YET ANOTHER ACADEMIC YEAR, YET ANOTHER COVID-19 WAVE - The Daily Guardian
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YET ANOTHER ACADEMIC YEAR, YET ANOTHER COVID-19 WAVE

Lehar Tawde has been instrumental in bringing these stakeholders together to provide ConnectEd Technologies with a pan-India presence in a short span of time.

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When the Covid-19 pandemic first struck India in 2020, schools across the country were the first institutions to be ordered shut by the Central Government. While teachers and students associated with private schools soon migrated to an online format of teaching-learning, stakeholders relying on government schools suffered dearly. To ease pressure on school students and their parents, the Central Government ordered all State Boards to reduce the prescribed syllabus and relaxed examination guidelines. While this move offered relief to all school-related stakeholders, government authorities across all levels knew that this was a temporary solution to a problem that needed to be addressed sustainably.

Since stakeholders associated with private schools seemed to be meeting their academic goals effectively through online education, Central and State Governments across India advising and equipping government school teachers to leverage WhatsApp and other such platforms to keep government school students engaged with educational material created by them. While this approach taken by government school teachers – along with the realization that private school students had already migrated to learning online – pushed several government school students to leverage computers, smartphones and internet connectivity to access education online; not all students had access to the required infrastructure.

As a result, by January 2021, nearly every State Government in India allowed physical lectures to be conducted in schools for students in Grade 9 and above, whilst following necessary Covid-safety norms. However, the joy of learning in-person, amidst the company of your peers, was rather short-lived as a new variant of the virus – named ‘Delta’ – caused a second wave of Covid-19; resulting in discontinuation of physical classes nationwide by April 2021. Once again, school-related stakeholders who had access to requisite devices and connectivity went back to teaching-learning online, whereas their less-fortunate counterparts were cut-off from education till India emerged from the second wave and started reopening schools.

By the time State Governments across India allowed schools to restart physical lectures across all Grades, it was December 2021 and a third variant of Covid-19 – named ‘Omicron’ – had just surfaced in African countries. As schools across the country took a break for their annual year-end holidays, there was a fresh surge in Covid-19 cases across, thanks to the emergence and rapid spread of the Omicron variant in India. In response, as of today, most State Governments have declared school closure for students till Grade 5, with a sizable number imposing such curbs for students till Grade 8, and some even declaring a complete shutdown of schools for all students.

As students with access to devices and connectivity go back to learning online for the third time, and those without it get disconnected from education yet again, the government seems determined to put an end to Covid-19’s onslaught on the academic paths of Indian students. On 3rd January 2022, the Central Government initiated its Covid-19 vaccination drive for teenagers in the age bracket of 15-18, which essentially covers students between Grade 9 to 12 – a formative, but crucial phase in anyone’s academic journey. As of 5th January, State Governments across the country had successfully administered first dose of the vaccine to 1.18 crore students from an estimated 7.4 crore students in this category.

From the looks of it, the government is following a two-pronged approach to strengthen its education system against future attacks by Covid-19. Under this approach, the government has already started vaccinating students between 15-18 ahead of their board examinations, and can soon be expected to inoculate younger students before Academic Year 2022-23. In addition, multiple State Governments have announced free or subsidized devices and internet connectivity to government school students, particularly those between Grade 9 to 12. At its level, the Central Government is also building a repository of educational content in various Indian regional-languages for government school students to access.

Bearing in mind that the Omicron variant showcases milder symptoms in its hosts and spreads faster amongst people than previous strains of Covid-19, one can expect the third wave of this pandemic to run a lot longer and spread much wider than its predecessors. As a result, even though the government has started vaccinating students at a rapid pace, one can expect schools to be closed for physical lectures for the next two-three months atleast; which will certainly affect annual examinations for Academic Year 2021-2022, just the way it did for the last two years. News of more strains emerging in different parts of the world is a matter of serious concern as it can cast shadows over the next academic year as well.

Nobody can say with utmost certainty how this academic year, or the next one, will unfold. However, as someone whose organization has been closely involved in creating Vernacular EdTech solutions for government school students for the last 6 years, I can say with great conviction that structural reforms made by the government due to this pandemic will usher in an era of technology-enabled blended learning for government schools which, in turn, will exponentially improve the quality of education provided to their students, thereby enabling future generations of this country to contribute to the India growth story in a much bigger way than ever before.

The author is the Co-founder of ConnectEd Technologies, which is an edtech social enterprise that specialises in creating tailor-made technologies and deploying large-scale developmental programs

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OVER 5 CRORE TIRANGA SELFIES CLOCKED AS PART OF HAR GHAR TIRANGA CAMPAIGN

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More than five crore Tiranga selfies have been uploaded on the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign website so far, the Ministry of Culture informed on Monday and termed it a “stupendous achievement”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given a call on 22 July 2022, to join the Har Ghar Tiranga’ movement by hoisting or displaying the national flag at homes.

“In a stupendous achievement, more than five crore ‘Tiranga’ selfies have been uploaded on the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ website,” the ministry of Culture said in a statement.

As India embarks on its 76th year of Independence, wrapping up the 75-week countdown to 15 August 2022, was the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ initiative of the government driven by the nodal ministry for ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ the Ministry of Culture.

The commemoration of 75 years of independence started on March 12, 2021, as a 75-week countdown to 15 August 2022, and will continue till 15 August 2023.

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Indian Missions under MEA screen short film on Sri Aurobindo

Murtaza Ali Khan

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Indian Missions abroad under the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), including the Embassy of India, Paris, India in UK, CGI Birmingham, Switzerland, Colombia and Ecuador, Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO and Bahrain, screened the short film titled ‘Sri Aurobindo: The Beginning of Spiritual Journey’ on 15th August 2022, which also marked the 150th birth anniversary of Sri Aurobindo. Directed by award-winning Indian filmmaker Suraj Kumar, the short film is based on a screenplay by Manish Kumar Pran. The film stars Vikrant Chauhan in the titular role.

Based on Sri Aurobindo Ghose’s prison life (1908-1909), the short film was shot in Alipore Jail, Kolkata, from where Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual journey had started. Sri Aurobindo was arrested for conspiracy on 5th May 1908 and spent a full year in Alipore jail while the British government, in a protracted court trial, tried to implicate him in various revolutionary activities. It came to be known as the Alipore Bomb Case. He was finally acquitted and released on 6th May 1909. 

 ‘Sri Aurobindo: The Beginning of Spiritual Journey puts the spotlight on an important chapter of Sri Aurobindo Ghose’s journey that often gets overlooked when one talks about his exemplary life and work. Sri Aurobindo was also a renowned freedom fighter and was accused of bombing a series of British nationals as a leader of Anushilan Samity. However, in Alipore central jail, while being accused of the Alipore conspiracy, he had a change of mind and became a philosopher and spiritual guru till his death in 1950 in Puducherry.

“While Sri Aurbindo Ghose was lodged in jail, his spiritual transformation started just after 2-3 days of prison life. My short film ‘Sri Aurobindo: The Beginning of Spiritual Journey’ documents his beginning of spiritual journey in Alipore jail,” reveals Suraj Kumar. Speaking about the film’s conception, he adds, “The idea of making the short cropped up when one of my IIMC friends and prison reformer Dr. Vartika Nanda discussed it with me, back in early 2021. Subsequently, I visited the National Library of India in Kolkata to document and record the news articles published related to Sri Aurobindo’s imprisonment. “

Sri Aurobindo Ghosh was one of the first few leaders who demanded complete independence from the British Raj. He is said to have proposed the concept of ‘Purna Swaraj’, 20 years before the Indian National Congress. He advocated the use of Swadeshi products, non-cooperation, and passive resistance to achieve the goal. After being a part of the Independence movement from 1902 to 1910, he shifted to the French colony of Puducherry, where he set up an ashram and worked for the development of ‘internal Yoga.’ He authored several works, including The Synthesis of Yoga, The Life Divine, The Ideal of Human Unity, and The Human Cycle, among others.

‘Sri Aurobindo: The Beginning of Spiritual Journey’ will be screened in various schools and colleges all across the country over the next one year.

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WHAT MAKES NAVROZ A SPECIAL OCCASION FOR PARSIS

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Navroz, which is the Parsi New Year, was celebrated on 16th August this year . The day is dedicated to the beginning of spring and to promoting peace, solidarity, and friendship among people and different communities.

The Navroz celebration is believed to date back to the time when Prophet Zarathustra founded Zoroastrianism, one of the earliest known monotheistic religions in the world, in Persia (now Iran). It was one of the most important religions in the ancient world until the emergence of Islam in the seventh century.

During the Islamic invasion of Persia, several Persians fled to India and Pakistan. Since then, their festivals have become a part of Indian festivities and are celebrated by people from diverse cultures.

Navroz marks the first day of Farvardin, the first month in the Zoroastrian calendar, also known as the Shahenshahi calendar.

For followers of Zoroastrian philosophy, this day represents the time when everything in the universe is completely renewed. Jamshed, a monarch of the ancient Sasanian Empire, is credited with introducing the Parsi calendar. Hence, this holiday is also called Jamshed-i-Nouroz.

Across the world, Navroz is celebrated at the time of the vernal equinox, around 21 March. However, Parsis in India follow the Shahenshahi calendar, which does not recognise leap years. This is why the Parsi New Year in India is celebrated almost 200 days after it is celebrated across the world.

On this occasion, Parsi families across India, especially in the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat as they have a sizeable Parsi population, visit the holy temples to offer prayers.

They also prepare traditional Parsi dishes like Farcha, Berry Pulao, and Jardaloo Chicken, among several other things. Parsis also believe it to be a day of remittance of sins and a time for repentance.   

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The filched Indian Gems

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Koh-i-Noor

 

Over time, theft of Indian antiquities and diamonds has robbed India of its demarcation as the “Golden Bird,” or Sone Ki Chidiya. Many ancient artefacts vanished when India was still a colony. Here are some of the listed items:

Kohi-i-noor

The renowned Mughal Peacock Throne of Allaudin Khalji was the owner of the Koh-i-Noor. Diamond experts from all around the world refer to it as the “Mountain of Light.” Following the establishment of the East India Company by the British in India in 1849, it was given to Queen Victoria. It is currently kept in the Tower of London’s Jewel House.

 The Ring of Tipu Sultan

Tipu Sultan was defeated by the British in a fight in 1799, and after his death, the colonisers took his sword and ring. The ring, which Vijay Mallya had spent a lot of money on, was sold at auction by the British in 2014 for £145,000, while the sword was given back to India.

 The wine cup of Shah Jahan

Colonel Charles Seton Guthrie stole the wine cup that belonged to the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the early 19th century and sent it to Britain. The wine cup was donated to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 1962, where it is currently displayed.

The Peacock Throne

A well-known peacock throne has also been taken.  According to legend, it served as the sear of the Mughal emperors who conquered North India. This throne was previously located in Delhi’s Red Fort. Shah Jahan, an emperor in the 17th century, constructed this throne specifically for him. This throne was removed by the Persian King Nader Shah in the year 1739.

 The marble idol of Sarswati

The goddess’s marble statue was inscribed in the year 1034 AD. This was the most priceless statue in Madhya Pradesh’s Bhojshala Temple. The statue was eventually misplaced, and in 1886 it was mysteriously discovered in the British Museum.

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The battle without the gun

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5th generation warfare

The 5th Generation Warfare is a covert attempt to paralyse a nation and a battle not on the ground but of strategies to discredit and stymie its growth.The well-described Sun Tzu Strategy is unquestionably proving to be a great approach to debilitate the growth of any country, which lists down five agendas, i.e.,win all without fighting; avoid strength, attack weakness; deception and foreknowledge; speed and preparation; shape your opponent; and character-based leadership.

Daniel Abbot defines the 5th Generation Warfare as the war of “information and perception”  which calls for tactics like social engineering, misinformation and cyber attacks, artificial intelligence and autonomous robots.

The tactic of psychological manipulation in order to decay the intellect, breach privacy, or fleece the people of a country is what can be called social engineering. In recent times, there have been instances where foreign powers have adopted certain methodologies, including baiting, scareware, pretexting, phishing, and spear phishing, to rob the nation.

Deliberately spreading deceptive and misleading information in order to  influence actions and the entire persona in long run is  a commendable tactic to vanquish the enemy nation. Be it fuelling political agenda or be it triggering extremism, misinformation has a vital role to play.

We need to outsmart the strives of the foreign nations to uproot the culture of our country with subtle poisoning of technology along with Cyber attacks and look beyond petty affairs to see the wider picture.

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Indian Embassy in Madagascar decks up with tricolour lights

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As India is celebrating Independence Day on Monday, the Indian Embassy building in Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo was seen in the Indian tricolour lights. Meanwhile, Town Hall in Antananarivo also lit up in tricolour on the eve of the 76th anniversary of Independence Day of India.

To commemorate the spirit of Independence, the Embassy of India will organise a flag hoisting ceremony on Monday at the Embassy residence Villa Tanana Finaritra, Analamahintsy, Ivandry. “All members of the Indian community and friends of India are invited to join the celebrations,” the Indian Embassy tweeted.

India and Madagascar share a strong relationship. India is a key trade partner of Madagascar with bilateral trade reaching about 400 million USD in 2020-21.

The ties between the two Indian Ocean neighbours are growing in all spheres. The two countries share healthy and strong ties which are on an upswing and several MoUs in key areas such as health, education, culture, information, and travel have been signed between the two countries.

Meanwhile, in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said the Indian national flag does not contain only three colours in it but is a reflection of the pride of our past, our commitment to the present, and our dreams of the future.

Addressing a tiranga rally in Surat via video conferencing, PM Modi recalled that in a few days’ time, India is completing 75 years of its independence and said that all of us are preparing for this historic Independence Day as the Tricolour is hoisted on every corner of the country.

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