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Million migrants return home for Chhath

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Patna: Bihar is witnessing the return of its natives in droves. A million migrants are back at their villages and towns over the past week or so to celebrate Chhath festival, the biggest community celebration, along with their families and relatives.

According to a conservative estimate, over one million Bihar migrants working across the country as well as abroad have returned home to infuse “new life” into the festivities.

Even Biharis who are rich and famous, as well as professionals from different fields, have made a beeline for the state for the festival.

“Most migrants have returned in the last one week while thousands are still on the way. Many failed to make it as there was no place in long-route trains,” a labour department official said.

“We have come to celebrate Chhath with our family, relatives and friends,” said Mukesh Rai, in his mid-40s. He reached the Patna railway station on Monday evening, on way to his village in neighbouring Vaishali district.

Mukesh works in a garment export factory in Ludhiana in Punjab.

“After arriving in Patna from virtually every part of India, they are boarding packed buses and trains to reach their villages across the state,” said Bhola Singh, who works as a supervisor in a cement factory in Gujarat.

According to officials at the East Central Railway headquarters at Hajipur near Patna, 1.5 to 2 lakh passengers have been arriving everyday in Bihar from across the country in more than 250 trains since last week to celebrate Chhath.

“All trains from Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune, Chandigarh, Surat and Ahmedabad are packed to capacity, thanks to a huge rush for Chhath,” a railway official said.

The return of thousands of Bihar natives, most of whom are migrant workers outside the state, to rural Bihar has certainly put smiles back on the faces of their old parents, and kith and kin.

Not only this, it also has provided fresh impetus to socio-economic activities. Savings brought along by the migrants has meant their families are spending more on both essentials and fancy goods and thus the state economy i9s getting a boost, spurred by Chhath purchases.

So, it is not just the families but also traders and shopkeepers in the countryside who are eagerly awaiting the arrival of sons of soil for the Chhath.

The four-day festival devoted to the Sun god began on Sunday and ends on Wednesday morning.

Celebrated six days after Diwali, during the festival married women observe fast for 36 hours while devotees offer wheat, milk, sugar cane, bananas and coconuts to gods.

“We are lucky to arrive here. Now we can enjoy Chhath with our family,” a group of migrant workers who returned from Andhra Pradesh said.

Most migrants from Bihar are concentrated in Punjab, Delhi, Haryana, Assam, Rajasthan and Gujarat. Cities such as Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata and Pune have a sizeable number of people from Bihar.

(IANS)

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WhatsApp Announces 20 Teams To Curb Fake News Globally

In India, WhatsApp has partnered with the Digital Empowerment Foundation to train community leaders in several states on how to address misinformation

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WhatsApp selects 20 teams to curb fake news globally, including India. Pixabay

Facebook-owned WhatsApp on Tuesday announced that it has selected 20 research teams worldwide – including experts from India and those of Indian origin — who will work towards how misinformation spreads and what additional steps the mobile messaging platform could take to curb fake news.

Shakuntala Banaji from London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Anushi Agrawal and Nihal Passanha from Bengaluru-based media and arts collective “Maraa” and Ramnath Bhat from LSE have been selected for the paper titled “WhatsApp Vigilantes? WhatsApp messages and mob violence in India”.

The research examines the ways in which WhatsApp users understand and find solutions to the spate of “WhatsApp lynchings” that has killed over 30 people so far.

The Indian government has also directed WhatsApp to take necessary remedial measures to prevent proliferation of fake and, at times, motivated/sensational messages on its platform.

Among others selected were Vineet Kumar from Ranchi-headquartered Cyber Peace Foundation (principal investigator), Amrita Choudhary, President of the Delhi-based non-profit Cyber Café Association of India (CCAOI) and Anand Raje from Cyber Peace Foundation.

They will work as a team on the paper titled “Digital literacy and impact of misinformation on emerging digital societies”.

P.N. Vasanti from Centre for Media Studies in New Delhi woll work withS. Shyam Sundar, The Pennsylvania State University (Principal Investigator) to examine the role of content modality in vulnerability to misinformation, under the topic titled “Seeing is Believing: Is Video Modality More Powerful in Spreading Fake News?”

WhatsApp had issued a call for papers in July this year and received proposals from over 600 research teams around the world.

“Each of the 20 research teams will receive up to $50,000 for their project (for a total of $1 million),” WhatsApp said in a statement.

Lipika Kamra from O.P. Jindal Global University and Philippa Williams from the Queen Mary University of London (Principal Investigator) will examine the role of WhatsApp in everyday political conversations in India, in the context of India’s social media ecosystem.

According to Mrinalini Rao, lead researcher at WhatsApp, the platform cares deeply about the safety of its over 1.5 billion monthly active users globally and over 200 million users in India.

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WhatsApp on a smartphone device. Pixabay

“We appreciate the opportunity to learn from these international experts about how we can continue to help address the impact of misinformation,” Rao said.

“These studies will help us build upon recent changes we have made within WhatsApp and support broad education campaigns to help keep people safe,” she added.

The recipients are from countries including Brazil, India, Indonesia, Israel, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, Singapore, Spain, the UK and US.

WhatsApp said it is hosting them in California this week so they can hear from product leaders about how it builds its product.

“Given the nature of private messaging – where 90 per cent of the messages sent are between two people and group sizes are strictly limited – our focus remains on educating and empowering users and proactively tackling abuse,” said the company.

WhatsApp recently implemented a “forward label” to inform users when they received a message that was not originally written by their friend or loved one. To tackle abuse, WhatApp has also set a limit on how many forwards can be sent.

In India, WhatsApp has partnered with the Digital Empowerment Foundation to train community leaders in several states on how to address misinformation.

Also Read- Facebook Blocks Accounts Engaged in Malicious Activities

“We are also running ads in several languages — in print, online, and on over 100 radio stations — amounting to the largest public education campaign on misinformation anywhere in the world,” the company noted.

Sayan Banerjee from University of Essex, Srinjoy Bose from University of New South Wales and Robert A. Johns from University of Essex will study “Misinformation in Diverse Societies, Political Behaviour & Good Governance”.

Santosh Vijaykumar from Northumbria University, Arun Nair from Health Systems Research India Initiative and Venkat Chilukuri, Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology are part of the team that will study “Misinformation Vulnerabilities among Elderly during Disease Outbreaks”. (IANS)