metric tonnes of emissions in 2010 could be attributed to a nature-friendly Indian lifestyle needs revision and introspection unless we wish to maintain a fake global image of a benign Indian.

The writer is former Professor of Law & Governance, JNU, and president of Asia-Pacific Disaster Research Group (NDRG). The views expressed are personal.

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Opinion

AMARINDER LIKELY TO HOLD WORKERS’ MEETING IN DELHI

Pankaj Vohra

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In an obvious attempt to entice Congress activists to join his proposed new political party, former Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh is likely to convene a workers’ conclave in Delhi in the coming week. The erstwhile soldier is essentially banking on sitting MLAs, who may be denied renomination by Congress to meet him to discuss the current situation in the border state. He appears to be in no tearing hurry to resign from the grand old party while simultaneously working to weaken it from within. The strategy is clear that being a part of the Congress, he can always continue to meet his colleagues and fellow MLAs, and if the High Command was to act against him, the only action possible could be expulsion. This would also suit him since he would continue to be a member of the legislative assembly and can participate in the deliberations of the Assembly whenever it meets. The anticipation is that taking advantage of the intense infighting, the Captain may ask the Charanjit Singh Channi government to take the floor test at an appropriate time. The Workers meet in the national capital is designed to test the loyalty of some of those who benefitted from their association with him in the nine and half years he remained the Chief Minister. It is also to assess his own strengths and weaknesses before he floats his own party, the blueprint of which is ready. The battle-hardened Captain is likely to launch a twin attack on the Congress. The first would be to ensure that it is weakened from within and the second to put his own party on a firm footing. Unconfirmed reports from Punjab suggest that there were as many as 20 MLAs, who were expected to meet him in Delhi this week. Whether this happens or not would depend on how the Central leadership of the Congress is able to rein in various factions, which are working against each other. On Sunday, Pradesh president, Navjot Singh Sidhu lashed out at his own government and reminded the Chief Minister and his Cabinet that the real issues were being swept under the carpet while unimportant matters were getting undue attention. Anandpur Saheb MP, Manish Tewari also referred to the infighting and stated that he had not seen such chaos in the 40 years he has been with the Congress. He questioned the wisdom of those who constituted the three-member committee headed by Malikarjun Kharge to hear out the grievances of the MLAs. The exercise finally resulted in Amarinder being ousted. The Congress versus Congress war is only hurting the party and by introducing the element of personal attacks on the former CM, the political waters have been muddied further. Sidhu’s wife, Navjot Kaur Sidhu continued her attack on Aroosa Alam, the Captain’s Pakistani companion and stated that she used her proximity with the former Chief Minister to get important postings done after receiving expensive gifts. Aroosa on her part told a news channel on Saturday that the photograph of hers with Sonia Gandhi, released by the Amarinder camp was from 2005, a year before she met the Captain. A lot of stories regarding Aroosa are doing the rounds in political circles and they are not helping anyone. Congress as in other states is totally unprepared to dictate the political agenda and the astute and perceptive Captain is certainly going to take advantage of this vacuum. However, for Amarinder to succeed in his designs, he would have to somehow get the farmers on his side. Without the peasants’ support, his political party would be a non-starter. Therefore, the speculation is that he might meet the Prime Minister before Narendra Modi leaves for Europe by the weekend and discuss the farm laws. Amarinder has to play his cards properly and should remember that actions driven by anger do not necessarily lead to political dividends.

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Opinion

Infrastructure through Gati Shakti will help build the nation

The spirit behind the Gati Shakti initiative by PM Modi will serve two purposes. One, fill the infrastructure gaps in various sectors to serve people’s needs to improve their living standards and second, expected additional growth of the economy of our country for 4% to 5% by 2025 will help the country to become a US$ 5 trillion economy.

Dinakar Lanka

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Infrastructure along with good governance creates a conducive atmosphere for investment attraction from global entrepreneurs, which leads to the growth of the nation’s economy in the form of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for better living conditions among the general public in the nation. Here, infrastructure consists of roads and other transport facilities for the best connectivity among affordable clean energy, reliable transmission and distribution, roads, railways, inland waterways, seaports and till end-user of the product and service, irrigation, industrial parks and social infrastructure for enhancing the human living standards in all the required parameters which has been stipulated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi under Gati Shakti plan. Whether it is Union or state governments, they should plan and implement accurately the infrastructure requirements in a particular state to connect other destinations across the country meaningfully.

Union government under the leadership of PM Modi has been giving utmost priority to all kinds of physical infrastructure post-2014 with the coordination of state governments for achieving US$5 trillion economy. Though there were infrastructure facilities that evolved gradually after Independence in 1947, those facilities were minimal and inadequate to serve the people of the nation. In these circumstances, PM Modi’s leadership of Bharat had intended for the improvement of all kinds of infrastructure in tandem with a proper blueprint worth around 100 lakh crore, as announced by PM Modi, flag off the Gati Shakti plan under the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP). Thereafter, PM Modi has insisted it time and again including his recent Independence Day speech from the Red Fort as the need of the hour as already it has been in progress and the present value of the projects have reached to nearly 111 crore to boost our country’s economy for the creation of huge employment-related opportunities for the youth.

 The spirit behind the Gati Shakti initiation by PM Modi is to serve two purposes in tandem. One, fill the infrastructure gaps in various sectors to serve people’s needs to improve their living standards, and second, expected additional growth of the economy of our country to 4% to 5% by 2025 that facilitates to become a US$ 5 trillion economy. PM Modi led Union government has included sector-wise projects such as water, sanitation, social infrastructure, power, roads, railways, ports, airports, OFCs, hospitals, agriculture, and other infrastructure projects in the PM Gati Shakti road map. These projects have been in progress under the PPA system, consisting of the Centre share for 39%, the state share for 40%, and the private participation for 21% on 6835 projects and already 42 lakh crore worth of these 100 lakh crore projects are already in various stages in different states. The primary aim of PM Gati Shakti is raising the living standards of the people of the country and turning the country into an “economic force” with the initiation of these 100 lakh crore infrastructure projects.

Already, both Sagaramala and Bharathmala projects are vital in the process of infrastructure creation along with all other sectors to augment the GDP growth of our nation till Bharat reaches close to a manufacturing giant in the world. In this process, Make in India is a key initiative to achieve the ambitious US$ 5 trillion economy by 2025 for better living standards and infrastructure pipeline India provides. The bilateral trade between India and the US has grown from US$ 16 billion to US$ 149 billion in the last two decades and it has projected to reach over US$ 500 billion by 2025 with Greenfield or Brownfield projects. Already Vizag and Chennai Industrial Corridor (VCIC), Bangalore and Chennai Industrial Corridor (BCIC) are under progress and those are playing a prominent strategic role for the sea-based industrial infrastructure in South India under Sagarmala project for the estimated augment of GDP around 4%. Also, there is expressway road connectivity, railways connectivity, and air connectivity to the seaports and industrial parks and cities around it under Bharathmala projects. 

The prestigious Delhi – Mumbai Expressway for 1350 km distance comprises various industrial parks with 92,000 crore project cost has almost completed and getting ready for service within a year with the estimated earnings Rs 1200 crore to 1500 crore per month. One more New 8 line Expressway has been announced by Union Minister Nitin Gadkari to connect North to South of Bharath between Pune and Bangalore covering Surat – Nashik – Ahmednagar – Solapur – Akkalkot – Gulbarga – Yadgir – Kurnool – Chennai with an estimated cost of 40,000 crore with various industrial clusters with an aim to complete the project for service by 2024.

NHAI is playing the key role under Bharatmala project initiation to connect roads with railways, airports, and seaports for faster transportation connectivity to reduce the time log of the goods and travellers transport from one place to another part of our nation. In this process, where the National Highways around 90000 km were constructed prior to 2014 since Independence, it has reached more than 1,36,000 km till now by laying more than 46,000 km by NHAI for seven years of PM Modi led Union government. Further, NHAI is working with an aim to complete 2 lakh km roads as National Highways by 2025. The role of the Bharatmala project is vital for the connectivity of transportation in the Gati Shakti initiation of 100 lakh crore infrastructure projects.

How the funds are available for the PM Gati Shakti projects for 100 lakh crore is the big question raised by the critics. But the sector-wise projects and cost structure thereof planned beautifully and the same was announced in 2019 itself as NIP with a professional task force and already 42 lakh crore worth projects of various sectors under progress across the country with Centre, state, and private participation. Funds were planned by the Central government sector-wise through budget allocations, toll, and other revenues, National Monetisation Policy (NMP), disinvestments, and sources from financial institutions and similarly, state governments should have their plans for their projects approved under NIP and rest of 60 lakh crore to 70 lakh crore worth projects shall be completed in the next three years to gear up the economic activity with a sharp rise in the growth rate to reach the PM Modi’s ambitious US$ 5 trillion economy by 2025.

The writer holds a degree in commerce and works as an FCA. The views expressed are personal.

Union government has included sector-wise projects such as water, sanitation, social infrastructure, power, roads, railways, ports, airports, OFCs, hospitals, agriculture, and other infrastructure projects in the PM Gati Shakti road map. These projects have been in progress under the PPA system, consisting of Central share for 39%, the state share for 40%, and the private participation for 21% on 6,835 projects and already Rs 42 lakh crore worth of these Rs 100 lakh crore projects are already in various stages in different states.

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Opinion

PRIYANKA DECLARES WOMEN QUOTA IN U.P. UNILATERALLY

Pankaj Vohra

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Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Congress general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh took party circles by surprise when she unilaterally declared that 40 percent of tickets in the forthcoming Assembly elections would be given to women. Although, the announcement appears to be a progressive step in the right direction, yet it would have been better had the party thought through the ramifications of this decision before making it public. It is also inconsistent with what the Interim president, Sonia Gandhi had said at the Working Committee meeting last Saturday that the party leaders should directly communicate with her instead of conveying matters through the media. In this instance, it is possible that Priyanka may have discussed the issue at length with her mother and brother, Rahul but if any declaration had to be made, it should have been done by Sonia. How can a decision as crucial as this be specific to a single state. What about Punjab, Uttrakhand, Goa and other states going to polls along with Uttar Pradesh. Why should there not be ticket distribution at par with what the party has apparently decided. This is a policy matter and should have been debated at length in the Working Committee itself instead of leaving it to just one individual or the family.

It is also not known as yet whether to give shape to this concept of 40 percent tickets to women, would Priyanka be projected as the Chief Ministerial face of the party. If not, the entire exercise may prove to be futile. The impression which one gets by this lofty pronouncement is that the Congress would be contesting the UP polls on its own since other parties such as Samajwadi party and the Bahujan Samaj Party may have their own opinion on this important matter and may not necessarily concur with Priyanka’s views. In the past, the SP like so many other regional parties have opposed giving such a large proportion of seats to women without studying the fallout at the grass roots level. The BSP has provided a woman chief minister in Mayawati, who had a very successful tenure, but has yet to take a call on reservations for women in Assembly polls.

In fact, before Mayawati, Sucheta Kripalani had served as a Congress UP CM in the early 1960s. The reason why the views of the SP and BSP are important is because if the Congress has to enter into any kind of alliance, there should be some agreement on issues. There is no doubt that Priyanka has been active in the state and has tried to infuse life into the party cadres, even though the number has dwindled over the years. The Congress on its own steam is not capable of being in the fight in more than 30 to 40 seats at present, so it is a difficult task ahead for the party general secretary. There are some who believe that the Priyanka show so far is only for optics and is helping in diluting the challenge from both Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati. In any case, every party has a right to evolve its own strategy and this is true for the Congress as well. However, what is going to be difficult is on how the Congress would explain this UP specific decision to other states. Parties opposed to the Congress shall certainly make this an issue in the polls. The Congress can always claim that Indira Gandhi, the only woman Prime Minister of the country was from the party as so many Chief Ministers of several states. To carry the Priyanka thesis forward, a lot of spadework would have to be done, for which there is hardly any time left. The Congress has to hit the ground running in the forthcoming polls.

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Opinion

Modi 2.0: India’s journey to a billion doses

India’s response to Covid-19 under the outstanding leadership of ‘Global Goalkeeper’ Modi, is a textbook case in how great leaders do not escape—rather, they take the bull by its horns.

Sanju Verma

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In an unprecedented achievement, the cumulative Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in the country surpassed the mammoth 100 crore milestone on 21st October 2021. In a tweet, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi congratulated the countrymen and expressed gratitude to the country’s scientific community and health professionals for working towards achieving this stupendous feat,in his typical characteristic style,completely being modest about his own superior leadership,which eventually delivered,when it mattered the most.India’s recovery rate currently stands at 98.15%. Recovery rate is currently at its highest peak since March 2020.The active caseload is only 1.79 lakh cases,the lowest in the last 221 days.Active cases presently constitute 0.52% of the country’s total positive cases, which is again,the lowest since March 2020. India has so far conducted over 59.57 crore cumulative tests.

Weekly positivity rate at 1.34% remains less than 3% for the last 118 days in a row. The Daily positivity rate at 1.48% has remained below 3% for last 52 days and below 5% for 135 consecutive days in a row, now.India is only the second country globally after China to reach the 100 crore milestone. But the basic difference between the two nations is accessibility to related data.China claims to have vaccinated over 2.23 billion individuals. It even claimed last month of fully vaccinating over 100 crore people but there is no open-source data accessible to validate it. China even asserts that it has produced more than half of the world’s Covid vaccines so far,which is absolutely false and nothing but a frivolous claim by the CPC to reclaim lost ground,after reports have emerged that the Wuhan virus was engineered and incubated in a laboratory in China.

On January 3rd this year, India gave emergency-use approval to Covishield and Covaxin. Covishield is a two-shot Covid vaccine developed by AstraZeneca-Oxford University. Pune-based Serum Institute of India is its major producer. On the other hand, Covaxin, also a two-shot vaccine, is completely an indigenous achievement. It is developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech,in collaboration with ICMR.Covishield is a viral vector vaccine using an adenovirus or common cold virus found in chimpanzees. The vaccine has an efficacy rate of 70% but, when both doses are given 8 to 12 weeks apart, it can go up to 91%. Covaxin also uses an inactive viral strain (killed coronaviruses) and has a 77.8% efficacy rate.India,under Prime Minister Modi, started its vaccination drive on January 16,2021, targetting healthcare workers. Other frontline workers were added as intended beneficiaries in February.In April 2021,India approved the third vaccine made by Russia’s Sputnik V and opened the vaccination drive to everyone above 45 years.

On May 1,2021, India opened its vaccination drive for all adults. On June 12,2021, the country crossed the mark of administering 25 crore doses,in 148 days from January 16th,when the vaccination drive had begun. From June 21,2021,the Modi government announced free vaccines for everyone in the 18-44 age group,in a landmark decision.

World’s first DNA-based Covid vaccine by the Indian pharmaceutical company Zydus Cadila was approved on August 20,2021. It is a three-shot vaccine and the population base above 12 years of age can be innoculated with it. It is expected to hit the markets soon.

On August 26,2021,the country reached the mark of giving at least one jab to half of its 94 crore adult population.September 13,2021, saw the country crossing the 75 crore total vaccination mark. On September 17, the country, for the first time, crossed the ‘two crore doses a day’ mark and in fact became only the second country after China to achieve it. Over 2.15 crore jabs were given that day.On September 18, 2021,India achieved the mark of fully vaccinating 20 crore adult individuals.

The vaccination drive under PM Narendra Modi has been outstanding in more ways than one. For instance,to connect remote areas of the country, the health ministry started drone delivery of Covid vaccines on October 4,2021,a first in Southeast Asia. The vaccines, through drones, were delivered to a government health centre on a Manipur island in the Northeast and, currently, remote areas of Manipur and Nagaland and the union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands are being covered under this ‘supply through drones’ initiative,which is exemplary.

In effect,India’s vaccine roll-out is not only the largest in the world,but also the most affordable,with no compromises whatsoever,on any standard operating procedures (SoPs).The PM-Cares fund will shouldered the entire cost of the 1st phase aimed at innoculating 30 million or 3 crore frontline Covid workers.Earlier,in June 2020,over Rs 2000 crore was allocated from the PM-Cares fund,for supply of 50000 ‘Made-in-India’ ventilators to government run Covid hospitals in all States and UTs.Out of the 50000 ventilators, 30000 ventilators were manufactured by Bharat Electronics Limited,yet again showcasing India’s indigenous manufacturing prowess. While a jaded,directionless and clueless Rahul Gandhi keeps taking needless jibes at the Modi government,the fact of the matter is that,for over six decades,India just had 47000 ventilators,whereas in one go,in June 2020,the Modi government made available 50000 ventilators,to ensure no life is lost,for want of life saving equipment.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s food security scheme for the needy,called the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKAY), provided free ration to 81 crore,as in 810 million people,every single month for nine months in a row,during the pandemic,both last year and this year,too.Effectively speaking,this means,a population 2.5 times the size of America,was being fed every single month,for months together, showcasing the Modi government’s generous,welfarist and people centric approach.

The essence of Modi government’s management of the pandemic is that, PM Modi has been continuously communicating with the people by addressing the nation at regular intervals. He meaningfully coordinated with the Chief ministers of the State governments. When Modi asked countrymen to applaud the doctors and para-medical staff for their commitment to handling the Covid-19 crisis by clapping for a few minutes, everyone responded with great enthusiasm. The same response was seen when he asked everyone to switch off the lights and light candles.Moreover, when Modi wanted people to wear masks and observe social distancing, there was no protest from the people, like in other countries like the USA. It is quite true that some people did not follow guidelines but that was more due to indiscipline by few, rather than any broad opposition to the guidelines.In most democracies,often people do not hesitate to conduct protest marches even for trivial reasons.It is extraordinary therefore,that Prime Minister Modi could manage the pandemic,without giving room for unrest and turmoil,despite a complete lockdown,during the second wave and the months preceding that.

India is a vast country of 1.38 billion people that shares a 3488 kilometre long border with China. India’s response to Covid-19 under the outstanding leadership of ‘Global Goalkeeper’ Modi, is a textbook case in how great leaders do not escape— rather, they take the bull by its horns. Modi took the lead in hosting a video conference of SAARC nations,where India pledged to share disease surveillance software,work towards a common research platform and provide all help required, including assistance from the Indian Council of Medical Research,(ICMR) to its SAARC partners.India also took the lead in setting up a Covid-19 emergency fund,with a voluntary contribution of $10 million.Taking a cue from Modi’s intiative, the G-7 group decided to host it’s summit via video conferencing,in June 2020.And then ofcourse,virtual meetings became the norm,thereafter.

Now,contrast the policy of obfuscation and apathy followed by China,with the probity and transparency shown by India,in taking Covid,head-on.Be it building over 116 million toilets under the “Clean India” or “Swachh Bharat” mission,making India’s 5.5 lakh villages open defecation free (ODF),giving free health insurance to 50 crore Indians under the “Ayushman Bharat” scheme, producing over 60 million PPE kits and 150 million N95 masks in between April and October 2020,bringing home over 3.9 million stranded Indians from different parts of the globe,via the “Vande Bharat Mission”,or extending medical and humanitarian assistance to over 150 countries in the fight against the pandemic, the Modi government’s fight against the Wuhan virus was made easier by the fact that,a humungous amount of effort went into ramping up India’s health infrastructure and making cleanliness a way of life,in the last 7 years.What is worth mentioning here is that,during the initial days of Covid outbreak,there was only one lab in the country that could undertake testing for the infection,but today there are over 2000 testing laboratories.

A key concern is vaccine wastage.What is vaccine wastage?While wastage cannot be fully eradicated,it has to be within recommended limits.In general,high vaccine wastage inflates vaccine demand and increases unnecessary vaccine procurement and supply chain costs.Vaccine wastage is directly linked to vaccine usage, which is the proportion of vaccines administered against vaccines issued to a vaccination site. What is causing the wastage? For instance,each Covishield vial has 10 doses in total, while a Covaxin vial contains 20 doses — each dose being 0.5 ml (for one person). Once opened, all doses have to be administered within four hours, otherwise, it goes to waste and the remaining doses have to be destroyed. The vaccine wastage in India can be largely be attributed to low turnoutof beneficiaries turning up to get vaccinated,due to inadequate planning of sessions by a few States. For instance, if the vial contains doses for 10 people and only six turn up, four doses would go waste. In few opposition ruled States,opening vials,despite inability to mobilise critical mass of people led to huge vaccine wastage in the initial phases, particularly in States like Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Punjab, with wastage rate being as high as 18% and 12% in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh,during the second wave.Despite the Opposition ruled States completely abdicating their responsibility,the sheer will power to deliver,showcased by the Modi government,eventually resulted in the epoch making 100 crore number,possible,on October 21,2021.From Taali,Thaali,Janata Curfew to Jan Bhagidaari,Prime Minister Narendra Modi ran the world’s largest vaccination drive by putting his political and personal credibility to test and needless to say,he emerged unscathed and stronger than ever before.

The Modi government’s CoWIN (Covid Vaccine Intelligence Network) app, is owned by the Ministry of Health and Family welfare and was earlier the platform used for conducting Pulse Polio and other crucial and highly successful immunisation programmes across the country. The same platform was expanded for doling out Covid-19 vaccines and the ministry of Electronics and IT along with the National Informatics Center are now handling the backend and the tech infrastructure for it.CoWIN,is again an example of how the Modi government has seamlessly embraced technology,to ensure last mile delivery.Needless to add,in the final analysis, Modi’s “Make in India” model runs high on both the growth and humanitarian quotients whereas Xi’s “Make in China”, lacks the emotional quotient that separates a robotic,authoritarian regime,from an aspirational India, helmed by a “karmayogi” like Modi,who leads by example,never playing on the backfoot and always keeping the nation first,above everything else.Covid-19,which is still unfolding in many parts of the globe,will also be remembered for the global outreach by the Indian political diaspora,which has shown to the world,how a responsive and nimble footed government can tackle any emergency,with the right mindset.

In the final analysis,it can be said with no “ifs” and “buts” whatsoever, that the Indian response to the Coronavirus pandemic has been awe inspiring at various levels. While the US and Europe are dealing with endless queues of people lining up at malls and stores that have run out of toilet paper and hand sanitizers, India’s calibrated approach by the government,without causing panic, has had a salubrious impact. Also,don’t forget,while India reported its first case only on 30th January 2020,it had started screening incoming passengers from affected countries, via infra red thermometers,from 7th January 2020,itself.

“Good governance is not fire-fighting or crisis-management. Instead of opting for ad-hoc solutions, the need of the hour is to tackle the root cause of the problems”,is a famous quote by PM Modi.Better words have not been said. Undoubtedly,India’s outstanding and successful war againt Covid will go down in history as a textbook case of what a sensitive and nimble footed leadership can accomplish. It would be apt to conclude with a quote by John F. Kennedy,who said–”When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity”. Undoubtedly, while a reckless China foisted the Wuhan virus on an unsuspecting mankind,a visionary leader like Prime Minister,Narendra Modi,utilised this unprecedented global crisis as an opportunity,to reach out to and heal millions, both in India and outside,showcasing India’s true spirit of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, which means,”the world is one family”.

Writer is an Economist, National Spokesperson of the BJP and the Bestselling Author of ‘Truth & Dare-The Modi Dynamic’.

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SELF-RELIANCE THROUGH THE USE OF INDIAN LANGUAGES ​​IN AI

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Indian knowledge tradition is a broad concept. It helps in developing a broader dimension and approach. Artificial intelligence, which is prevalent in today’s time, if defined by understanding it in the real sense, is the cloning of the human brain. The machine itself is non-living, but the resultant output of the input that the human brain provides to it through software and programming is visible to us in the form of applications of artificial intelligence. It is, as much as its creator, intelligent. If the scientists of this field understand the functioning of the brain via emotional manifestations, then the robot made by them can also be emotional. The artificial intelligence that is being talked about nowadays has some limitations, such as a robot can do as much work as its program or software will command it to do.

Generally, these programs are built based on many facts, applications, and examples. If the conditions are changed, then these machines or robots will work to the extent that the situations have been programmed in them. It is to be noted here that the ideas come to us originally in our languages. There may be any other language, but in the abstract or latent state, the conceptual process is relative to the native language of the person. It is to be noted here that while moving from one linguistic level to another in the form of expression of ideas, they gradually become less in terms of their intensity and originality. More linguistic transfer destroys their original feeling. From this point of view, it will be possible to make more efficient machines using artificial intelligence using the original language of thoughts. People learn from their experiences, the wider their experiences, the more will be their thinking power.

There are three main components of artificial intelligence— thinking power, software, hardware. Wherever work is going on, on this subject all over the world, all three components work separately. The main component of this work is to clone the thinking power or mental emotions.

The work of software can be done by any skilled software engineer, and the work of hardware can be done by any company. Therefore, its core lies in cloning mental impulses. The data of a person’s thoughts or thinking acts as a raw material or main component in it. There is no match of countries like India, China, Japan all over the world in the efficiency of behavior and quick diagnosis of situations. China is famous to copy a product immediately. Thinking power and inclination to the knowledge of India and the technological brains of Japan is also noteworthy. Therefore, the main component of artificial intelligence is most available in countries like India, China, Japan.

India is not able to use it fully, because it is not aware of the importance of its knowledge in an integrated way, and unorganized Indian talent. With the desire to earn more money through migration, that knowledge is continuously being given to the country which is very advanced in terms of software. It can be explained to a nonprofessional through an example as if food is the need of every person, but the process till the food is made is a complex set of components. The farmer does the farming, the agent buys it from the market, the agent retails it, sells in the market, the customer buys it from the retailer and prepares food. The agent has the system, which is necessary for the management between the customer and the farmer. Therefore, neither the farmer earns the profit equal to his hard work, nor the customer. The middleman, the highest-earning agent, and the customer suffer the impact of inflation. The same tendency is with any technology in the world, technology is lobbying for the one who benefits the most. Therefore, by developing a system through our languages, by stopping the drain of the brain, a speedy pace can be made towards self-reliance.

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Revealed: Secret US government psychic research programmes

In order not to rock the foundations of contemporary civilization, and also to hold fast to any applicable uses of the transcendent discoveries of military intelligence, the concerned authorities in the USA kept their investigations and insights secret and at times formally denied their existence or validity.

COME CARPENTIER DE GOURDON

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When I first entered the United States in June 1983, for a long sojourn I have recounted in my book of a few years ago, A Shining City on a Hill, I did obviously not know that on that same day a 29-page classified technical report was submitted to the US Army Intelligence and Security Command (USAISC) at Fort Mead, (Army Operational Group Commander DET 0) on the secret CIA research programme codenamed Gateway and dedicated to investigations about consciousness and their potential scientific and military applications.

McDonnell’s report (CIA-RDP96—00788R001700210016-5) confirmed the validity of the research into para-psychological and sophrological phenomena and their reality, generally deemed as inexistent and related to “magical mind tricks” or misleading erroneous impressions. The report, integrating the experiments of Israeli-American inventor and yoga/TM practitioner Itzhak Bentov (who had died in a plane crash in 1979), was not made accessible to the public as it contained challenging claims which partly overturned many current scientific theories and observations about the nature of reality and life. It was only released under FOIA on the 10th of September 2003, with the exception of page 25 which was withheld for reasons that will be alluded to in this article.

Much of the research done under the GATEWAY/STARGATE protocols was related to the work of Robert Monroe, the founder and director of the Monroe Institute in Virginia whose discoveries I discovered back in the eighties and describe summarily in my aforementioned book. The findings of Monroe and the CIA-sponsored teams are more or less the same as they collaborated in their research. Several members of the US Armed Forces were sent to the Monroe Institute’s secluded facilities to undergo the tests and experimental processes designed to achieve paranormal insights by raising the level of consciousness according to methods derived from Carl Jung’s psycho-analytical therapies and more broadly from yoga, TM and other “eastern” meditational techniques.

The Italian website Omega Click has commented on some of the vast amount of documentary material created under the auspices of the GATEWAY/STARGATE programmes. Omega Click interviewed Professor Raffaele Renna, a psychologist, astronomer and expert on the subject. Renna highlights that, among the major conclusions drawn from that research, the mapping of cerebral functions has uncovered the virtually infinite powers of the mind to visualize all things beyond space and time and shown that the “brain capital” (which is actually outside the brain) survives death as it is located in non-local, entangled space-timelessness whereas “everything is omnipresent” and time is only a measurement for the motion of energy. In that light the brain is a receptor that decodes and interprets signals or algorithms originating in universal consciousness and produces the appearances that our senses make us regard as Reality,

All this may be regarded as a mere reiteration in contemporary scientific vocabulary of the “mystical’ teachings of ancient sages in many parts of the world. However, the salience of the GATEWAY report lies in the fact that it does not simply enunciate theories. It documents a scientifically tested method to reach elevated states of out-of-body “non-local consciousness” (more than twenty years before quantic interpretations of consciousness were first publicly ventured). Instead of psychedelic drugs or “spiritual” exercises the means used under the GATEWAY programme were specific sounds beamed to human subjects in isolation chambers through earphones at a different frequency for each ear, which leads the brain to syntonize them to produce Delta waves (4 Hertz), denoting deep meditational states. At a specific vibrational wavelength the brain exits “our” spacetime to access other dimensions or other worlds, so to speak. Physiologically this state amplifies fourfold the resonance of the heartbeat and generates a recurring sinusoidal wave ranging between 6.8 and 7.8 Hz. which echoes the earth’s own vibrational frequency.

The resulting condition is called “syntony” of the individual with the planet at wavelengths of 40,000 kilometers amplitude (corresponding to the earth’s diameter) and confers extraordinary powers (clairvoyance, remote viewing, telekinesis, time travel, ecstatic bliss) which ancient traditions called Union with the Divine, Moksha, Sunya, Satori, Tao, Illumination, Salvation and many other such names. This mapping of supramental ascent, described by Sri Aurobindo was experientially arrived at by Itzhak Bentov who described the phenomenon in his 1977 book Stalking The Wild Pendulum. On the Mechanics of Consciousness as summed up by Marc Seifer in Transcending the Speed of Light: Consciousness, Quantum Physics, and the Fifth Dimension. Inner Traditions – Bear & Company 2008. p. 49: “During normal breathing, the reverberations in the aorta are out of phase with the heartbeat and the system is inharmonious. However, during meditation and when the breath is held, the echo of the bifurcation of the aorta (where the aorta forks at the pelvis to go into each leg) is in resonance with the heartbeat and the system becomes synchronized, thus utilizing a minimum amount of energy. This resonant beat is approximately seven cycles per minute, which corresponds not only to the alpha rhythm of the brain but also to the low-level magnetic pulsations of the Earth.”

Monroe claimed that between the “normal” state of human awareness (comparatively the lowest) and the highest or “absolute” one there are innumerable degrees of consciousness inhabited by beings who are not perceptible through our physical senses but who can be interacted with at higher levels.

This last revelation concerns the “Aliens” of many types reported by millions of witnesses for centuries and now generally known as ETs and their “astral vehicles” classified as UAPs or “Alien Visitation Craft” in military parlance. Many of them at least appear to operate in other dimensions from which they enter our “universe” and to which they return at will.

The GATEWAY study seems to have corroborated Monroe’s contention that about 5% of all people are able to reach the highest state of realization by means of repeated use, over more or less lengthy periods of training, of the audio-sensorial process described above.

It was stated earlier that page 25 of the McDonnell report was missing until last April when it was released by the Monroe Institute to an investigator from the Canadian Vice magazine. The contents of that page are indeed of critical importance because it lays out the “cosmic design” behind reality. It talks about a “cosmic egg” as a hologram, of which everything is a projection and which is itself a reflection of the undefinable Absolute “one step removed from it”. That hologram is also called in the text the Torus or spiral of Creation and identified as the “Holy Spirit” of the Christian Esoteric Trinity, The Adam Kadmon or Tree of Life of Kabbalah. In Vedic terminology we may equate it with the Viraj or Hiranyagarbha (from which the report under review here apparently borrowed the image of the “cosmic egg”) or the Vedantic Paramatman. For the Saktas and Shaivaites it is Mahadevi while the Greek Ephesians worshipped it as Artemis-Diana (Magna Mater) and the Middle Eastern Gnostics alluded to it as Sophia.

Another striking inference reached by the report is that western science is so far unable to attain this realization because of its left-brain controlled approach which ignores and rejects the right-brain’s influence guiding the so-called “spiritualists” since thousands of years of philosophical quest, at the root of the religions followed in most parts of the world. The “Gateway Experience” as it is called in the report, “releases the subject from the prism (and prison) of subjective perception and analysis. It is “a portal through which the individual may pass in his search to find himself”, an echo of the mantra Tat twam asi and of the universal sophic commandment: “know thyself” as our Self is indeed the mirror or hologram of the Whole.

The conclusion in a few lines is that Intelligence and military sponsored research led, four decades ago to the confirmation of the ageless teachings of Indian psycho-physical Knowledge (paravidya), shared with many other more or less esoteric or occult traditions all over the world. Presumably in order not to rock the foundations of contemporary civilization and also to hold fast to any applicable uses of this transcendent discovery military Intelligence, the concerned authorities in the USA kept their investigations and insights secret and at times formally denied their existence or validity. However it may well be that many scientific and technological breakthroughs that are transforming our lives and conditions like never before are outcomes of this accession by a few “initiates” to the higher reaches of the mind on the trail blazed by Bentov, Monroe, Puharich and others. The very Internet created in the last thirty some years is an electronic clone of the cosmic web of energy and life that binds all things and makes up the universe.

Apart from well supported rumors about the existence of hitherto undisclosed technologies for unlimited “free energy” generation from the “zero point” quantic field and for biological age reversal, instant healing and other “miraculous” uses, there are several reports about secret space missions conducted to other planets of the solar system and perhaps beyond it, made possible by the technologies developed in that “transcendental” frame of reference. One of the latest credible sources on this score is no other than General Haim Eshed, the veteran astrophysicist who was for thirty years the chairman of the space committee of the Israeli Council for Research and Development and the Director of the Space Programme of the Defence Ministry. He made these “extraordinary claims” in his 2020 book: Universe beyond The Horizon: Conversations with Professor Haim Eshed.

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