Gaya (Bihar) [India], February 12 (ANI): A youth died after he was allegedly beaten up by a group of people in Dobhi police station area of Gaya, said Bihar Police on Thursday.
A video of the incident has also gone viral on social media wherein it was seen that people thrashed the youth with lathis.
The Police have assured that all the culprits will be arrested soon.
“I have given instructions to register an FIR against whoever is involved in this incident. All the culprits will be arrested,” Gaya SSP Aditya Kumar told the media. (ANI)
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SHOOTER GAURI SHEORAN WORKS AS A VOLUNTEER TO FIGHT AGAINST COVID-19
Haryana-based international pistol shooter Gauri Sheoran, who has won several national and international medals, including golds in the 2019 South Asian Games and the 2018 World University Games, is busy these days helping people fight against Covid-19.
Daughter of Jagdeep Singh, an IAS officer currently posted as Secretary, Finance Department, Haryana, Gauri and her brother Vishwajeet Singh, also an international pistol shooter, are working as a volunteer to fight against the pandemic. They have donated Rs 2 lakh to Corona Relief Fund. They have also distributed 5,000 face masks, 2,000 sanitizers and 6,000 food packets to the needy. Gauri intends to work towards providing sports facilities and education to the weaker section and the underprivileged girls through a mission “Give Back to the Society”.
The 23-year-old Gauri is the current World University Champion. She has participated in 35 international championships and won 26 international medals.
Gauri is also a Brand Ambassador of National Child Health Program under National Health Mission, Haryana, World 10K Run, India Road Runners, VITA Haryana Dairy, etc. She is also a member of the Executive Committee of Punjab University Sports Council. After doing her Masters in Mass Communication she intends to pursue fashion along with sports.
FATEMA AGARKAR: SHAPING YOUNGSTERS WITH SPORTS AND EDUCATION
Fatema Agarkar talks to The Sunday Guardian about the Agarkar Centre of Excellence (ACE), an initiative she started with her husband Ajit Agarkar, and how career in sports has an investable future. Excerpts:
Q. What all did it take to convert the idea of amalgamating sports and education into the formation of ACE?
A. Given the expertise that we both have, i.e., Ajit Agarkar with sports and my journey with education, it just feels like a seamless journey. We are passionate about making sure that children benefit from being exposed to sports as opposed to how it was previously. For us, it was all about bringing expertise and experience together.
Q. What is your vision for driving the ACE initiative in 2021?
A. We want to ensure that we expose children to a lot more opportunities through sports that weren’t present in the physical world as the virtual world today has exposed children to so many opportunities. We at ACE are pro-blended learning. It is simply about optimising the virtual space.
Q. What would you like to say to the parents who think that devoting more time to sports means compromising on academics?
A. Think about sports as a career as these are the careers of today and tomorrow and if you do a comparative analysis, traditional careers are not lucrative anymore. You have to invest in it and the child has to be talented, he/she will have to have that skill and that’s why parents need to go to the right academy so the child gets mentored by the right people. Having said that, a career in sports has an investable future.
Q. What all key values do sports inculcate in children?
A. All of the life skills that we talk about in education—discipline, commitment, balance, decision-making, time-management, relationship-management, and teamwork. For me, sport is an education in itself!
Q. Do you believe that during these testing times it becomes even more important for children to engage in some form of physical activity to cope up with the stress of online classes?
A. Absolutely! There has to be a physical side to it, only because the current lifestyle is sedentary and children need to have that physical fitness, depending on their building, society, the neighbourhood but one can still focus on physical fitness at home, one doesn’t need to go to the gym to be exposed to that kind of fitness. One can simply manage on a yoga mat, it is very important and should become a part of their daily routine.
Q. Do you agree that the right coaching and mentorship from an early age along with proper sports infrastructure can give India more sportspersons?
A. Yes, we as a nation need to promote that and we need to invest in that, whether it is government or private bodies, I think it is important to consider sports as an integral part of children’s growing up years. We are from Mumbai, we work with smaller schools with limited infrastructure but we need to think beyond it, we need to plan simply because this is the future. Hence, it is important to invest in it and utilise that infrastructure.
Q. Would you like to comment on the reform measures required to further boost the Indian sports ecosystem?
A. The hope is that a lot more people and many stakeholders think about sports as an investment, build capabilities. The pandemic taught us one thing that we were not prepared to go virtual and I am just hoping that we are better prepared for the future if we are all in it together and consider investing in better sporting facilities and infrastructure. We build capabilities and currently, we are not there and it is not just schools, it’s the government. It is that vision that says our kids can play more and for that, we will have-to-have such facilities.
Covid gave people time to think seriously about settling down: MatchMe co-founder
Co-founder of matchmaking services MatchMe, Tania Malhotra Sondhi, talks of the USP and success of the company and how the Covid-19 lockdown changed the dynamics of relationships.
Q: MatchMe is a five-year-old premium personalised matchmaking service which is modern and has redefined the traditional culture of arranged marriages. Share with us the vision, success and USP of MatchMe.
A: MatchMe was created with sheer passion and interest in connecting like-minded people who can come together in marriage. The idea is to thoroughly assess mutual compatibility and play cupid for those individuals who are looking to find the right partner to settle down with. Alongside being extremely personalised, we are a completely offline service that maintains utmost transparency while upholding the client’s privacy at all times. This is what makes modern young individuals who deeply value their privacy trust MatchMe to help them find a partner of their choice.
Our USP is that my co-founder Mishi and I are personally involved with every single client to understand their backgrounds, personalities and personal interests, on the basis of which we curate matches for them. Our success lies in the fact that most of the matches we have made so far resulted from first introductions made by us, which is a testimony to our accuracy when it comes to matchmaking. This can also be attributed to the fact that we believe in making our clients meet only when it is worth their time and interest. Hence, our process focuses on selective introductions. We work with our clients as friends and make the girl/boy comfortable enough for them to share their interests and preferences with us, which they sometimes shy away from with their parents.
Q: What age category do you detail and match for? What socio-economic level do folks usually come from? Is it mostly parents or those looking to find their soulmates?
A: A majority of our clients fall under the age bracket of 27-34 years, but we have also catered to clients who are in the age bracket of 40-60 years. We cater mostly to the elite and affluent, those who are well-educated, well-placed financially, and have a progressive outlook.
Speaking of the ratio between parents and youngsters, I would say it is 50:50 so far. You would be surprised to know that an increasing number of youngsters who are extremely occupied with their careers, but don’t wish to settle just for the sake of it, turn to us to help them find the right match. So, basically, we understand their requirements and do some basic background checks for them, and then make the two meet only after we are personally satisfied with both parties and are convinced that they are right for each other.
Q: In today’s times, what are the criteria that a young woman or man is looking for, in an arranged marriage? And how has it evolved in the past few decades?
A: Most youngsters, both men and women, give first priority to mutual compatibility and shared interests. The families’ backgrounds and their respective financial statuses come into the picture only after these two boxes have been checked. Some noticeable and heartening changes include the fact that arranged marriages are no longer arbitrary in nature and are fixed only when the boy and girl are both genuinely invested. Another positive change is that couples take a few months to date and get to know each other and their families don’t rush them into getting engaged soon after meeting. Indian families are also getting increasingly open to inter-caste marriages, even in cases where the girl may be slightly older than the boy, which was a big no-no earlier.
Q: How has Covid changed the dynamics of marriages and relationships? What has been your success rate till date?
A: During the Covid-19 lockdown, we saw a lot of traction and had many youngsters approach us for finding them the right match. This could be attributed to two main reasons: the primary being the fact that life, in general, had slowed down and ‘work from home’ gave people enough time to think seriously about settling down. The second reason for this was the fact that there was a sense of loneliness that many young individuals felt while being confined in their homes, which led them to understand the importance of companionship and having a life partner. We have, in fact, made several virtual introductions during the lockdown, most of which have gone on to become successful relationships/marriages. Till date, we have brought over 100 couples together in marriage.
Q: What is the revenue stream in MatchMe?
A: We do a fee-based search. Our fee starts at Rs 2 lakh and goes upwards, a part of which is taken as a membership fee, as we need a commitment from the client, for the service we provide and the time and effort we invest in finding the right match for them. The remainder of the fee is charged only when we are successful in finding a suitable match and when a marriage is fixed.
AWAKENING THE ‘WARRIORS’ IN WOMEN
We, as women, need to question as to why we inherently believe that men are superior to women, and overcome the illusion to follow successful men and not successful women.
Indian history is replete with evidence that women have been great warriors, playing a vibrant role in protecting the integrity of the nation as well as strengthening their positions in society. Continuing with this tradition, women’s role has been exemplary in contemporary times in all spheres of life, including the armed forces, big enterprises, among others. In this context, an exploration of instances from our history helps us examine the conditions and challenges that women continue to confront in contemporary times. Such historical instances not only provide meaningful answers to a series of unanswered questions and concepts related to gender, but also help in self-introspection of our thoughts and actions.
HISTORICAL SAGA OF WOMEN
The Indian epic, Mahabharata, is often inferred as leading to a great war for conserving the honour of a woman, Draupadi. But what is often forgotten is the series of erroneous and dishonorable conducts by mankind that finally found an outlet through a war triggered by the ‘Chirharan’ of Draupadi.
One such story in the epic was of Sikhandi, who was a Kashi princess named Amba in her previous life, born as a daughter to Drupad, the King of Panchaal. As Amba, she along with her sisters was charioted away by Bheeshma from their ‘swayambar’ to Hastinapur to marry his younger brother instead. Amba expressed her desire to marry Salwa whose garland she carried in her hands. But to her resentment both Salwa and Bheeshma’s brother refused to marry her on the pretext of embracing the former in her heart and contaminated by the touch of Bheeshma. Thus, the dignity of the women was questioned on the grounds of conduct by the men.
Amba went from one court to another seeking a champion to defend her honour since as a woman she was not allowed to fight in those times. But no one dared to stand against Bheeshma. On being reborn, Amba as Shikhandi was determined to avenge the wrongdoing.
One might believe that women are not meant to be warriors and require a man to defend her honour. This is another barrier that must be broken through a historical revelation. No doubt our men dominated the wars, especially the Kurukshetra war which was an all-men war. But there were other wars where women warriors are mentioned as a dominant force such as the wars of Kartikeya who fought with the Asuras at Kurukshetra.
Additionally, history is evidence that women fought shoulder to shoulder with men as equal participants in the struggle against the British rule. The determination and courage of famous women revolutionaries like Rani Lakshmibai, Savitribai Phule and Begum Hazrat Mahal left a lasting impression for generations to come.
Begum Hazrat Mahal, the last begum of Awadh, was considered to be more courageous than her husband, Wajid Ali Shah. Instead of bowing down to the Britishers, she chose to live with self-respect, confidence and took the courage to rebel against the British East India Company during the 1857 rebellion, even though the Nawab was exiled to Kolkata after British took over the kingdom of Awadh in 1856.
Due to her war strategy and leadership, the Britishers were confined to the Lucknow presidency. Begum Hazrat Mahal, mother, queen and a symbol of resistance, had also set an example by strengthening unity among Hindus and Muslims against the Britishers and motivated women to become warriors and join the war. As a woman, she acted as a uniting force for the society.
Despite our rich history of brave women, the role of women in Indian society over time underwent distortions and came to be exhibited as a subject of vulnerability and a symbol of weakness.
WOMEN IN THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD
In the contemporary era, even though the status of women has changed substantially with many setting examples of valiance and efficiency; yet, they are being categorised as vulnerable and weak, the one who needs to be protected and cared for at all times. Knowing or unknowingly, this show of mercy and apathy has sown a seed of doubt, resulting in ‘conflicting’ minds, which often is passed on from one generation to the other. Such mindsets further strengthen the ‘glass ceiling’ effect, preventing women from advancing in the workplace or choosing a male dominated profession despite being well qualified and deserving.
The barrier does not end here. Nevertheless, there are a number of examples where women have broken the ‘glass ceiling’ and achieved name and fame, though the percentage of such women is still marginal. These women have set an example by converting the famous saying: ‘There is a woman behind every successful man’ in their favour, by becoming their own strength with or without the support of a man. But the question that arises here is: Have they encouraged, rather supported and uplifted other women with immense potential as them? Have they strengthened the concept of ‘She for She’ or does ‘She is jealous of She’ still holds greater gravity in our societal mindset?
In retrospect, we need to revisit the progressive thought process of women by tracing our rich history to change stereotypical societal mindset which arrests progress of women. The fact that history is a repository of many unanswered questions related to the major role that women play in Indian society can be seen in the recent excavation of ancient civilisation site in Sinauli (Uttar Pradesh) which revealed that women warriors were skilled in sword fighting, archery and chariot riding equitable to men. This has broken the myth and established that agility of the body, the sharpness of the eye, the sharpness of the mind, dexterity of the hand, quick thinking and intelligence, which are the major factors for winning a fight, whether physical or mental, or whether by a man or a woman. One needs to rebel against the boundaries that the society has prescribed for women and begin the journey of ‘Mahaprasthan’ the path of the great departure from the orthodox, stereotype illusions of societal mindsets.
We as women need to pledge to break these myths and barriers, awaken the warriors within us, question as to why we inherently believe that men are superior to women, overcome the illusion to follow successful men and not successful women and create a platform of thoughts and expressions where ‘He for She’ as well as ‘She for She’ prevails, thus understanding gender equality through both the perspectives.
The writer is Senior Researcher, Public Policy Research Centre, (PPRC), New Delhi.
Fashion isn’t just about the catwalk or what we see on Instagram, says ace designer Rina Dhaka
In an interview with NewsX, Rina Dhaka, one of India’s most celebrated fashion designers, talks about her journey and changes in the fashion industry over the years, especially after Covid-19.
Renowned fashion designer Rina Dhaka joined NewsX for an exclusive interview as part of NewsX India A-List. She had burst on to the Indian fashion scene in the late 80s and has showcased her work at the Louvre in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, besides many others accomplishments.
Talking about her incredible journey so far, she said, “When I came around, there was no such career path for people in designing. There was the late Rohit Khosla as a designer and Ritu Kumar in the northeast. But this whole industry as such didn’t exist. Youth is all about innovation and that was the need of our hour—our means me and my contemporaries like Rohit Bal and Tarun Tahiliani. We all came around at that time and were very heady. There was no concept about money, it was all about creativity, craft and trying to pursue some kind of fashion. In fact, at par with the rest of the world, there was really no design industry, even in the West. There were high-street stores like Selfridges and Bloomingdales in America. Designers, as a category of clothing, came about the same time as us. And look where it is today. We have schools of fashion, students coming out of these great schools every year and there is a booming trade and industry. When we found the FDCI, we were just nine members. Over a cup of chai every evening and a few laughs, we created this body. Today, it has millions of followers on Instagram and runs successful events like fashion weeks which can help designers in India and internationally come together and get work. So, yes, fashion has really come a long way and my journey is that journey too.”
Expressing her views on how the landscape of the fashion industry has changed over the years, especially with the inclusion of issues that matter to young people like body positivity and inclusivity, she said, “Lakme approached me to do a plus-size show and we did the casting. This was two or maybe two-and-a-half years ago. There were 300 models who came for the audition which we announced only an hour before. Fabulous, body-positive, not shy, very confident—frankly, they could do runways anywhere. These are plus-size models. And one of the girls I picked out from the crowd was Sakshi. She has gone on to be on the cover of every national magazine. Today, she is India’s most celebrated model. Now in fashion weeks, we have to have a better ratio of plus-sized models as well. This is where the journey of inclusivity has gotten us, and the noise that we made in the years prior to that has brought us here. I’m really happy that it’s no more about a size eight, which is called a sample size, and about passion. Today, a sample size is also a plus size.”
When asked about the difficulties faced by the fashion industry in the past one year and whether things are coming back to normal, she responded, “For all of us, who have been designers and my contemporaries, we are always in competition, running to the next season. We’re always pressured against what we call a deadline, and the deadline has the word ‘dead’ in it! It really is that you have to die before you finish the clothing. You are really as good as your last collection or your last show. But the year was hard. Everything was shot and costs were high. The demand totally shrunk. My very old client, who always has to buy something new that I have to offer, who is also like my muse, said, ‘Rina, what have I been doing with my life? Where am I going to go wearing these coats? I don’t know what I’m going to do, I have no need. I have decided not to be an active consumer anymore’. This was what the industry faced, especially a luxury industry like ours. In terms of exports as well, there were a lot of uncertainties and fears with stores closing down, customer and buying patterns and needs changing. ‘How do you reinvent yourself’, was something we all learnt. We’re on that journey now. I must say we’re like roaches, we will survive, because our trade has taught us such. So, you can’t write us off as yet. We will just go through this.”
On a concluding note, she shared a piece of advice for young designers, saying, “Have a strong health. Don’t ever ignore your health because you need it. A lot of these children go out and eat food on the roadside and all. There were a lot of interns who would get jaundice because of the water in the early days, although not now because they are more aware maybe. Secondly, fashion isn’t a fashion show or a catwalk, behind-the-scenes or what we see on Instagram or social media or television. In reality, it is quite dreary and dreadful. It is a pursuit. You go into these dirty lanes following your garment or where it’s made to get things done. One has to be prepared for the monotony of such a daily life, one that you need to pursue to stay in the grind of completing your work.”
CHALLENGES TO FULL-SCALE ADOPTION OF BLOCKCHAIN IN INDIA
India is still facing several roadblocks on the way to adopting blockchain technology more wholeheartedly. In order to embrace the technology and keep up with the world, the government needs to identify and address concerns like data privacy, define regulations and laws, and build the architecture and skill sets required.
With more than 30,000 blockchain innovators and practitioners across India, blockchain technology has emerged as a transformative source of innovation and disruption. The technology has been widely recognised across the world and more so for its applications related to governance in the public domain. The core features of blockchain such as providing transparency and a platform for auditability in governance are the reasons for the technology gaining wider acceptance both within the public and the private sector.
As per a recent report on “National Strategy on Blockchain, 2021” by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Government of India, potential blockchain applications of high interest to the nation include farm insurance, transfer of land record, identity management, pharmaceutical supply chain, duty payments, power distribution, e-notary service, e-voting, agriculture and other supply chains, digital certificate management, IoT device management and security, public service delivery, digital evidence management system, electronic health record management, and microfinance for self-help groups.
Some of the global efforts by countries to embrace and promote blockchain technology include the Blockchain-based Service Network (BSN) initiative of China that provides developer tools with a focus on standardization across public networks, the European Blockchain Partnership for developing a secure and resilient European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI), the Smart Dubai initiative by the UAE for becoming the “first city fully powered by Blockchain by 2021”, the UK’s food standard agency deploying blockchain for tracking the distribution of meat, the USA’s food and drug inspection authority deploying the technology in health data processing for a transparent supply chain, Brazil using the Ethereum network for eVoting, and Switzerland using the same for digital IDs.
Although blockchain has grown immensely and large corporations and the government in India are deploying the technology for several use-cases, there are numerous challenges. The major technological challenges are related to scalability and interoperability issues. Security and privacy of sensitive data are a major concern that hinders its growth, which is exacerbated by a lack of awareness, education, and skill set among its users.
One of the features of blockchain technology is that the data stored on the chain is recorded on every node on the network, making it difficult to maintain the privacy of data required as per the data protection laws such as Section 43A of the IT Act. Extensive research and development are being carried out in providing solutions to align with data protection laws and to protect the privacy of the users. Different forms of blockchain such as permissioned and private blockchain also exist to control the level of privacy in different elements of the data recorded. The “Right To Be Forgotten’, a prominent feature of the Draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, cannot be satisfied due to the inherent core functionalities of blockchain which include a permanent record of data and accessibility of transaction history.
Privacy concerns around data ownership and sharing are ever-growing. Blockchain can be designed to be either public, private, consortium or hybrid. But, it is crucial to direct and design what part of the data remains on-chain and off-chain to avoid sensitive data of stakeholders involved in a transaction being exposed. For achieving higher interoperability across similar applications, it is imperative to create data standardization and process standardization across similar applications.
One of the major applications of blockchain is in the supply chain industry but there is a lot of resistance by domain experts to deploy the technology due to trust issues, lack of infrastructure, or simply a lack of understanding of the technology itself. Many blockchain platforms exist today but a lack of understanding of their core functionalities and how they can function together remains a major hurdle for higher blockchain adaptability. It is crucial to educate and spread awareness of different functionalities of blockchain such as security, flexibility, scalability, etc. of open source blockchain platforms. Blockchain can be deployed in several industries and provide solutions to many use-cases. However, continuous production deployment can be only achieved if users are made aware of how the technology provides solutions to a specific domain.
As more and more people are connected to the blockchain network, the processing speed can significantly decrease since copies of the blockchain are maintained on each node every time a new transaction is added to the block. Its decentralised architecture can be slower than traditional systems, thus, there is a need to work upon a system upgrade that will allow faster synchronisation of transactions if more people are to be connected to the blockchain.
The data storage mechanism of blockchain is “append-only” which means it cannot be modified, replicating on the nodes and this demands higher storage capacity. As more blocks are added to the chain, the issue of scalability becomes more relevant. Scalability is a major roadblock in the full adoption of technology due to factors such as the configuration of the blockchain platform, consensus mechanism, block size, network bandwidth, processing power requirements, privacy requirements, architecture, and data storage. These factors can be addressed by improving the design architecture of its network and platform.
Since blockchain is distributed in nature, allocating resources to the network and node infrastructure varies and depends on the cost of maintaining the network, its security, and other essential requirements. Optimum allocation of resources is needed as lower resource allocation in such cases could highly affect the performance of the entire system.
Cryptocurrency mining uses consensus mechanisms such as proof of concept which requires the expertise of data scientists, making its adoption rather difficult. A combination of domain and technology expertise is a rare skill set to find and a lot of blockchain projects remain unsuccessful and incomplete due to resource constraints. If the skill set is not acquired timely, India could fall behind in the complete adoption of blockchain and remain unsuccessful as compared to the rest of the world.
Banking regulations require non-repudiation via in-person verification which is difficult due to challenges in implementing technological solutions to blockchain-based cryptocurrencies. Due to the lack of details regarding digital signatures, which is a core part of the blockchain, in Schedule I of the Information Technology Act, 2000, for transactions related to wills and negotiable instruments, immovable properties, etc., the application of the technology becomes difficult.
Since every entity in the network including the user and the node owns a private key, public key, and certificates, it is imperative to use Certificate Authority (CA) to maintain the privacy of data. Depending upon the nature of the targeted application, the choice of CA can be determined, and licensed CA could be used for transactions requiring signing using certificates.
Decentralized finance (DeFi) is poised to expand in India, providing opportunities for the unbanked and underbanked population of the country. DeFi provides financial services through a decentralised network and provides use cases such as cross-border remittances. As per a study by the World Bank, the average transaction fee is 7.45 percent, even for cross-border remittances in India, with traditional banks charging even higher fees. By embracing DeFi, such charges can be as low as 0.5 percent or even lower, benefitting millions of Indians transferring money to India.
But the state of regulations and compliance for blockchain and especially cryptocurrencies is still ambiguous in India. Currently, there are speculations that the Government of India is to introduce a bill in the Parliament to ban cryptocurrency transactions in India. The concerns are fuelled by the existence of money laundering activities that can be exacerbated through the usage of cryptocurrencies. However, it should be noted that due to its decentralised nature, the solution does not reside in banning the industry but in imposing tighter regulations and through increased taxation.
The Government of India is also talking about introducing its own central bank digital currency (CBDC) and there are many advantages to it. CBDC makes tax evasion more difficult and allows higher monitoring of illicit activities. It allows disruption of banks and clearing houses, also limiting the guarantee that is required to be provided by commercial banks. It becomes easier to monitor monetary policy, allowing for a direct control of the money supply and for using tools such as helicopter money, and also makes privately controlled money systems more transparent and secure. By providing low-cost bank accounts, CBDC provides higher financial inclusion to every citizen of the country. However, it should be noted that CBDC should exist in harmony with other cryptocurrencies to reap the full benefits of the technology.
In a nutshell, the adoption of the technology in India would accelerate when the regulations are well-defined by the Government of India, more awareness and training is provided for the required skill set in the industry, more universities and corporations offer courses and practical training to improve existing blockchain architecture and systems for battling scalability, privacy and security concerns around the technology.
Dr Badri Narayanan is the founding director of Infinite Sum Modelling, Seattle and a senior economist with University of Washington, Seattle. Pankhuri is an economist and serves as a Blockchain Expert at the United Nations and International Standard Organization (ISO). The views expressed are personal.
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