WHY WE SHOULD NOT CREATE UNWARRANTED EXAM HYPE - The Daily Guardian
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WHY WE SHOULD NOT CREATE UNWARRANTED EXAM HYPE

The government, in association with teachers, parents and communities, has made wonderful efforts to ensure that students continue learning as smoothly as they can during the Covid-19 pandemic. After all the challenges faced and initiatives taken over the past year, everyone must rest assured that each student is well-equipped to face the upcoming examinations.

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A video of the Delhi government’s Director of Education addressing school students in their classroom, telling them to “attempt every question even if it means just copying out the question again”, has raised eyebrows and become a subject of public disdain. Later, on being queried, a senior member of the Education Department clarified that the official’s statement should not be “misinterpreted” and that it is part of an attempt to encourage students in “a very bad year” as lots of them have lost out on their writing practice, and that the official was trying to tell students to “not be disheartened, not worry about the CBSE or anyone else, and just write”.

However, no clarification can justify the statement which was made. It was negative and discouraging for teachers who made Herculean efforts to complete the syllabus and also for the hardworking students who, despite the lockdown, used all available digital tools to study.

The year-long lockdown has been a matter of deep worry for one and all, especially for students, parents, teachers, administrators and law makers. A large number of questions were raised in both the Houses of Parliament during the current session about the impact of the lockdown on education and students. For instance, Ram Nath Thakur, asked a Starred Question (No.117) on 11.2.2021 in the Rajya Sabha to Ramesh Pohkriyal Nishank, Minister for Education, about the closure of schools due to COVID-19 and the action taken by the government to compensate for the loss of study hours. There were also questions in the Lok Sabha by Prathap Simha and Tejasvi Surya (SQ No.81 on 8.2.21) regarding online education. The minister informed the Parliament that education being a concurrent subject, his Ministry had taken a whole range of initiatives in the best spirit of cooperative federalism to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. Instructions were issued to the States and UTs from time to time for ensuring continued education with quality and equity.

The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) conducted a survey in July 2020 with the help of Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS), Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS) and the CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) to understand the scenario of online learning among school students including girls and the children of migrant workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The NCERT prepared an ‘Alternative Academic Calendar’ and Students’ Learning Enhancement Guidelines. The guidelines suggest models for the following three types of scenarios to ensure that no student is deprived of the reach to education during the pandemic: learning enhancement for students without digital devices, learning enhancement for students with limited accessibility to digital devices, and learning enhancement for students with digital devices.

Further, a multi-pronged approach has been adopted by leveraging technology to reach the students. Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing Digital infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing (DIKSHA), Study Webs of Active-learning for Young Aspiring Minds (SWAYAM), SWAYAM PRABHA (32 TV channels), MANODARPAN for psychosocial support to students, teachers and families for mental health and emotional wellbeing, PRAGYATA (Plan, Review, Arrange, Guide, Yak (Talk), Assign, Track and Appreciate), etc. have been put to good effect. Guidelines on digital education, e-textbooks using e-pathshalas web portal and mobile apps for Android, iOS and Windows are being used by schools, colleges and universities to provide learning facilities. Where internet facility is not available, SWAYAM PRABHA—one class, one TV channel—is being used to impart education. Besides, community radio stations and a podcast called Shiksha Vani by the CBSE are also being used effectively in remote areas where online classes are difficult. The Ministry is also implementing Samagra Shiksha, under which a number of initiatives for the promotion of education are being taken viz., opening of schools in the neighborhood to make access easier.

To a question in the Rajya Sabha (USQ No.1177 on 11.02.2021) by Elamaram Kareem on the reduction in syllabus by the CBSE, the Minister replied that the CBSE has rationalised the syllabi for major subjects of classes IX-XII only for the purpose of summative examinations 2021 as a one-time temporary measure to mitigate the effect of school lockdown. The CBSE has reduced the syllabi by 30% for the purposes of the 2021 Board examinations for classes X and XII. The concept of ‘Fail’ has also been done away with and replaced by ‘Essential Repeat’ with effect from the 2020 Board exams.

To a question by Sanjay Singh (USQ No.1164 on 11.2.2021), the Minister replied that online classes are being conducted at schools by employing various digital tools. Various efforts have been made for the creation of a digital infrastructure which would not only be helpful in the current circumstances but would also be a valuable asset for online learning in the future. The steps taken by all the states are in the report, India Report Digital Education June 2020. Learning programmes were also started in the form of offline learning tools – radio, community radio and CBSE podcasts, toll free numbers, missed call and SMS-based requests for audio content, localised radio content for edutainment, etc. The mediums of TV and radio have been used for students who do not have digital means, besides the learning enhancement and online education guidelines which were issued on 19 August 2020 for the benefit of all stakeholders.

Responding to the question of Derek O’ Brien (USQ 1145 on 11.2.2021) in the Rajya Sabha about displaced migrant workers’ school-going children, the Minister replied that his ministry issued guidelines to all the states and UTs for the identification, smooth admission and continued education of migrant children on 13.07.2020. States have been asked to identify and enrol all children of migrant workers without any procedural hassles and maintain a database of the migrant children admitted. The Minister said that he had a series of meetings with the states/UTs where he reiterated the whole range of measures, outlined above, that have been taken to meet the challenges. Also, during the pandemic period, mid-day meals in the form of food security allowance/dry ration have been provided to students at the elementary level.

A comprehensive initiative, PM e-VIDYA, has been launched for infusing technology with equity. This overarching initiative covers in its ambit DIKSHA, Swayam Prabha, comprising of 32 dedicated channels, of which 12 channels are “one class, one TV channel”, e-content for Open School, extensive use of radio, community radio and podcasts, and e-content for visually and hearing-impaired students. DIKSHA has 1,65,204 pieces of e-content and during the pandemic period between March to October 2020, it had over 5000 million page hits and over 450 million QR scans for the e-content of textbooks. Hundreds of videos on maths and science prepared by the teachers of JNV and KVS have also been uploaded on DIKSHA. There were 70 crore total learning sessions as on 18 October 2020. Under the Vidya Daan scheme, teachers, private bodies and experts contributed 38,206 contents, of which 29,069 have been approved and are available to students. Open Virtual Labs (Olabs) too were tied up with to facilitate practicals for senior students. E-comic books were released to continue learning joyfully and imbibe critical thinking skills. Measures were also instituted to address the issues of cyber safety and prevent cyber bullying.

Under online MOOCs, there were 92 courses and 1.5 crore students enrolled, On Air-Shiksha Vani, DAISY (Digitally Accessible Information System) by NIOS for the differently-abled, e-Pathshala, National Repository of Open Educational Resources (NROER) to develop e-content and energise books, telecast through TV channels, e-learning portals, webinars, chat groups, distribution of books and other digital initiatives. Besides, states also managed the critical task of providing digital education at the doorsteps of the students. Social media tools like WhatsApp groups, YouTube channels, Google Meet, Skype, e-learning portals, TV, radio, etc., were used to the hilt. A total of Rs 5784.05 crores was allocated under Samagra Shiksha alone to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 during the current fiscal year. An online course for 42 lakh school teachers has been launched too, wherein 16 lakh teachers were trained as on 22 October 2020 and 17 crores courses conducted on the DIKSHA platform.

My conversations with the Education Ministers of states like Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Manipur, Karnataka, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan and with the senior officials of many states have made it emphatically clear that in areas of poor connectivity, other available means were put to use effectively with the willing cooperation of the community. To everyone’s delight, the attendance percentage was higher than the usual school attendance. This proves beyond any manner of doubt that despite the pandemic, our students and their parents, the teachers, the line departments and the community made wholehearted and sustained efforts to learn and impart education, thanks to India’s fast expanding digital architecture. Our students are well-equipped mentally and emotionally to write the Board exams.

Thus, the talk of ‘copy the questions’ is absurd and undermines the self-esteem and ability of our students and the honest efforts made by the teachers to impart education. In the hoary tradition of India, meditation, concentration and self-study occupy preeminent place. Eklavya’s story is more apt and inspirational in these pandemic times. Our students have faced the challenges of the pandemic with grit, determination and great perseverance, made full and proper use of digital tools and they will surely come off with flying colours in the exams. Exams are like festivals—let us celebrate them instead of fearing them.

The author is former Additional Secretary, Lok Sabha, and a scholar of comparative governments and politics. The views expressed are personal.

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FIVE YOUNG LEADERS SHARE THEIR VISION FOR INDIA AND ITS FUTURE

NewsX was recently joined by five young leaders from Global Youth India who expressed their views, vision and goals towards the country.

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Five young leaders from Global Youth India joined NewsX for a special interview which was titled, ‘What They Think: Youth Vision and Leadership in India’. These young emerging leaders talked of their expectations, hope and vision for the country.

The first panellist was Jyotismita Khataniar, an undergraduate student of sociology at Sri Venkateswara College, University of Delhi. She is a fierce feminist and has a keen interest in European and South Asian politics and different forms of humanitarian issues revolving around the division. She is the co-founder of ‘Feel to Heal’ mental health forum and the president of Sri Venkateswara College Chapter-Global Youth. “The Youth can take the right action only when they are in the right headspace,” she said.

Talking about her forum and the main focus of the same, Jyotismita said, “The youth can take the right action by being in the right headspace. We can be change-makers and rather than being a liability, we can be essential assets of the country only when we have the access to proper healthcare. I want to make this forum as intersectional as possible so that people coming from different backgrounds can feel inclusive and realize that they are being heard and understood.”

On a concluding note, Jyotismita shared a message of belief and hope. ‘’I believe that ‘little act of kindness’ goes a long way and kindness is one of the most important traits that a human can have and develop,” she said.

Next was Ashraf Nehal, a third-year student at the University of Delhi who has been writing on Politics and International Politics. He is also a Parliamentary Researcher with the AICC and is also a Research Associate with Red Lantern Analytica whereby he is researching China. As a policy enthusiast, he believes that the government must follow a policy-centred approach rather than a political one. He joined Global Youth during his 2nd year and has been serving as the Deputy Chairperson of the Brazil Forum.

When asked about the challenges faced by India and how they can be addressed, Ashraf commented, “Youth today is not very much aware of the policies, be it international or domestic, although we have youths who are interested in politics. I have been working with all the national political parties but into the policy cell. I myself frame the parliamentary question and briefs but there exists an age gap as I cannot put in my opinion there. We need to be aware of the point of policy. We have zero representation of the youth in the United Nations and Parliament. In the United Nations, there is only one post for the youth that also a virtual presence, but I do not see any action taking place there. Same thing goes for Parliament and we need our weightage to be there.”

Ashraf’s idea of changing the world is based on the belief of youth participation, be it in international or domestic policies. “Global Youth has been very instrumental here as it is us who are dealing with the Ambassadors, Commissioners and the Embassy.” When asked about where he sees himself in the next 10-15 years, he commented, “I will be guiding others as I have been guided in the Global Youth”.

The third panellist for the session was Sehaj Malhotra, a second-year student of Political Science at Lady Shri Ram College for the University of Delhi. She truly believes in the power of young people who can cohesively shape a better world, with wide-ranging interests in human rights law, gender justice, sustainable development and social entrepreneurship, she strives to create an equal and inclusive space for all. When asked if there is an issue she sees around her that she’d like to fix and resolve, she said, “There are a lot of problems that persist and require addressing timely, but one specific thing which I have noticed during the pandemic is the socio-economic impact of the pandemic on work culture on the Indian youth.”

She went on to explain the solution to the mentioned problem: “I feel there is a partnership and cooperation that is required, be a partnership with government, be it a public-private partnership which is required to invest and to encourage aspects like youth entrepreneurship and India as a country requires more skilling when it comes to youth, the right kind of skills, the right kind of training, which integrates us properly into the job market.”

The fourth panellist was Kavya Uniyal, an undergraduate student at Kirori Mal College, Delhi University, majoring in History and Political Science. Hailing from Uttrakhand, she is an advocate of the rights of the LGBTQ Community. Talking about joining the Global youth and her experience so far with the organisation, she said: “It was in the pandemic that I decided to channelise my energy in the right direction and do something productive. I got to know about Global Youth from a few friends of mine and decided to join. I was recruited in the International Legal Council and I currently serve as the events head at the organisation.”

On the challenges and issues that prevail in the country, Kavya said, “I have always been a firm believer that human beings are an heir to the legacy of dignity and self-worth and there can’t be any compromise when it comes to human dignity. However, there are people coming from certain section especially the LGTBQ community who have been denied the same.”

Quoting Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, she said, “Right to life and liberty is not created by the Constitution rather it is recognised by the Constitution and hence is an inalienable natural right.” She further brought into light the recent judgement by the Delhi High Court wherein the honourable court ruled that same sex marriages can’t happen between heterosexual people.

“The LGBTQ community and the members have been fighting over this legislation as the Centre has made its stance very clear and has vehemently opposed the idea, stating that marriage is a union between a biological male and biological female. I think the decision is problematic because we are implying that heterosexual people who have difficulty in conceiving a child will be denied the right to marry whoever they want to. I think it’s high time that we should let people be.”

The fifth panellist was Nandiinii Singh, an undergraduate student studying political science at Indraprastha College for Women, University of Delhi. She serves as the chairperson of the India-UK Youth Forum, Global Youth. She has been keenly observing the education sector and the impact of the relevant policies, particularly in navigating the gap between Indian education and employment. She started by sharing her journey with Global Youth and said. “It began in 2019 in my first year of college.”

When asked about a problem that is close to her heart and that she hoped to fix, she responded, “Something that I have been studying, researching and closely following especially during the pandemic is the disconnect that I have sensed between the education and the employment sectors, there is a definite mismatch between what the formal education system is equipping with and the needs of employability and the focus.”

“In the next five to 10 years I definitely see myself dedicatedly working towards the cause I just highlighted, and that I think would be in the public service field,” she added.

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A BIG THUMBS-UP TO PM MODI’S SOFT POWER DIPLOMACY

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s handling of the economic crisis, amid a raging pandemic, has bolstered India’s image as a promising economic power, a worthy alternative to China and an attractive destination for foreign investment.

Vishwas Pathak

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Covid-19 has brought inexplicable changes on every possible front across the globe. This pandemic brought everything to a standstill, but now establishment in every corner of the world are in pursuit of a successful revival, with the only desire of getting back on its feet. 

In this process, mere choice and need are not enough to get what is desired. With the changes in the global scenario, the priorities of all the countries have changed too, along with the dynamics of their investments. However, at a time when even developed countries are struggling to get back on their feet in terms of their economy, India under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is continuing to witness an optimistic upwards trend in the calculations of economic progress.

Despite reservations about economic revival, the people of this nation had collectively and completely supported the lockdown. In the initial phase of the lockdown, they were on the same page as the government, which prioritized the health of the citizens over the economy.

What then came as a relief to citizens and industrialists were the packages announced by the Prime Minister under the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan. These developments helped create a positive perception about the government which in a way managed to do well both on the economic as well as the health fronts.

While the initiatives of the government were appreciated domestically, they were also closely observed internationally. The manner in which India handled the Covid situation, at the same time initiating policies for economic revival, has been perceived as a successful model of governance by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and is being appreciated across the globe. This has helped India enhance its reputation for goodwill at the international level.

Ever since Narendra Modi took charge as the Prime Minister, he has been keenly focusing on projecting internal strengths, such as positive economic growth, a robust domestic demand, a young workforce, economic and social reforms and, most importantly, a stable and dynamic government, to attract foreign investments. If the overview of this positive approach of global investors towards India is to be analysed, a consistent 7%-plus economic growth along with the needed improvisations of the nation’s macro fundamentals has made India a preferred choice for FDI. Besides, the ambitious economic reforms brought in by the Modi government have ensured that foreign investors view India as a destination for long term investment.

With changes in the global trend of investments due to Covid-19, India verily enjoys a brighter spot vis-à-vis China. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected an impressive 12.5% growth rate for India in 2021, which is stronger than that of China. This also makes India the only major economy to have a positive double digit growth rate last year during the pandemic. Similarly, Moodys, World Bank and the Reserve Bank of India have also revised their estimates and projected impressive growth.

At a stage where the pandemic is yet to be defeated and cases are accelerating around the world, India stands tall amongst 16 global economies in comparison. India, with a multitude of opportunities and potential, has over the last few years developed tremendous goodwill among the global economic powers as well as with neighbouring countries. In comparison, with its aggressive and dominating policies, China is gradually losing the influence it had in the recent past. Simultaneously, an international union of inclusive economies is forming, which will lead inevitably to further isolation of China.

The Quad, a four-nation alliance of India, Australia, the US and Japan, that was established in 2007, has maintained a low profile for a very long time. However, the exhibition of increasing bonhomie among the four nations has most certainly irked Beijing and challenged its ambitions. This Quad’s advocacy of “free and fair” Indo-Pacific trade is nothing but a clear signal cautioning China. In the world of free trade, assertion and dominance like China’s is most uncalled for. However, the protagonists can only be those whose foundations happen to be inclusive like, in this case, India.

At a time when global growth is expected to moderate to 3.3% over the medium term, India’s growth projection is an assurance to its people and industrial sector that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s target of achieving a $5 trillion economy is going to be a reality soon. While this looks ambitious, Narendra Modi has proved that with proper planning and execution, nothing is unachievable. And the IMF’s projection of economic growth echoes the same possibility.

With India’s image of inclusivity along with a well thought out plan and encouraging ease of doing business, the Modi government has ensured that we will soon be one of the most powerful economies in the world. We have now successfully painted an image of ourselves as a peace-loving business-friendly country with a plethora of opportunities, essentially owing to our exponential market potential along with a young workforce. Our relaxations in FDI along with our evolving technological and innovation capabilities only compliment our welcoming and accepting nature.

The pandemic has created an anti-China sentiment across the globe. There was a time when China’s foothold in the manufacturing sector in India appeared undisputed. However, the change in this is now evident with India emerging as a better alternative, by choice and not compulsion. Many conglomerates, particularly from China, have moved their manufacturing operations from China to India in the recent past. 

This has been possible precisely because the nation, under the efficiency and wisdom of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, believes in democratic leadership and not dictatorship in terms of economic operations. Propelled by the economic reforms in 1991, the Modi government has only strengthened its roots through various financial, socio-economic and agricultural reforms.

India as a country has never believed in the policy of expansionism like China. Instead we have always believed in “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policies are a reflection of the same. 

On the basis of such strong indicators of a robust economy and its colossal opportunities, the world has verily given a big thumbs-up for Modi’s soft power diplomacy.

The author is Media Head, BJP Maharashtra. The views expressed are personal.

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WHEN BUDDING STARTUPS SHARE INNOVATIVE IDEAS WITH PANELLISTS

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In an invigorating session with NewsX, Supreme Incubator, a startup venture platform founded by Disha Singla and Tanvi Singla, presented a panel discussion, ‘Demo Day by Supreme Incubator’, wherein five budding startup companies presented their ideas and vision in the presence of an exemplary panel which consisted of business and entrepreneurial stalwarts who were also esteemed investors.

Supreme Incubator aims toward helping early age startups, especially those who are beyond the metropolitan areas and helping them build strong foundations from a very early stage and accelerate their growth. They hand-picked startups from a variety of companies across the country through a six-month-long program and provided them with a structural support system involving dedicated mental support, opportunities, and infrastructure. Supreme Incubator has been serving solutions for the young startups, creating a startup ecosystem, and helping them adapt to this new normal.

A demo day is an event that culminates this cohort program where companies, which are successfully graduated, can come to this platform to pitch to this panel of investors, who are successful entrepreneurs and capital venturists in their own right, to showcase their business idea and what does their product or company represents.

The panel constituted of some of the industry leaders who have actively contributed to the startup ecosystem and helped it to be stronger than ever. The panellists included Ashwin Srivastava, an IIT Bombay Alumni, Global Investor, VC/PE FIRM Founder, Government Advisor; Ashish Taneja, Partner at growX Ventures; Sandro Stephen, Regional Head, North India Operations, and Indian Angel Network; and Kshitij Shah, Principal, 3one4 Capital. Disha and Tanvi were also present while their finalised startup teams gave presentations to potential investors.

On an introductory note, Tanvi talked about Supreme Incubator and shared her experience of working with these young startups and how incredibly talented are the teams of different startups. The five startups pitched to the investors, followed by a Q&A session from the panellists and NewsX viewers.

The startups were: 

Startup 1: Bigdipper Exploration Space Technologies – Abhinesh Srivastava, CEO

Startup 2: TalkEng – Er. Subhra Deb, Founder & CEO, Sowarjit Baidy, Co-Founder & CEO, Sushmita Bhowmik, Co-Founder & CPRO, Subhendu Datta, Co-Founder & COO, and Shantanu Modak, Co-Founder & CMO

Startup 3: SoDo – Gaurav Sood, Founder & CEO

Startup 4: Edgenus – Jalaj Garg, Founder & CEO, and Priyansh Mahajan, Co-Founder & COO

Startup 5: Hyoristic Innovations- Hari Shankar Lal, Founder & CEO

Abhinesh made the first pitch whose startup- Bigdipper Exploration Space Technologies aims toward enabling access to space resources. Talking about the idea, he underlined that their goal is to develop cutting-edge robots for lunar and deep space missions which would further enable access to space resources that will have a life-changing impact on humanity. In the presentation, Abhinesh briefly described the roadmap of the company, the opportunities that await us in space technology, and the future goals of the company. “With 2.5 crore capital, we will be able to get the product ready by the end of next year,” he said.

The second startup to make their pitch was TalkEng, which is an ed-tech startup, aiming to revolutionise the process of learning any language, especially English. The team cited some relevant data that is obstructing young people to take up jobs, particularly in the corporate sector. They talked about their innovative idea of following a scientific approach to pave the way for English learners, citing the three crucial elements which are required to learn and achieve fluency in any language, that is Listen-Observe-Speak.

The third startup that gave the presentation was SoDo, founded by Gaurav, which is an on-demand B2B and B2C Hyperlocal platform with an intent to provide on-demand assured services for IT firms and businesses. Talking about the idea behind his company, he said, “Our company will help the clients in order creation wherein we will provide them freelancers, IT firms, and find out the best service to take depending upon their requirements to get their work done smoothly.” Gaurav underlined the post-funding predictions were stated to be at about 60 lakh wherein the major chunk would go in marketing.

The fourth presentation was given by Edgenus, founded by Jalaj, which is a one-stop destination to help you take a step ahead in your artistic passion. He asserted three major problems which might stop someone to discover and pursue arts—lack of learning opportunities, community exposure, and structured guidance in the artistic arena. The company aims to address such concerns through methods that include self-assessment, goal realisation to domain understanding, skill-building by providing the users with relevant informative content, and networking opportunities with the artists across the country.

The fifth and final startup that gave the presentation was Hyoristic Innovations. Introducing his idea to the panel, Hari stated that they aim to build high-tech solutions to mitigate space debris, making it safe for space explorations. He talked about the growing threat of space debris through his visual presentation and the current problems we are facing in that area. Hari said, “We plan to capture the eighth hidden device in the de-orbit using the ADR technique and intend to fill the gap in the debris through our services. Our service area includes ADR (Active Debris Removal) and mapping.”

On a concluding note, Disha talked about the plan ahead and stated that these startups have been an active part of the cohort. She added that the major focus would be to connect them with industry experts.

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ITV NETWORK COMMITS RS 100 CR TV SPACE FOR ROTARY RAHAT’S HEALTH MISSION

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On its mission to bring an effective change in India, Rotary Rahat is all set to roll out the world’s biggest health mission from July 2021. Led by a team of committed Rotarians all across the world, the mission will cover all of India. NewsX recently organised a special public service broadcast to spread awareness about the initiative, which was joined by Shekhar Mehta, incoming Rotary International president of 2021-22, Dr Naresh Trehan, Padma Bhushan and chairman of Medanta, Vivek Tankha, Member of Parliament and Rotarian himself, and Kartikeya Sharma, founder of ITV Network. 

In his opening remarks, Mehta highlighted the commendable work done by Rotary International in the past and said, “Rotary has been involved in many things and the biggest has been polio eradication. Over the years, the medical mission has become an important part of our work. In India, we do large camps with some of the best doctors offering their services. Various health check-ups are done, including surgeries if required. Rotary has an advantage because of its entire network. We have two lakh people whose motto is to serve the people in fields such as education, health, water, and sanitation. In the last ten years, we have done 25,000 paediatric heart surgeries and we want to do 35,000 heart surgeries for children.”

Dr Trehan said, “It is a privilege to be a part of an organisation like Rotary, which treats 50,000 people for free. Tankha has been very dedicated to the Rahat mission. I feel it is a worthwhile thing to do. In the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has disrupted life in many ways, where people who need care have not been able to have access due to the fear of movement. The purpose of these camps is to detect morbidity and guide those people for the future. It has become more complex as many people have had Covid-19 and have already suffered the infection and the side effects are carried on, so I think this kind of camp takes into the huge population into consideration and the fact that those who desperately need help and are somehow unable to access it. We examine, diagnose and then treat them, this is the mission of the camps that are held around the country. Medanta will be backing it and we will be backing it more vigorously.”

He emphasised the points that need to be kept in mind while organising such camps, “The main concern is the safety of the personnel and the people who come to attend the camp. In this Covid-19 era, this has created a challenge. We will have to carefully plan our camps. It is going to be more time consuming and even more difficult to get the people. They have to be screened first for what they came to the camp for. Suppose people are in a separate situation, we will have to establish separate areas so all these things will have to be planned. If we go by the estimates of our vaccination drive, the government is expanding it with time. A large number of people who come to the camp are vaccinated and have completed their two doses of vaccination, and hopefully, they will develop immunity. A lot of the population has been covered by Ayushmann and that entitles them to treatment everywhere. All the members of the providers, healthcare providers who sign up for the scheme will be able to participate. The amount of money required to accomplish the mission and our million objectives are achievable now. We need connections everywhere. The way the population is covered by the Gold Card, the Ayushmann Card, we will have to recruit diagnostics and treatment wherever they need it. There may not be facilities in Kashmir itself, which means like us, institutions that are participating will help, so every speciality will be covered. We are ready to link with NGOs that are identifying people who cannot otherwise get access to healthcare.”

When asked the motto behind these camps, Tankha said, “In 2019, we had one lakh patients but the whole administration was with us. Thousands of surgeries took place. I remember doctors performing surgeries on those tribal women who otherwise may not have got a chance to live. When you see a leader like Shekhar who is willing to take mega projects it is all the more motivational and encouraging. We have 38 districts and 38 governors, Rotarians in all parts of India and each of them wanting to work. What could be a better situation than to serve the people of India? You are reaching healthcare to the unreached. We send patients to top hospitals.” 

Narrating his experience with Rotary, Kartikeya Sharma said, “I was part of the 2019 Rahat camp and saw what was happening. It was mind-boggling and motivated us at ITV Foundation as well to collaborate and take it to the furthest. Everything about Rotary is massive and what rotary as an organisation has been doing is fantastic. Rahat is a fantastic concept and it has reached millions of people in the last decade. When we spoke about it, I wanted to be a part of this organisation with names such as Medanta and Dr Trehan associated with it and the initiatives taken by the civil society which make healthcare possibilities happen.” He further committed Rs 100 crore worth of TV space across the ITV network to promote and take the mission to the farthest parts of the country over the next year.

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MAHARASHTRA BACK TO SQUARE ONE WITH SECOND LOCKDOWN

The state government’s decision to impose another lockdown is not a wise one since the losses would outweigh the benefits. What the state needs to do instead is ramp up its health infrastructure and Covid-19 testing, while letting citizens lead normal lives.

Shweta Shalini

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Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday announced a lockdown for 15 days, taking the state back to square one. The state administration seems to have accepted defeat in the fight against Covid-19 and chosen the method of inaction.

Throughout the pandemic, Maharashtra has been the worst performer consistently. Now, with a disproportionately high fatality rate, the statewide implementation of Section 144, which will paralyse daily life, is another setback for its citizens. For a state which boasts of many urbanized centres, it has failed miserably in curbing the surge in infections and put pressure on its healthcare system. 

With 60,212 fresh cases, the number of active cases in Maharashtra stands at 593,042. Disturbing reports have begun to emerge from various parts of the state, from hospitals looting patients to a lack of beds resulting in deaths. The unavailability of Remdesivir has led to hoarding. Inadequate oxygen supply has been a cause of concern. People running from pillar to post to secure hospital beds, medicines and ventilator facilities has turned it into a tragedy on a mass scale. How did Maharashtra end up in such a precarious position while Delhi is holding on despite facing a surge too?

Inadequate testing and contact tracing by the government of Maharashtra, combined with a lax attitude, have led to Covid cases shooting through the roof. The Covid positivity rate has reached the dangerous threshold of 29%. Out of the 2.20 lakh tests done, approximately 63,000 have turned out to be positive cases, which indicates an appalling state of affairs. Overall, there have been 34 lakh cases out of 2.20 crore tests.

The positivity statistics in Maharashtra are way ahead of the all-India average of 5%. Meanwhile, Delhi, despite a high density of population, has a positivity rate which is not over the national average. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are at 2% and 1%, respectively. Even a relatively urbanised and large state like Tamil Nadu has held its own with an impressive 6%.

Given the high occurrence of the infection in Maharashtra, evident from such a high positivity rate, there is an urgent need to ramp up testing. The state cannot fight Covid unless the true extent of the spread is known. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his discussion with Chief Ministers has already sought increased testing along with widespread vaccination as a sustainable tool to fight the virus.

Maharashtra with its imposition of another lockdown is taking a step backwards. Last year’s experience has taught us that lockdowns are not a permanent or sustainable solution, but merely the postponing of the inevitable. The need of the hour for the state is to ramp up infrastructure and increasing testing, while letting normal life run as usual, until the positivity rates are in a comfortable position. This way the state may surely enter the list of badly hit Covid-infected states, but will succeed in saving lives by timely interventions.

The steep fall in the mortality rate in Maharashtra may either mean a sign of hope or be considered a result of undercounting due to a lack of reporting. Whatever the case, it is getting increasingly clearer that the economic costs of a lockdown far exceed the supposed benefits.

Unlike the previous year when the scientific community’s knowledge of the virus was limited, the world is better off today, especially with vaccines available in varying degrees of effectiveness. The original lockdown served its purpose of buying time and letting India manufacture a lot of medical items like PPE kits, which aided the fight initially and made the lockdown worthwhile. But now, we have reached a point where a lockdown will lead to diminishing returns in terms of the fight against Covid-19.

The author is a BJP spokesperson and former executive director of the Maharashtra Village Social Transformation Foundation. The views expressed are personal.

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ITV NETWORK COMMITS RS 100 CR TV SPACE FOR ROTARY RAHAT’S HEALTH MISSION

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On its mission to bring an effective change in India, Rotary Rahat is all set to roll out the world’s biggest health mission from July 2021. Led by a team of committed Rotarians all across the world, the mission will cover all of India. NewsX recently organised a special public service broadcast to spread awareness about the initiative, which was joined by Shekhar Mehta, incoming Rotary International president of 2021-22, Dr Naresh Trehan, Padma Bhushan and chairman of Medanta, Vivek Tankha, Member of Parliament and Rotarian himself, and Kartikeya Sharma, founder of ITV Network. 

In his opening remarks, Mehta highlighted the commendable work done by Rotary International in the past and said, “Rotary has been involved in many things and the biggest has been polio eradication. Over the years, the medical mission has become an important part of our work. In India, we do large camps with some of the best doctors offering their services. Various health check-ups are done, including surgeries if required. Rotary has an advantage because of its entire network. We have two lakh people whose motto is to serve the people in fields such as education, health, water, and sanitation. In the last ten years, we have done 25,000 paediatric heart surgeries and we want to do 35,000 heart surgeries for children.”

Dr Trehan said, “It is a privilege to be a part of an organisation like Rotary, which treats 50,000 people for free. Tankha has been very dedicated to the Rahat mission. I feel it is a worthwhile thing to do. In the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has disrupted life in many ways, where people who need care have not been able to have access due to the fear of movement. The purpose of these camps is to detect morbidity and guide those people for the future. It has become more complex as many people have had Covid-19 and have already suffered the infection and the side effects are carried on, so I think this kind of camp takes into the huge population into consideration and the fact that those who desperately need help and are somehow unable to access it. We examine, diagnose and then treat them, this is the mission of the camps that are held around the country. Medanta will be backing it and we will be backing it more vigorously.”

He emphasised the points that need to be kept in mind while organising such camps, “The main concern is the safety of the personnel and the people who come to attend the camp. In this Covid-19 era, this has created a challenge. We will have to carefully plan our camps. It is going to be more time consuming and even more difficult to get the people. They have to be screened first for what they came to the camp for. Suppose people are in a separate situation, we will have to establish separate areas so all these things will have to be planned. If we go by the estimates of our vaccination drive, the government is expanding it with time. A large number of people who come to the camp are vaccinated and have completed their two doses of vaccination, and hopefully, they will develop immunity. A lot of the population has been covered by Ayushmann and that entitles them to treatment everywhere. All the members of the providers, healthcare providers who sign up for the scheme will be able to participate. The amount of money required to accomplish the mission and our million objectives are achievable now. We need connections everywhere. The way the population is covered by the Gold Card, the Ayushmann Card, we will have to recruit diagnostics and treatment wherever they need it. There may not be facilities in Kashmir itself, which means like us, institutions that are participating will help, so every speciality will be covered. We are ready to link with NGOs that are identifying people who cannot otherwise get access to healthcare.”

When asked the motto behind these camps, Tankha said, “In 2019, we had one lakh patients but the whole administration was with us. Thousands of surgeries took place. I remember doctors performing surgeries on those tribal women who otherwise may not have got a chance to live. When you see a leader like Shekhar who is willing to take mega projects it is all the more motivational and encouraging. We have 38 districts and 38 governors, Rotarians in all parts of India and each of them wanting to work. What could be a better situation than to serve the people of India? You are reaching healthcare to the unreached. We send patients to top hospitals.” 

Narrating his experience with Rotary, Kartikeya Sharma said, “I was part of the 2019 Rahat camp and saw what was happening. It was mind-boggling and motivated us at ITV Foundation as well to collaborate and take it to the furthest. Everything about Rotary is massive and what rotary as an organisation has been doing is fantastic. Rahat is a fantastic concept and it has reached millions of people in the last decade. When we spoke about it, I wanted to be a part of this organisation with names such as Medanta and Dr Trehan associated with it and the initiatives taken by the civil society which make healthcare possibilities happen.” He further committed Rs 100 crore worth of TV space across the ITV network to promote and take the mission to the farthest parts of the country over the next year.

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