With only 33 deaths per million (dpm) due to Covid-19, Uttar Pradesh has a lower dpm than the national average and one of the lowest among large states in the country. This statistic is even more striking as the state’s population density is among the highest in the country. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, UP’s low death rate as well as high recovery rate has been a mystery to data scientists and experts.
Gautam Menon, professor of physics and biology at Ashoka University, was quoted by IndiaSpend in November as saying, “We just do not know why states like Uttar Pradesh have seen such few cases.” While the IndiaSpend article raised concerns of underreporting by the state, a report by SBI Research published in November ranked Uttar Pradesh among the states that have managed the Covid-19 situation “quite well”, as compared to Maharashtra, Karnataka, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and Andhra Pradesh, which have “done badly”.
So, what explains UP’s exceptional performance and what can other states learn from it? It seems the SBI report hit the nail on the head. The state government’s clear, calculated and timely response to the pandemic seems to be a major factor in its performance. This was also acknowledged by the WHO country representative, Dr Roderico Ofrin, in November, when he stated that, “The UP government’s strategic response to Covid-19 by stepping up contact tracing efforts is exemplary and can serve as a good example for other states”.
As part of the contact tracing strategy, around 70,000 frontline workers were deployed across the state to trace high-risk contacts (HRC) of all Covid-19 cases. An assessment of the quality of contact tracing of 58,000 positive cases across 75 districts in UP revealed that around 93% of HRC were traced and tested. This was done with technical support provided by the WHO. To put this in context, let us look at the quality of contact tracing in Maharashtra, the state with the second largest population in the country, after UP. As reported to the media by an official of the Maharashtra government in September, across 31 districts, the average number of contacts of Covid patients traced stood at 10, against the ICMR mandated norm of 20. This number went down to just 5-6 in districts like Satara, Ahmednagar, Amravati, and Palghar. To be fair, contact tracing is a herculean task that requires multiple permutations and probability assessments along with a dedicated frontline workforce, more so in large states. Still, the difference in the quality of contact tracing in the two most populous states is striking.
Also Read: Andhra Pradesh’s mystery illness
Part of UP’s contact tracing strategy included state-wide surveillance to continuously identify and monitor patients with Influenza-like Illness (ILI) and Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI). The Chief Minister, who had ordered the sealing of the state’s inter-state and international borders even before the nationwide lockdown, set up a taskforce of eleven senior officers called “Team-11” at an early stage to plan and review the measures being taken to manage Covid-19. The taskforce helped the administration in proactively identifying likely issues of public concern due to the lockdown restrictions and taking adequate measures before those issues got out of hand.
The provision of a doorstep delivery mechanism for daily needs was a key outcome of these efforts of Team-11, as were other proactive measures to quickly increase the state’s testing capacity and health infrastructure. While the state had just one lab and a testing capacity of 60 on March 22, it now has 234 labs, including 131 government ones, testing around 1.7 lakh samples every day. On October 1, UP became the first state in India to have completed 1 crore Covid tests, out of which 42% were RT-PCR. Similarly, while the state had no Covid hospitals in March, it now has 674 with the number of available beds standing at 1.5 lakh.
The Integrated Command and Control Centre set up by the CM as part of the office of the State Relief Commissioner has worked as a key focal point when it comes to the management of new cases. Apart from contact tracing, testing and home visits, the ICCC utilised the CM helpline for Covid patients as well as an online portal called UPCovid19tracks to ensure the tracking of patients longitudinally in real time. This helped the government in adapting its responses to a continuously changing situation. Similar ICCCs have been set up at the district level to streamline relief measures locally.
This multi-layered, comprehensive administrative mechanism to tackle the pandemic has been supplemented with a series of relief measures for returning migrants from other states, people who have lost their livelihood as well as other marginalised groups. The available data from state government sources indicate that around 40 lakh migrants came back to UP after the lockdown. As part of the relief measures,
– 6.7 crore food packets were distributed to the returning migrants along with one-month ration kits.
– Around 53 lakh construction workers, street vendors and daily wagers were given INR 1,000 in the form of Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT).
– Advanced pension was paid to around 86,71,781 senior citizens and disabled and destitute individuals.
– Under MGNREGS, over 17 lakh labourers were paid INR 25 crores in honouraria by the creation of 22.9 crore man-days.
– Additionally, around 40 lakh labourers underwent skill mapping and around 8 lakh MSMEs were made functional, employing over 50 lakh labourers.
– Around 25 lakh new jobs were created through 5.8 lakh new units.
This list of measures is long and commendable, but the nerve centre of UP’s Covid management success has been the state headquarter which seems to have equally emphasised anticipatory management and integrated networks for real time monitoring of a rapidly developing context. It is reasonable to say that the state government’s remarkably high operational efficiency seems to have made a sea of difference and there is much to learn for other states from it.
Neha Simlai is the founder-director of SPRF, a New Delhi-based policy think tank focused on social and political research. Jitendra Bisht is a senior analyst at SPRF.
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ON DOCTORS’ DAY, NETIZENS THANK DOCTORS FOR THEIR IMMENSE CONTRIBUTION
As India celebrated National Doctors’ Day on Friday, politicians, business leaders and social media users took to Twitter to thank doctors for their immense contribution and serve to the nation. #NationalDoctorsDay took the top trend as wishes poured in on social media. Leading the celebrations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared a video on social media and said, “Doctors Day greetings to all hardworking doctors who play a key role in saving lives and making our planet healthier.”
Union minister Nitin Gadkari remembered Bharat Ratna Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy, who was an Indian physician, freedom fighter, educationist and philanthropist. “Deepest gratitude to all the doctors on National Doctors Day. I salute their tireless efforts in keeping us safe during the global pandemic,” he said.
Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan also remembered Bharat Ratna Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy and tweeted, “Remembering Bharat Ratna Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy, one of the pioneers of healthcare sector on National Doctors Day. Today , let us express our gratitude and take a moment to appreciate all our doctors for their round-the-clock efforts for a healthy and fit society.”
Fearing a layoff? Devise an action plan
India›s workforce has been at the receiving end of the economic impact of the pandemic. While many of the employees faced salary cuts up to 40-50%, there are a significant number of people who were laid off. One might assume that layoffs were a phase and the time to recover losses that occurred due to Covid-19 is not too far, but the recent layoffs in EdTech giants like BYJU’s and Topper paint a different picture.
In such uncertain times, there are certain strategies that one can adopt to evade a powerful economic blow. Having an action plan might not help in retaining the same job, but it will sure help in sustaining a huge financial blow as well as finding more opportunities.
The trick to retaining a job is to be invincible. Be so good at your job that it prompts the employer to think twice before taking a decision on laying you off. This does not happen in a day. Daily actions translate into a long-term commitment. Show up on time, learn as much as you can, deliver more than expected, come up with new ideas, maintain good relationships with your colleagues as well as your seniors, and you will carve out a space for yourself in your organisation.
INVEST IN YOURSELF
Learning is a process that must never end. Skills like creative writing, social media marketing, video editing, graphic designing, machine learning and others are skills that are highly in demand. Even if you are working an 8-hour shift and are not actively looking for a job, these skills will give a boost to your resume, enhance your skill set and set you apart from others.
Social media has made it possible for us to stay connected all the time, not just with our friends and family but also with potential employers. Building a positive relationship with your colleagues, ex-colleagues, seniors and people who are working in other organisations will ensure that you never miss an opportunity. Showcase your work on websites like LinkedIn to ensure that you don’t look for an opportunity, rather it comes to you.
No matter what your current pay scale is, it is always advisable to have multiple sources of revenue. That is only possible when you start investing early. Whether it is your 1st paycheck or your 300th paycheck, make sure to save a portion of your salary. Spend that amount on things that will give you a bigger return and not just dig a hole in your pocket. It is always advisable to have an emergency fund. As the term suggests, this emergency fund will help you sail through a difficult time. Even if you are laid off, you will be financially secure.
POSITIVE SELF TALK
Finally, it might get difficult to stay unaffected by what is happening around you. The uncertainty can take a toll on you but staying positive can help you not only manifest your dream job but also avoid the stress. Have a positive self-image, eat nutritious meals, dance your heart out, spend time with family and wait for life to surprise you.
Having an action plan might not help in retaining a job but it will help in sustaining a huge financial blow as well as finding more opportunities.
‘THE TERMINAL LIST’ FAILS TO LIVE UP TO THE HYPE
Despite the promise, ‘The Terminal List’ doesn’t really offer anything new to the world of action thrillers.
Over the last decade or so, Chris Pratt seems to have overtaken everybody else to become a leading blockbuster action hero in Hollywood. He brings with him just the right mix of charisma and rugged machismo. Not many are aware that there was a time when Pratt failed the auditions for J. J. Abrams’ ‘Star Trek’ and James Cameron’s ‘Avatar.’ But, it all changed for Pratt with ‘Zero Dark Thirty,’ wherein he played one of the soldiers who took part in the eventual assassination mission to take down Osama bin Laden. He followed it up with ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ wherein he essays the part of a brash space adventurer named Peter Quill who gets hunted by relentless bounty hunters after he steals an orb coveted by Ronan, the Supreme Accuser of the Kree Empire. Subsequently, he went on to star in films like ‘Jurassic World,’ wherein he undertakes the seemingly impossible task of training raptors, ‘The Magnificent Seven,’ wherein Pratt stars as a member of a band of cowboys who are hired to protect a small town from an evil baron, and ‘The Tomorrow War,’ which stars Pratt in the role of a man recruited to fight an invasion taking place in the future.
With such hard-hitting action thrillers under his belt, Chris Pratt looks like the ideal choice to play the part of James Reece in the new Amazon Prime Video series ‘The Terminal List,’ which is based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Jack Carr. The series follows Reece after his entire platoon of Navy SEALs is ambushed during a high-stakes covert mission. Reece returns home to his family with conflicting memories of the event and questions about his culpability. However, as new evidence comes to light, Reece discovers dark forces working against him, endangering not only his life, but the lives of those he loves. The series stars Constance Wu, Taylor Kitsch, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Riley Keough, Arlo Mertz, Jai Courtney, JD Pardo, and Patrick Schwarzenegger, among others. Antoine Fuqua, the veteran director of films such as ‘The Equalizer,’ ‘Training Day,’ serves as an executive producer (he also is a director) on the series. The show is written by David DiGilio (‘Strange Angel’), who is also an executive producer on the show alongside Fuqua and Pratt.
To help with authenticity, ‘The Terminal List’ engaged veterans and their families as part of multiple aspects of the series production. For example, half the show’s writing staffers are either veterans themselves or have veterans in their families. ‘The Terminal List’ adds to the list of action thrillers which are already a part of Amazon Prime Video’s catalogue such as ‘Jack Ryan,’ ‘Hanna,’ ‘Reacher,’ and ‘Bosch,’ among others. And, despite the promise, it doesn’t really offer anything new to the world of action thrillers. Yes, there is Chris Pratt and the wonderful supporting cast, Jack Carr’s bestselling novel, and Fuqua’s direction. But, it just doesn’t add up in a way the makers would have hoped and fails to live up to the hype of this big game-changer of an action show that marks Pratt’s highly anticipated return to television.
A show like ‘The Terminal List’ could have been a trendsetter had it come out a decade back but today there is so much solid action content out there that it’s very difficult to stand out in the crowd. If anyone could have delivered it, it’s the team of Pratt and Fuqua but unfortunately ‘The Terminal List’ falls short by some distance. A much better option with the story on offer and the chosen treatment perhaps would have been a four-episode miniseries or a feature film rather than a full-fledged series. However, the show isn’t without merits. There are loads and loads of action on offer and even though most of it is pretty predictable the action lovers wouldn’t be disappointed. Fans of Chris Pratt too wouldn’t mind seeing him beating the bad guys to pulp. Some of the old action buffs might even be reminded of films of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, notwithstanding the lack of novelty or surprise on offer.
ON SOCIAL MEDIA DAY, NETIZENS CALL FOR CAUTION AND VERIFICATION
On the occasion of Social Media Day on Thursday, netizens took to social media to spread the message of caution. The official Twitter account of United Nations shared, “We all love to share. But sharing misformation is harmful and it spreads faster when we are upset. On Thursday’s Social Media Day, we ask you to #PledgeToPause and verify content before you share it online.”
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also tweeted: “Lies and misinformation spread around the world at the touch of a button. We can do our part to stop the spread. On Social Media Day, I encourage you to pause and take time to verify facts before you share something online.”
A social media user said, “Social Media Day is a day to celebrate the freedom and opportunities that this platform has given us,” whereas another social media user said, “Happy Social Media Day to all. Let us pledge to be more sensible, factual, responsible and positive on social media platforms.”
In today’s day and age, when the world is going digital, social media is paving its way to become an information age. From getting to know which celebrity is partying where, who got a promotion amongst your friend circle and sometimes, getting your daily dose of news, social media has emerged as one of the most important tools in our daily lives.
16 LGBTQ filmmakers awarded at ‘Colors of Love Film Festival’
About 16 LGBTQ filmmakers were awarded at the fourth edition of the “Colors of Love International LGBT Film Festival”, organised by Script Factory Production Private Limited. Out of 61 film submissions from LGBT filmmakers around the world, the jury recognised 22 films and 16 filmmakers for their inspiring work. The LGBT Film Festival received submissions for short films, documentaries, animation films, music videos, and web series with LGBTQ themes.
OUT, a short film directed by Seth Chitwood of the United States won the best LGBT-Gay film, followed by best LGBT-Lesbian film ‘Where do the sounds go’ directed by Florent Gouelou of France, Best LGBT-Bisexual Film ‘Write to me by mistake’ directed by Guiseppe De Candia of Italy, Best LGBT-Transgender Film ‘Sisterhood’ directed by Tobias Kralmark of Sweden, Best LGBT-Sexual Diversity Film ‘Quality Check’ directed by Harriette Murtland of the United States, Best LGBT-Documentary Film by ‘Merchant Marine Paul Goercke and Alexander Hamilton Post 448’ directed by Alexander Zane Irwin of the United States.
Best LGBT-Animation Film ‘Embrace’ directed by Latesha Merkel of the United States, Best LGBT–HIV based film ‘More Tomorrow than Before’ directed by Ulises Perez Mancil from Mexico, Best LGBT–Music Video ‘Give Her Your Love’ directed by Celeste Lois from Argentina, Best LGBT–Pride Celebration Film ‘Heaven in Hell’ directed by Len Rosen from the United States, best LGBT Director ‘Send Pic?’ directed by James Cooper from Canada, Best LGBT Female Filmmaker ‘Shall We Talk?’ directed by Katya Mikheeva from Russian Federation, Best LGBT Screenwriter ‘Keep Off the Grass’ written by Francis Rudd from the UK, best LGBT Cinematography Film ‘Enigma’ by Cinematographer Rayner Cook from the United States, best LGBT Editor ‘Breathe’ edited by Stefan Hickert from the Netherlands and Special Jury Mentioned award ‘Romario’ directed by James Cooper from Canada.
The LGBT Film Festival received submissions for short films, documentaries, animation films, music videos, and web series with LGBTQ themes.
Gary Punjabi, director of the LGBT Film Festival said, “The USP of the LGBT Film Festival is that it was organised during Pride Month (June),”addi ng, “There was an audience interaction on the topic “Women and Bollywood,” where we discussed female Bollywood filmmakers, and hosted a panel discussion on the topic “Pride is Every Day,” with panellists Jaswant Kaur, Kirandeep Sahay, and Ravindra Mukherjee.”
Color’s of Love international LGBT Film Festival was founded by the Script Factory Production Private Limited in 2020. An LGBTQ community enterprise, Colors of Love was founded to curate and present queer short films to new audiences in a fun and informative manner.
SPENDING TIME WITH NAMBI WAS A GREAT INSIGHT, SAYS MADHAVAN
Actor R. Madhavan is all set for his directorial debut. Will ‘Rocketry: The Nambi Effect’ kick off a new era for Indian cinema? Find out in this exclusive conversation.
With less than 50 days to go for 75 years of India’s Independence, patriotism is evidently in the air. This Friday, audiences will get to witness it across cinema halls in India, with the release of the much-awaited “spy” thriller –Rocketry, The Nambi Effect. Narayanan was a part of the golden engine team that was instrumental in kicking off India’s ambitious satellite programmes. Narayanan’s fight for justice to clear his name off the falsely accused espionage charges forms the central theme of this movie. The Daily Guardian Review spoke to actor R. Madhavan for an exclusive conversation before his big release. Excerpts:
R. Madhavan (left), and Nambi Narayanan.The poster of the film.
Q: Are you nervous, excited or a bit of both?
A: Right now, I have reached a stage beyond exhaustion and so I’m kind of numb. I’m happy that the film is releasing. I’m very keen to see the outcome of this film. I think I have moved past the stage of excitement and nervousness.
Q: What was your experience of working with Nambi like?
A: I think it was an eye-opener. First of all, it was embarrassing that one didn’t know enough about him and his story. It was even more shocking that what you knew about him was not even scratching the surface. When I knew the truth about who Nambi Sir is and what he has done for this country that nobody was aware of, it made me feel ashamed. It was that emotion which drove me to make up my mind about doing this film.
Q: Did you build a ‘more than movie’ relationship with him?
A: Oh yes! I’m in awe of him. Absolute awe. On top of that, he is kind, he is generous, and with age, he has been more active than most of us put together- mentally and physically. Had it not been for Covid that he, unfortunately, got in the last week, he would have been there with me now for all the promotions, which is something that I miss about the whole film, the promotion.
Q: How difficult was it to get into the skin of the character?
A: See, the thing is, I spent a lot of time trying to get into his mind and trying to understand what makes his mind tick. What makes him such a crazy patriot? You know the kind of guy who looks beyond the obvious and makes the impossible possible, right? Spending time with him was a great insight. I realised that people like him are patriots because they do their job with absolute sincerity, without any expectation of fame or money or anything of that sort. That’s an attitude, which is in-built and cannot be cultivated.
Q: How important is a movie like this for Gen Z to get inspired and feel patriotic?
A: The whole idea was to increase the intellectual capital of India, which is so required at this juncture. Telling a story of technocrats like Nambi Sir and glorifying the technological achievements in fields like science or medicine or IT is very essential. The idea is to see the film and understand that there are some geniuses, who have studied in the esteemed universities abroad and came back to work for the country.
Q: Is that why you recently also described Nambi as the ‘Father of James Bond’?
A: Yes, I think so. It’s uncanny the things he has done. I wish I had 12 hours to tell his story. With the sheer amount of strength, tenacity, and bravery to go with technical finesse, he is a genius in making the rocket engine. All that makes him the ‘Father of James Bond.’ Imagine, James Bond with everything he did and also an inventor and a scientist.
Q: From Madhavan, the actor to Madhavan, the Creator, how significant is that change?
A: Well, you know, academically it’s a huge change and I have little idea how much I have succeeded in it till the first of July and how the outcome of the film will be in terms of the public. For me, it was sort of a mission, almost insanity. No rationale for me to have done this film with the kind of budget we did it in, but we did it and finally, I have to tell you that I’m nervous about that outcome as anybody else.
Q: What is your reaction to the film getting a 10-minute-long standing ovation at Cannes 2022?
A: (Laughs) Well, I have to figure out if that ovation was for Nambi Sir alone or if some of it was for me as a director as well. I suspect it was because Nambi Sir was there.
Q: ‘Life Before Nambi’ and ‘Life After Nambi’, for you, what is the road ahead?
A: That already happened. My life before I met Nambi Sir is very different. Madhavan before meeting Nambi Sir is very different from Madhavan after having met Nambi Sir. I think I am permanently changed. And I suspect, for the better.
Q: Your directorial debut is a biopic. Will we see a pattern for your subsequent ventures too?
A: I hope so. Maybe I won’t be directing them but definitely looking at more ventures that are meaningful, about technocrats and their achievements and the possibilities that this country offers in every aspect of technology. We only end up making biopics on soldiers and sportspersons but I think it’s about time we made it about our technocrats as well. On that note, ‘Rocketry’ is all set to take off.
Vaishnavi H.S. is an entertainment industry analyst who has worked in leadership roles in many leading television and radio channels.
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