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By Rupam Jain and Tommy Wilkes
New Delhi, November 17, 2016: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s shock ban on high-value banknotes will hit the war chests of his rivals before a key state election next year, sparking accusations that his strike against “black cash” will unfairly boost his party’s chances.
That is despite widespread anger among millions of Indians forced to queue outside banks to change small amounts of old money for legal tender, possibly denting support for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at least in the short term.
Opposition politicians are scrambling to redraft campaign plans ahead of the ballot expected early next year in Uttar Pradesh, a state of more than 200 million people which will be crucial to Modi’s long-term plan for re-election in 2019.
The prime minister last week outlawed 500 and 1,000 rupee notes in a drive to rein in corruption and a shadow economy that accounts for a fifth of India’s $2.1 trillion gross domestic product.
With no state election funding, illicit cash is the lifeblood for political parties that collect money from candidates and businessmen, and then spend it to stage rallies, hire helicopters and hand out “gifts” to win votes.
Spending on the Uttar Pradesh election is forecast to hit a record 40 billion rupees ($590 million), despite the cancellation of big notes.
Modi’s demonetization drive has so far proven popular among increasingly aspirational voters who are tired of corruption, although views among the broader population and economists are divided over the efficacy and fairness of the move.
Opposition politicians have united to decry it.
“We will have to plan the entire election strategy all over again,” said Pradeep Mathur, a senior Uttar Pradesh leader of the Congress opposition party that was trounced by the BJP in 2014 national elections.
His concerns reflect a view that the BJP, with more members than its rivals and close ties to big corporate donors, can survive the cash crunch better, helping Modi win Uttar Pradesh and four other territories heading to the polls early in 2017.
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For Modi, winning India’s main battleground state is vital to strengthen his party’s position in the upper house of parliament, where it is still in the minority, before seeking a second term in the 2019 general election.
“Their calculation is that this is going to hurt everybody, but in relative terms the BJP is going to come out stronger,” said Milan Vaishnav, a South Asia expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.
According to the Delhi-based Center for Media Studies (CMS), which tracks campaign financing, the BJP relies on cash for less than two-thirds of its funding in a state like Uttar Pradesh.
Its regional rivals use cash to cover 80 to 95 percent of campaign spending.
Demonetization will force Congress to hold smaller rallies, said Mathur, and there will be fewer “freebies” for voters.
Other parties are also adjusting plans in Uttar Pradesh. Ashok Agarwal, a politician with the incumbent Samajwadi Party in the city of Mathura, will have to rely more on his team of 1,000 volunteers to connect with voters.
In a bid to limit the squeeze, parties are paying workers to queue at banks and swap old notes for new ones and evade scrutiny from tax inspectors, said party activists in Mathura.
Event managers, whose businesses usually boom at election time, are worried.
“No political party except the BJP wants to organize big rallies before January. All of them depend on cash,” said Rajesh Pratap, who has provided loudspeakers, outdoor air conditioners and security to party rallies for over a decade.
Mayawati, a powerful former leader of Uttar Pradesh who Modi’s aides view as his biggest electoral threat in the state, says the demonetization timing appeared highly political.
BJP officials accuse Mayawati of hoarding “black” money garnered from selling tickets to candidates to fund her campaign.
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One senior official and a close aide to Mayawati said some of her party’s rallies would be axed and replaced by more door-to-door campaigning.
“Last month … we had to bring over 300,000 villagers from across UP (Uttar Pradesh) to Lucknow city for a day … It’s not just us, but every political party spends money at grassroots level to win votes,” the official said.
Modi has not explicitly linked demonetization to a clean-up of electoral funding, but officials in his party say rivals should have heeded his warnings earlier this year that he was serious about clamping down on “black” cash.
“You cannot call it a bolt from the blue because Modi … had dropped sufficient hints that he will take strict action,” said a close aide.
“MOTHER OF ALL CORRUPTION”
While an immediate liquidity crunch for parties is clear, the longer-term impact on funding is less so.
The symbiosis between businessmen seeking favors and parties needing cash has sent campaign funding soaring.
In southern Andhra Pradesh state, three in four voters reported receiving money from parties during the last general election, according to research by CMS.
The group’s chairman N. Bhaskara Rao describes electoral corruption as “the mother of all corruption” in India.
In the 2014 election, when Modi swept to power with an electrifying campaign that included 3D holograms of him giving speeches in villages across India, parties spent a record 370 billion rupees ($5.4 billion), CMS estimated.
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They have also long circumvented rules and learned to avoid using cash – parties get donors to acquire equipment for rallies directly, or local traders to buy gifts for would-be voters, such as mobile phone credits. (Reuters)
(Additional reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj in MATHURA, Sharat Pradhan in LUCKNOW and Subrata Nagchoudhury in KOLKATA; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Mike Collett-White)
As the world reopens after 18-20 months of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns, a new variant of the coronavirus -- called B.1.1.529 -- has been identified in South Africa that has left the scientific community worried, as they fear that this new strain could fuel outbreaks in several countries and cripple health systems once again. Over 100 cases have been detected in South Africa, where the new strain is slowly becoming the dominant one.
Here are five things you should know about this deadly super Covid variant that has forced a number of countries, including the UK, Israel, Italy and Singapore, to restrict travel from South Africa and other countries in the region.
1. According to South African health officials, the 'B.1.1.529' variant has many more mutations than scientists expected, especially after a severe third wave, which was driven by the Delta variant. Many of the mutations are of concern for immune evasion and transmissibility.
2. B.1.1.529 carries a high number of mutations in its spike protein, which plays a key role in the virus' entry into cells in the human body. The B.1.1.529 variant has 50 mutations overall, including more than 30 on the spike protein alone which is the target of most current Covid vaccines.
The new strain "likely evolved during a chronic infection of an immuno-compromised person, possibly in an untreated HIV/AIDS patient".| Flickr
3. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said it will take a few weeks to understand the impact of the new variant. Scientists have said it is the most heavily mutated version yet, which means vaccines, which were designed using the original strain from Wuhan in China, may not be as effective. The WHO has called a meeting to discuss B.1.1.529 and decide if it will be officially designated a variant of concern.
4. First identified in South Africa this week, the strain has spread to nearby countries, including Botswana. Israel has identified a case of a Covid-19 variant with a large number of mutations "in a person who returned from Malawi". Two cases have been detected in Hong Kong. India has called for rigorous screening of passengers from South Africa, Botswana, and Hong Kong.
5. There are still speculations floating around the variant's origin. According to Francois Balloux, Director of the London-based UCL Genetics Institute, the new strain "likely evolved during a chronic infection of an immuno-compromised person, possibly in an untreated HIV/AIDS patient". (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: pandemic, Delta, Lethal, B.1.1.529, New COVID Strain
By- Erik Schmidt
Many industries have been shut down to the global covid-19 pandemic; betting is one of the most affected industries.
By August of last year, most betting shops were closed due to the lockdown issued by the government worldwide. It was announced recently that the pre-tax profits fell by 91% and the betting operators are facing great struggles due to this pandemic.
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One of the great things betting industries have accomplished during this pandemic is changing betting from land-based to digital wagering. Online betting has offered better odds and features to the modern bettor and has given betting industries good profits. How does this affect betting shops? Will they stand a chance is of surviving during this pandemic? Should they give way to online betting to take over?
You have to check on online betting websites and windows of land-based bettors to understand how much they depend on professional sporting events. Sports like football, tennis, horse racing, golf, cricket, basketball, dart, and baseball stopped due to covid-19, thus greatly affecting the income of betting.
Brick and Mortar casinos are also remained closed due to this pandemic and it's also not easy to being back bettors to a land-based casino because of all the regulations that have to be followed. The online casino did not greatly suffer during this pandemic compared to the land-based casino. They saw an increase since most bettors used online casinos. To understand how massive the online betting industry has become, Wetten.com explains more. But the question is, what is the future of the betting industry post-covid-19?
The future looks bright in sports betting; some major events such as the PGA tour and English premier league have resumed despite the outbreak of covid-19. The events are taking place, although the fans are not allowed inside the venue; they have allowed online and offline bookmakers to accept bets.
There is a possibility of a second outbreak of this pandemic. So the betting industry should be ready for anything because there is a possibility of sports events being discontinued in the future. It is worth introducing casino games and eSports to online bookmakers that don't offer these services. It's a good time for land-based bookmakers to offer online sports betting as they can be asked to close again in the future.
Also Read: Why Is Online Betting So Popular In India?
Online casinos have the chance to operate despite the lockdown situation. But they can also suffer a loss since most people are out of work and can't spend their money on entertainment. Betting is always resilient, even in worse financial status, but there is no assurance that the trend continues since the world is dealing with something that has never occurred before.
The betting industry, just like any other great industry, must consider taking things step by step. Hopefully, things will get back to normal if the pandemic improves. Still, if it is the opposite, online betting websites must be ready with other alternatives for sports betting, just like casino games.
How can betting shops stay in business?
There are two things betting operators have to do to stay afloat. The first one is changing into the digital side, for that is the only option they have. Despite them changing to the digital side, they also have to find ways to help their customers switch over to mobile betting.
Operators should also create an exclusive privilege for VIP players by sectioning their shops where the VIP players can sit and enjoy extra perks. By practicing these two things, the chances of survival for the betting industry will increase.
Practices to use to maintain the betting shops.
Change the payment methods by avoiding cash, instead let the clients use banking methods, credit cards and PayPal to reduce contact with clients.
Make sure players have a proper social distance.
Ensure players spend time in one sector, and this is possible by offering games that don't require movement within the building.
Always decontaminate the building.
How will Virtual Reality Technology help the betting industry?
Gaming machines are the best to make sure that your betting business success. Terminals used in the Virtual Reality Tech allow players to enjoy slots and virtual sports using the same machine. Players feel more secure being able to bet on every game on the same device. With one machine only being used, it reduces contamination since the machine will be contaminated between players.
It's been a whole year since the pandemic began and though it's not over yet, things will get back to normal. The betting industry is not a stranger to the problems caused by the pandemic. The online betting industry is still operating and has also grown, but the retail sector has gone through economic losses. The retail sector can survive the pandemic by following the above measures.
Disclaimer: (This article is sponsored and includes some commercial links)
The festive season is around the corner and with sugar-laden sweets, snacks and luncheons, festive eating tends to tip towards an indulgence. The pandemic, along with the holiday season, provides us with a double incentive to take care of our health, especially if you have a chronic health condition like diabetes.People with diabetes need to find ways to manage their health smartly and effectively to mitigate risks that come with the disease such as kidney problems, heart diseases, nerve issues, foot problems, and so on. Controlling glucose levels, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and regular medical consultations are key to managing this disease effectively.
Dr Jothydev Kesavadev, Diabetologist and MD of Jothydev's Diabetes Research Centres said, "It is imperative for one to always make sure diabetes is being well-managed, but, during the festive season, it is important than usual. Uncontrolled diabetes can heighten the risk of developing severe diseases or complications. Regularly monitoring glucose levels helps you catch spikes or trends that suggest your diabetes may be getting out of control. This also helps you to take timely measures," he explains.
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Here are a few tips for better diabetes management during the pandemic:
Scheduling is key: Diabetic patients need to continue medications without interruption. Apart from continuous monitoring of glucose levels, do plan regular consultations with the doctor. It is also imperative that patients do not ignore high blood glucose levels, HbA1C >10%, or positive urine ketone status.
No pain, no gain!: Diet & exercise play a major role in preventing and managing diabetes. Attention to nutrition and adequate protein intake along with exercise helps control weight and lower blood pressure. It also lowers harmful LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, raises healthy HDL cholesterol, strengthens muscles and bones, reduces anxiety, and improves general well-being. Patients with diabetes are encouraged to take up 45 minutes of moderate activity every day.
Wearable devices for the win!: Technology advances have led wearable devices, to allow patients to keep a close tab on glucose levels. One such wearable is the Freestyle Libre that go a long way in helping people with diabetes (both type 1 and 2) manage the disease well. Continuous glucose monitoring, through these devices, offers the highest levels of accuracy and performance standards.
Patients with diabetes need to practice utmost caution to healthy food
Also read; People with diabeties likely to observe
Say no to stress: Stress can be a major barrier to effective glucose control. This has become worse during the pandemic, as health anxieties and long lockdowns have given rise to emotional responses like anxiety, frustration and disappointment. One can opt for healthier life choices such as exercise, yoga and meditation to avoid stress.
Stay safe: The pandemic is still with us. Patients with diabetes need to practice utmost caution to reduce the risk of catching an infection. Along with vaccinations, patients with diabetes need to ensure safe choices such as social distancing, wearing a mask, and frequent hand washing.
This festive season, even those with diabetes can enjoy life to the fullest, provided these simple measures are followed to keep the glucose levels under check. (IANS/PR)
Keywords: Diabeties, continuous monitoring, weight, lower blood pressure, no stress, stay safe