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Modi pitches strong for UNSC reforms, outlines green goals

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credit: www.indianexpress.com

By NewsGram Staff Writer

New York: In an address on Friday at the UN Sustainable Development Summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi insisted  for reforms in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to maintain its relevance and credibility as an international body. He underpinned the need for proper representation in the core UN body so that countries can strive to reach their goals more effectively.

credit: www.ndtv.com
credit: www.ndtv.com

Speaking in Hindi, Modi, also outlined India’s goals for fighting climate change and said he is hopeful that  developed countries would make separate provisions for fighting climate change without slotting it under the head of development.

Making a strong pitch for reforms in the UNSC and it expanded membership, Modi said, “Change is necessary in the UNSC in order to maintain its relevance and credibility, so that with proper representation countries like India can strive better for its goals”

Modi spoke of the need for reducing dependence on energy so that the world can strive towards ‘sustainable consumption’. He suggested a global education programme for preparing future generations so that they can protect the environment and make it sustainable.

“I hope that developed countries will fulfil their financial commitments towards development and climate change without in anyway putting the two under the same head,” he said.

Modi outlined India’s climate change goals saying he represents a culture that calls the Earth ‘mother’ and that India over the next seven years will create 175 GW of renewable energy capacity.

“I represent that culture that calls the earth Ma… the Vedas says that the Earth is the mother and we are its sons,” he said in Hindi at the summit.

He said that India has outlined ambitious programmes to fight climate change. Besides creating 175 GW renewable energy capacity, the country would also stress on energy efficiency, tree plantation, coal tax, clean environment, cleaning up of rivers, waste to wealth movement and sustainable development.

He outlined the government’s programmes towards financial inclusion, saying 180 million new bank accounts had been opened, which he termed as the biggest empowerment for the poor. He said the government was working towards a Pension Yojana to ensure pension reaches the poor.

Modi said earlier only the private sector or public sector were highlighted, but his government has focused on the ‘personal sector’, like individual enterprise through micro finance, innovation, start ups, creating opportunities and providing clean water, power, health, education, hygiene for all– everything that is needed to live a decent life.

He said the government has fixed a time limit for the programmes, and added that women empowerment is a major part of his government’s policy through Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao  (Save the girl child, educate the girl child), which the government has turned into a household mantra; another feature was to make agriculture more remunerative by connecting fields to markets.

Modi said his government was taking steps to mitigate the agrarian crisis, revive the manufacturing sector, improve the services sector, stress on investments in the infrastructure sector and focus on creating smart cities, which are sustainable and the centres of development.

He said India’s path is linked to sustainable development as it is linked to India’s tradition of calling the earth Ma.

He said in the UN international cooperation should be at the centre of sustainable development and to fight climate change.

“The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities is the bedrock of our enterprise for a sustainable world,” he stressed.

He called for international partnership to fight climate change.

(With inputs from IANS)

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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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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.

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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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What is More Dangerous? COVID-19 or Climate Change?

UN Weather Organization: Climate Change May Pose Bigger Danger Than COVID

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Climate crisis COVID-19
If we are unable to mitigate climate change, we will see persistent health problems, especially hunger and the ability to feed the growing population of the world. VOA

By Lisa Schlein

The World Meteorological Organization is warning that if the planet keeps warming at its current pace, the average global temperature could increase by 1.5 degrees C  in the next 10 years.  This rise would worsen extreme weather events, and many of the dangerous effects of climate change might become irreversible, it said.

WMO reported Wednesday that the national lockdowns of transportation, industry and energy production because of the coronavirus pandemic have resulted in a 6 percent drop of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.

However, WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said this good news would be short-lived.  He said the startup of industry might even trigger a boost in emissions.  He said the pandemic also was making it more difficult to monitor and manage weather and other hazards.

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Petteri Taalas, Secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) attends a news conference on the annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin on concentrations of CO2 in climate at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. VOA

“This current COVID crisis has led to the decrease in some measurements,” he said. For example, “airline companies have been carrying out measurements.  Since we have very few flights nowadays, we have less measurements from the aircraft, which is having a negative impact on the quality of the forecasts.”

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While the world is in the throes of tackling two big issues at the same time, Taalas said, the magnitude of problems associated with climate change is much greater than that of COVID.  He said health and economic problems resulting from the pandemic were devastating but noted they would last only a few years.

Also Read- Astrology, Zodiac Sign and COVID-19: What is the relation?

“If we are unable to mitigate climate change, we will see persistent health problems, especially hunger and the ability to feed the growing population of the world, and there will be also more massive impact on economies,” he said.

Taalas said the world needs to show the same determination and unity against climate change as against COVID-19.  He said people everywhere need to act together in the interests of the health and welfare of humanity, for the sake of this and future generations. (VOA)