LIVING IN THE SHADOW OF PANDEMIC: WITNESSING THE SHADES OF GREY - The Daily Guardian
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LIVING IN THE SHADOW OF PANDEMIC: WITNESSING THE SHADES OF GREY

The way the second wave is lapping at us makes me wonder if we have faced this pandemic recently — a couple of weeks back. We’re in a health emergency despite the lurking threat for over a year. Does it even qualify to be a sudden emergency? Hadn’t we enough time for planning and preparation? If only we knew our priorities.

Suravi Sharma Kumar

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Spring in Lutyne’s Delhi is a burst of colours — the brightest bougainvillaeas covering porch tops, trellis over entrance gates, the Gulmohar trees flaunting scarlet clusters, the sensuous purples, the purest whites, and at places confetti of cotton wicks from bursting pods of a cotton tree — paint a classic picture of spring in the city. Spring arrived this year too like many more before.

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It was in January last year we all were first introduced to the term social distancing. Back then the virus had seemed, to me at least, a threat unique to China. Social distancing would make a good novel title, I joked, never imagining that Americans would be doing the same in a matter of weeks, that the phrase would soon be joining so many others — community spread, an abundance of caution, flattening the curve. 

It was around this time last year my sons’ school had moved to online learning, and shops and restaurants began to shut. My kids like all others I believe, suddenly found themselves sealed within the walls of their homes — no school, no sports, no outings. Both my sons in their early teens initially responded by immersing in the world of video games — Call of Duty, Clash of Clans, and soon started lamenting the impossibility of hanging out with friends and making new friends in what we call the old analogue style. A die-hard soccer aspirant, my elder son appeared relatively cheerful despite his suspended coaching classes. The scheduled tournaments that he had been eagerly waiting and preparing for got cancelled, one after another where there was an immense possibility for him. Slowly, I found him adapt to the circumstances and embrace the life of an ascetic, practising all by himself passing, shooting, and chipping the ball in a small park; and then running fifteen kilometres a day round and round the colony we live in.

The growing realisation that like last year this time around I,too, have no choice like my boys. This has given me panicky loneliness. During the first wave last year, as a doctor and a writer, I found solace in writing medical pieces, short stories, and gorging myself on electronic media. Those days I worried for the millions of workers who had lost their jobs, students without a computer or a smartphone of their own, and the migrant workers who lived on day-to-day earnings and how dozens of them had to stay packed into a single room in a city under lockdown. And this time, the same thoughts surfaced in me. The way this second wave is lapping at us makes me wonder if we faced this pandemic recently — a couple of weeks back. We’re in a health emergency despite the lurking threat for over a year . Does it even qualify to be a sudden emergency Hadn’t we enough time for planning and preparation? If only we knew our priorities. 

Soon started the onslaught of social media posts about all the adorable quarantine activities that seemingly everyone, including doctors with the highest super-specialisations, people with shining degrees in management and law, were undertaking with their families — making cakes, cookies, reenacting famous paintings for photography, and at times, quite frequently, virtual get-togethers and alumni meets. I preferred to avoid such meets simply because you need to wear proper clothes and make-up to sit in front of the camera, and more than in physical/real meets, here one may have to undergo closer scrutiny. Days passed by at times in a whirlpool and at times at a snail’s pace. I took perverse pleasure in newspaper articles about China’s spiking mental diseases, rising divorce rates, and increasingly desperate dispatches from parents who had failed at homeschool. 

Then, one day last year I figured out that one of my two pet dogs, Nancy was rapidly losing weight; the vet I consulted on a video call suspected intestinal lymphoma, but there was no one in the office who could administer an ultrasound. ‘I’m feeling lonely, yet too busy without the house helps and two kids to tend to!’ I wrote this to every close friend on WhatsApp text. “(((HUG))),” they would reply, which felt more comforting than you might think. Old friends sent me a selfie in their quarantine grey hairs, hairy upper-lips and overgrown beards. I told my close friend Nayna who lived abroad all about my life, my writings, cancelled literary events, and my ailing pet. She at times reached out through a WhatsApp call, and/or “weird FaceTime things.”          

Last year, in the last week of April, when a dialysis patient walked in and came positive on RT PCR in the hospital I work in, and the whole hospital was marked as a containment area. So along with a few others, I had quarantined myself for having examined his body fluids under the microscope. I had no option but to lock myself in one of the rooms at home. With that, I became ‘lonely without being busy’. As my husband and kids managed the house chores, and I sat on the bed with my laptop. But I did no constructive writing, and instead ended up signing up for a free fifteen-day trial of NatureGlow and started watching YouTube stuff like how to wear your hair to bed, how to grow your lashes longer, and developed a costly impulsive online shopping habit. Every day, by the time the sun had sunk beneath the treetops as I could see through the window, I would struggle to do some yoga practice. By seven in the evening, I had caught up with the latest news alerts — “Italy surpasses China’s death toll, becoming world’s highest”; “New York tells nonessential workers to stay home.”

 Those days, one old acquaintance surfaced on WhatsApp chat who I barely knew. He reached out every day or so, sending me his art and poetry to praise. I responded occasionally with a ‘nice’ and thumbs-up emoji. I didn’t block him until the day I came across quotes like, “If you treat your first wife well, God blesses you with a second one.” This man I heard was doing well as a lawyer and was almost out of work due to the pandemic. His unsolicited texts I thought was his response to the virus skewed toward obsession or madness.

My husband who works in the government had his workload go up as the pandemic soared. His texts (we had to communicate through phone as I quarantining in a room), were around why the media wasn’t reporting on the bleakest epidemiological models, why a freight train’s worth of tanks was heading up the Himalayas to the Indo-China border when the country is battling to hold its rickety healthcare system. I would sip my coffee (had a coffee maker installed in my room) and text back in encouragement and validation.

On the last day of the Lockdown 1.0, the government extended it by another couple of weeks, and that stirred my fantasies of a doomsday tryst. That night Abha, a friend living in the UK sent me a crying cat emoji — I called up. Her husband was Covid positive with mild symptoms though, and she had been worrying for her parents with co-morbidities who were away from her across continents and whose neighbour was positives with severe breathlessness. I pacified her and spoke to her husband too whose plan was to drink his way through the isolation period. “Perhaps a little mind adjustment and drinks could get your mood elevated,” he advised his wife too. 

One evening after the lockdown in India was over and I was on an evening walk, my friend from nursery school, Nayna in NYC had been complaining of a sore throat, was admitted to a New York City hospital as she couldn’t breathe. When I heard this, I remember the sudden cold that passed through my body. It was the first time I had been able to conceive of the disease that had been obsessing me for weeks now, and the first time, too, that I realised that we would — every single one of us — be intimately touched by it in one way or another. I tried for a moment to imagine a world in which Nayna no longer existed, in which I could no longer call her up to say hello, in which her son grew up without a mother, and then I tried to multiply that desolation by 13,700, which was the global death toll, though of course, I failed the calculation — our minds aren’t built for such vast numbers.

On a Sunday, after sitting with my elder child with his Civics and History books for about three hours, I went to the grocery store for the first time in six weeks, staring at the bottles of disinfectant in the vestibule, at the cashiers wearing masks and plastic gloves. After having spent that morning reading through the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Indian history, the Civil War, and the Great Depression, it was startling to recognise in that supermarket scene an approximation of the black-and-white images that decorated my son’s textbook. I had never felt so much a part of history before, nor understood so acutely how little there was to separate us from the men and women of the past, how we had always just been people. 

Now in 2021 spring, the virus began its exponential climb as we all feared, in fact quite expected actually. My phone buzzed with a WhatsApp video call from Nayna who survived Covid-19 in NYC in 2020. I sat on the sofa as I spoke to her, my sick pet Nancy now lying on the floor resting her head on my feet. Nayna was lying on her couch and was still suffering from post-Covid symptoms – neurological manifestations of pain, and tingling.  

Abha and her husband were again under lockdown in 2021 and she told me that they had been spending their isolation microdosing some psychedelic stuff that was legally allowed in her country, and tidying up their home and garden. She texted me that she was getting rid of contact numbers and gifts of friends from those she lost contact with and was burning any gifts or stuff like that from her ex-lovers so that she is all neat and sorted from within for the new lease of life after the pandemic. This last one filled me with a sense of deja –vu or something — I could still picture how she had looked at 15, filling notebook after notebook with her scripts—and yet she was adamant when she had said that she and her then-boyfriend Ravi had already built a pyre in an open field as they planned on performing an elaborate burning ceremony of her diary where she wrote every detail of their relationship; that would rid them of the past and pave the way for new beginnings as they decided to part ways. 

Now the TV screen right in front of me was filled with burning pyres in a certain crematorium in Delhi. Bodies burning in rows of pyres. Ambulances brought bodies and one sole man appeared in PPEs in the crematorium with a task of burning bodies placed on dozens of wooden pyres.

The days continued to pass, and it became increasingly difficult to distinguish between them. Friends would call, and we couldn’t remember whether we had spoken two hours, or two weeks ago. The virus now coloured everything, giving birth to alien emotions, blurring boundaries between the real, and the imagined. I felt blind fury when I see people in election rallies walking with political party flags especially youngsters on two-wheelers joining the rallies uttering slogans, stabs of anxiety when the characters in the movie walked into a crowded room, and the worst of anguish at the sight of a film heroine flaunting her pouted lips, a nose-pin. 

My sons (and their friends) were sleeping till noon and burst in annoyance when I asked if they completed their share of daily exercise, or had finished fifteen pages of The Alchemist, or To Kill a Mocking Bird. My mother had started penning daily emails that doubled as absurdist literature — had I heard that the stray dogs were getting quite exhausted and behaving unpredictably, and found recipes of beer bread that she had never baked before. “Why,” asked my friend Abha, “is everyone on the internet baking bread these days?”

Yesterday I drove Nancy to a vet. Pet mothers were no longer allowed inside the clinic; instead, you had to call from the parking lot and a technician wearing a face mask and plastic gloves would retrieve your animal from the passenger seat. While I waited, I received about eight calls out of that three from my two sons expressing their apprehension about Nancy’s diagnosis as they desperately wanted to accompany but I couldn’t allow them considering the situation. By the time I was on the eighth call, Nancy was returned to me trembling, her belly shorn. That day, I spent the rest of the day trying to make a list of reasons why it would be all right if she had cancer or any other equally grave condition.

Early that evening when my sons and I sat in front of the TV, my husband arrived. Soon he joined us with wine in coffee cups (that’s to trick the kids into thinking that it was coffee in the cup). He had been taking a life-must-go-on approach to the virus and was doing good and getting engrossed in his work. We discussed his work and then mine and then we ordered pizza, coke, and then retired to our rooms. 

One by one, all my/our plans have been cancelled of buying a home, sending the elder son for exclusive football coaching, and younger son to join tennis classes etc. I find myself in a kind of continuous present, with the distinction that this time around almost all the world’s people are in the same boat. Every day or so I end up texting or talking to friends across the globe, listening to their tales of quarantine in this wave or the previous one — the virus has invaded human life the way it does the human body, it seems, latching on and wreaking havoc. There is a friend Betsy, a single mother who fears she is becoming abusive to her children —“No, really,” she says when I protest, “they run away from me when I so much as look at them.” There is a good friend from college Pinaki, who is married to another friend Lana and both living in London, whose lifeline was the pub and just doubled his dosage of antidepressants. And Veena, a dermatologist who is learning for the first time how to intubate a patient. It will be interesting to see, Nayna and I agreed when we last spoke, she in her Manhattan pigeon-hole apartment, me in a New Delhi home, how this contagion will bring us together and rip us apart. “Just think,” said my now-single-again friend Lana as we looked for silver linings, “of all the new depressions, abuses and divorces that will soon be flooding the market.” Lana was the one who for the first time shared with me samples of sexts that she had sent or received in her now interrupted search for true love or the perfect partner. She told me how the sale of sex toys was skyrocketing when the pandemic was raging in NYC and also in London.

Now many weeks through a deadlier pandemic in Delhi, I’ve kind of gone numb. I stopped calling friends and neither have I received as many calls as before. It has been weeks since I last heard from Nayna or Lana, or from Abha or Pinaki — perhaps, like me, they realised after our initial flurry of communication that it is lonelier to grasp at some simulacrum of intimacy than it is to try and make peace with one’s solitude. Journey inwards is the panacea of all ills for our generation. 

The writer is a medical doctor (pathologist) and holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of London. The views expressed are personal.

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SATELLOGIC AND UP42 TEAM UP TO OFFER RAPID MONITORING CAPABILITIES

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Satellogic Inc. (NASDAQ: SATL), a leader in sub-meter resolution Earth Observation (“EO”) data collection, announced today that it has agreed with UP42, a geospatial developer platform and marketplace enabling direct access to Satellogic’s satellite tasking high-resolution multispectral and wide-area hyperspectral imagery via the UP42 API-based platform. The agreement includes the archive of high-frequency, high-resolution Satellogic data.

The companies made the announcement today at the Geospatial World Forum in Amsterdam, Netherlands, where UP42 CEO Sean Wiid and Satellogic Business Development & Sales Director Eldridge de Melo are featured, speakers.

“This exciting new collaboration gives UP42 customers a distinct advantage in rapidly creating geospatial solutions,” said UP42’s CEO Sean Wild. “Users can now derive insights from Satellogic data using algorithms and data fusion via our developer-first platform.”

Direct API access to Satellogic’s multi- and hyperspectral data – with intraday updates – supports rapid, timely, and frequent monitoring of critical assets in diverse sectors, such as energy, utilities, local government, and security. The UP42 platform’s REST API and Python SDKs can be fully customized, allowing UP42 users to build cost-effective solutions and quickly deliver end products to their clients.

“Our mission of democratizing access to critical Earth Observation data means making our data available where it’s convenient for end-users,” said Thomas VanMatre, VP of Global Business Development at Satellogic. “UP42 is a leading geospatial marketplace with value-added capabilities, enabling its customers to access and analyze data without extensive expertise. It is collaborations like this alliance with UP42 that will increase adoption of EO data across new markets, driving better decision making and outcomes.”

The growing Satellogic constellation currently consists of 22 operational small satellites, capable of acquiring 4-band (RGB NIR) multispectral data at 70 cm (1m native) spatial resolution over a 5km swath and up to 29-band (460-830nm) hyperspectral imagery at 25m resolution over a 125km swath.

During pre-processing, Satellogic imagery is optimized for analysis by Machine Learning (“ML”) and Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) applications – a significant benefit for UP42 users who will have access to more than 75 ML/AI algorithms on the UP42 platform.

UP42 users will be able to apply Satellogic data sets and extracted knowledge to support projects in a range of applications spanning the public and private sectors, including Agriculture and Forestry, Energy and Sustainability, Critical Infrastructure Management, Finance, and Insurance, Environment and Climate, and Government.

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OTT is giving more opportunities to actors: Aamna Sharif

In an exclusive interview with NewsX, actress Aamna Sharif mentioned that OTT is giving her the scope to perform different things as an actor and she is grateful that she is being able to be a part of all three platforms. For an actress, digital or OTT is an interesting place to be, plus the medium is big and gives opportunity to every actor for different sorts of roles and performances.

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Actress Aamna Sharif recently joined NewsX for a fun conversation as part of our special series NewsX India A-List. In the exclusive conversation, the actress opened up about her role in the series Aadha Ishq, what drew her to the role, and much more.

Speaking about what attracted her to ‘Adha Ishq’, Aamna said, “The title itself is beautiful. I believe all of us have experienced adha ishq once in our life. It is a beautiful love story between Sahil and Roma, the journey of Roma (played by Aamna). The story shows the ten years of Roma’s journey of what happens in her life. The interesting part of this love story is that a couple in love gets separated and later their children fell in love. It’s a different concept which is most exciting.”

Talking about doing a romantic genre, she said she loves being a part of such projects as she is a romantic person and loves watching love stories. Adding further, she said, “I have been playing different roles and was waiting for something like this to come, something as intense as Aadha Ishq.”

When asked about her experience of working in an OTT platform and the scope of digital platforms, Aamna said, “I am loving it, I think it’s a blessing for all the actors because of the kind of scope it provides to all the actors for performances. The last show, which I did, was also a very challenging role and Roma has so many layers to its character. It’s a dream for any actor to do such challenging roles and OTT is giving that scope and space.”

Aamna further shared that it is very important to watch other actors’ performances. She explained that she loves watching the work of other actors as it is important to learn as an actor.

When asked about her previous role in Komolika, Aamna said, “I was scared to play Komollika as I have never played such a role ever before, even though in ‘Ek Villian’ my character had shades of grey but not as much as Komollika in KZK2.”

While talking about her last two years’ experience, Aamna said “The last two years have taught us to value small moments in life and be grateful towards life.”

Aamna further stated that OTT is giving her the scope to perform different things as an actress and she is grateful that she is being able to be a part of all three platforms.

Aamna Sharif stated that ‘Kahiin Toh Hoga’ was a game-changing project for her as it changed her life.

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ADANI ACQUIRES HOLCIM STAKE IN ACC-AMBUJA

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The Adani Family, through an offshore special purpose vehicle, announced that it had entered into definitive agreements for the acquisition of Switzerland-based Holcim Ltd’s entire stake in two of India’s leading cement companies Ambuja Cements Ltd and ACC Ltd.

Adani Group Chairman Gautam Adani with Holcim CEO Jan Jenisch

Holcim, through its subsidiaries, holds 63.19% in Ambuja Cements and 54.53% in ACC (of which 50.05% is held through Ambuja Cements). The value for the Holcim stake and open offer consideration for Ambuja Cements and ACC is USD 10.5 billion, which makes this the largest ever acquisition by Adani, and India’s largest-ever M&A transaction in the infrastructure and materials space.

“Our move into the cement business is yet another validation of our belief in our nation’s growth story,” said Gautam Adani, Chairman of the Adani Group. “Not only is India expected to remain one of the world’s largest demand-driven economies for several decades, but India also continues to be the world’s second-largest cement market and yet has less than half of the global average per capita cement consumption. In statistical comparison, China’s cement consumption is over 7x that of India’s. When these factors are combined with the several adjacencies of our existing businesses including the Adani Group’s ports and logistics business, energy business, and real estate business, we believe that we will be able to build a uniquely integrated and differentiated business model and set ourselves up for significant capacity expansion.”

Adani added, “Holcim’s global leadership in cement production and sustainability best practices brings to us some of the cutting-edge technologies that will allow us to accelerate the path to greener cement production. In addition, Ambuja Cements and ACC are two of the strongest brands recognized across India. When augmented with our renewable power generation footprint, we gain a big headstart in the decarburisation journey that is a must for cement production. This combination of all our capabilities makes me confident that we will be able to establish the cleanest and most sustainable cement manufacturing processes that will meet or exceed global benchmarks.”

“I am delighted that the Adani Group is acquiring our business in India to lead its next era of growth,” said Jan Jenisch, CEO of Holcim Limited. “Gautam Adani is a highly recognized business leader in India who shares our deep commitment to sustainability, people, and communities. I would like to thank our 10,000 Indian colleagues who have played an essential role in the development of our business over the years with their relentless dedication and expertise. I am confident that the Adani Group is the perfect home for them as well as our customers to continue to thrive.”

With India’s cement consumption at just 242 kg per capita, as compared to the global average of 525 kg per capita, there is significant potential for the growth of the cement sector in India. The tailwinds of rapid urbanization, the growing middle class, and affordable housing together with the post-pandemic recovery in construction and other infrastructure sectors are expected to continue driving the growth of the cement sector over the next several decades.

Ambuja Cements and ACC currently have a combined installed production capacity of 70 MTPA. The two companies are among the strongest brands in India with immense depth of manufacturing and supply chain infrastructure, represented by their 23 cement plants, 14 grinding stations, 80 ready-mix concrete plants, and over 50,000 channel partners across India.

Both Ambuja and ACC will benefit from synergies with the integrated Adani infrastructure platform, especially in the areas of raw material, renewable power, and logistics, where Adani Portfolio companies have vast experience and deep expertise. This will enable higher margins and return on capital employed for the two companies. The Companies will also benefit from Adani’s focus on ESG, Circular Economy, and Capital Management Philosophy. The businesses will continue to be deeply aligned to UN Sustainability Development Goals with a clear focus on SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), and SDG 13 (Climate Action).

The acquisition is subject to regulatory approvals and conditions.

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CONCERNS GROW ABOUT THE ELDERLY POPULATION OF INDIA

India has been witnessing an upward trend when it comes to the living arrangement patterns of elderlies. Many today are staying alone or just with their spouses. The features of joint family systems are not just declining but vanishing speedily in correlation with economic development and modernization.

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Lockdown woes

‘For there is assuredly nothing dearer to a man than wisdom and though age takes away all else, it undoubtedly brings us that.” Affirmed Cicero, the Roman philosopher, ages ago. It is time we question ourselves if at all we are valuing this wisdom. One of the indicators of India’s progress should compel us to think through much deeper than this. The increase in life expectancy at birth in India, which is 70 years (United Nations Population Division. World Population Prospects: 2019) is indeed catching up with the global average of 73.4 years. This increase is resulting in a surge in the number of elderly people, with projections of 300 million elderly (more than 20% of the total population) by 2050. Catching up with the global average in statistics is not accompanied by adequate facilities, services, and support systems as a whole that can be considered age-friendly. This only means that India has to work much harder to catch up economically as well as socially.

One of the largest nationwide surveys called ‘Longitudinal Ageing Study in India (LASI)’ published in 2021 has turned out to be an eye-opener on aspects related to the burden of disease, functional health, and the social and economic wellbeing of elderlies. LASI covered a panel sample of 31464 individuals aged and their spouses aged 60 years and above and 6,749 oldest-old persons aged 75 and above from 35 states and union territories of India (excluding Sikkim).

The demographics are mindboggling, 2020 was the year when the world witnessed the number of people older than 60 years of age surpass the number of children under 5 years of age. The resultant life extension, without reducing aging, has increased the extent of aging and age-related diseases. This dramatic increase in life expectancy has increased the risk of disease, disability, dementia, and advanced aging before death. An elderly in India rightly exclaims: “Years are being added to my life, life is not being added to my years: the extra years are being added at the very end of my life and are of poor quality.

Talking about systems and mechanisms that extend care, services, and support to the older people, a lot depends on the settings which vary from those residing in their own homes, and those that access support through old age homes, nursing homes, day-care centres, and many more such units depending on the nature of the problems they face. Essentially, care of the elderly also necessitates ways and means that need to be evolved to address varied issues of varied elderly. The elderly population is not a homogenous group, especially in a diverse society like India. The

Concerns of the young-old and oldest-old vary considerably in terms of financial security, functional competencies, loneliness, and social and work participation. Heterogeneity is visible when it comes to urban and rural geographies. Those residing in rural areas are comparatively less vulnerable when compared to their urban counterparts. As much as the reality reflects that no two elderlies are the same, even the government does not view them in the same frame as far as their needs and challenges are concerned. These obvious disparities naturally fail to register their problems as most elderly get classified based on caste and other socio-cultural dimensions. Likewise, pension and social security are also restricted to those who have worked in the organized sector, as against those who have been labourers for a lifetime in the unorganized sector.

India has also been witnessing an upward trend when it comes to the living arrangement patterns of elderlies. Many today are staying alone or just with their spouses.

The features of joint family systems are not just declining but vanishing speedily in correlation with economic development and modernization. Services that respond to the needs of the elderly are another side of the coin. Despite an aging population, geriatric care is unheard of in our country. Both the system and services focus little on this very age group, with no dedicated facilities for elderly people. Whatever little is available, exists in urban areas alone. One of the greatest challenges that show an increasing trend is elder abuse among those that are functionally impaired, and live all alone.

While the nurturing of an age-friendly ecosystem for the elderlies will take its own time, as the current focus is on adolescents and youth in the light of demographic dividend, a clear strategy to leverage their existence by sensitizing them regarding the challenges of elderlies should not be ignored. Over and above the commitment from governments, a comprehensive support system for the elderly is possible only with the involvement of the elderly themselves, their families, and the communities next door, as the challenges are not limited to economic needs, socio-cultural disparities, or health care requirements alone, the spectrum is much wider than what can be explained in words.

Enhancing the social participation of older adults is a critical factor in achieving the goals of successful aging. Such a participative perspective is indeed present in the current aging discourse the more active the elderlies are, the more they contribute to society. However, the social participation of the elderly has not yet been a focus of the aging discourse in India.

Coming back to the wisdom which Cicero talked about, our socio-cultural fabric should be willing and ready to print the images that emerge from the immense experience of the personal and professional lives of elderlies. It is time we leverage this for a better tomorrow.

The author has attained her PhD in Public Health Policy with a specific reference to policies of government of India vis-à-vis the population, reproductive health and family welfare aspects.

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Manik Saha is sworn in as Tripura Chief Minister

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After the unexpected resignation of the former Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb, the BJP state president Manik Saha was sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Tripura. Governor S.N. Arya administered the oath of office to the new CM Manik Saha at the Raj Bhavan, Agartala.

During the swearing-in ceremony, Saha promised to improvise the law and order situation in the state, taking the development agenda of Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead. Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “Congratulation to Shri @DrManikSaha2 on taking oath as Tripura’s CM. Best wishes to him for a fruitful tenure. I am confident he will add vigour to the development journey of Tripura which began in 2018.” The year 2018 put an end to the 25-year communist rule in Tripura.

After quitting Congress, CM Manik Saha joined BJP in 2016 and was elevated to BJP state president in 2020. Earlier, this year, he had won the Rajya Sabha seat from Tripura. Saha is also the president of the Tripura Cricket Association. He is also a dentist by profession, who used to teach at Tripura Medical College in Hapania before entering mainstream politics.

The oath-taking ceremony was attended by Union minister Pratima Bhowmick and the former CM Biplab Kumar Deb, other BJP MLAs, and state ministers. Deputy Chief Minister Jishnu Dev Varma and minister Ram Prasad Paul appeared at the Raj Bhavan minutes after the swearing-in ceremony was over. They protested Saha’s appointment as Chief Minister at the BJP’s legislative party meeting on Saturday. According to the sources, the step was taken after an RSS report submitted to the BJP’s national leadership concluded that the party and government needed a change of guard. Saha’s excellent track record of ensuring the BJP’s victory in all thirteen municipal elections in November 2021 earned the faith of the party.

The opposition CPI(M) MLAs boycotted the oath-taking ceremony, claiming that the BJP’s administration has resulted in “fascist-style violence” in the state. Similarly, the Trinamool Congress, which is attempting to gain a foothold in the state, claimed that the Chief Minister was replaced because the BJP realised that the people had lost faith in the state administration.

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AQVERIUM: First digital water bank receives US$500,000 grant

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AquaKraft Digital Ventures Pvt. Ltd., a AquaKraft Group Ventures (www.aquakraft.net) today announced that it has received a USD 500,000 grant from Newrl (www.newrl.net) for its digital innovation, AQVERIUM (www.aqverium.com) – 1st Digital Water Bank. A brainchild of Dr. Subramanya Kusnur, Chairman & CEO of AquaKraft Group Ventures, AQVERIUM leverages the rich expertise of AquaKraft’s decade-long journey of advocating sustainability and impactful Water & Sanitation interventions across India. It enables to the creation of a Water Balance Sheet that accounts for every drop of Water making stewardship more accountable and rewarding, powered by a unique blockchain platform Newrl.

Speaking on occasion Vinay Rao, Co-Founder AquaKraft Digital Ventures Pvt. Ltd., said, “AQVERIUM is a next-generation cutting edge digital innovation that looks to leverage AquaKraft’s expertise in water & sanitation along with an optimum blend of Web 3 and various other technologies. One of the main factors for us to collaborate with Newrl is that it is the only public blockchain in the world to have an identity at the chain protocol layer. This mitigates the risk emanating out of anonymous participants on the blockchain. This grant will be used to create a mainstream defi ecosystem which involves tokenization of real-world assets such as Water which enables a high degree of governance and also helps with easier monetization.”

Newrl is a ‘trust network’ – a highly scalable, memory-aware, and multi-token blockchain with a rich protocol layer of template-driven transaction types, smart contracts, and DAOs. It is focused on effective tokenization of real-world assets/contracts and their frictionless financing on-chain ready to be used in institutional as well as DAO-based setups.

“We built Newrl with a specific focus on real-world applications of blockchain. We believe that many of the web3 innovations can add a lot of value to the mainstream. However, such use cases need to be compliant with regulations as well as KYC-AML norms. Newrl is the only public blockchain that enforces identity at the chain layer. We found AQVERIUM to be a fit use case for us to demonstrate our technological innovation and prowess with a real-world solution. It is a matter of great privilege for us to partner with the 1st Digital Water Bank.,” said Swapnil Pawar – Founder Newrl.

A lot has been talked about Water and the imminent crisis the world is facing. Everyone across all stakeholders acknowledges the fact that Water is precious and must be saved and conserved. Governments are trying their best to ensure per capita water adequacy with concrete and definitive steps in policy and action. It is time that every stakeholder realizes and acts in this direction. Water Stewardship needs to be an all-inclusive process across all stakeholders with forcing functions around the use and reuse of water.

Sharing his vision, Dr. Subramanya Kusnur, Founder Chairman & CEO, AquaKraft Group Ventures said, “We are delighted to partner with Newrl as it addresses all the challenges faced by networks today and enables KYC at the chain protocol level enabling a marketplace of qualified and bonafide participants. Water being core to sustainability will play a major role in the way Climate Control & ESG will evolve, and it was very important to create a trusted network that will enable the entire water ecosystem from generation to monetization.”

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