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Land ordinance lapse: Modi’s makeshift to hold BJP’s grounds in Bihar

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By Sreyashi Mazumdar
The brouhaha over the land ordinance has touched new heights owing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent take on the same.
picture from- www.dnaindia.com
picture from- www.dnaindia.com
In his Mann Ki Baat address on radio on the 30th day of August, Modi conceded to the lapse of the highly contentious land ordinance, adding that the Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013 would persist but with a slight tweak, that is, it would capsulate 13 points that would ensure the economic benefit of the farmers( the inclusion of the 13 points in the land acquisition act would lead to exemptions of sectors like atomic energy, railways, mines, ancient monuments and so on).
Further, he also expounded that his response was in wake of the misinformation being spread by the opposition parties regarding the land ordinance, “My farmer brothers and sisters, my farmer should not be misled and should never be in fear. I do not want to give any opportunity to anybody to create fear among farmers and mislead them.”
Endorsing the stand taken by the de-facto head of the state, MJ Akbar, a BJP spokesperson told NewsGram.com , “The Prime Minister hasn’t retrieved his stand, the very fact that he would ensure the inclusion of 13 points encapsulates his intent to render a pro-farmer change in the Land acquisition act 2013.”
However, Modi’s recent take has been conceived as a sheer exemplification of political opportunism. With the Bihar assembly polls knocking at the door and opposition parties bracing themselves up for the forthcoming elections, Modi’s retrieval seems to be a timeserving decision that would ensure BJP’s firm ground in the state.
According to a report in the Firstpost, the NDA in a bid to pocket a lump sum number in the Rajya Sabha is trying hard to crack the upcoming Bihar assembly polls. Owing to the fact that MLAs have a considerable role to play in the selection of MPs to Rajya Sabha, BJP requires a strong ground in states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. Therefore, the BJP led NDA government is playacting its best to garner public attention and support.
“Modi’s retrieval of the bill was owing to the increasing criticism they garnered because to its anti-farmer nature. The Land bill 2013 which was passed during the UPA rule was unanimously supported by all the political parties; however it was owing to BJP’s nexus with the corporates that the present government wanted to amend the Land Act 2013,” sounded out Asish Dua, Congress’s media coordinator in an interview with NewsGram.com.
He further added, “The lapse of the land ordinance marks the triumph of democracy over the perils rolled out by the Modi government.”
Besides,  the Prime Minister is terming the new development as a pro-farmer scheme, the defeat of his party is seeable enough. The 13 points or rather acts of which the leader has been constantly harping on is nothing less than a  reiteration of clauses which were a part of the Land Act 2013. The scope to increase the radar of compensation under the 13 points schemes was always there- which the new found government kind of overlooked in their attempt at overhauling the Land Act.
“The 13 points which Narendra Modi has been talking of had already existed in the Land bill 2013, it had to get notified by the 31st of December 2014. However, the ruling government didn’t notify the same in order to push forth their agenda of overhauling the act. Now they are taking all the credit of endorsing the 13 acts which is factually incorrect because it was the UPA-2 government that had actually earmarked the same,” said Dua.
The major fact which remains dubious is the way Modi has been feigning his pro-farmer stance despite being aware of the fact that the land ordinance- if it would have been successfully passed in both the houses of the parliament- would have diluted the crucial provisions of mandatory consent and social impact assessment.
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Adhering to the ideas fleshed out by a report in thewire.in, since the political juggernaut came to power, he has been overwhelmingly appreciated by the global finance capital community, owing to which it became all the more necessary for the leader to dole out an easy Land Acquisition act in order to garner foreign investments and land.
Therefore, mulling over the varied tenets, one needs to realize that though Modi has been conniving enough to prevail over his emissaries till this date, but his makeshift decisions exemplify the jitteriness permeating him and his party; they essay the vulnerability that the party is nibbling on in order to consolidate its stand in the Indian political milieu.

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Liquor Does Not Go With The Fight Against Covid-19

Questioning the decision of opening liquor shops

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WINE-1
Everyone is questioning government's decision of making liquor available.

By Salil Gewali

The imposition of lockdown from 24 March 2020 India by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was to drive home the point that health is far more important than the wealth. He always stresses that no citizens should die of infectious Covid-19. It needs a tremendous amount of courage to call for lockdown in India. Without being swayed by other economic forces, the Prime Minister had taken this bold decision. Well, in this battle against the pandemic virus, each day the country has been bearing the immeasurable monetary losses, the worst economic slump ever.

WINE-3
This decision saw many hard consequences like social distancing norms were broken.

The amount of sacrifice made by each individual citizen cannot be overlooked either. The countless have been suffering unprecedented hardship which we cannot describe in words. The employment lost and subsequent starvation are the worse pang faced by a huge chunk of marginalized people, particularly daily-wagers and migrant workers across the country. However, without any grudges, by and large, all citizens have obeyed what the Government ordered from day one.

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Many videos and photos go viral as people stand outside liquor shops, flouting social distancing norms.

But the decision to ease the restriction on the wine stores across the country is nothing but a thorn in the flesh. It has unfolded a very grim picture. It seems, what all praise the government has earned till date has been quite canceled out. Why so haste decision to regret later — given the pandemic nature of virus infection. We can have better fun after we develop the vaccination. What is amazing is the government has failed to “anticipate” the probable frenzied crowds could go astray which might be starkly contrary to the health measures so far as dos and don’ts of covid-19 are concerned? The fundamental etiquette of Covid of keeping physical distance has been just flouted. No exaggeration, “after-effects” of the lifting restriction on liquor selling will literally throw up a whole lot of absurdities bringing the authorities concerned into question. Do you think those who “uncontrollably” booze around can ever follow precautionary measures? Indian has such kind of people who totally lack any civil senses — they have no control, and when drunk, they can go to any extent. People are already in deep desperation due to the long span of lockdown. They can easily lose control of themselves. The primary idea of keeping physical distance then just becomes a big joke!

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Many people were seen getting drunk on the roads as soon as they were made available with liquor.

Many video clips that are going around on social media are themselves head-spinning.  Some are very ridiculous; some are pathetic while some others are disgustingly shocking. One boozed person, probably from Delhi itself, mouthed off what can only be heard from a mindless person. He challenged coronavirus first and then challenged the government, especially for keeping its citizens inside the house for so many weeks. He lamented that he has no money to even one-time mean lol.  The people around were giggling at the person enjoying his monologue drama.

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The number of coronavirus cases significantly increase after the incident.

In another video clip, a driver could not drive his vehicle back home. Soon after buying a bottle of wine on 4 May, he had directly gulped down without a second thought. The police came and tried hard to bring him to sense. It became a funny scene for the passersby, the rule of physical distance thrown to the wind. Another deadly tragedy happened in Haryana in the dead of the night. A heavily drunk person directly rammed his car into a house of roadside strangers. The collision was so heavy that it extensively damaged the wall and a room, besides an air-conditioner, washing machine and two scooters. The family members who were asleep inside thought it as a big explosion of a bomb. Is it not a paragon of vice? One very anxious wife who was waiting for her husband to return home quip – “He has almost forgotten about the drink in this lockdown, we became very happy. He even promised us many times that he will not touch wine anymore. But today he went out only to get that wretched spirit. We have no money to buy rice, but I wonder where my husband got the money from to buy the bottle of whiskey. I hold the government responsible for spoiling the males.”

Read More: “Music Has Become the Daily Partner for People”, Says Gaana CEO

How do we describe all this wobbly policy when 99% of the population is relentlessly battling the pandemic coronavirus by remaining locked up inside the houses as directed by the Government?

With so much of Covid-19 cases “sharply” increasing by the day and stiff rise in the number of deaths, one feels, the permission to open liquor shops could prove to the worst blunder. This only appears like a penny-wise and pound-foolish policy.  It is time to think seriously. It is the time to weigh up each move we make and each fun we fall for. No joking, if we do not put off our “cheers” for some “more time” now, the virus has all potentialities to put the very flame of the whole civilization out.

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds of India’.Twitter: @SGewali

[ Disclaimer: The pictures used in the article are supplied by the author, NewsGram has no intention of infringing copyrights. ]

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Modi Government Chatbot Floods With Lockdown Questions

20% repeat users flood Modi Govt chatbot

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PM Modi
The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi interacting with the people, at the ‘Beating Retreat’ ceremony, at Vijay Chowk, in New Delhi on January 29, 2018. Wikimedia Commons

By Nikhila Natarajan

Built in a record time of five days, India’s official coronavirus chatbot MyGov Corona Helpdesk which has scored 21 million users and 25 million user engagements, is now bunging out responses to repeat users’ anxious queries circling around the country’s extended lockdown, after handling the initial flood of questions on COVID-19 symptoms and safety.

India’s lockdown has been extended from May 4 for a further two weeks, till May 17, as confirmed cases crossed 42,800 and the death toll rose to 1,389. A tentative return to normal life resumed in low-risk areas with few or no cases, while restrictions continued elsewhere in the country.

“Very quickly, we’ve moved from ‘how do I catch COVID’ and ‘how do I stay safe’ to the third category of questions. When are we going to open up? How do we open up? Can I go out? Where do I get groceries? How do I travel? When does travel open up?,” Aakrit Vaish, Founder and CEO of Haptik, the conversational AI firm which built the chatbot, told IANS in a video interview.

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While lockdown has been extended further to 17 May, Govt chatbot is flooded with queries regarding the ongoing lockdown. Pixabay

According to latest data from Haptik, 20 per cent of messages or more than four million messages are flowing from repeat users of the MyGov Corona Helpdesk, which has racked up 21 million unique users since launch. When the MyGov chatbot was launched, India had 258 COVID cases.

More than 40 per cent messages to the chatbot relate to latest COVID-19 updates, 14 per cent are drawn to the symptom checker, eight per cent continue to ask the 101 questions on coronavirus and its symptoms, seven per cent want to know about how the virus spreads and seven per cent ask about risk reduction. One in 10 messages are in Hindi, nine in 10 are in English. In the regional breakdown of chatbot use, Maharashtra leads, followed by Delhi.

In its current form, the MyGov coronavirus chatbot on WhatsApp number 9013151515 is text based and delivers answers based both on a numbered list and around the keywords and intents in user’s input queries.

Launched in the third week of March, the MyGov Coronavirus chatbot is part of a larger clutch of mobile technology-led interventions being developed and used at scale by the Indian government on incredibly short notice, in response to a real time health emergency.

Aarogya Setu, India’s mobile app for contact tracing, has logged 80 million downloads in less than a month since launch. The MyGov chatbot is one of the Indian government’s early moves to push factual information to the Indian public and quell fake news around the domestic coronavirus outbreak. All the information on the chatbot comes from the Indian government, on the WhatsApp platform which has 400m users in the country.

“We thought people would not trust it too much. We were surprised by the repeat users,” Vaish said. Delivering a civic use technology for India’s scale, Vaish said, is an “incredible experience”.

Of the 21 million who now use the chatbot, three million new users came online in the one hour during prime minister Narendra Modi’s address, when he pitched the app to the Indian public.

According to Vaish, real time insights from the way society is using the MyGov chatbot speak to the promise of domain specific chatbots as distinct from all purpose conversational platforms like Google and Alexa.

Read More: Yogi Government Launches Online Portal to Bring UP Residents Back

“Domain specific,” he says, is where chatbots are most effective. According to Vaish, India’s post COVID-19 life will see more bots and “domain specific” will be the winning keyword for the next wave of conversational tools as the call centre model gets disrupted by the public health imperative.

“For conversational platforms, we are on the right side of where the new normal is going to be.”

In April 2019, Reliance Jio bought a majority stake in Haptik in a Rs 700 crore deal. (IANS)

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Build Bridge between Artificial Intelligence, Human Intentions: PM Modi Urges Technocrats

Observing that there is a conspiracy to present technology as a challenge for India's demographic dividen

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Modi, Human, AI
He said the emphasis should be on ways to upgrade skills as per the demand. "Let AI be just another aid, which is little more sophisticated," he said. Pixabay

Stressing integration and right balance between human and artificial intelligence (AI), Prime Minister Narendra Modi here on Sunday said the debate on AI should focus on bridging the gap between human intentions and AI, and not its likely negative impact.

Speaking at the launch of book ‘Bridgital Nation’, written by N. Chandrasekaran and Roopa Purushottam, Modi said, “The debate should not be on what are the dangers from AI, but how to bridge the gap between artificial intelligence and human intentions.”

He said the emphasis should be on ways to upgrade skills as per the demand. “Let AI be just another aid, which is little more sophisticated,” he said.

Observing that there is a conspiracy to present technology as a challenge for India’s demographic dividend, he said, “Human intentions and right intentions” were important for AI’s operations. Technology and talent were force multipliers, rather than a threat, he said. Technology was a bridge between aspirations and achievements, he added.

Modi, Human, AI
Speaking at the launch of book ‘Bridgital Nation’, written by N. Chandrasekaran and Roopa Purushottam, Modi said, “The debate should not be on what are the dangers from AI, but how to bridge the gap between artificial intelligence and human intentions.” Pixabay

The Prime Minister narrated how technology had been a key component of government schemes to reform, transform and perform. He mentioned about the use of data intelligence, digital mapping and real time monitoring in Ujjwala Yojana, which has transformed the lives of millions of women. He also talked about how technology had helped in empowering people through schemes, like Jan Dhan Yojana and Ayushman Bharat.

Modi said his government had used technology to remove silos among departments and build a bridge between supply and demand through innovative ideas, like the Government e-market Place (GeM). He explained how technology was used to create a robust startup system in the country, especially in tier 2 and 3 cities, which helped in development of a new ecosystem of startups.

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On the need to convert challenges posed by technology into opportunities, Modi cited the example of creation of India Post Payment Bank. The disruption caused by technology to the entire postal organisation had converted it into a tech-intensive banking system, benefiting millions through postal bank, he added. (IANS)

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