Dr V.K. Paul, Member-Health of NITI Aayog, on Friday expressed concern over the decline in the use of face masks in the country and said that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned against it as the global scene of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is disturbing.
Paul also said that India needs to remember that both COVID-19 vaccine and face masks are important. “Mask usage is declining. We have to remember that both vaccines and masks are important. We should learn from the global situation,” said Paul while addressing a health briefing.
“WHO is warning against the decline in mask usage. The global scene of Omicron is disturbing,” he added.
As far as protection capability is concerned, Paul said that India is now operating at a risky and unacceptable level.
“We have to remember that both vaccines and masks are important. It is not the time to remove masks yet,” reiterated Paul.
Further, he said, “The United Kingdom and France are experiencing a massive wave due to this variant. The pandemic caused by the virus is full of surprises and unexpected turns, so it is very important to protect yourself from it.”
Talking about the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines against the Omicron virus, Paul said that it is effective against all variants. “The variants aren’t so smart yet that they can surpass the vaccine protection,” he said.
The Director-General of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Bal ram Bhargava added that regular meetings are being organised to keep a watch on the global scenario and Covid scene in India with a focus on Omicron.
“We need help to not spread panic. District level restrictions to be implemented where positivity over 5%,” he added.
India has reported 25 cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 but none of the patients have reported severe symptoms, Union Health Ministry’s Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said on Friday. However the number later was reported to have gone up to 32, after Maharashtra reported seven Omicron cases.
The Joint Secretary added that the symptoms in all detected cases are “mild” and account for 0.04% of the total variants detected.
Pressing on the need to strictly follow the COVID Appropriate Behaviour (CAB), Agarwal said, “World Health Organisation (WHO) has highlighted that the public health measures should be abided by on a continual, besides vaccination. Adequate precautions have to be followed…Laxity in public health measures is leading to a surge in cases in Europe.”
Further, he said that only two countries had reported Omicron cases till November 24, which has now risen to 59 countries.
“These 59 countries have reported 2,936 Omicron cases. Besides this, 78,054 probable cases were detected. Their genome sequencing is underway,” Agarwal said.
Talking about overall COVID-19 cases in India, Agarwal said that the overall positivity rate was at 0.73% in the last week.
He also added that fewer than 10,000 daily cases have been reported in India in the last 14 days; of which the active cases were highest in two states, Kerala and Maharashtra with over 43% active cases in the former and over 10% in the latter.
Meanwhile, all the nine patients who were infected with the Omicron variant of coronavirus and were admitted to a hospital in Jaipur, have tested negative for COVID.
The patients were discharged from the RUHS Hospital. According to the state health department, all nine patients are completely healthy and asymptomatic. Their blood, CT scan and other tests are normal. The doctors advised them to remain in home quarantine for seven days.
Rajasthan Health Minister Parsadi Lal Meena said that the department was quite alert and vigilant since the news of the novel variant of coronavirus.
Amid the ongoing spread of Omicron variant around the world, a UN health agency panel on Thursday said that early laboratory data on the effectiveness of existing vaccines against the new COVID-19 variant is useful, but it is still unclear how effective these will be in treating severely sick patients.
This comes following reassurance from the WHO that available vaccines “hold up very well” in protecting people from the worst forms of coronavirus sickness for six months or more. “The neutralization data has an underpinning, but it’s really the clinical data that are going to be most influential about how to manage an Omicron situation,” said Dr Kate O’Brien, Director, Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals at WHO.
Dr O’Brien said that collective immunity remained out of reach, partly because the vaccines in circulation today, for all their efficacy, were “not performing at the level where the concept of herd immunity is likely to be something that can be achieved”.
This was at least in part because of the lack of universal vaccine coverage which has seen wealthier countries benefit from immunization campaigns, while poorer nations have suffered a dearth of lifesaving jabs, Dr O’Brien was quoted as saying by UN News.
On so-called “breakout infections” among individuals already vaccinated, it was “not surprising” that these had increased in line with greater vaccination coverage, the WHO official insisted.
“That does not mean the vaccine is not working, it simply means that a greater and greater number of people have actually been vaccinated.”
As Omicron spreads, Dr O’Brien highlighted that those most at risk remained the unvaccinated, who represented 80 to 90% of those who have fallen seriously ill from coronavirus.
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STUDY FINDS PARENTS TALK LESS TO KIDS WHEN EXPERIENCING FINANCIAL ISSUES
A team of researchers has provided the first evidence that parents may talk less to their kids when experiencing financial scarcity.
The study has been published in the ‘Developmental Science Journal’. “We were interested in what happens when parents think about or experience financial scarcity and found evidence that such strain could suppress their speech to their children,” said study senior author Mahesh Srinivasan, a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley.
“Our results suggest that parenting training may not be sufficient to close the academic achievement gap without addressing the broader issue of income inequality,” Srinivasan added.
The study’s preliminary results lend credence to the developmental and educational benefits of such poverty-cutting government programs as the federal American Rescue Plan’s Child Tax Credit and other supplemental cash payouts for needy families.
“Existing interventions toward eliminating the word gap have often focused on improving parenting skills,” Srinivasan said.
“But our findings suggest that relieving parents of their financial burdens, such as through direct cash transfers, could also substantially change the ways they engage with their kids,” he added.
In the first experiment, researchers sought to observe how parents would interact with their children (in this case, 3-year-olds) after the parents were asked to describe times in which they had recently experienced scarcity. A control group of parents were instead asked to describe other recent activities.
Of the 84 parents in the study, those in the experimental group who described their experiences of financial scarcity spoke less to their 3-year-olds during laboratory observations than parents who reflected on other forms of scarcity (like not having enough fruit), or parents who had not been asked to recollect experiences of resource insecurity.
The second experiment used existing data collected via LENA technology, tiny “talk pedometer” devices worn by children that record their conversations and count the words they hear and say.
As the researchers predicted, analyses revealed that parents engaged in fewer conversational turns with their children at the month’s end, a time that typically coincides with money being tight as parents await pay checks or other sources of income.
THE IDEA OF DOING SOMETHING WITH JUST YOUR VOICE WAS VERY CHALLENGING: RITHVIK DHANJANI
In this interview, Rithvik Dhanjani talks about his maiden audio-based project, ‘Buri Nazar’. He describes the challenges and excitement of acting in this new medium, while also talking about his journey in the entertainment industry.
Rithvik Dhanjani rose to fame with his role in Pavitra Rishta, and his dance performances in Jhalak Dikhla Jaa. He is a well-known face in the Indian television and web entertainment spaces. However, ironically, after his latest project, Buri Nazar, Rithvik has been receiving praises, not for his visual charisma, but for the magic he has brought into the show with just his voice. We hosted Rithvik for an impromptu conversation for our latest series, NewsX India A-List. Below are the excerpts from the interview:
We opened the interview by asking Rithvik about how the project came to be, and what aspect of the project was the most appealing for him. Rithvik stated, “I was completely unaware of not just the platform but also the power of the platform and so much that you can do with just audio. The team of Audible reached out to me a couple of times, for multiple projects, and this was one of the productions that they reached out to me for, and they were like, ‘just give it a read and see what it is like.’” Rithvik loved the idea that the project was going to be an audio remake of the Amazon Original movie Evil Eye. “The script was amazing, the platform was great, and the idea of doing something with just your voice was very challenging,” said the actor. This challenging aspect of the project made it all the more interesting for Rithvik.
We were then curious to know if Rithvik had to undertake any special preparation for his first audio-based acting gig. To this, Rithvik shared with us, “I prepped just like I would prep for another script because the script was very self-explanatory, it was written beautifully, the drafting was amazing, the lines were great.” He continued, “So, we had a couple of sessions with my director to, sort of, understand what he is wanting my character to look like– sorry, sound like.” Rithvik chuckled while pointing out the ironic error in his speech. He added that he did not require any particular training for the audio series, however, his voice skills from his training as an actor proved to be of great help during the project.
For our final question, we asked Rithvik about the roles he thinks have been the most important ones in his career. Rithvik replied, “I think Pavitra Rishta has been one of the shows that have, practically, shaped my life to what it is today. Apart from Pavitra Rishta, I think it has to be Cartel which has just been released on Alt Balaji and MX Player.” Further expressing his thought, Rithvik said that he believes that every part he has played has proven to be an important one in some way or the other. He finished his reply by saying, “If I did not do Jhalak Dikhla Jaa at the point when I did it, people would have ignored that I am a dancer as well. So, I think that, too, played an important part. But if you ask me about characters and shows, it has to be Pavitra Rishta and Cartel.”
Talerang has trained close to 500,000 students, reached 30 mn candidates through partnerships: Shveta Raina
‘Despite a purely online methodology, students self-reported a 53% increase in their work readiness after Talerang programs, a 47% jump in their communication skills and a 45% jump in their problem-solving skills.’
Shveta Raina, Founder and CEO, Talerang spoke to The Daily Guardian. Talerang (www.talerang.com) is an education management company that is focused on providing career training to students and professionals.
Q. What made you launch this business?
A: India graduates close to 20mn students every year, and less than 10% of them are reportedly work-ready. Talerang is an EdTech company that started as an independent research project at Harvard Business School with the mission to bridge this work-readiness crisis.
While I was a Director at Teach For India in 2009-2011, I traveled to over 100 colleges and spoke to thousands of students across the country. I realized that there was a lot of fear in our graduates on how to approach their careers and follow their passion. This disconnect between their personal vision, their parents’ view on the world of work, and the outdated school and college curriculum, sowed the seeds for Talerang.
After this, I went to Harvard Business School for my MBA, and did an independent research project in 2012-2013 with Professor Das Narayan Das that culminated into this social business. I researched some of India’s largest problems, and the employability crisis stood out to me as one that was crippling our economy. We have close to 20 million students graduating each year, yet some reports showed that less than 10% are employable. It baffled me. Without a work-ready work-force, how can India’s companies grow?
In 2014, we launched Talerang’s first cohort and placed them post a rigorous training program at some of India’s leading companies such as Aditya Birla, Godrej and Mahindra for internships. Post their internships, close to 50% of them were given call-back offers. Today, they are at the IIMs, McKinsey, Bain, and many are CEOs themselves. We had gotten them ready for the jobs of the future.
Q. Business success so far?
A: Talerang graduates are consistently rated as 80%+ work-ready by the firms that hire them, and 99% of them get placed. Talerang participants rate the training with 99% satisfaction in their learning and enjoyment of the program.
By 2020, we grew to 400+ corporate partners, and Talerang’s training methodology integrated live training with Harvard cases, proprietary assessments, interaction with guest speakers, industry exposure, custom learning journeys, training on 21st century hard and soft skills, and personal mentoring for holistic professional development.
Despite a purely online methodology, students self-reported a 53% increase in their work readiness after Talerang programs, a 47% jump in their communication skills and a 45% jump in their problem-solving skills. Talerang participants rate the training with 99% satisfaction in their learning and enjoyment of the program. We were now delivering quality training, but at scale.
By 2022, Talerang has directly trained close to 500,000 students and reached 30million candidates through partnerships with colleges, corporates, the media and the United Nations Development Program. Talerang has won several awards including one from the Harvard New Venture Competition, been short-listed by Kalaari Capital’s K-Start and been part of Village Capital’s India cohort.
Talerang’s unique and high quality online model offers a variety of industry-recognised certificate programs, with access to internship and job opportunities at 400+ corporate partners including the Aditya Birla Group, Mahindra Group, Godrej Group, Teach For India, Avaana Capital, Z3 Capital, Technoserve, Think Through Consulting, Schindler Group and more. Talerang’s training methodology integrates live training with Harvard cases, proprietary assessments, interaction with guest speakers, industry exposure, custom learning journeys, training on 21st century hard and soft skills, and personal mentoring for holistic professional development.
The courses are completely online and attract students from all over the world. They are rated at 99% in terms of learning and enjoyment customer rating despite the transition from offline to online.
Q. How do you offer customized career training to students and professionals?
A: Talerang’s assessments are percentile based and personalized, that customize the learning to each student as per their career track and skill track. Each candidate gets a broad overview of the 26 21st century skills required to compete in the work world. Post this, they select 3 areas they want to focus on, be it coding, marketing or finance. They get rigorous training and projects in those areas and then an internship and job accordingly.
When we partner with companies such as banks, legal firms, manufacturing or E-commerce, we customize our content to their participants’ needs by curating the mix of skills, case studies and projects as required for their industries. IIT Bombay, Madras, Shiv Nadar University, Avendus, Deutsche Bank and 100+ colleges, 400+ corporates have partnered with us on their training and hiring needs. Recently, high-potential young professionals from Tvarit GBMH (German artificial intelligence company) completed our program and said: “The whole class was an amazing learning experience. We discussed things that the company would not normally deal with. Above all, I learned about professionalism.” Their satisfaction ratings were >90% and overall management skills and leadership growth was tremendous.
Q. What are your future plans?
A: Talerang aims to become India’s first Edtech Unicorn in employability. We are a social enterprise, bringing in an impact focus to each candidate and organization that we work with. We want to create a work-ready India. We want to reach 1 million candidates by 2030, and be a 1000 crore enterprise.
EDTECH EXPECTATIONS FROM UNION BUDGET 22-23
How sharp and crystal-clear India’s vision for digital transformation is seen in the way the finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman prepared and presented the union budget last year. Contrary to convention, last year’s fiscal budget was presented and disseminated in a digital format. Of course, India is high on digitalization and the resounding success of the Ed-Tech sector in the country is a sheer testimony to this desired change. To contribute further to the education sector and the overall economy of the country, there are some expectations of EdTech players from the upcoming union budget.
After rolling out the New Education Policy, the announcement of the National Digital Educational Architecture (NDEAR) in the last year’s budget was an impressive attempt by the Government to improve the country’s education system. Moreover, as India is also making international collaborations under the Skill India programme, it was the strategy to empower youths with better learning and skill development opportunities and programmes like Natural Language Translation Missions are expected to garner desired results in the future.
These policies will enable youth to align themselves with modern job requirements in India and abroad. The Ed-Tech sector can immensely support this mission with its extensive outreach and AI-embedded hybrid learning models. But, as the sector is in the emerging phase, it seeks favourable government policies and incentives.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, EdTech platforms have greatly reduced the learning gap in the country and they can bring magical results in connecting the rural populace of the country with virtual classrooms. Undoubtedly, the government has limited resources to develop quality educational infrastructure in remote areas. But, with the advent of digital tools and hybrid learning models, we can overcome the majority of material challenges. Of course, the support of private players would be quite imperative in this regard and working on PPP can certainly ensure a win-win equation. In this realm, the Finance Minister should provide some quality incentives to the burgeoning EdTech sector of the country. The foremost change that the industry expects is a reduction in the GST from 18% to 5%. It will help them to focus on developing more innovative solutions for the greater good of the whole society.
Loan and finance procedures must be eased for Ed-Tech startups which are performing as an engine of advancement in the Indian education system. So collateral-free business loans along with zero service charges to make the finance part hassle-free for the new entrants. These loans should be available to them at a very nominal rate of interest. Also, profit-making EdTech startups should not be excluded from these benefits and relaxations. Annual targets of distribution of funds should be used to allocate finances to new ventures and the process for that should be easy-going. Hence, designated banks should be constituted for ease of finance.
Hopefully, the Union Budget 22-23 will bring glad tidings for India’s EdTech ecosystem. The finance minister understands the significance of this sector and she will definitely come up with some constructive plans that will help India become the world’s EdTech capital.
The Author is Founder & CEO at StockDaddy
Majithia’s anticipatory bail plea rejected by Court
A major setback for Senior Akali Leader Bikramjit Singh Majithia came a day before the process of filing nomination papers was to commence as Punjab and Haryana High Court on Monday dismissed the anticipatory bail plea of him.
The order was passed by Justice Lisa Gill after hearing final arguments on his bail plea. Majithia was earlier granted interim anticipatory bail and directed to join the investigation. Punjab government’s stand before Justice Gill on the previous date of hearing was that he had not extended full cooperation during the investigation. His counsel asked for a week to surrender. Justice Gill observed the Court would consider it.
As per experts, Majithia now has the option to move the Supreme Court, following the dismissal of his plea. Else, he can surrender. Among other things, Majithia was—at the time of being granted interim anticipatory bail—asked to keep his mobile phone constantly on and share with the investigating agency his live location through WhatsApp. He was also directed to fully cooperate in the investigation and abide by the conditions, including an appearance before the investigating agency as and when required.
He was further directed not to leave the country till the next date of hearing and provide his mobile number to the investigating agency. He was also asked not to directly or indirectly try contacting any of the witnesses or anyone connected with the case in any manner.
Majithia was apprehending arrest after a case under the provisions of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act was registered at Mohali on 20 December, last year. He moved the High Court after a Mohali Court dismissed his anticipatory bail petition. The case had attained political proportions, with Majithia claiming that the registration of the FIR was vitiated by political and ulterior motives.
DON’T REDUCE NETAJI TO JUST A HOLOGRAM, HIS VALUES ARE WHAT MATTER: THAROOR
A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled a hologram statue of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor asserted that a man of ‘profound secularism’ like him must not be reduced to a mere symbol.
PM Modi, while unveiling the statue at India Gate on Sunday, had said the contribution of our heroes, whose memories were being erased post-Independence, is now being revived. However, Tharoor insists this is “simply not accurate”. “I grew up in an India where Netaji was honoured. There are 164 institutions around the country named after him, all before 2014. No attempt has been made to erase Netaji. Similar things were said about Sardar Patel… I think we’ve to understand there is a political exercise at work here to somehow show that it is this government that is restoring the glory of previous leaders. And, that is simply not accurate,” he told ANI here.
He elaborated, “I’m glad that Netaji and Patel sahab are being honoured. We should be proud of all these people who fought for our independence and gave us the freedom we cherish today. But the important thing to remember is that Netaji should not be reduced to just a symbol or a hologram. He stood for certain admirable values and principles. He was a man of profound secularism, his Azad Hind Fauj had people of every faith – Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs – who served side by side with Netaji in positions of honour and trust. The officer with him when his plane crashed was a Muslim, his colleague was a Christian… This is the kind of ethos Netaji represents. In fact, he was one of the first leaders to value women’s equality. This kind of leader should not be seen as just a hologram. It’s not only valour and heroism he had; there are also certain solid principles which, sadly, the present government is abandoning.”
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