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India’s Covid-19 saga: Public health information system for better policy and decisions

As per the report of the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, 27 million youth lost their jobs between the age 20 and 30 years in April 2020. A detailed account over unemployment data by International Labour Organisation and Asian Development Bank states that around 41 lakh youth lost jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Each passing day, India’s story of the outbreak of COVID-19 is turning into a wrenching predicament. In order to control such a global crisis, it is crucial for governmental and non-governmental organisations to have access to authentic, systematic, clear, distinct, and decentralised information for inclusive, adaptive, and graded policies and decisions making and its implementation. However, due to scattered, ambiguous, conflicting, and complex nature of available modes of essential data and information, Indian policymakers are experiencing significant hardship in taking comprehensive decisions and making accurate, adaptable, realtime, inclusive policies for the wellbeing of individuals and society. The outcome of such a situational condition presents serious economic, social and political threats and challenges in front of the Indian governments in terms of surging unemployment due to shutting down of employment-generating companies, inadequate health facilities and inadequate supply of equipment, food and medicine, huge financial crashes and wealth erosion, and uncertainty of people’s livelihood as a whole.

In order to manage and regularise the unprecedented urgency posed by COVID-19, Indian government took instant measures in the form of lockdown on various levels. The first phase of lockdown was announced around 8 PM on 24th March 2020 and came in execution on 25th March 2020 just after approximately four hours of announcement without thinking of any future strategy of the course of action, exit plans, projections. Noticeably, the grounded threatening situations of different states and territories have remained unanalyzed. The negligence of the diversity of the Indian landscape, culture, ethnicity in the form of readiness of health systems, trade-off between economic and social relations had played a further negative role. Consequent extension and execution of lockdown, without the basis of systematic and comprehensive policy and decision making, have resulted into collapse of economic activities, reduction in revenue sources of central and state governments affecting the entire nation’s fiscal statistics that led to the complete disruption of livelihood of common people especially lower strata of society who are entirely dependent on daily wages. Such horrible and inhuman incidents are displayed and witnessed by the media, news agencies, and other sources for instance, videos and images of the flood of migrant labourers travelling to their native places, thousands of kilometre on foot, cycling without food and water on highways, accidents on highways, deaths by suicides and personal conflicts have shaken the faith of humanity at the core. As per the report of the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), 27 million youth lost their jobs between the age 20-30 years in April 2020. A detailed account over unemployment data by International Labour Organisation(ILO) and Asian development bank(ADB)’ report state that around 41 lakh youth lost jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These kinds of disruptions have not been thoroughly analysed from several dimensions by considering the enormous inhuman implications. 

The data analyses provided by the Health Ministry and State governments, On 24th March, India had 618 confirmed cases of COVID-19, out of which 562 were in active status and death toll equals 13 persons. Further, it is observed that after more than two months of lockdown, India’s cases of COVID affected people are incessantly rising with 1,90,535 cases with approximately 5300 deaths on 1st June 2020 indicating the failure of lockdown. At present we are the second country in terms of infections after the USA with daily one lakh cases coming making total cases close to more than 50 lakh on 17th september, 2020.

A careful look at India’s COVID-19 story, leads us to take account of two fundamental problems faced by Indian public health sectors – First is the core health infrastructure problems, and second is the challenges of data collection and information flow. The core health problems include inadequate physical infrastructure to the large population, the dearth of health equipment, meager amount of health human facilities and personals per unit of the population as per WHO statistics. The second aspect of the problem is the lack of proper information flow, absence of the state of art data collection, processing, well balanced realtime decentralised and centralised information systems with integration of technology for systematics, scientific and data-driven decision-making keeping in mind the several dimensions, clarity, accuracy and complexity in the situations as posed by COVID-19. 

Winston Churchill, Prime minister of Britain during World War II, rightly said that “Never let a good crisis go waste” and COVID-19 is one such crisis. This pandemic has explicitly exposed the weaknesses of the system in the public health sector in both the fundamental dimensions of core health infrastructure and information flow and data systems.  Various observations tell us clearly that India’s COVID-19 situation has gone into severe complexity and confusion with no clear direction to adopt in the absence of state of art foundational information systems integrated with quality data collection systems, real-time integration of technology, lack of collaborative features among scattered health officials, administrators and policymakers and lack of systematic coordination among states and central governments. First foundational dimension needs long term strategy, execution and large investment but with quality, health information systems can help India in preventing such situations and donating them in a more effective manner reducing the burden on the first dimension of public health systems.  

To that end, I would conclude by saying that In the 21st century, the dimension of data-driven, systematic and scientific decisions and policy cannot be ignored any more, at least not in India which has more than 1.3 billion people. A single wrong and irrational decision without sound multidimensional data analysis and scientific direction can create suffering for millions. Our health information systems need to be upgraded or developed from start to facilitate administrators and governments to make better, logical, rational decisions keeping several interdependent, conflicting variables and dimensions, the huge diversity of India and federal structure of governance in mind. 

t is required to upgrade Public Health Information Systems with Industry 4.0 technologies such as Artificial Intelligence(AI), Big data analytics and Cloud computing may solve the problems of COVID-19 episode in India. 

AI is a branch of computer science systems which tries to make systems and machines autonomous in taking decisions based on their experiences obtained from data through sensors and other input mechanisms and Big data analytics(BDA) is the domain of technologies and approaches of analysing the huge data which is not possible using manual methods due to its volume, veracity, velocity. Cloud computing is a very efficient and effective way of data storage in a central location for better processing and analysis. In COVID-19 situation, as it is unfolding and becoming uncontrollable, Public Health Information systems with state of art functionality would have solved our problems and would have placed us in a better situation of making accurate, timely, responsive decisions and policy in a decentralized manner without much losses and suffering to masses. It can integrate storage of all data of all hospitals such as patient information, doctors information, available hospital resources, inventories of hospitals, and share the information with all stakeholders at all levels of the district, state and national level. Data is collected at local hospitals such as districts or towns and it is stored through cloud computing at centralised locations. Since it is huge data,  it requires complex and sophisticated BDA tools and methods for getting information and analysis for multidimensional point of view and graded action planning. Such analysis with BDA and AI can help in the prediction of outbreaks of diseases, yearly patterns of diseases, the demand of resources, the demography of cases, type of cases, their mortality, recovery trends in specific reasons, growths of infections in several dimensions such as socio-economic or physiography, daily and weekly trends, classification of hot spots on the basis of risks, classification of affected areas and regions, automated and intelligent suggestions using AI technology.  Additionally, with the development of Web or App software, it can also reduce the need for human resources to handle routine tasks and cases. AI integrated public health information systems can provide conversational chatbots and virtual assistants such as SIRI and google assistance and Alexa, giving patients self-serving options reducing the administrative burden of paperwork with improved accuracy and productivity and reducing the health professionals burnouts cases. AI integrated with information systems applied on patient data can give health professionals a snapshot of the risks that patients may face with severity scores on the scale and letting the competent authority to decide whether to hospitalise or not which can reduce the burden of hospitalisation in pandemic COVID-19. Leveraging AI for clinical decision-making, early detection and alerting and risk assessment can represent a seismic shift in hospitals functioning and decision-making process. 

The advanced public health system is one of the most important and fundamental priorities of any developed and civilised society and in a similar manner, an advanced and state of art public health information system is the fundamental requirement of any public health system to make the access of health services and products smooth, efficient, real-time and inclusive for all stakeholders and policymakers. We need to start now as it is better late than never as COVID-19 pushed us to the wall. Let us not waste this opportunity to upgrade our system to the need for challenging times as Winston churching rightly said: “Never let a good crisis go waste”. 

Dr. Sachin K. Sharma is an Assistant Professor at Cluster Innovation Centre, University of Delhi. He is an established researcher in the domain of Urban Computing, Information Systems and Computational Social Systems with publications in reputed international journals and conferences.  

AI is a branch of computer science systems which tries to make systems and machines autonomous in taking decisions based on their experiences obtained from data through sensors and other input mechanisms and Big Data Analytics(BDA) is the domain of technologies and approaches of analysing the huge data which is not possible using manual methods due to its volume, veracity, velocity.

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Policy & Politics

MAKING IT HAPPEN: HIGH SCHOOL TRANSFORMATION IN GANJAM

Anil Swarup

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With the sole motto of ‘Desire for excellence in School Education’, the concept of transformation of high schools into Centre of Excellence (CoE) is based on the vision of Chief Minister of Odisha. The school transformation initiative aims to revolutionize the high school education paradigm of Odisha by upgrading the existing school infrastructure at par with the best of the private schools in the country. This has helped provide a highly conducive learning environment for the students from humble background and would also ensure the delivery of best quality education and training.

The major challenge of community participation and ownership was addressed through regular coordination meetings with PRI members, Block Administration, parents, alumni, School Management Committee (SMC), teachers and students. This also helped identify the needs and priorities of the school for imparting quality education. After several rounds of consultations, it was decided to bring about holistic changes in the existing infrastructure of the high school and re-establish it with Smart and Digital Class Rooms, e-Library-cum-Reading Room, Modern Science Laboratory, Hygienic Toilet, Safe & Pure Drinking Water and upgradation of Sports facilities.

After finalizing the above-mentioned priorities, the next challenge was to work out the finances to implement the said work. This is where the ‘Mo School’ initiative of the State Government played the role of a game changer. Under this programme, contributions were to be invited from alumni, donors and organizations for every school and the State Government would provide twice the matching grant against each donation received. For example, if a CSR contribution of Rs. 1 Lakh was received for a particular school, the State Government would provide Rs. 2 Lakhs for the said school and a total amount of Rs. 3 Lakhs would be made available for the development of the school.

In addition to the aforementioned, the local self-governing bodies such as Gram Panchayats and Blocks also earmarked their funds for transforming the local schools which would turn into an asset for capacity building of their children. The overall transformation work was closely monitored by the School Management Committee (SMC) in coordination with Block Technical Team in order to maintain a higher degree of transparency, accountability and timeline.

The main aim was to improve quality of education in high schools by using latest technology, upgrading infrastructure by means of smart class rooms and creation of interactive learning environment with audio-visual facilities. In order to inculcate the practice of reading and to develop soft skills among the students, a well-furnished Library-cum-Reading Room has been setup where students not only develop practice of reading books related to their syllabus but also various informative and motivational books.

To inculcate a sense of scientific temper among students, a modern integrated science laboratory has been setup. To facilitate easy understanding of various science concepts and theories, students will now get a first-hand learning experience by performing various experiments in the laboratory. The modern science laboratory will improve scientific reasoning abilities and practical skills of the students.

In addition to all the above, separate hygienic toilets for boys and girls were also ensured in the high schools. The idea is to ensure that students remain free from infection by developing good sanitation habits. The toilets are fitted with colored & designed tiles and with modern sanitary fittings to minimize wastage of water. Installation of napkin incinerators in girls’ toilet is also ensured to dispose the sanitary napkins in a hygienic way. It is also ensured that the teachers and students use the same toilet so that they take personal interest in maintaining cleanliness & hygiene. Special and dedicated toilet for students with special needs are also made an integral part of the new toilet pattern.

As a top priority, pure and safe drinking water facilities are being ensured in all schools under the ‘Nal Se Jal’ campaign of the State Government. Provision of water purifier is ensured in every high school for safe and pure drinking water. It has also been decided to upgrade the school playground with modern playing equipment in order to nurture young sporting talents.

An additional initiative called ‘Water Bell – The reminder’ has been launched by Ganjam Administration with a vision to inculcate the habit of drinking water at regular intervals among the students so that they stay hydrated and fit. As students spend most of the time in schools, water bell is a reminder for a strategic break for the students during the school hours to take a break and drink water in between the school sessions. Students are also encouraged to carry water bottle to schools

The efforts being made have the potential of transforming high school education in the entire state of Odisha, including Ganjam District . The idea of upgradation of Government high schools driven by 5T principles has not only resulted in the transformation of infrastructure but also developed self-confidence and motivation among students, teachers and parents coming from very humble background in rural areas. This ambitious initiative has become a reality only because of the concerted efforts of various stakeholders, especially the field level functionaries like BDOs, AEs, JEs, SMCs, Teachers, parents, students, etc. The success can be attributed to ‘Team Ganjam’ led by a young and dynamic Vijay Amruta Kulange. This team made it happen. All this could not have been achieved without political support from the top. The beauty of the model is that it is replicable, scalable and sustainable because all the stakeholders are on board.

Anil Swarup has served as the head of the Project Monitoring Group, which is currently under the Prime Minister’s Offic. He has also served as Secretary, Ministry of Coal and Secretary, Ministry of School Education.

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Policy & Politics

YES, KHAN SAHAB, INDIA CONTROLS INTERNATIONAL CRICKET

Ensconced in the lap of terror, a frustrated Pakistan trying to browbeat India for its own failure in cricket.

Vijay Darda

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Dear Imran Khan Sahab, I can understand your pain. Just before the match, if New Zealand returns to their country saying they cannot play because there is a threat of a terrorist attack, and if England refuses to come ahead of the tour, the embarrassment it causes to Pakistan is quite natural. It is certainly a matter of great shame. Besides, the profit that would have been made from the match, which would have filled the pockets, was also gone! It is an instance of misery worst confounded! Therefore, the discomfort and pain are natural.

When the New Zealand team was returning, I was thinking that you would say something about the terror situation in Pakistan. Pakistan, which is on the verge of ruin, will talk about reforming the Pakistan Cricket Board. Instead, your information minister Fawad Chaudhry did not know from where he came up with a bundle of lies stating that the device and email ID used to send threatening messages to the New Zealand cricket team are being operated from India. He even blamed someone called Omprakash Mishra from Mumbai! I could not understand how the information minister of a country could do such a stupid thing. As if this stupidity was not enough, the chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board Rameez Raja started saying that everything is a trick of the Board of Control for Cricket in India! The situation is worse in your country, your army and ISI are patronising terrorists and you are blaming India? Have some fear of God!

Now you are saying that India is controlling world cricket. Yes Khan Sahab! Of course, India has control over world cricket, for only those who are capable and whose players perform well for the nation wield control. I am specifically using the word ‘nation’ here. You may not understand this, so let me remind you of Kerry Packer. Between 1977 and 1979, when Kerry Packer had formed many of his teams, all the players of Pakistan had gone with him. Don’t you remember! You were among them too. Khan Sahab, not a single player from the Indian team went with Kerry Packer at the time because the pride of playing for the nation is more important to our players than money. As far as Pakistan is concerned, also think about how many of your players live in Pakistan and how many live abroad. You too used to spend more time abroad! Let me also remind you of the spirit of Indian cricket. We tasted our first Test cricket victory against England from whom we learned to play cricket. And yes, your forefathers of cricket must have told you that it was Pakistan against which India won its first Test series.

However, now let me tell you how the Board of Control for Cricket in India became so strong that world cricket came under its control while your country remained oblivious. First of all, the Board of Control for Cricket in India has been an independent organisation since its initial days. The way it was managed, especially in the last 30-40 years, is unimaginable. After winning the World Cup in 1983, money started coming to us. When the economy of our country improved, more money streamed in. We put this money to good use. Today, we have good stadiums in every state. Cricket is played from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. There are good sports facilities from school to university. The children who excel at that level join the state teams. After that players pass through levels like Duleep Trophy to Ranji Trophy. We groom players at every level. If our 11 players play, countless players are in the back rows who keep awaiting their turn. We have created a great structure of cricket in the form of the IPL. Opportunities have been made available to players around the world. It is a different matter that due to the antics of Pakistan, we do not give place to your players in this tournament.

You yourself have been saying that Pakistan should also have cricket infrastructure like India! Now you are the Prime Minister, so why don’t you do what you have been saying. Sir, you have government control over the Pakistan Cricket Board and the situation is chaotic. Politics has permeated everywhere. Your domestic cricket stands ruined. The players who are able to make it to the top, do so owing to their own hard work. There is no grooming. Forgive me if you feel bad, but there is a lot of arrogance in your cricket players too. Arbitrariness prevails. You must remember that you yourself retired thrice! You were a bowling superstar in 1992 but it is a mystery why you said that I will play as a batsman and that if I want, I will bowl! Khan Sahab, no player has ever shown such arrogance here.

We have no ego even at this point when we are running world cricket with our own money. We believe in promoting cricket. If the New Zealand team left just before the match and the England team did not turn up, it is not our fault. Pakistan has committed the sin of making itself the sanctuary of terrorists. Have you forgotten the dark wretched day of March 3, 2009 when the Sri Lankan team was attacked by terrorists in Lahore. Six players were injured and 8 people including 6 jawans of your security agencies were killed. So how can anyone trust you? Take a look at your own past, Khan Sahab! Who knows Indian cricket better than you? Still you are using incriminating language? Is this your political compulsion or are you under some political pressure? For, this cannot be the language of a player!

The author is the chairman, Editorial Board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha.

I fully agree with the statement of Imran Khan, the superstar cricketer of his time and now the Prime Minister of Pakistan, that world cricket is completely controlled by the Board of Control for Cricket in India. Khan Sahab, only one who is capable and whose players play dedicatedly for the game and for the nation wields control.

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Policy & Politics

India’s foreign trade: September 2021

Tarun Nangia

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India’s overall exports (Merchandise and Services combined) in September 2021* are estimated to be USD 54.06 Billion, exhibiting a positive growth of 21.44 per cent over the same period last year and a positive growth of 26.03 per cent over September 2019. Overall imports in September 2021* are estimated to be USD 68.49 Billion, exhibiting a positive growth of 70.00 per cent over the same period last year and a positivegrowth of 44.11 per cent over September 2019.

India’s overall exports (Merchandise and Services combined) in April-September 2021* are estimated to be USD 312.47 Billion, exhibiting a positive growth of 40.52 per cent over the same period last year and a positive growth of 18.30 per cent over April-September 2019. Overall imports in April-September2021* are estimated to be USD 341.10 Billion, exhibiting a positive growth of 64.91 per cent over the same period last year and a positive growth of 9.31 per cent over April-September2019.

* Note: The latest data for services sector released by RBI is for August 2021. The data for September 2021 is an estimation, which will be revised based on RBI’s subsequent release. (ii) Data for 2019, 2020 and April to June 2021 are revised on pro-rata basis using quarterlybalance of payments data.

* Note: The latest data for services sector released by RBI is for August 2021. The data for September 2021 is an estimation, which will be revised based on RBI’s subsequent release. (ii) Data for 2019, 2020 and April to June 2021 are revised on pro-rata basis using quarterly balance of payments data.

I. MERCHANDISE TRADE

EXPORTS (including re-exports)

• Exports in September 2021 were USD 33.79 Billion, as compared to USD 27.56 Billion in September 2020, exhibiting a positive growth of 22.63 per cent. In Rupee terms, exports were Rs. 2,48,605.74 Crore in September2021, as compared to Rs. 2,02,508.54 Crore in September2020, registering a positive growth of 22.76 per cent. As compared to September 2019, exports in September 2021 exhibited a positive growth of 29.86 per cent in Dollar terms and 33.92 per cent in Rupee terms.

• C The commodities/commodity groups which have recorded positive growth during September 2021 vis-à-vis September2020 are Coffee (62.55%), Cashew (49.4%), Petroleum products (47.91%), Cotton yarn/fabs./made-ups, handloom products etc. (40.5%), Engineering goods (36.83%), Organic & inorganic chemicals (29.65%), Man-made yarn/fabs./made-ups etc. (26.49%), Electronic goods (26.33%), Other cereals (21.18%), Fruits & vegetables (21.13%), Gems & jewellery (19.71%), Plastic & Linoleum (18.61%), Jute mfg. including floor covering (16.04%), Marine products (12.67%), RMG of all textiles (9.24%), Mica, Coal & other ores, minerals including processed minerals (8.82%), Leather & leather products (7.41%), Cereal preparations & miscellaneous processed items (5.64%), Rice (5.62%), Carpet (4.42%), Tea (3.2%) and Handicrafts excl. handmade Carpet (2.29%).

• The commodities/commodity groups which have recorded negative growth during September 2021 vis-à-vis September2020 are Iron ore (-72.77%), Oil meals (-39.05%), Oil seeds (-26.77%), Tobacco (-16.31%), Ceramic products & glassware (-14.15%), Spices (-13.56%), Meat, dairy & poultry products (-10.77%) and Drugs & pharmaceuticals (-8.45%).

• Cumulative value of exports for the period April-September2021 was USD 197.89 Billion (Rs. 14,63,048.24 Crore) as against USD 125.62 Billion (Rs. 9,41,358.09 Crore) during the period April-September 2020, registering a positivegrowth of 57.53 per cent in Dollar terms (positive growth of 55.42 per cent in Rupee terms). As compared to April-September 2019, exports in April-September 2021 exhibited a positive growth of 24.33 per cent in Dollar terms and 31.35per cent in Rupee terms.

• Non-petroleum and Non-Gems and Jewellery exports in September 2021 were USD 25.34 Billion, as compared to USD 21.33 Billion in September 2020, registering a positive growth of 18.82 per cent. As compared to September 2019, Non-petroleum and Non-Gems and Jewellery exports in September 2021 registered a positive growth of 33.39 per cent. Non-petroleum and Non-Gems and Jewellery exports in April-September 2021 were USD 149.89 Billion, as compared to USD 104.81 Billion for the corresponding period in 2020-21, which is an increase of 43.02 per cent. As compared to April-September 2019, Non-petroleum and Non-Gems and Jewellery exports in April-September 2021 registered a positive growth of 26.34 per cent.

IMPORTS

• Imports in September 2021 were USD 56.39 Billion (Rs.4,14,812.41 Crore), which is an increase of 84.77 per cent in Dollar terms and 84.97 per cent in Rupee terms over imports of USD 30.52 Billion (Rs 2,24,254.02 Crore) in September2020. Imports in September 2021 have registered a positivegrowth of 49.59 per cent in Dollar terms and 54.27 per cent in Rupee terms in comparison to September 2019. Cumulative value of imports for the period April-September 2021 was USD 276.02 Billion (Rs. 20,40,890.34 Crore), as against USD 151.94 Billion (Rs. 11,39,032.05 Crore) during the period April-September 2020, registering a positive growth of 81.67per cent in Dollar terms and a positive growth of 79.18 per cent in Rupee terms. Imports in April-September 2021 have registered a positive growth of 11.26 per cent in Dollar terms and positive growth of 17.59 per cent in Rupee terms in comparison to April-September 2019.

• Major commodity group of import showing negative growth in September 2021 over the corresponding month of last year is:

CRUDE OIL AND NON-OIL IMPORTS:

• Oil imports in September 2021 were USD 17.44 Billion (Rs. 1,28,268.20 Crore), which was 199.27 per cent higher in Dollar terms (199.60 per cent higher in Rupee terms), compared to USD 5.83 Billion (Rs. 42,812.53 Crore) in September 2020. As compared to September 2019, oil imports in September 2021 were 91.90 per cent higher in Dollar terms and 97.90 per cent higher in Rupee terms. Oil imports in April-September 2021 were USD 72.99 Billion (Rs. 5,39,582.43 Crore) which was 127.99 per cent higher in Dollar terms (124.67 per cent higher in Rupee terms) compared to USD 32.01 Billion (Rs. 2,40,166.21 Crore), over the same period last year. As compared to April-September2019, oil imports in April-September 2021 were 11.95 percent higher in Dollar terms and 18.30 per cent higher in Rupee terms.

• In this connection it is mentioned that the global Brent price ($/bbl) has increased by 81.55% in September 2021 vis-à-vis September 2020 as per data available from World Bank.

• Non-oil imports in September 2021 were estimated at USD 38.95 Billion (Rs. 2,86,544.21 Crore) which was 57.75 percent higher in Dollar terms (57.93 per cent higher in Rupee terms), compared to USD 24.69 Billion (Rs. 1,81,441.49Crore) in September 2020. As compared to September 2019, Non-oil imports in September 2021, were 36.16 per cent higher in Dollar terms and 40.41 per cent higher in Rupee terms. Non-oil imports in April-September 2021 were USD 203.03 Billion (Rs. 15, 01,307.91 Crore) which was 69.30 per cent higher in Dollar terms (67.02 per cent higher in Rupee terms), compared to USD 119.92 Billion (Rs. 8,98,865.84Crore) in April-September 2020. As compared to April-September 2019, Non-oil imports in April-September 2021 were 11.02 per cent higher in Dollar terms and 17.34 per cent higher in Rupee terms.

• Non-Oil and Non-Gold imports were USD 33.84 Billion in September 2021, recording a positive growth of 40.45 per cent, as compared to Non-Oil and Non-Gold imports of USD 24.09 Billion in September 2020. Non-Oil and Non-Gold imports in September 2021 recorded a positive growth of 23.79 per cent over September 2019. Non-Oil and Non-Gold imports were USD 179.07 Billion in April-September 2021, recording a positive growth of 58.26 per cent, as compared to Non-Oil and Non-Gold imports of USD 113.15 Billion in April-September 2020. Non-Oil and Non-Gold imports in April-September 2021 recorded a positive growth of 7.18 per cent over April-September 2019.

II. TRADE IN SERVICES

EXPORTS (Receipts)

• As per the latest press release by RBI dated 1st October 2021, exports in August 2021 were USD 19.57 Billion (Rs. 1,45,208.94 Crore) registering a positive growth of 21.36 per cent in Dollar terms, vis-à-vis August 2020. The estimated value of services export for September 2021* is USD 20.26 Billion, exhibiting a positive growth of 19.50 per cent vis-a-vis September 2020 (USD 16.96 Billion) and a positivegrowth of 20.13 per cent vis-à-vis September 2019 (USD 16.87 Billion).

IMPORTS (PAYMENTS)

• As per the latest press release by RBI dated 1st October 2021,imports in August 2021 were USD 11.52 Billion (Rs. 85,460.66 Crore) registering a positive growth of 24.52 per cent in Dollar terms, vis-à-vis August 2020. The estimated value of services import for September 2021* is USD 12.10 Billion exhibiting a positive growth of 23.86 per cent vis-à-vis September 2020 (USD 9.77 Billion) and a positivegrowth of 23.09 per cent vis-à-vis September 2019 (USD 9.83 Billion).

III.TRADE BALANCE

• MERCHANDISE: The trade balance for September 2021 was estimated at USD (-) 22.59 Billion as against USD (-) 2.96 Billion in September 2020, which is a decline of (-) 663.48per cent. As compared to September 2019 (USD (-) 11.67Billion), trade balance in September 2021 exhibited a negative growth of (-) 93.60 per cent.​

Concluding part is available on thedailyguardian.com

▪ SERVICES: As per RBI’s Press Release dated 1st October2021, the trade balance in Services (i.e. Net Services export) for August 2021 is USD 8.05 Billion. The estimated trade balance in September 2021* is USD 8.16 Billion, which is an increase of 13.58 per cent over September 2020 (USD 7.19 Billion) and an increase of 15.98 per cent over September2019 (USD 7.04 Billion).

• OVERALL TRADE BALANCE: Taking merchandise and services together, overall trade balance for September 2021*is estimated at USD (-) 14.43 Billion as compared to USD4.23 Billion in September 2020, a decline of (-) 441.40 per cent. In comparison to September 2019 (USD (-) 4.63 Billion), trade balance in September 2021 exhibited a negative growth of (-) 211.51 per cent.

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Policy & Politics

Analysis of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act, 2021

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INTRODUCTION

Abortion is an essential component of sexual and reproductive health care. It constitutes a reproductive choice of a woman to either continue with or terminate her pregnancy. But is it so easy to realize such freedom of choice? Amidst the age-old social stigma backed by poor legislation in India, women are often rendered helpless to access abortion care even in the worst of situations. Abortion remains stigmatised in India, even within the medical fraternity, as IndiaSpendreportedin September 2020. In such a scenario, the availability of safe abortion care to the vulnerable women becomes even far moredifficult.

The national rape-related pregnancy rate is5.0%per rape among victims of reproductive age (aged 12 to 45). Only 11.7% of these victims receive immediate medical attention after the assault, and 47.1% do not revieve any medical attention related to the rape. A total 32.4% of these victims do not discover their pregnancy until they have already entered the second trimester and only 50% are able to undergo abortion.

THE MEDICAL TERMINATION OF PREGNANCY (AMENDMENT) ACT, 2021

The MTP (Amendment) Act, 2021aims to ease the pain of such rape victims and facilitates the termination of the unwanted pregnancy upto a period of 24 weeks. The upper gestational limit has further been removed in case of pregnancies accompanied by substantial foetal abnormalities. The amendment is a welcome step in addressing the physical and mental health issues concerning pregnancy in ‘vulnerable’ women, including rape victims. For a better understanding, the amendments in the MTP Act have been summarisedbelow.

Amendments made via the MTP (Amendment) Act, 2021 Setting up of MedicalBoards Section 2 of the MTP Act, 1971 has been amended to provide for the definition of “Medical Board”. Subsection 2D of section 3 further provides that the Medical Board shall consist of a Gynaecologist, Paediatrician, radiologist and such other members as may be notified in theOfficial Gazette by the State Government or Union territory. The powers of such a medical board have been prescribed under subsection 2C of Section 3 of the MTP (Amendment) Act, 2021.

‘Termination of pregnancy’defined The ‘termination of pregnancy’ has been defined under Section 2 (e) of the MTP (Amendment) Act, 2021 as “a procedure to terminate a pregnancy by using medical or surgical methods”.

Single Registered Medical Practitioner’s opinion sufficient to terminate pregnancyofless than 20 weeks Earlier, the opinion of at least two registered medical practitioners was required to terminate a pregnancy between 12 – 20 weeks. Now, Section 3 (2) (a) of the MTP (Amendment) Act, 2021 has been amended and seeking a second medical opinion has been done away with for terminating a pregnancy of less than 20 weeks.

Upper Limit for Termination of Pregnancy Extended to 24weeks The prodigious change sought to be achieved by the recent amendment is to allow for the termination of pregnancy upto 24 weeks in case of rape victims. Section 3 (2) (b) of the MTP (Amendment) Act, 2021 aims to relieve such rape victims from the extended mental trauma of birthing a child conceived out of sexual abuse.

Medical Board to have the final say in case of substantial foetal abnormalitiesSection 3 (2B) has an overriding effect on subsection (2) of the MTP (Amendment) Act, 2021. VideSection3(2B),iftheMedicalBoardhasdiagnosedsubstantialfoetal abnormalities in a particular pregnancy, then the provisions of subsection (2) relating to the length of the pregnancy shall not apply to the termination of pregnancy by the medicalpractitioner. In other words, the upper gestational limit in such pregnancies have been removed subject to the diagnosis of the Medical Board.

Anonymity of the women undergoing abortion

Reinforcing Puttaswamy judgement, the right to privacy of the women undergoing abortion has also been recognized. Section 5A of the MTP (Amendment) Act, 2021 restrains the medical petitioner from revealing the particulars of any woman undergoing abortion except to a person prescribed by law.

CONCLUSION

The MTP (Amendment) Act, 2021 is no doubt, highly ambitious at streamlining the abortion laws in case of irregular pregnancies. However, the implementation of this Act can itself prove to be a challenge in the coming times. The formation of the Medical Boards in various states has been left at the hands of the State governments without any strict plan for action. Adding another layer of barrier for availing abortion care will only create further delay in terminating such pregnancies.

Furthermore,theamendmentsfailtoaddressthechallengesthatwereearliersoughttobe covered under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill, 2014.The vulnerablewomen should have been given access to medical procedures from the earlier weeks of pregnancy for safer termination of such pregnancies. Since90%of such women seek abortion before 12 weeks gestation, training village-level healthworkers (auxiliary nurse midwives) and nurses to prescribe simple abortion pills could have helped to render safe services to the doorsteps of vulnerable women and, in case of complications, lead to timely referrals. Although the MTP (Amendment) Act, 2021 aims to do certain things right, the actual implementation of the amendments remains to be seen in future.

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Policy & Politics

Mera Aadhar, Meri Pehchaan: Privacy and security concerns

Ritansha Laxmi

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Privacy, a right essential to sovereignty of an individual and also the protection of human dignity.1 Privacy authorizes individual to make barriers around and to manage boundaries, protecting themselves from unwarranted interference in the lives, and allows people to be who they are exactly and the way they would like to interact with the world around them. Privacy helps people to create boundaries around them to restrict who has access to their body, places and things, as well as the communications and information. And State being the duty bearers for the protection of privacy.2 Therefore, the role of the state is to strike a balance between freedom and protection, rights and responsibilities. In 2001 a meeting of ministers headed by

L.K. Advani presented its report in May and acknowledged proposal for an id card, Aadhaar an identification card having 12- digit number.3 It was then issued by the government of India to each individual residing in the country. However, it has come across some privacy issues from different sections of society. Issuance of unique identification number with an aim to provide its every individual with different schemes like gas subsidy, MGNREGA, Jan Dhan yojna like benefits but it clubbed with breaching the privacy of an individual, moreover the informational privacy of the people.4 This article attempts to explore the security and privacy concerns from the perspective of people, legal and Government on Mera Aadhar, meri pehchan thereby trying to settle whether there is an infringement of the privacy or not?

AADHAAR, A BRIEF INTRODUCTION:

The conception of idea about Aadhar card came into existence in 2004 with the amendment of citizenship act by the then ruling Indian National Congress (INC) led UPA government to make a way for the National Population Register (NPR)5, a database record of all the residents of India preserved by the Census Commissioner of India and Register General. With the administrative approval for the project, Unique ID for Below Poverty Line (BPL) families by the ministry of Communication and Information Technology, the first work regarding issuing Unique IDs to BPL residents of India truly started in the year, 2008.6 It saw the amalgamation of National Population Register (NPR) under the Citizenship Act, 1955 with the UID project to comprehend Aadhaar card.7 While discussing the legal viewpoint, some jurists in their verdicts have dealt with diverse facets of privacy with regards to Aadhar and its linking, concerning the security and privacy threats.8 The judgments concerning privacy issues would be going to help as a brick for development of the idea of protection of privacy for the people of India. With these judgements and recommendations, the safe, secure, socially and politically justified legal framework can be created protecting privacy.

The perspective according to government is that it contends that the fundamental right status does not make privacy the absolute right and hence is archaic by other major apprehensions of the nation state that is to say national security of its people, frauds and fake registrations of people.

The Supreme Court in its judgment of K.s Puttaswamy9 has overruled verdicts given in the Kharak Singh case and the M.P. Sharma case, both of which said that the right to privacy is not protected under the constitution of India. On 27 March 2017, the supreme Court directed that Aadhaar card mandatory for availing benefits under welfare schemes and it cannot be done without aadhaar number. Though government tried to check every possibility of making it compulsory for other purposes such as income tax filings, bank accounts, sim card purpose etc. In April 2017, a constitution Bench of the supreme court taking into consideration the legality of Aadhar on the ground of right to privacy. A nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court has given verdict that citizens of India enjoy a fundamental right to privacy that it is intrinsic to life and liberty and covered under Article 21 of the constitution of India.10 Regarding privacy issue the Supreme court directed concerned government authorities not to share personal information of Aadhar card holders with any private or unauthorized sources.

Analysing the judgement of Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd) vs Union of India and Ors., 2017 & 2018 pertaining privacy issues:

In the year 2017, a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India in Justice K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India11 passed a landmark judgment upholding the constitutional right to privacy. It acknowledged privacy, an essential component of the Constitution of India under Part III of it, which lays down the fundamental rights, ranging from rights concerning to equality, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of movement, protection of life and personal liberty etc. These rights which are fundamental in nature cannot be given or taken away by law, and all laws and administrative actions must stand by these fundamental rights. The Supreme Court proclaimed that the government must cautiously balance individual privacy and the legitimate concerns of the state, even if national security is at stake. The Court also declared that any incursion on privacy must satisfy the triple test, established i.e.,

1. Need12, legitimate state concern is necessary. The law should seek to achieve a legitimate aim of the state.

2. Proportionality13, in least invasive manner. There should be a balanced relationship between the objects and the means adopted to achieve them. The degree of interference must be proportional to the need and;

3. Legality14, backed by law. The existence of a Law.

The judgement of K.s Puttaswamy which has been signed by all nine judges, holds: The decision in M P Sharma15 and Kharak Singh16 both stands over-ruled and uphold that the right to privacy considered as an intrinsic part of the right to life & personal liberty under Article 21, Part III of the Constitution of India. This verdict has re-shaped the domain of fundamental rights in the constitutional history of India. It has given the government of India an opportunity to re-think its data protection mechanism, both in light of individual privacy and the welfares of the state.

While analysing the “Justice KS Puttaswamy (Retd) and Another versus Union of India and Others,2018” also called as Aadhaar judgement17, and applying the above triple test proposed in previous judgement to the Aadhar scheme, A five-judge constitution bench test the validity of Aadhaar from the aspect of privacy as a Fundamental Right held that Aadhaar would remain obligatory for filing of Income Tax returns(ITR) and applying for allotment of Permanent Account Number (PAN), and it would not be mandatory to link Aadhaar to bank accounts and the telecom service providers cannot demand for Aadhar number for the purpose of its linking for mobile connections.18

The judges of supreme court in this case also held that there is a need to introduce a data protection regime in India. The Judges conferred the right to privacy with respect to the protection of informational privacy and the right to preserve individual reputation.19 Also held that privacy is one of the most important rights to be protected both against both State and non- State actors and be recognized as a fundamental right subjected to some restrictions like national security. Also, the decision makes it clear that the Indian Government is now concerned to establish an online data protection regime for the protection of the privacy of every people which is need of the hour and also as India is lagging behind in online data privacy regime i.e., proper laws and regulations regarding collection, preservation, and compliance of personal data and related enforcement mechanisms.

The population who are being asked to link their personal documents, identity and information to their Aadhar Card have to decide between two conflicting options of Advantages to the Society in general of which they are a part, and loss of their personal privacy. It is considered as a trade-off without monetary benefits.

CONCLUSION

It is well known fact that India does not have a law on privacy till now. In fact, then chairman of UIDAI, Nandan Nilekani, penned to the Prime Minister in May 2010 recommending the need of a data protection and privacy law in India.20 Therefore, the privacy bill should be the primary action towards the issues of breach in privacy. Correspondingly, people should be educated on the risk involved with ID thefts and fraud happening in digital world. IT laws should be strengthened and the liability should be bounded on companies handling data to escape the mishap from data mishandling. Some of the recommendations which I believe is important are, First, Aadhar should focus and incorporate privacy by design itself, the technology and process towards collecting privet information should be protected parallelly. Second, there is a need of collecting minimum set of data that would be sufficient from residents, like name, age, address of resident and thumb impression. Third, Prohibiting the extensive use of Aadhar number for every authentication or Proof of document. Use of Aadhar number should be only for required purpose like linking with direct subsidy and welfare schemes from central or state government example: Gas subsidy, BPL subsidy schemes etc.

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Policy & Politics

Private sector to play prominent role leveraging technologies like 5G and satellite communication

Speaking at the conference, P. Balaji Summit Co-Chairman and Chief Regulatory & Corporate Affairs Officer, Vodafone India said that with 5G on the anvil, IoT and AI will unleash the next digital revolution helping India meet our trillion dollar digital economy goal in the coming years.Private sector to play prominent role leveraging technologies like 5G and Satellite communication to help in reaching the hinterland more effectively and efficiently said by Guest of Honour, Alok Chaturvedi, CEO, CSC Wi-Fi Choupal Service India Pvt. Ltd, MeiTY, GoI. He mentioned that today there are about 3.76 lakh CSC centres in the country covering all Gram Panchayats and important villages run by a village level entrepreneur, a change agent, who could be an individual or an organization promoting rural entrepreneurship and rural employment opportunities. He opined, government has to ensure that quality broadband internet services are availing to the residents in Gram Panchayats and Villages.

Umang Das, Summit Chairman and Chairman, Foreign Investors India Forum in his address said that Govt and the private sector to weave an unpreceded wave of digitisation that will drive Industry 4.0 and significantly improve the day-to-day lives of a billion Indians. The telecom sector is at of the cusp of transformation and Indian tech companies can attract global investors who’ve burnt their hands in Chinese tech companies added by Mr Das.

Peeyush Vaish, Partner & Telecom Leader, Deloitte India in theme introduction mentioned that Convergence amongst the telecom ecosystem with the power of technology will pave the way for bridging the urban−rural divide across sectors, including banking, healthcare and education.

CII -Deloitte paper launched, called “Digital Reset – Touching a billion Indians” aptly highlights the relevance of technological advancements like 5G technology that are poised to act as a key enabler and contributor to the success of the enterprise business and easing the lives of the common man.

In his address, Amit Marwah, Head of Marketing and Corporate Affairs, Nokia India said, 5G will be a huge leap towards a connected digital society adding value beyond connectivity to economy as well as deliver social impact. He also said that the government, regulators and the telecom industry in India need to collaborate on initiatives that will facilitate faster 5G roll-out and adoption, to accelerate socio-economic growth.

Speaking at the conference, P Balaji Summit Co-Chairman and Chief Regulatory & Corporate Affairs Officer, Vodafone India said that with 5G on the anvil, IoT and AI will unleash the next digital revolution helping India meet our trillion dollar digital economy goal in the coming years. The telecom sector and our network warriors have catalysed the economy in the last 18 months and has fast-tracked digital adoption at an unprecedented scale, both at individual and organizational level and provided a robust platform for the digital society enabling Healthcare, Education, e-Commerce, Fintech and Manufacturing to deliver services to consumers and enterprises highlighted by Mr Balaji.

Space open for Industry further would excite everyone for the future growth translate the potential of IoT into tangible benefits on the ground said by Dr Rishi M Bhatnagar, President, Aeries communications India in his address. IoT projects through solutions would meet various end uses such as improving supply chain efficiency, enhancing customer experience, tracking and monitoring assets, improving logistics and empowering smart cities through a bouquet of solutions added by Dr Bhatnagar.

Peeyush Vaish, Partner & Telecom Leader, Deloitte India in theme introduction mentioned that “ Convergence amongst the telecom ecosystem with the power of technology will pave the way for bridging the urban−rural divide across sectors, including banking, healthcare, and education. CII-Deloitte paper report launched, called “Digital Reset – Touching a billion Indians” aptly highlights the relevance of technological advancements like 5G technology that are poised to act as a key enabler and contributor to the success of the enterprise business and easing the lives of the common man.

As the industry transcends from ‘digital-first’ to ‘digital-throughout’, technology will play a critical role in creating a ubiquitous presence amongst consumers and diversify revenue streams for enterprises moving “beyond connectivity” built strategically with the strong support and commitment from the GOI towards sustainable growth of the nation”. said by Mr Vaish.

The virtual summit aimed to provide a platform for telecom players to discuss the relevance of technological advancements like 5G technology that are poised to act as a key enabler and contributor to the success of the enterprise. The conference saw speakers from Quadgen, Ericsson,COAI, Bharti Airtel and others.The summit was attended by over 175 participants

Tarun Nangia

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Private sector to play prominent role leveraging technologies like 5G and Satellite communication to help in reaching the hinterland more effectively and efficiently said by Guest of Honour, Alok Chaturvedi, CEO, CSC Wi-Fi Choupal Service India Pvt. Ltd, MeiTY, GoI. He mentioned that today there are about 3.76 lakh CSC centres in the country covering all Gram Panchayats and important villages run by a village level entrepreneur, a change agent, who could be an individual or an organization promoting rural entrepreneurship and rural employment opportunities. He opined, government has to ensure that quality broadband internet services are availing to the residents in Gram Panchayats and Villages.

Umang Das, Summit Chairman and Chairman, Foreign Investors India Forum in his address said that Govt and the private sector to weave an unpreceded wave of digitisation that will drive Industry 4.0 and significantly improve the day-to-day lives of a billion Indians. The telecom sector is at of the cusp of transformation and Indian tech companies can attract global investors who’ve burnt their hands in Chinese tech companies added by Mr Das.

Peeyush Vaish, Partner & Telecom Leader, Deloitte India in theme introduction mentioned that Convergence amongst the telecom ecosystem with the power of technology will pave the way for bridging the urban−rural divide across sectors, including banking, healthcare and education.

CII -Deloitte paper launched, called “Digital Reset – Touching a billion Indians” aptly highlights the relevance of technological advancements like 5G technology that are poised to act as a key enabler and contributor to the success of the enterprise business and easing the lives of the common man.

In his address, Amit Marwah, Head of Marketing and Corporate Affairs, Nokia India said, 5G will be a huge leap towards a connected digital society adding value beyond connectivity to economy as well as deliver social impact. He also said that the government, regulators and the telecom industry in India need to collaborate on initiatives that will facilitate faster 5G roll-out and adoption, to accelerate socio-economic growth.

Speaking at the conference, P Balaji Summit Co-Chairman and Chief Regulatory & Corporate Affairs Officer, Vodafone India said that with 5G on the anvil, IoT and AI will unleash the next digital revolution helping India meet our trillion dollar digital economy goal in the coming years. The telecom sector and our network warriors have catalysed the economy in the last 18 months and has fast-tracked digital adoption at an unprecedented scale, both at individual and organizational level and provided a robust platform for the digital society enabling Healthcare, Education, e-Commerce, Fintech and Manufacturing to deliver services to consumers and enterprises highlighted by Mr Balaji.

Space open for Industry further would excite everyone for the future growth translate the potential of IoT into tangible benefits on the ground said by Dr Rishi M Bhatnagar, President, Aeries communications India in his address. IoT projects through solutions would meet various end uses such as improving supply chain efficiency, enhancing customer experience, tracking and monitoring assets, improving logistics and empowering smart cities through a bouquet of solutions added by Dr Bhatnagar.

Peeyush Vaish, Partner & Telecom Leader, Deloitte India in theme introduction mentioned that “ Convergence amongst the telecom ecosystem with the power of technology will pave the way for bridging the urban−rural divide across sectors, including banking, healthcare, and education. CII-Deloitte paper report launched, called “Digital Reset – Touching a billion Indians” aptly highlights the relevance of technological advancements like 5G technology that are poised to act as a key enabler and contributor to the success of the enterprise business and easing the lives of the common man.

As the industry transcends from ‘digital-first’ to ‘digital-throughout’, technology will play a critical role in creating a ubiquitous presence amongst consumers and diversify revenue streams for enterprises moving “beyond connectivity” built strategically with the strong support and commitment from the GOI towards sustainable growth of the nation”. said by Mr Vaish.

The virtual summit aimed to provide a platform for telecom players to discuss the relevance of technological advancements like 5G technology that are poised to act as a key enabler and contributor to the success of the enterprise. The conference saw speakers from Quadgen, Ericsson,COAI, Bharti Airtel and others.The summit was attended by over 175 participants

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