India reported 46,964 new coronavirus in last 24 hours, taking its overall tally to 81,84,082. The recovery rate stood at 91.54 per cent. The country’s Covid-19 deaths climbed to 1,22,111 with 470 new fatalities. A total of 74,91,513 people have recuperated from Covid-19 so far, taking the national recovery rate to 91.54 per cent while the case fatality rate was recorded at 1.49 per cent.
India’s worst affected state Maharashtra reported 5,369 new Covid-19 cases, 3,726 discharges and 113 deaths in last twenty-four hours. The Covid-19 tally of the state rose to 16,83,775 including 15,14,079 recoveries and 44,024 deaths. Active cases currently stood at 1,25,109.
The national capital reported 5,664 new Covid-19 cases, 4,159 recoveries and 51 deaths in last twenty-four hours. The total case tally stood at 3,92,370 including 3,51,635 recoveries, 34,173 active cases and 6,562 deaths.
Punjab reported 325 new Covid-19 cases and 12 deaths in last 24 hours. Total number of cases now stood at 1,33,975 including 1,25,566 discharges, 4,195 active cases and 4,214 deaths.
Haryana reported 1,670 fresh cases of coronavirus, which took the caseload in the state to 1,68,880, and with six more fatalities, the Covid-19 death toll rose to 1,795. Active cases in the state currently stood at 12,634 while the recovery rate was 91.46 per cent. India’s largest populous state Uttar Pradesh reported twenty-six more deaths from coronavirus in last 24 hours as 1,989 fresh cases surfaced, taking the state’s infection tally to 4,83,832. So far, 7,051 people have succumbed to the disease in the state. In the past 24 hours, 2,390 patients recovered from Covid-19 and were discharged from hospitals. The count of active cases in the state stands at 23,323.
In Jammu & Kashmir 540 new cases were reported in last 24 hours- 171 from Jammu and 369 from Kashmir. The total cases now stand at 95,325 while the active patients stand at 6,326.
India’s southern states coronavirus cases continue to surge. Tamil Nadu reported 2,504 new Covid-19 infections in last 24 hours, taking the state’s total cases to 7,27,026. There are 20,994 active patients while 6,94,880 people have recovered. 11,152 deaths recorded till date.
Karnataka reported 3,652 new Covid-19 cases, 8,053 discharges, and 24 deaths in the last 24 hours. Total number of cases now at 8,27,064 including 50,592 active cases, 7,65,261 discharges and deaths 11,192. With this, Karnataka is now second worst-hit state in the country, after Maharashtra.
Kerala reported 7,025 new Covid-19 infection cases in last 24 hours. Number of active cases are now at 89,675; so far 3,41,007 patients have recovered.
Andhra Pradesh reported 2,618 new Covid-19 cases taking total positive cases in the State to 8,25,966. There are 23,668 active cases and 7,95,592 recovered cases in the State; the death toll is at 6,706.
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Fashion isn’t just about the catwalk or what we see on Instagram, says ace designer Rina Dhaka
In an interview with NewsX, Rina Dhaka, one of India’s most celebrated fashion designers, talks about her journey and changes in the fashion industry over the years, especially after Covid-19.
Renowned fashion designer Rina Dhaka joined NewsX for an exclusive interview as part of NewsX India A-List. She had burst on to the Indian fashion scene in the late 80s and has showcased her work at the Louvre in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, besides many others accomplishments.
Talking about her incredible journey so far, she said, “When I came around, there was no such career path for people in designing. There was the late Rohit Khosla as a designer and Ritu Kumar in the northeast. But this whole industry as such didn’t exist. Youth is all about innovation and that was the need of our hour—our means me and my contemporaries like Rohit Bal and Tarun Tahiliani. We all came around at that time and were very heady. There was no concept about money, it was all about creativity, craft and trying to pursue some kind of fashion. In fact, at par with the rest of the world, there was really no design industry, even in the West. There were high-street stores like Selfridges and Bloomingdales in America. Designers, as a category of clothing, came about the same time as us. And look where it is today. We have schools of fashion, students coming out of these great schools every year and there is a booming trade and industry. When we found the FDCI, we were just nine members. Over a cup of chai every evening and a few laughs, we created this body. Today, it has millions of followers on Instagram and runs successful events like fashion weeks which can help designers in India and internationally come together and get work. So, yes, fashion has really come a long way and my journey is that journey too.”
Expressing her views on how the landscape of the fashion industry has changed over the years, especially with the inclusion of issues that matter to young people like body positivity and inclusivity, she said, “Lakme approached me to do a plus-size show and we did the casting. This was two or maybe two-and-a-half years ago. There were 300 models who came for the audition which we announced only an hour before. Fabulous, body-positive, not shy, very confident—frankly, they could do runways anywhere. These are plus-size models. And one of the girls I picked out from the crowd was Sakshi. She has gone on to be on the cover of every national magazine. Today, she is India’s most celebrated model. Now in fashion weeks, we have to have a better ratio of plus-sized models as well. This is where the journey of inclusivity has gotten us, and the noise that we made in the years prior to that has brought us here. I’m really happy that it’s no more about a size eight, which is called a sample size, and about passion. Today, a sample size is also a plus size.”
When asked about the difficulties faced by the fashion industry in the past one year and whether things are coming back to normal, she responded, “For all of us, who have been designers and my contemporaries, we are always in competition, running to the next season. We’re always pressured against what we call a deadline, and the deadline has the word ‘dead’ in it! It really is that you have to die before you finish the clothing. You are really as good as your last collection or your last show. But the year was hard. Everything was shot and costs were high. The demand totally shrunk. My very old client, who always has to buy something new that I have to offer, who is also like my muse, said, ‘Rina, what have I been doing with my life? Where am I going to go wearing these coats? I don’t know what I’m going to do, I have no need. I have decided not to be an active consumer anymore’. This was what the industry faced, especially a luxury industry like ours. In terms of exports as well, there were a lot of uncertainties and fears with stores closing down, customer and buying patterns and needs changing. ‘How do you reinvent yourself’, was something we all learnt. We’re on that journey now. I must say we’re like roaches, we will survive, because our trade has taught us such. So, you can’t write us off as yet. We will just go through this.”
On a concluding note, she shared a piece of advice for young designers, saying, “Have a strong health. Don’t ever ignore your health because you need it. A lot of these children go out and eat food on the roadside and all. There were a lot of interns who would get jaundice because of the water in the early days, although not now because they are more aware maybe. Secondly, fashion isn’t a fashion show or a catwalk, behind-the-scenes or what we see on Instagram or social media or television. In reality, it is quite dreary and dreadful. It is a pursuit. You go into these dirty lanes following your garment or where it’s made to get things done. One has to be prepared for the monotony of such a daily life, one that you need to pursue to stay in the grind of completing your work.”
CHALLENGES TO FULL-SCALE ADOPTION OF BLOCKCHAIN IN INDIA
India is still facing several roadblocks on the way to adopting blockchain technology more wholeheartedly. In order to embrace the technology and keep up with the world, the government needs to identify and address concerns like data privacy, define regulations and laws, and build the architecture and skill sets required.
With more than 30,000 blockchain innovators and practitioners across India, blockchain technology has emerged as a transformative source of innovation and disruption. The technology has been widely recognised across the world and more so for its applications related to governance in the public domain. The core features of blockchain such as providing transparency and a platform for auditability in governance are the reasons for the technology gaining wider acceptance both within the public and the private sector.
As per a recent report on “National Strategy on Blockchain, 2021” by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Government of India, potential blockchain applications of high interest to the nation include farm insurance, transfer of land record, identity management, pharmaceutical supply chain, duty payments, power distribution, e-notary service, e-voting, agriculture and other supply chains, digital certificate management, IoT device management and security, public service delivery, digital evidence management system, electronic health record management, and microfinance for self-help groups.
Some of the global efforts by countries to embrace and promote blockchain technology include the Blockchain-based Service Network (BSN) initiative of China that provides developer tools with a focus on standardization across public networks, the European Blockchain Partnership for developing a secure and resilient European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI), the Smart Dubai initiative by the UAE for becoming the “first city fully powered by Blockchain by 2021”, the UK’s food standard agency deploying blockchain for tracking the distribution of meat, the USA’s food and drug inspection authority deploying the technology in health data processing for a transparent supply chain, Brazil using the Ethereum network for eVoting, and Switzerland using the same for digital IDs.
Although blockchain has grown immensely and large corporations and the government in India are deploying the technology for several use-cases, there are numerous challenges. The major technological challenges are related to scalability and interoperability issues. Security and privacy of sensitive data are a major concern that hinders its growth, which is exacerbated by a lack of awareness, education, and skill set among its users.
One of the features of blockchain technology is that the data stored on the chain is recorded on every node on the network, making it difficult to maintain the privacy of data required as per the data protection laws such as Section 43A of the IT Act. Extensive research and development are being carried out in providing solutions to align with data protection laws and to protect the privacy of the users. Different forms of blockchain such as permissioned and private blockchain also exist to control the level of privacy in different elements of the data recorded. The “Right To Be Forgotten’, a prominent feature of the Draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, cannot be satisfied due to the inherent core functionalities of blockchain which include a permanent record of data and accessibility of transaction history.
Privacy concerns around data ownership and sharing are ever-growing. Blockchain can be designed to be either public, private, consortium or hybrid. But, it is crucial to direct and design what part of the data remains on-chain and off-chain to avoid sensitive data of stakeholders involved in a transaction being exposed. For achieving higher interoperability across similar applications, it is imperative to create data standardization and process standardization across similar applications.
One of the major applications of blockchain is in the supply chain industry but there is a lot of resistance by domain experts to deploy the technology due to trust issues, lack of infrastructure, or simply a lack of understanding of the technology itself. Many blockchain platforms exist today but a lack of understanding of their core functionalities and how they can function together remains a major hurdle for higher blockchain adaptability. It is crucial to educate and spread awareness of different functionalities of blockchain such as security, flexibility, scalability, etc. of open source blockchain platforms. Blockchain can be deployed in several industries and provide solutions to many use-cases. However, continuous production deployment can be only achieved if users are made aware of how the technology provides solutions to a specific domain.
As more and more people are connected to the blockchain network, the processing speed can significantly decrease since copies of the blockchain are maintained on each node every time a new transaction is added to the block. Its decentralised architecture can be slower than traditional systems, thus, there is a need to work upon a system upgrade that will allow faster synchronisation of transactions if more people are to be connected to the blockchain.
The data storage mechanism of blockchain is “append-only” which means it cannot be modified, replicating on the nodes and this demands higher storage capacity. As more blocks are added to the chain, the issue of scalability becomes more relevant. Scalability is a major roadblock in the full adoption of technology due to factors such as the configuration of the blockchain platform, consensus mechanism, block size, network bandwidth, processing power requirements, privacy requirements, architecture, and data storage. These factors can be addressed by improving the design architecture of its network and platform.
Since blockchain is distributed in nature, allocating resources to the network and node infrastructure varies and depends on the cost of maintaining the network, its security, and other essential requirements. Optimum allocation of resources is needed as lower resource allocation in such cases could highly affect the performance of the entire system.
Cryptocurrency mining uses consensus mechanisms such as proof of concept which requires the expertise of data scientists, making its adoption rather difficult. A combination of domain and technology expertise is a rare skill set to find and a lot of blockchain projects remain unsuccessful and incomplete due to resource constraints. If the skill set is not acquired timely, India could fall behind in the complete adoption of blockchain and remain unsuccessful as compared to the rest of the world.
Banking regulations require non-repudiation via in-person verification which is difficult due to challenges in implementing technological solutions to blockchain-based cryptocurrencies. Due to the lack of details regarding digital signatures, which is a core part of the blockchain, in Schedule I of the Information Technology Act, 2000, for transactions related to wills and negotiable instruments, immovable properties, etc., the application of the technology becomes difficult.
Since every entity in the network including the user and the node owns a private key, public key, and certificates, it is imperative to use Certificate Authority (CA) to maintain the privacy of data. Depending upon the nature of the targeted application, the choice of CA can be determined, and licensed CA could be used for transactions requiring signing using certificates.
Decentralized finance (DeFi) is poised to expand in India, providing opportunities for the unbanked and underbanked population of the country. DeFi provides financial services through a decentralised network and provides use cases such as cross-border remittances. As per a study by the World Bank, the average transaction fee is 7.45 percent, even for cross-border remittances in India, with traditional banks charging even higher fees. By embracing DeFi, such charges can be as low as 0.5 percent or even lower, benefitting millions of Indians transferring money to India.
But the state of regulations and compliance for blockchain and especially cryptocurrencies is still ambiguous in India. Currently, there are speculations that the Government of India is to introduce a bill in the Parliament to ban cryptocurrency transactions in India. The concerns are fuelled by the existence of money laundering activities that can be exacerbated through the usage of cryptocurrencies. However, it should be noted that due to its decentralised nature, the solution does not reside in banning the industry but in imposing tighter regulations and through increased taxation.
The Government of India is also talking about introducing its own central bank digital currency (CBDC) and there are many advantages to it. CBDC makes tax evasion more difficult and allows higher monitoring of illicit activities. It allows disruption of banks and clearing houses, also limiting the guarantee that is required to be provided by commercial banks. It becomes easier to monitor monetary policy, allowing for a direct control of the money supply and for using tools such as helicopter money, and also makes privately controlled money systems more transparent and secure. By providing low-cost bank accounts, CBDC provides higher financial inclusion to every citizen of the country. However, it should be noted that CBDC should exist in harmony with other cryptocurrencies to reap the full benefits of the technology.
In a nutshell, the adoption of the technology in India would accelerate when the regulations are well-defined by the Government of India, more awareness and training is provided for the required skill set in the industry, more universities and corporations offer courses and practical training to improve existing blockchain architecture and systems for battling scalability, privacy and security concerns around the technology.
Dr Badri Narayanan is the founding director of Infinite Sum Modelling, Seattle and a senior economist with University of Washington, Seattle. Pankhuri is an economist and serves as a Blockchain Expert at the United Nations and International Standard Organization (ISO). The views expressed are personal.
India’s first forest healing centre inaugurated in Uttarakhand’s Ranikhet
DEHRADUN: First Forest Healing centre of the country was inaugurated on Sunday at Ranikhet in Kalika Uttarakhand.
The forest healing centre has been developed by the Research Wing of Uttarakhand Forest Department after research on healing properties of the forests and its revitalising impact on overall health and well being. It is spread over an area of around 13 acres. Chief Conservator of Forest (Research), Sanjiv Chaturvedi, said, ‘’It draws inspiration from Japanese technique of forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) and ancient Indian traditions and that basic theme is, be silent, go slow, think less and feel more.”
He further said that it involves many activities like forest walking, tree-hugging, forest meditation and sky gazing. He said, it has been found that because of typical molecular vibration patterns of trees, tree-hugging has a beneficial impact on the increase in the level of feel-good hormones like oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine, creating the pleasant effect and in countries like Iceland forest department has been making efforts to facilitate this activity for benefit of health purpose of local citizens.
This healing centre has been established in a pine-dominated forest as it has been found in various studies that coniferous like Pine trees emit certain oil compounds to safeguard themselves from various microbes and pathogens, which are called phytoncides. It has been found in various researches that these compounds help to multiply natural killer (NK) cells in our blood, which help in fighting infections and cancerous growth and enhance overall immunity.
Another important activity in this healing centre in forest meditation which is distinct from the traditional meditation system of controlling thoughts or concentrating the awareness on some particular point. This practice is based more on immersing oneself in silence and the ambience of the forest without making any extra effort.
Another activity is sky gazing which involves having a gaze at the swaying canopy above and the ever-changing sky. This uncommon view offers a new perspective as well as deep relaxation.
The healing centre maintains a register in which visitors share their experience. Various self-explanatory boards explaining these four activities in a simple language has been placed at the very entrance and also the instructions for leaving behind the phone, camera or any other destruction and also resist talking if people move in groups. For forest meditation and sky-gazing exercise, tree platforms have also been created.
HARYANA VILLAGERS NOT WILLING TO HAVE LIQUOR SHOP ASKED TO SUBMIT PROPOSAL
CHANDIGARH: Haryana Deputy Chief Minister, Sh. Dushyant Chautala while interacting with mediapersons here on Sunday said that any Gram Sabha of the state that does not want liquor vends to open in its village, can pass the proposal and send it to Haryana government through its Deputy Commissioner by March 15, 2021.
He said that due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the financial year started from May 19, 2020 instead of April 1, due to which this time it will start from May 20, 2021. At present, all the gram panchayats of the state have been dissolved, so those who don’t want liquor vends to open in their villages can pass their proposal in the gram sabha by March 15 and send it to the government through the Deputy Commissioner.
While sharing the details of the last two years, Dushyant Chautala, who also holds the portfolio of Excise and Taxation Department, said that 3048 proposals were sent to the government by the Panchayats for the closure of liquor vends in 2019-20, out of which only 57 proposals were accepted and 48 proposals were rejected, while the remainder were left out due to some objections. He said that during the year 2020-21, 898 proposals were received through Deputy Commissioners, out of which 430 villages were such where there was a complete ban on opening of liquor vends. Of those proposals, besides there were 468 cases in which multiple FIRs had been filed relating to sale of illicit liquor, due to which there was a ban on the sale of liquor there.
Sh. Dushyant Chautala said that during the last year, in the third-quarter, revenue of Rs. 1421 crore was collected, whereas in the third-quarter of this year, Rs. 1734 crore was collected as revenue. He said that it is noteworthy that 97 percent of the revenue collected in the last financial year was completed by the third quarter of this financial year. He said that by the end of the financial year, revenue collection is expected to be more than the target revenue. In the third quarter, additional excise duty to the tune of Rs 330 crore has been collected while Rs 140 crore has been collected as COVID-cess, he added. He said that a total of Rs 977.94 crore has been received as additional revenue in the last three quarters, which is an increase of about 19.85 percent over the previous year.
The Deputy Chief Minister said that while on one hand the State Government is making every effort to enhance the excise revenue in the state, on the other, there should be a complete ban on the sale of illicit liquor. While sharing the statistics of sale and penalty of illicit liquor during the last five years, he said that in the year 2016-17, a total of 619 cases of illicit liquor were seized on which a fine of Rs 12.83 crore was imposed. Similarly, in the year 2017-18, a total of 549 cases were seized, and a fine of 25.45 crore was imposed. A total of 567 cases were seized in the year 2018-19 and a fine of 18.44 crore while a total of 590 cases were seized in the year 2019-20 on which a fine of 3.69 crores was imposed. He said that the State Government has taken strict action during the current excise year 2020-21 and so far, 668 cases of illicit liquor have been siezed and a fine of Rs 90.13 crore has been recovered. He said that while the total revenue of Rs. 6361 crore was collected last year, this year revenue of Rs. 6214 crore has been collected until March 4, 2021, while this excise year will be till May 19, 2021. So, this year’s revenue is likely to be higher than the previous year, he added.
PUNJAB CM ORDERS IMMEDIATE ACTION ON NEW SEVEN-POINT AGENDA 2022
With a “record-breaking” 84.6% of the manifesto commitments already accomplished, and the promise of fulfilling the remaining in the next one year, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Sunday directed all ministries and departments to move aggressively and proactively to push for the realisation of the 7-point ‘Agenda 2022’ he had unveiled in the Vidhan Sabha on Friday.
The agenda, aimed at ensuring total protection of people and their properties in an environment of peaceful co-existence conducive to saving the lives and livelihood of all Punjabis against all odds, is centered around citizen welfare through a holistic focus on overarching development of the state. The overarching goal of the agenda is to ensure the development of a ‘Kaamyab & Khushal Punjab’.
The futuristic agenda, which has set the stage for his government beyond the current term of his government, is designed to meet the aspirations of the people of Punjab, Captain Amarinder had announced in the Vidhan Sabha on Friday while sharing with the House his goals ahead. Cognisant of the fact that this would need more time, he had said, during his speech in response to the discussion on the Motion of Thanks to the Governor’s address in the Vidhan Sabha, that “I am sure that the people of Punjab are conscious of this.” He had also expressed the confidence that the people of the state will not be carried away by the “false promises and euphoric claims of some leaders who are completely detached from Punjab and Punjabiyat,” but would continue to repose confidence in his transparent and responsive government.
The 7-point agenda that encompasses the Chief Minister’s promises are to fully protect the Zarr and Zameen of the State at any cost. Ensure peaceful co-existence (Shantmayee Samaj) for all in the State. Save lives and livelihood (Jaan and Jahan) of all Punjabis against all odds or situations. Reach out to every needy person (Zarrorat Mand) to alleviate his economic miseries, and provide them their due benefits under the socio-economic programmes of the government. Empower youths (Sashakt Naujawan) of the State by enabling them to stand on their own feet. Ensure adequate food, and shelter at affordable prices (Sasti Roti and Pakki Chhat) for all deserving populations of the State; and develop every village, and town of the State in a manner that everybody gets an equal opportunity to live a quality life.
Pointing out that of the 546 commitments/promises made to the people of Punjab in the manifest during the 2017 elections, his government had fulfilled 455, the Chief Minister also assured the House that the remaining promises of his Government will also be fulfilled in the time left at its disposal.
INS KARANJ ALL SET TO BE COMMISSIONED ON 10 MARCH
Mumbai: Indian Naval Ship (INS) Karanj, which will be commissioned on March 10, is the third of the six Kalvari-class diesel electric submarines to start functioning in the navy since 2017. The Navy has inducted two submarines of the same class–the INS Kalvari and INS Khanderi–from Mazagaon Docks Limited (MDL’s) where the INS Karanj was built. Motani Suhail, master chief of the submarine, said: “There will be 39 personnel onboard when the submarine works in shifts. They have been specially trained for a long period to serve on the submarine for months, which is quite a challenging task. Once the submarine is in action, the crew have to ensure they do not make any noise.
Before Karanj, INS Kalvari and INS Khanderi have been commissioned in the Indian Navy in 2017 and 2019, respectively. If everything goes as planned, the navy aims to commission remaining three submarines as scheduled. Karanj sailed for over 100 days as part of trials before being commissioned. All the six Kalvari-class submarines have the same capabilities but they can be deployed in different roles. This includes guarding a strategic point in the sea, laying mines, gathering intelligence, dropping marine commandos and engaging with enemy ships as per orders
Karanj is seen as a small submarine having a length of 60 metres. Though it cannot be compared to the nuclear-powered submarine Arihant, this class of conventional submarines have their own advantages.Kalvari-class submarines are being constructed by public sector shipbuilder Mazagon Dock Ltd (MDL). As per the contract with a French company, they would teach MDL and transfer the technology to India so it can make these ships indigenously. A total of six submarines are to be built at the MDL. These were the Scorpene-class submarines ordered by India in 2005 with MDL being the licensed builder of the SSK class submarine in collaboration with France’s Naval Group in Mumbai. Trials of two – the Vela and Vagir – are underway while the construction of sixth Vagsheer is under way.
Karanj, however, has been built without any kind of supervision of the French company and even the crew has been trained by Indian Navy officials. An official said the French company too learnt a lot from us as the Indian Navy has been using submarines for past 50 years made in Russia, Germany and the UK. According to MDL, the state-of-the-art technology used in Scorpene-class submarine means that the submarine has superior stealth features such as advanced acoustic silencing techniques, low radiated noise levels and ability to launch crippling attacks with precision-guided weapons on board. The attacks can be launched with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles, while underwater or on surface. The stealth features give it an edge unmatched by most submarines, while it is also designed to operate in all theatres of operation, showcasing interoperability with other components of a naval task force, the MDL said.
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