Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. None of us could have ever imagined that the entire world would be under lockdown, facing one common enemy. Just as the enemy is common, so is the solution — technology. But the solution comes with a hefty tab. It could end up taking away our livelihood forever. We’ve all seen the movies. Robots replacing humans, world being taken over by AI. It has been on screen ever since 1927 (Metropolis), 1968 (2001: A Space Odyssey) to as recent as 2013 (Her) and 2014 (Ex Machina). Just like how we saw pandemics killing the entire world in movies as well. The line between fiction and non-fiction seems to be very slim (and grim) right now. We stand at a crossroads where one-way technology is the only way we connect, create and deliver. Technology is taking over almost every aspect of our day-to-day work. Social distancing being the new norm needs lesser human interactions, but that doesn’t mean work has to stop. So, who is going to do that work? Robots.
According to reports, on an average there has been a 13% rise in the utilisation of brain-powered robots in retail since January 2020. Various countries and companies round the world are using robots as a medium for help during Covid-19. South Korea is using robots to measure temperatures and distribute hand sanitisers. Walmart is using robots to scrub its floors. Brain Corp, a San Diego-based company, makes software for automated floor cleaners. Fast-food chains like McDonald’s have been testing robots as cooks and servers. Amazon and Walmart already use robots in their warehouses, but due to the pandemic the companies are looking to increase their usage. We might think that technology can’t replace the human mind. Well we might be mistaken. Tech companies are expanding the use of AI. Facebook and Google are relying on AI to remove inappropriate posts since the companies’ human content moderators can’t review certain things from home. AI is being developed that can replace school tutors, fitness trainers and financial advisers.
In India, the Sawai Man Singh Hospital in Rajasthan is conducting a series of trials on a humanoid robot to check if it can deliver medicine and food to Covid-19 patients. Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Delhi are also testing robots in the medical sector. We have seen an escalated use of robots since 2017. At this stage we see an exponential growth but it only depends on humans and which way they would like to swing the tech sword. The catch is, by making this choice to live we may end up losing livelihood forever.
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ARMY TO UNVEIL NEW DIGITAL COMBAT DRESS
The Indian Army would unveil its new digital pattern combat dress in January next year during the Army Day celebrations. “A digital pattern uniform would be unveiled during the Army Day celebrations where it would be worn by one of the contingents,” Army officials said. The Army Day parade would also see contingents wearing different combat uniforms worn by the force in the past, they said.
The decision to bring out the new combat dress for the force was taken at the recently held Army Commanders’ Conference, the officials said. These camouflage uniforms would be totally different from the existing dress and the shirts would not be required to be tucked in by troops. The new camouflage dress would include a mix of colours including earthen and olive.
‘24 nations affected by Omicron variant’
As the new strain of Covid-19 Omicron has reached several countries, World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday said there is a “toxic mix” of low vaccine coverage and very low testing—a recipe for breeding and amplifying variants.
“WHO continues to call on all countries to optimize public health and social measures and ensure that high risk and vulnerable individuals in all countries are fully vaccinated,” Tedros said at a press briefing. Tedros suggested against blanked ban on travel and said the variant can be kept in check by mandatory quarantine of international travellers.
On Thursday, the Omicron variant was reported to have reached 24 countries, including Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Press Agency said the citizen carrying the variant came from a North African country.
Amid the scare, the government made RT-PCR mandatory at Delhi airport, for all flyers coming from abroad.
Tedros said: “We are learning more all the time about omicron but there is still more to learn about its effect on transmission, severity of disease and the effectiveness of tests therapeutics and vaccines.” Tedros was keen to call on all countries to rational proportional risk reduction measures in keeping with international health regulations, this includes measures to delay or reduce the spread.
“Several WHO advisory groups have met over the last couple of days to evaluate the emerging evidence, and prioritise the studies needed to answer these questions,” he added. Amid the new variant, many countries have imposed ban on travel since the new strain was discovered at the end of last week.
‘MODI GOVT WORKS IN COOPERATIVE FEDERALISM SPIRIT’
Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat on Thursday asserted in the Rajya Sabha that the ‘Dam Safety Bill-2019’ will not encroach on the powers of the states, stating that “we (Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government) work in cooperative federalism”. Addressing the Upper House in his concluding statement for the passage of the Bill, Shekhawat said: “The Centre hasn’t any intention of taking over the power of the States as well as encroaching any of their rights.”
The Union Minister mentioned the point as it was the major concern of various Opposition parties. Shekhawat said 90 per cent of India’s dams are built on inter-state rivers. He explained that when water is released by a state then the states downstream are affected due to this. “There have been several efforts undertaken to ensure a national body on dams has been constituted since the last 40 years. The Centre is trying to ensure that the body is constituted to ensure dam safety,” Shekhawat said.
The Bill proposes the constitution of the National Committee on Dam Safety and the National Dam Safety Authority. The National Committee on Dam Safety will form policies and recommend regulations to the National Dam Safety Authority.
The National Dam Safety Authority implements the policies advised to it. It will also constitute two state bodies—State Committee on Dam Safety and State Dam Safety Authority—if the legislation is passed. The state committees’ functions are restricted at the state level and are akin to those of national committees. The Centre, can, however, amend the functions of these state committees through a notification, if and when it deems necessary.
The provisions of the Bill are proposed to be applied to all specified dams in the country which have a height of more than 15 metres, or between 10 metres to 15 metres. The Lok Sabha had passed the Bill on August 2, 2019. Mentioning that 22 MPs took part in the debate on the Bill, Shekhawat said: “The people of the country have been waiting for the Bill for the last 40 years as it ensures the security of those residing in downstream states, and that the move is to create an environment of security by Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government.” Rejecting claims of Opposition leaders that states were not approached before the Bill was moved, the Minister said that a Bill linked to dam safety was circulated to States in 2002 based on 1982 recommendations but only Bihar showed its positive approach then. The Minister made it clear that the Centre neither has any intention to encroach the powers of state on the ownership of dams, its water, electricity or operation, it only made an amendment to give power to the Centre to keep a tab on the safety procedures.
Kashmir sees highest-ever tourist footfall in 7 years
A total of 127,605 tourists visited Kashmir in November this year, which is more than all the figures in the month in the past seven years, according to the Jammu and Kashmir government officials. The officials are planning to organise various festivals for the winter season in the Union Territory.
According to the official, 6,327 tourists had visited Kashmir in November 2020 which is way lower than the current figure of nearly 127,000. Director, Tourism Kashmir, Dr G.N. Itoo said, “On the direction of the LG, we conducted some of the iconic festivals like houseboat festival, the Sufi festival in which the national level celebrities had participated and also literary festival because of which a buzz was created at the national as well as the international level. So the tourists from all over the world preferred visiting Kashmir. Almost 1,27,000 tourists have visited in November and almost 93,000 tourists have visited in October. It is the first time in the past 7 years, that tourists in such large number have turned up in October and November.”
Itoo further said that this is the result of a vigorous campaign including the roadshows in the country to promote tourism in Kashmir along with other measures to attract the tourists after the second wave of Covid-19. “The department has started a vigorous promotional campaign after the first wave of Covid-19. We have conducted almost 21 roadshows within the country. When the second wave hit the country, we vaccinated all the members of the tour and travel fraternity as a confidence-building measure,” he said.
PARAM BIR SINGH SUSPENDED WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT
The government of Maharashtra on Thursday placed former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh under suspension with immediate effect until further orders, said the State Home Department on Thursday.
During this period Singh shall be paid subsistence allowance, dearness allowance and other allowances as admissible under Rule 4 of All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969, on the production of certificate that he is not engaged in any other employment, said the Maharashtra government. The headquarter of Singh, during this period, shall be the office of the Director-General of Police, Maharashtra State, Mumbai and he shall not leave the said headquarter without obtaining the permission of the Director-General of Police, Maharashtra State, added the government.
INDIA FORESEES ‘VERY INTENSIVE’ ENGAGEMENT DURING PUTIN’S VISIT
Ahead of the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit next week, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Thursday said that India foresees a “very intensive” engagement culminating with the Summit. Putin will arrive in New Delhi on 6 December for the annual India-Russia summit. This will be the first in-person meeting of the Russian President and Prime Minister Narendra Modi after their meeting on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Brasilia in November 2019. “The visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin will take place on 6th December. He will be here for the 21st India-Russia Annual Summit. There will be a series of meetings. We foresee a very intensive engagement during the day and culminating with the Summit,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said during a weekly media briefing.
“Day will begin with Defence Minster and Russian counterpart co-chairing intergovernmental commission. External Affairs Minister will have a bilateral meeting with their Russian counterpart. It’ll be followed by an inaugural meeting of the newly instituted 2+2 dialogue mechanism at the level of Foreign & Defence Ministers,” he said.
Bagchi said that the 21st India-Russia Annual Summit will be held in the afternoon, and India looks forward to welcoming President Putin to New Delhi for this Summit. “A joint statement is proposed to be issued at the end of the Summit,” he added.
During the summit, the leaders will review the state and prospects of bilateral relations between the two nations and will discuss ways to further strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries. The last India-Russia annual summit took place in 2019 during the visit of Prime Minister Modi to Vladivostok city in Russia. The annual summit could not take place in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic situation.
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