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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ICDMA FOUNDER TO INTRODUCE AI PLATFORM FOR IDENTIFYING AND MITIGATING DIGITAL RISKS
ICDMA is a provider of IT services such as Cyber Forensics, IT Audit, IT Risk Evaluation, and Digital Security. In recent years, it has become a tried-and-true standard for businesses looking to defend their brands, enterprises, and reputations from crippling cyber attacks. They develop and deploy information security platforms and services, both standard and personalised, to protect, evaluate, and respond to cyber threats such as security breaches that occur in your systems and networks. The services they provide include Application and Web Development, Graphic Design, Security Audits, Cyber Security Services, Vulnerability Assessments, Fraud Risk Management, and IT Consultancy.
In addition, the firm achieved awards for being the best Cyber Forensics firm preventing businesses from external threats. A cybersecurity analyst is responsible for the security of an organisation, business, or government agency from cyber threats. Their primary role is to analyse any possible threat that might occur through or to your system and come up with plausible and practical solutions to protect you.
Being a cyber security expert and analyst, Dheeraj Kumar has years of experience and stays up-to-date with the current crimes and security trends. He believes that like many other professions, this is a never-ending learning field. They monitor your networks and then analyse them to find common threat patterns or trends. Further, they design software that suits the needs of the problem at hand and ensures that these measures are maintained properly. If, in any case, they encounter a new problem, they utilise their years of experience and knowledge to produce a unique solution.
Witnessing the increased cyber threats, Cybersecurity analyst Dheeraj advises people to use the Internet wisely and productively. Dheeraj is currently working on an Al-driven platform for identifying and mitigating digital risks and counteracting brand impersonation attacks with the company’s patented technologies at its core. Dheeraj’s experience in threat hunting and cyber intelligence has been fused into an ecosystem of highly sophisticated software and hardware solutions designed to monitor, identify, and prevent cyberattacks.
A cybersecurity analyst is responsible for the security of an organisation, business or government agency from cyber threats. Their primary role is to analyse any possible threat that might occur through or to your system and come up with plausible solutions.
EXPO 2020 A GLOBAL PLATFORM TO HIGHLIGHT ACHIEVEMENTS OF SPACE SECTOR: EMM PROJECT MANAGER
The six-month Expo 2020 Dubai is a crucial window for the participating countries to present their accomplishments across different sectors, and the space sector is one of them. The event will shed light on the development of this sector around the world, emphasising its importance for humans in particular and the planet in general.
Expo 2020 has devoted a full week to space, from 17 to 23 October, during which a dialogue session will be held with Emirati astronauts along with entertainment, art and science activities. Also, information related to space sciences will be disseminated among other related space activities. In an interview with the Emirates News Agency (WAM), Omran Sharaf, Project Manager of Emirates Mars Mission (EMM), said, “This year, the UAE has achieved milestone accomplishments in the space sector by its arrival to Mars, and before that, it had played a key role in stimulating this sector besides the science and technology sectors.”
On the role of Expo 2020 Dubai as a prominent global platform to highlight the country’s achievements in the national space sector, Al Sharaf pointed out that Expo is not only a global event to showcase the cultures of other countries, but rather a platform for presenting scientific, technical and cultural achievements around the world.
He added that one of the reasons for the quick establishment of the space sector in the country “is because this sector depends on international cooperation, and the UAE did not consider its space programme as a race with other countries, but viewed it as an opportunity to cooperate with different nations, which contributed to activating the role of the sector and speeding its development, thus placing the UAE at the forefront of countries in this sector.”
Regarding the most nationally prominent projects in the space sector during the current period, Sharaf said, “The space sector is going through a very important and sensitive stage today, as the UAE has previously invested through the ‘Hope Probe’ project and other related projects to attract knowledge to the country from abroad and build on the capabilities of Emirati youth through knowledge transfer programmes.”
“Today, after His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai; and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, announced the upcoming mission, which is a new space programme to explore planet Venus and seven other [asteroids] in the solar system, the focus will be on transferring knowledge from the UAE space sector to the private sector to create a stimulating environment and support the science and technology sector in the country, and at the same time serve the UAE’s economy is facing various challenges, including water resources and food resources, among others,” he added.
When asked regarding the sector’s participation in the Space Week at Expo 2020, Sharaf said that the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre and the various specialised authorities have a great role in Expo. As for Space Week, there are various participations, including lectures, seminars, or receiving various delegations to discuss cooperation in the space sector.
“This is a great opportunity for countries to work together, and we, as the Emirati space sector, have decided to take advantage of this opportunity at Expo to build and strengthen these relations, and it will be the beginning of greater cooperation and ambitious projects across the world and the region.”
IIT KANPUR STUDY EXPLAINS THE SUCCESS OF COVID-19 CONTROL MODEL OF UTTAR PRADESH
The information has been collated and reviewed by the Social and Political Research Foundation, a policy think tank based in New Delhi, aimed at making public policy research holistic, accessible, and evidence-based.
The second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the health system across India. Most states struggled to prevent the surge in cases and ensure adequate supply as the virus created a situation of upheaval. However, a recent study led by Padma Shri Awardee Prof. Manindra Agrawal of IIT-Kanpur elaborates that with careful planning, multiple strategies and close monitoring Uttar Pradesh’s Covid-19 response model turned out to be more effective in comparison with many other states.
TABLE 1: NTPR DURING THE SECOND WAVE
The data points out that the daily case count was brought down to just 1,497 on 31 May after the peak of 38,000 was recorded on 24 April. It can be noted that the reduction in numbers happened quite fast in the state as compared with many other ones, for example, Maharashtra and Kerala, which supports the study’s arguments.
Beginning with the foremost concern of reducing the spread, the UP model followed the Test, Trace, Treat, Tackle (TTTT) approach. Under the strategy, the TTTT teams were instated in rural UP to conduct door to door testing, enabling early detection and ensuring isolation and treatment. These TTTT teams covered around 97,941 villages. Niti Aayog and WHO also lauded the efforts of the state in conducting a mammoth house-to-house testing and tracing drive, supported by micro-planning and concurrent follow-ups. As highlighted by the IIT-Kanpur study, other measures of the state involved capacity building through intensive training on all major aspects of Covid-19, provision of infrastructures like ICU beds, ventilators, and creation of safety nets and incentives via state and central funding schemes (PMJJBY, PMSBY, AKBY, etc.).
While preventing the surge in cases was one aspect of the model, the government also managed the high demand crisis of oxygen resounding throughout the nation then. To tackle the surge in demand the government set up an oxygen monitoring system to track oxygen tankers and rolled out a stringent oxygen audit which saved around 30 MT of oxygen per day. Also, the state’s strategy to airlift empty tankers with the help of IAF lessened the turnaround time saving 10 hours. Apart from ensuring these, the model also addressed the concerns regarding the livelihood of the people. With the commitment to save the lives and livelihoods of people, the UP government did not resort to strict lockdowns and opted for partial curfews to break the Covid-19 chain. And, adapting to the situation of the pandemic, the government supplied policies for ease of mobility (separate buses and trains for migrant workers), employability (DBT 1000 to migrants) and sustenance (cash transfers to marginalised sections). The study also states that such measures helped in keeping the unemployment rate below the national average as depicted in the graph below.
Formulated on the four essential pillars of protection of livelihood, optimisation of economy, facilitation of healthcare services and restriction of virus spread, it has been pointed through the study that the UP Covid-19 model has created a benchmark. The study then draws a comparison among the states based on the Normalised Test Positivity Rate (NTPR) which is the ratio of Test Positivity Ratio and percentage of active cases. It shows that the strategy of the UP model was to aggressively change the pandemic which helped in the control.
Furthermore, the study also found that the timing of the containment measures was near-optimal, which in any other situation could have caused a peak of more than 70,000 daily cases as shown in the graph below.
Nonetheless, the second wave has dealt a heavy blow to not just India’s but globally existing health infrastructure, unveiling a systemic failure that led many to conclude that no model or strategy is perfect. This points towards a large scope of improvement for all state administrations and governing bodies.
The information has been collated and reviewed by the Social and Political Research Foundation, a policy think tank based in New Delhi, aimed at making public policy research holistic, accessible, and evidence-based.
LIFE SKILLS COLLABORATIVE LAUNCHED TO CHAMPION SKILLS FOR INDIA’S YOUTH
Eighteen organisations have come together to announce the launch of the Life Skills Collaborative (LSC) with the aim to support government agencies and education institutions by building a life skills platform that can aid in the transformation of India’s learning ecosystem. In the first phase, the LSC will work in tandem with state governments across Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, and Mizoram to bring contextual, social and cultural inputs to the development of life skills among the young people of India.
The Collaborative comprises organisations with diverse and global expertise in education, skill development, health and gender with a commitment to collaborate in deepening the understanding of life skills, designing learning tools that nurture life skills, and developing context-relevant assessments to measure progress, share learnings and inform system change India. The current collaborators include Breakthrough, Centre for Science of Student Learning, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, Dream A Dream, Echidna Giving, Gnothi Seauton, ICRW, Kaivalya Education Foundation, Magic Bus, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, Omidyar Network India, Porticus, Pratham, Quest Alliance, Room To Read, Sattva Consulting, Shantilal Muttha Foundation and The Teacher Foundation. Speaking about the launch, Vishal Talreja, an LSC Collaborator and Co-founder of Dream A Dream, said, “One in three children in India live in extreme poverty and have stunted and/or wasted growth. Children from vulnerable backgrounds are exposed to a combination of adverse experiences causing an irrefutable impact on their physical and mental health. Empathy-based transformative pedagogy, experiential learning, and mentoring can help young people immensely.”
The Life Skills Collaborative will focus on three core areas:
1. Voices, a nationwide engagement with youth, parents, and teachers to capture their voices and translate them to insights that can drive the integration of life skills within public education systems.
2. Glossary, a set of definitions that serves as the vocabulary to discuss life skills in India and establish the foundation for discussing and aligning on outcomes, designing assessments across community, practitioners, and government.
3. Assessments, will focus on creation, establishment, and dissemination of an assessment repository for adolescents, teachers, and the system. At the adolescent level, this will assess student’s capacities and strengths in the age groups 11-14 years and 15-18 years; at the teacher level, it will assess the ability of the teacher to foster life skills in an adolescent; at the system level, it will assess the readiness of the system to deliver life skills.
Rathish Balakrishnan, an LSC Collaborator and Co-founder and Managing Partner at Sattva Consulting, said, “Young people often struggle to access education and employment opportunities, limiting their engagement in society and stunting their potential to live a full life. Equipping them with life skills can change this immensely. While there is a lot of interest in life skills, there is a lack of a common vocabulary and effective assessments, which limits its potential. By building credible and system-ready public goods, the Life Skills Collaborative can accelerate the effective adoption of life skills across the ecosystem.”
In recent times, the need for developing stronger life skills has become more acute. Focusing on building life skills in the next generation is imperative in enabling them to handle different situations capably. In a country like India, where a vast majority of the population is young, life skill development enables young people to direct and manage their lives positively.
Geeta Goel, an LSC Collaborator and Country Director, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation (MSDF, India), added, “The Life Skills Collaborative is an innovative attempt to solve a wicked problem – the development of life skills among the young people of India. To achieve this goal, it is essential to support organisations, institutions and government agencies in building a more inclusive learning environment suited towards promoting life skills.”
RED FM launches World Cup campaign ‘Totka Chalao India Ko Jeetao’
93.5 RED FM has kick-started its World Cup campaign ‘Totka Chalao, India ko Jeetao’. Capturing the passion and craze of fans, RED FM will celebrate the ‘totkas’ and will have RJs follow some of these tricks shared by listeners as part of the campaign.
Witness the best of entertainment with ‘Nand Kishore Bairagi’ aka RJ Kisna taking a spin on the ‘totkas’ in his unique style. The campaign will also have Bauaa aka RJ Raunac calling up opponent teams as part of his prank calls series. Keeping the passion of the World Cup alive, RED FM will also launch the anthem, ‘Totka Wala Gana’ capturing the craze of cricket fans across the country. Speaking on the campaign, Nisha Narayanan, Director & COO, RED FM and Magic FM, said, “Cricket generates a kind of excitement that cuts across all sections of the society in India. Fans have been eagerly waiting for the mega tournament to start after the Covid-19 pandemic put a stop to all sporting activities. Over the years, cricket has united fans and radio has been a crucial part in bringing them together. There’s no denying that luck and superstitions go hand in hand with a cricket fan and this year we are bringing some of those practices the fans have subconsciously picked up over the years and now cannot let go. Our campaign, ‘Totka Chalao, India ko Jeetao’ will highlight some of the crazy ‘totkas’ that cricket fans follow across the country. We hope that you will share your favourite ‘totkas’ with us and cheer for team India with RED FM.”
MICHAEL KORS TO LAUNCH MK MY WAY IN-STORE POP-UPS THROUGHOUT INDIA
Michael Kors has announced the launch of an exciting new pop-up store activation throughout India to celebrate MK My Way—the popular interactive experience that immerses customers in the luxe world of Michael Kors and lets them customise their Signature logo print handbags with their initials.
The MK My Way activation will take place in stores with a colourful pop-up kiosk. Equal parts elevated and high-energy, the pop-up’s countertop and facade are splashed with metallic hues and punctuated by oversized, graphic takes on the brand’s signature print. After selecting their Signature print handbag, customers have the chance to have their bags hand-painted by Bangalore-based artist and illustrator Srishti Guptaroy (@srillustrator) with either their English/Hindi initials or with one of four unique motifs designed specifically for Diwali.
As an extension of the in-store program, the motifs will also be made into gify stickers available for all Instagram users. Supplies are provided by Angelus Paints, a California paint company and world leader in luxury customisation. To celebrate the launch, the brand has also created a digital campaign starring Bollywood actress Janhvi Kapoor (@janhvikapoor).
The pop-up store activations will take place in several cities throughout India, including:
Jio World Drive in Mumbai (from 8 to 31 October)
DLF Emporio in Delhi (from 11 to 31 October)
UB City in Bangalore (from 23 to 30 October)
Tatacliq Luxury (online) (from 18 to 31 October)
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