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Severe Covid situation, whole country potentially at risk: Govt

Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Gujarat account for 78.56% of the new cases.

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India is facing an increasingly severe Covid-19 situation in some districts and the whole country is potentially at risk and all efforts to contain the virus should be taken, said Dr V.K. Paul, Member (Health) of the NITI Aayog, at a press conference on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra continued to report the highest daily new Covid-19 cases with 31,643 in the last 24 hours, followed by Punjab with 2,868 and Karnataka with 2,792 new cases, informed an official statement. With this, Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Gujarat cumulatively accounted for 78.56 percent of the new cases, according to the Central government.

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan added that Maharashtra also accounts for eight out of the ten districts with the most number of active cases across the country. The ten districts are Pune, Mumbai, Nagpur, Thane, Nashik, Aurangabad, Bengaluru Urban, Nanded, Delhi, and Ahmednagar.

However, the Centre also signalled on Tuesday that Maharashtra’s call for door-to-door Covid vaccination might not be met for now. The health ministry, though, indicated that it has received no formal request yet from the state, which is seeing the highest numbers in the emergent second wave of the infection.

Earlier, the Brihanmumbai Corporation chief Iqbal Chahal had told reporters, “We requested the state to in turn request the Centre to allow us to do door-to-door vaccination”. “When the Centre’s team had visited 10 days ago, I had requested them to allow us to go door to door, so we can go on vaccination drive in a big way,” he said, adding the request was also made during the Centre’s video conference with the states earlier this month.

However, Rajesh Bhushan said, “Till date, we have not received any specific update about what you call door to door vaccination”. The clarification came amid the government’s insistence on “saturation” vaccination in districts that are showing a surge. The Centre also responded that there is a need to exponentially increase tests in states and Union Territories that are reporting a spike in Covid-19 cases. “We spoke to representatives of these states. We asked them why they are not increasing testing when cases are increasing. It is essential to increase testing with a focus on RT-PCR tests. Rapid Antigen tests should be used for screening in densely populated areas,” Bhushan said.

Bhushan, in a letter addressed to the Chief Secretary of all the states and Union territories, also emphasised, “…efficient implementation of “Test Track and Treat” remains the only proven strategy for control of the transmission. Each district, irrespective of whether it is seeing a surge right now, or is with a current low burden, should make a District Action Plan with clear timelines and responsibilities.” It added that public health measures to contain the virus by quarantining and testing individuals suspected to be positive including close contacts of positive persons (at least 25 to 30 such contacts per positive person) shall be done in every state.

Bhushan’s letter further elaborated that the said action plan shall include mapping of cases, reviewing sub-area wise indicators, reviewing the geographical spread of the infection on a day-to-day basis and setting up of Emergency Operations Centres.

Apart from the action plan, the Health Secretary suggested that individual actions such as the proper wearing of masks covering the nose and mouth, maintaining a distance of 6 feet from others, and sanitizing one’s hands frequently shall be checked and enforced.

In the letter, Bhushan outlined, “After having successfully brought down the number of new Covid-19 cases from mid-September 2020 to February 2021, India is now witnessing a rapid rise in cases. You have been leading the effort of Covid pandemic management with your teams so far. The current rise in cases is of concern and has the potential of overwhelming health care systems, unless checked right now.”

Underscoring that “any complacency at this stage, and at any level, will have heavy costs”, the Centre also said, “All districts with high case load and fast growth of cases must ensure 100% saturation vaccination of the priority age group of 45 year and above, in the coming two weeks.”

In what is billed as the largest vaccination drive in the world, as many as 6,11,13,354 vaccine doses have been administered through 10,07,091 sessions till 8 am on March 30. The Union Health Secretary also informed that the recovery rate in the country stands at 94 percent and the case fatality rate stands at 1.34 percent.

The country’s present active caseload now stands at 4.47 per cent of India’s total positive cases. According to Bhushan, the weekly national average positivity rate is 5.65 percent. Maharashtra has a weekly average of 23 percent, Punjab 8.82 percent, Chhattisgarh 8 percent, Madhya Pradesh 7.82 percent, Tamil Nadu 2.50 percent, Karnataka 2.45 percent, Gujarat 2.2 percent, and Delhi 2.04 percent.

The health secretary also said that 807 cases of the UK strain, 47 cases of the South African variant, and one case of the Brazilian variant of the Covid-19 virus have been found in India so far.

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I always go to a place, soak in the vibe, and then think about what I can create: Nidhi Khurana

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Nidhi Khurana is a travel content creator who loves exploring offbeat places. Her content inspires young women to take the road less travelled when it comes to recreational travel. We hosted Nidhi for a frank interview for our latest series, NewsX Influencer A-List. Below are the excerpts from the interview:

We first asked Nidhi to describe her experience with being a travel content creator, to which she told us, “To be very honest, people think that travelling and content creation is an easy job and it is enjoyable, which it is at times, but when it becomes your job, it gets tedious. You are caught up in so many things that you actually forget to enjoy the place.” Summing up her experiences, she said, “So this is what happens with me. I love what I do, I love travelling, but at times I miss out on experiencing things because I’m busy recording them for my audience.” 

Nidhi believes that spontaneity is what keeps her going. She said, “I’m the kind of person who is very spontaneous about things. I do not preplan my shoots. I always go to a place, soak in the vibe, and then think about what I can create for this beautiful place, for my audience.” She also spoke about the technical side of content creation, “When it comes to shooting, editing, it is a whole lot of process, to be very honest. It, at times, takes a toll on you but I believe if you love something, if you’re passionate about something, you just do it.” 

We were then curious to know Nidhi’s views about the struggles that women often go through while travelling solo. Nidhi shared with us, “So, travelling as a woman comes with pros, as well as cons. Pros in the way that at times if there is a long queue and most of the people in the queue are males, and if they see you standing there, they, out of generosity, would let you cut to the beginning of the queue.” She then lists some tips for women travelling alone. “I have been travelling since two years ago but I have not really come across anything that would make me feel unsafe and the key point here would be you choosing the right place and the right moment. It’s on us how we keep ourselves safe because we cannot guess what the other person has in their mind,” said Nidhi. She also advised women to properly research their place of stay and carry pepper spray, among other things. 

For our next question, we asked Nidhi about her best travel experience, to which she narrated about her trip to Goa that she had to, unfortunately, cut short. “That was a very beautiful experience for me in the sense that I got to discover myself. I have been to Goa many times, but this time I had thought that I’ll be exploring the unexplored Goa – the Goa that is beyond beaches,” she said. Narrating the experience further, Nidhi said, “So, I went for forest hikes and I, literally, saw one of the most offbeat beaches in Goa. So this was one of my best travel experiences to date because I was able to rediscover myself as a person, myself as a creator.”

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ART EXHIBITION UNRAVELS DICHOTOMY, MULTIPLICITY OF URBAN LANDSCAPE

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On a busy Saturday evening at the Triveni Kala Sangam in New Delhi, amidst the intellectual conversations, the setting sun and the aroma of filter coffee in the air, stood a shiny white exhibition room, with huge pieces of monochromatic art hung at the walls and people silently observing them, then murmuring something and then looking again.

A new art exhibition titled ‘Layered Dichotomy’ by Delhi-based artist Shruti Binay is being presented in this room at the Triveni Gallery, Mandi House, from November 21 to 30. Shruti, a young, budding artist, through this exhibition of paintings, drawings and mixed media works, attempts to “embrace life’s multiplicity”.

Talking about what inspired this collection, Shruti told ANI, “I am fascinated with the things around me. I stay in Gurgaon, so, for me, buildings, metro bridges, structures, architecture have always fascinated me. I have simplified those structures into lines and forms. I find the urban landscape interesting because I think I see life in it. You see the fabric in some of these paintings, that gives a different kind of life to the piece. In all my paintings you will see something moving, the sense of life is there in most of them.”

She added, “I have tried to include human forms as well because that is the best way to express myself, by connecting with my own self. Most of the paintings have been liked by people and I see the ones with human forms are being liked the most, as people most easily can connect to them.”

In the exhibition the theme of the collection revolves around dichotomy, and it could be seen and reflected in varied ways from one piece to another.

“I like to play with the medium, so in my paintings, you would see different layers created, with different kinds of textures such as paper, fabric, I’ve used tea bags and paper pulp, old paper. There’s a plane surface, and then there is a textured surface as well. Somewhere there is strength and somewhere it’s all worn out. Mostly they are monochromatic, with a wash-off look…but then some colours like blues, greens, reds stand out in other places. That’s the dichotomy I’ve tried to present,” she explained.

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URANUS COLLECTS OVER 2.5 TONS OF USED COOKING OIL TO TURN IT INTO BIODIESEL

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Providing a commercially viable solution to the food industry to dispose of its used cooking oils (UCO), Uranus Oil Corp, a Chennai-based startup in renewable energy and waste management solutions, collects UCO for a price and supplies them to manufacture biodiesel, a cleaner and greener form of diesel.

Uranus has recently set a record by collecting over 2.5 tonnes of UCO in a month from restaurants, hostels, canteens and other similar sources in and around Chennai. UCO poses a threat to human health, when consumed, and to the environment, when dumped untreated. Hence, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India and Biodiesel Association of India, have recently launched the Repurpose UCO (RUCO) program, to prevent UCO from getting into the food supply chain or the environment, and to use it for producing biofuel.

Uranus is an authorised UCO aggregator, enrolled in the RUCO program. The company distributes ‘RUCO cans’ to hotels, hostels, canteens, and other such outlets to collect the UCO, and supplies the collected oil to Pan Oleo Energy Limited (formerly, DCI Limited), a large-scale biodiesel manufacturer and renewable energy company in Tamil Nadu, which converts UCO into biodiesel, a cleaner and greener form of diesel.

Uranus is scaling up its operations rapidly in order to collect about 15 tonnes of UCO per day by the end of 2022.

In his comments, Mr. Vasanth JB, Co-founder of Uranus Oil Corp, said, “Edible oils are the primary source of unsaturated fats and vitamin E in human diets. They are used in frying, baking, and other types of cooking and food preparations in restaurants, fast foods and households. However, when cooking oils are reheated again and again, they release toxic substances. These oils also increase free radicals in the body which in turn cause inflammation and various chronic diseases. If there is no alternative to collect UCO, they could find their way to smaller restaurants, dhabas, and street vendors or be discarded in an environmentally hazardous manner. Our model offers a commercially appealing and effective solution in this space.”

UCO is a key ingredient in making biofuel, specifically biodiesel which can be used as an alternative to conventional petrodiesel.

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Tiktok rival Lomotif launches in India

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With Tiktok’s ban in India, the country continues to witness a rise in content creators, who continue to experiment with short video formats, and apps that become a voice for them to showcase their talent, we have yet another popular US-based app: ‘Lomotif’ joins the bandwagon.

Featuring the currently popular short video format, the app has entered the Indian market at just about the right time with the space constantly evolving. Founded by Singapore-based Paul Yang in 2014, and acquired by ZASH Global Media and Entertainment, the app gives access to a global audience, and its patent technology allows users to immerse themselves in a super-engaging reel format of content. At the same time, with a comprehensive platform such as ‘Lomotif’, competitors should be alert because they are here to stand out.

Since TikTok was banned, the country has seen several local apps emerge and try to stir creators into telling their stories. LOMOTIF, firstly, does not just want the users to create their stories, but do so uniquely and in a way that will make their audience ‘move’ by just being themselves.

Secondly, they want the creators to create and foster global partnerships and that itself makes them a winner. So, with pre-build editing and mixing available and constant endeavors by the app creators to localize content for the Indian audience, we sure have a winner materialising.

‘We were very excited with the initial response to the beta testing of our app in India, which led to launching the app in India with the support from Socialkyte, our strategic partner. The content creation market is ever-growing and LOMOTIF will emerge as a platform where we can see a spirit of collaboration, build a community of creators who want to showcase their realness via their content and a source of entertainment for the viewers. I thoroughly enjoyed the launch and the response was overwhelming.’ says Ted Farnsworth, Chairman & Co-Founder of ZASH Global Media and Entertainment.

Gurjot Batra, Co-founder of Socialkyte says “We always believed Lomotif would be a huge success in India and to see our initial response from the Indian market even exceeded our expectations.”

Vidur Mahajan & Bharat Agarwal, co-founders of Socialkyte added, “We believe collaborations are the new economy and are very excited to bring the Lomotif platform to our creators. The app’s advanced editing tools will truly help them explore their talents”

Interestingly, with a soft launch, they have already kickstarted and initiated a dance-off challenge with none other than the Dance King himself i.e. Remo D’souza. They also had several exciting challenges executed like a #DanceRemix with Shakti Mohan spearheading the same. Several artists have already started using the app to launch their music videos.

On a side note, Socialkyte will enable access to their network of 100,000 influencers collaborating and growing together. They have a specialised dashboard with advanced filters that enables brands to find the right creators for their campaigns. With these common goals and interests, this partnership is bound to be a successful one. Taking all of this into consideration, it’s evident that their vision is simple: to get creators to create diversified and unique content to grow exponentially.

The launch this weekend was spearheaded with Ted Farnsworth, highlighting the app features alongwith popular actors like Asim Riaz, Ravi Kishen, Sanjeeda Sheikh, Adaa Khan, Vikkas Manaktala, YouTuber Anushka Sen and singer Tulsi Kumar. The launch also saw singers Shirley Sethia and Guru Randhawa rocking the stage with their performances.

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OUR USP IS TIMELESSNESS: ROHINI SINGH GUPTA, CO-FOUNDER, JUST CHIFFONS

In an exclusive interview with NewsX as part of NewsX India A-List, Rohini Singh Gupta opened up about her brand Just Chiffons, the USP of her company and much more.

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Rohini Singh Gupta, Co-founder, Just Chiffons, recently joined NewsX for an interview as a part of NewsX India A-list. In the exclusive interview, she opened up about her brand Just Chiffons, the USP of her company and much more. Excerpts:

Speaking about her brand Just Chiffons, Rohini said, “Just Chiffons was started by my mother. She wanted to look for nice chiffons for herself in Indore. She could not find it in the market and so she thought she might as well design herself and started making a few. The relatives started coming in and said, ‘it looks so nice, give it to us,’ and that is how we traditionally started. Slowly and steadily, it has become a name in Indore and in India as well. “

Talking about her journey with the brand and how did she come on board, she reminisced, “I would accompany her in her errands the market and sit with her, the workers and just listen and observe. I also studied BSc so it was very different but I always have an interest in being with my mother all the time, when back home in Indore. I had that interest and slowly when I moved back to Indore after my studies, I started taking an even deeper interest. It came naturally sitting with her and talking about sarees and the colours, the designs. It came very naturally.”

When asked about the USP of Just Chiffons, “Basically, I feel our USP is timelessness. The chiffons are so versatile, yet classic. They can be worn over the period of time. It can be passed through generations. They are very elegant.”

Giving us an insight into the first exhibition of Just Chiffons and response over the years, she said “Over the years, initially people said, ‘oh this is back in fashion.’ We have actually revived it again and now they feel okay, it looks really nice. Another point is our price point. They are not that expensive and cost about 8 to 25 thousand, which is very much viable with everybody. The response has been really good. Since we have also launched our website last year and because of our Instagram and social media, it just come up. Slowly and steadily, we are gaining followers and are getting a lot of queries.”

Talking about the impact of Covid on Just Chiffons, she said, “Covid was obviously a shock for us. The first month, everything was cancelled. We didn’t know what to do but we have to look for the benefit of our artisans and our workers.”

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HUNAR HAAT CREATED NEWER OPPORTUNITIES FOR ARTISANS AND CRAFTSMEN: MUKHTAR NAQVI

With 300 stalls, this is the largest participation by the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs in the India International Trade Fair this year.

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Union Minister for Minority Affairs and Deputy Leader, Rajya Sabha, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, while speaking at the conclusion of the annual Hunar Haat event, said that the event had generated crores of rupees for artisans and craftsmen who were engaged in making indigenous products.

Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi at the event

Over 550 artisans and craftsmen from more than 30 States & UTs participated in the 33rd Hunar Haat

Crowd around the stalls of artisans and craftsmen at the event

Over 550 artisans and craftsmen from more than 30 States/UTs participated in the 33rd “Hunar Haat”, organised at India International Trade Fair at Pragati Maidan from 14 to 27 November.

While talking to reporters on the conclusion of Hunar Haat, Naqvi said that while people purchased indigenous exquisite handmade products worth crores of rupees, the artisans and craftsmen have also received orders worth crores of rupees from national as well as international buyers.

“Hunar Haat” was also awarded the prestigious IITF2021 Silver Medal for strengthening its commitment to “Vocal for Local” and its strong presence at Trade Fair.

According to Naqvi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “mantra” of “Vocal for Local” and “Swadeshi to Swavlamban” have encouraged and promoted India’s traditional and ancestral legacy of handloom-handicraft.

With 300 stalls, this was the largest participation by the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs in the India International Trade Fair this year. Canara Bank had set up a stall in the “Hunar Haat” to provide easy loans to artisans and craftsmen for employment and self-employment.

Renowned artists such as Annu Kapoor, Vinod Rathore, Sudesh Bhosale, Roop Kumar Rathore and Sonali Rathore, Suresh Wadekar and Padma Wadekar, Amit Kumar, Mohit Khanna, Prem Bhatia, Osman Mir, Rekha Raaj, Vivek Mishra, Ankita Pathak, Priya Mallick, Bhupendra Singh Bhuppi, Mirza Sisters, Posh James and others made memorable spectacular performances every evening at “Hunar Haat”.

The minister said that Hunar Haat’s virtual and online platform, and GeM portal, have opened enormous opportunities for economic empowerment of artisans and craftsmen. More than 7 lakh artisans, craftsmen and people associated with them have been provided employment and employment opportunities through “Hunar Haat” in the last about 6 years.

The next “Hunar Haat” will be organised at Surat from11 to 20 December; JLN Stadium, New Delhi from 22 December 2021 to 2 January 2022. “Hunar Haats” will also be organised in Mysuru, Guwahati, Pune, Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Patna, Puducherry, Mumbai, Jammu, Chennai, Chandigarh, Agra, Prayagraj, Goa, Jaipur, Bengaluru, Kota, Sikkim, Srinagar, Leh, Shillong, Ranchi, Agartala and other places in the coming days.

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