While carrying out the mega cabinet expansion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi focused considerably on election-bound states and backward communities. The strength of leaders from OBC and SC categories in the new team of PM Modi is good. But amid this social engineering exercise, a little bit more needed to be done as far as UP and Uttarakhand are concerned. Nothing was seen in the cabinet expansion aimed at wooing the Jat community which is dominant in Western Uttar Pradesh. This, despite the fact that leaders of agitating farmers belong to this region of UP. Similarly, the Garhwal region, which accounts for a majority of Assembly seats in Uttarakhand, was ignored in the cabinet expansion exercise.
Ajay Bhatt, who was given a ministerial berth, belongs to Kumaun division where Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami also hails from. What was believed was that after the removal of Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, either former CM Tirath Singh Rawat or RS MP Anil Baluni would be accommodated. But Ajay Bhatt made it to the team Modi, resulting in lack of regional balance in Uttarakhand. State BJP president Madan Kaushik is also from non-hill area. Significantly, of all 70 Assembly seats, 41 are from Garhwal region. So, the issue of regional balance being ignored could be a big issue at the time of assembly elections which are due after eight months. Now, NSA Ajit Doval is the only person from Garhwal to hold a significant post in the Modi government.
Maximum number of ministerial slots have gone to Uttar Pradesh, with seven new faces having been accommodated in the cabinet. Of these, six are from eastern UP. Analysts believe that BJP is going to repeat the strategy of 2017 elections when it had tried to woo all backward castes excluding Yadavs. This is the reason why a lot of publicity was given to the government focusing on social engineering ahead of the expansion. A message about the government taking care of backwards in UP was spread through the media.
However, Ajay Mishra, who is a new face, has been accommodated in order to woo the Brahmins in UP. BJP strategists are confident that the forwards will not go away from the saffron outfit, so the more focus is on backwards. In order to give a message to Yadavs, Bhupinder Yadav of Rajasthan, who is also close to Amit Shah, has been given a cabinet berth. He was holding a very important post in the organisation. But what has surprised many is that the Jat community of Western UP has been ignored. What remains to be seen as to what the BJP does to woo the farmers in days to come.
However, PM Modi has ensured that every state is given representation in his team. Ashwin Vaishnav, who was made a minister, is from Odisha quota. But he has his connection with Jodhpur in Rajasthan. Bhupinder Yadav is also from Rajasthan. Modi has tried to ensure a caste and class balance in the cabinet. Five leaders from Gujarat have been included in the team of PM Modi. States such as UP, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Gujarat, Manipur and Goa are going to polls next year. There is no denying BJP’s prestige is at stake in UP and Uttarakhand. Another message which PM Modi gave by removing several senior ministers is that he would not tolerate non-performance. The next year Assembly polls will be the first important test of the newly-expanded cabinet.
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PLAN INDIA ORGANISING 4TH NATIONAL CONFERENCE ‘PLAN FOR EVERY CHILD’
The 4th national conference ‘Plan For Every Child’ – Build Back Better with Girls’ started on Tuesday at The Park Hotel in New Delhi.
The two-day conference, from December 07 to 08, 2021 brings together a series of power-packed discussions that aim at formalising clear action points to mitigate the negative impact of Covid-19 on girls. Organised by Plan India, the conference would be attended by people from diverse backgrounds like jurists, government officials, media, civil society organisations, experts, and child rights practitioners from the national and international sphere to discuss the multifaceted agenda of inclusion, safety and equality for and with girls, in building a better India post the pandemic.
The inaugural session was attended by Sriram Haridass, Representative India and Country Director, Bhutan a.i., United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Dr Dnyaneshwar Manohar Mulay, Member, National Human Rights (NHRC), Major General Manoj Kumar Bindal, Executive Director, National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) and Rathi Vinay Jha, President, Plan India Governing Board and Former Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India. Hon’ble Justice Madan B. Lokur, Former Judge, Supreme Court of India will also join the conference to deliver the special address outlining the need for legal awareness and legal literacy for girls for building back better.
Commenting on Plan India’s commitment to girl-centered community development, Mohammed Asif, Executive Director, Plan India said, “The Covid-19 pandemic has created many challenges and slowed down the pace of development and change that was being achieved through the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao initiative. It is important that collaborative efforts for advancing education, nutrition, health, safety nets for all girls and women are undertaken with renewed vigour by government, civil society, and corporates. At the Plan for Every Child Conference, more than 30 eminent Speakers and experts would deliberate and resent the pathway to girl-centered community development in post-covid situation. They would focus on the solutions and safety nets for millions of girls, children and women with a vision to enable them to learn, lead, decide and thrive.” The two-day conference will facilitate multiple sessions, presentations, and discussions on addressing the barriers for girls and young women in getting access to; inclusive and quality education, health services, child development, and mental well-being, essential medicines, and vaccines, maternal and reproductive health care, food security and nutrition, especially in rural and marginalised communities.
The delegates would also deliberate on how communities, local NGOs, institutions, corporates, and the state could put girls first and develop integrated approaches towards eliminating gender-based violence in all its forms. Plan India would follow up on the recommendations from the conference with policymakers, corporates, and other stakeholders on enabling innovations and new approaches for scale and impact.
Plan India has been successfully organising ‘Plan for Every Child (P4EC) National Conference’ since 2016 with Ministry of Women and Child Development and Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Govt. of India. These national conferences brought in rich and varied perspectives on prevention, system strengthening, safeguarding children, equality for girls and provided recommendations on the priorities and opportunities for the advancement of girls’ rights. In its first year, deliberations from the conference founded the 2016 India Declaration – a commitment by 500 NGOs across 32 states and union territories along with key stakeholders in government, media, and subject matter experts, to protect and uphold the rights of the child. Following this we examined the interface of inclusion, access, and opportunities for girls in the 2017 conference by bringing to the platform, important deliberations regarding solutions and best practices for challenges faced by girls.
Solethreads introduces India’s first-ever: The Solester REUSE Programme
Solethreads, the digital-first, innovation-led, comfort footwear specialist, has launched India’s first-ever and one of its kind product recycling and reuse initiative, ‘The Solester REUSE Programme’ – that aims at sourcing sustainable materials and encouraging the upcycling process.
With this, the brand reinstates and further strengthens its ethical credentials based on the three pillars of Comfort, Innovation and Sustainability that the brand is built upon. Solethreads establishes and promotes circular fashion through The Solester REUSE Programme. This initiative allows anyone to exchange their flip flops and slippers, for reward points, which can be used to purchase the brand’s products. The footwear that the company receives through this initiative is in turn recycled and used to create new Solethreads eco-friendly flip flops.
Solethreads is known for its best flip flops with trailblazing patents and technologies such as proprietary and patented ultra-comfortable SuperFoam™ footbeds made from recycled EVA products. That’s not all. The leading flip flop brand also goes one step further in its efforts to offset its carbon footprint through durable, skid-resistant ECOTREAD™ soles made using recycled rubber.
Any part of the product that isn’t reclaimed or recycled, is 100 percent vegan, which has been sustainably sourced as well. The brand is now using its expertise to ensure these sustainable and innovative processes are being utilised for The Solester REUSE program.
Speaking on The Solester REUSE Programme, Gaurav Chopra, Co-founder said, “With over 30 patents and counting, we lead innovation in the open footwear segment and take active steps in ensuring that all our products are either recycled, reclaimed or vegan; so that we can reduce our carbon footprint and work towards a sustainable tomorrow, today. As a part of this program, we also ensure to donate some items to relevant institutions and foundations, so that they can reuse them.”
Recently, the brand also raised INR 2.5 crores in venture debt funding from Alteria Capital in order to broaden its research and development, product portfolio and to meet the growing demand for the best flip flops in the country.
“With over 5,00,000 customers that are celebrating the joy of walking with Solethreads, we’ve grown into a much-loved and the most comfortable flip-flops brand. This exciting partnership with Alteria Capital will support us in widening our pipeline of sustainable innovation to reach out to a broader base of customers and provide the best flip flops to the consumer,” as per Sumant Kakaria, the CEO and co-founder.
According to Vivek Pillai, Principal, Alteria Capital, “Solethreads’ focus on comfort led by innovation and sustainability has struck a chord with the modern Indian consumer. We have closely watched them scale in a short span of time, and are excited to now partner with the team in building the next big challenger brand in the category.”
Early this year, Solethreads raised Rs 13 crore in Series-A round funding from DSG Consumer Partners and Saama Capital. As the digital-first consumer brand one can buy slippers online and the best sliders for men and women through Solethreads’ D2C website, at all leading e-commerce platforms, including Amazon, Myntra, and Flipkart, and offline retail outlets (MBOs and leading footwear stores such as Metro Shoes).
LYNKEY TO TOKENISE PROPERTY, RESORT DESTINATIONS WORTH $8 BN ON BLOCKCHAIN
Global platform LynKey, which powers luxury resort and vacation property with blockchain and AI technology, on Tuesday announced a project for tokenising and offering NFT solutions of over $8 billion dollars for travel and tourism using smart contracts.
LynKey will digitise luxury resorts and properties at multiple destinations, offering them over its blockchain-powered token marketplace and ecosystem, seeking to tokenise all aspects of property development — purchases, leases, land use, and related tourism entertainment — in an international blockchain-powered ecosystem to connect the people around the world with the best of property technology and premium experiences from resorts and cruises with NFTs.
“Using NFTs with AI data-driven protocol sets, the company is revolutionising the travel destination and entertainment space with smart tourism. LynKey connects the global audience with a blockchain-powered platform and a token that empowers an ecosystem with time-sharing, and reward solutions at premium luxury tourist spots”, said Dinis Guarda, founder and non-executive Chairman of LynKey.
Guarda, who is also the creator of platforms ‘citiesabc.com’, and ‘openbusinesscouncil.org’ has been collaborating with universities including Oxford, added, “By bringing the power of blockchain and NFT technology to the tourism and property industry, and even going forward by creating a related metaverse, we bring comprehensive digital solutions to see the travel and property world in a secure, innovative, rewarding, and trustworthy space”.
Cindy Tran, Co-Founder, and Chairwoman of LynKey said despite globalisation, challenges in the tourism and travel industry persist and that blockchain and NFT technology can address and resolve these issues. “Most global travelers or property buyers have to deal with local currencies, lack of transparency in buying or leasing property and timeshares, and losing money to high exchange fees or worse. Furthermore, travelers cannot personalise their travel experiences, modify, sell, or cancel their ‘trips’. Planning to travel or searching to lease property may be digital, but the rest of the process certainly is far from seamless or perfect with conventional models of tourism and travel. A consolidated marketplace and token solution will solve many of these issues,” she said.
With global tourism forecast to reach a $1.3 trillion mark by the end of 2021, LynKey seeks to target issues like non-transparency, unreliability plaguing the travel industry. Currently, the non-digital format of the current property leasing, licensing, and time-sharing is time-consuming and easily flawed. Additionally, there are often liquidity issues with respect to the global property market, which sometimes leads to price gouging and high costs.
A FESTIVAL THAT BECAME THE TALK OF THE TOWN – THE SHILLONG CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL
Believe me, the craze was all real. The festival has stirred the crowd of the state and beyond for the entire month of November, with the season of blossoms that sprinkled the city in pink. It was branded as the ‘Most Happening Festival of Shillong’ which was awaited by all.
The announcement already had the people talking with its dashing and appealing performer line-ups that most people would never imagine seeing live from the Local YouTube sensations like Jessie Lyngdoh, DJ Wanshan, Shane, DJ Zethan, Rum and Monkeys, B4NSHAN, Lily Sawian to international artists such as PYRA, CNR Mafia, DJ Mari Ferrari and PIXY. The festival kickstarted from November 25 to November 27 with programmes divided between Literary fest at Wards Lake and Polo grounds of the same festival. It got a lot of press for confusion between the two venues but well as they say ‘Any kind of negative publicity is still publicity’, the most anticipated festival became the talk of the town among the localities as well as the rest of the country.
But I would say the festival was rather a ‘Big Hit’ with obvious small hurdles along the way but this was one of the first major festivals in the city so maybe let’s loosen up a little and give the organisers Rockski EMG a pat on their back for pulling off such a package of entertainment to our ‘Sleepy Town’ within a span of one month with their international standard of production and lineup of 4 International Artists amidst travel restrictions.
The performers’ line-up was pretty impressive for a festival in a small town, artists came to perform from the UAE, Portugal, Thailand and Korea. Even though the highlighted acts were that of international artists I would say the spotlight was rather taken by our homegrown local talents. They put up some good performances given the fact that most of them had their debut stage performances at the festival. The festival grounds had an undeniable amount of synergy between the crowd and the performers that were magical to watch. “Having the crowd sing along to our songs word by word is success for us” Says Jessie Lyngdoh, one of Shillong’s upcoming Pop Stars.
Various other competitions provided platforms to the youths to showcase their talents, as well as major designers such as Arif Mukhim, Tatyana Momin, and well-known models like Zuchobeni Tungoe, Marjorie Noreen Dunai from the Northeast, who were also part of the show.
Many had their eyes on the Local Wine and Beer Making competitions and Korean/Japanese food competitions as the voting were done by people’s choice. The festival also had various stalls ranging from food, handmade products, local products, and art that were available for attendees to buy from. The food stalls at the festival were at a different game of their own, it was a food paradise for meat-eaters and to those open to trying new things as it had a various range of food from traditional to Japanese.
The people who attended the festival ranged from locals to people travelling from around the country just to be part of it. I spoke to a couple of tourists who travelled specially to attend the festival and they said ‘I couldn’t believe something like this happens in Shillong’ and they couldn’t believe that the people of Shillong were so civilised, and that is true the crowd were amazing but just because of some we are again branded as the ‘always aggressive crowd’.
This festival had me wondering about the kind of news and media we consume in the state, the biggest event was not even broadcasted once on any local channels and a small incident at the entry was depicted as almost an act of terrorism.
The Shillong Cherry Blossom 2021 was undeniably a successful festival and the flock of the crowd who attended the festival says it all. I am really glad something as huge as this festival happened at our home grounds, hoping this would ignite more festivals with more platforms for local talents.
UTTARAKHAND IS HOME TO FIVE SPECIES OF FLYING SQUIRRELS
Forest Department conducted a statewide Study to see the presence of flying squirrels in the state. It has been now established that Uttarakhand is also home to five species of flying squirrels out of 13 flying squirrels found in India. These are: Kashmir flying squirrel (Spotted 25 years ago in Ranikhet), Woolly flying squirrel (Spotted 20 years ago in Pakistan), Indian giant flying squirrel, red giant flying squirrel, and White-bellied Flying squirrel.
The study was conducted across the state between October 2020 and July 2021. It is claimed by the authorities that it is the first such study conducted by any forest department of the country.
The study aims to understand theirs’ habitat, distribution, threats and also chalking out the conservation strategy. Six different sites— Ranikhet, Devprayag, Ranichauri, Deoban, Govind Wildlife Sanctuary, and Bhaironghati— were selected and data were recorded on various parameters like forest composition, physical appearances, nesting behavior, gliding distance, activities/behavioral patterns, etc.
“Among all five species, the red giant flying squirrel was spotted most frequently in different habitats while maximum sighting of the squirrel was reported from the Tehri Forest division”, said Sanjiv Chaturvedi, CCF Research wing, Uttarakhand forest department.
“India is home to 13 species of flying squirrels and 5 of them are present in Uttarakhand as our findings. It is time we conserve their habitat which is under threat due to multiple reasons ranging from deforestation, wildfires, urbanization. A conservation strategy needs to be formulated to save them from the adverse impact of changing atmosphere,” said Jyoti Prakash, junior research fellow of the research wing of the Uttarakhand forest department.
MAMATA ATTACKS CENTRE, LINKS NAGALAND ISSUE WITH THAT OF COOCH BEHAR
KOLKATA: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee linked the Nagaland incident with that of Cooch Behar during an administrative review meeting of north and south Dinajpur in Raiganj on Tuesday. While 15 civilians and a soldier were killed in an ambush and retaliatory violence in Nagaland’s Mon district on December 4, three persons died in border firing by Border Security Force (BSF) on the international border between and Bangladesh in Cooch Behar on November 12. The chief minister said: “What problem you have seen in Nagaland, similarly a few days ago, three people were shot dead in Cooch Behar. I don’t want any clashes without informing the local police. So, the police have to be more careful.” Mamata also attacked the Union Home Ministry’s decision to amend its 2014 notification on jurisdiction of the BSF to exercise its powers in states where it guards the international border. The chief minister claimed that law and order was a matter of the state and that right was being violated in the new decree of BSF issued by the Centre. Enquiring about the law and order situation in Dinajpur district, Mamata said: “You have a problem here. The BSF occasionally enters the village. There are also allegations of torture. They can even be seen in the line during voting.” She claimed that there were problems in districts like Murshidabad, Malda, north Dinajpur and south Dinajpur.
In the wake of the BSF notification, the Trinamool leader had written to the Prime Minister demanding cancellation of the decree and also directed the Trinamool MPs to be vocal in the Parliament. By raising the Nagaland issue, the chief minister increased the pressure on the Centre on the BSF issue.
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