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Most Flood-prone State in India likely to be Aided by New Satellite Mapping

Since floods started in the state last month, more than 200 people have died and more than 300,000 have been forced from their homes

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FILE - Indians watch from the upper floor of their house flooding in the river Ganges in Allahabad, India, Aug. 23, 2016. VOA

Every year India’s northeastern state of Bihar is deluged by floods that submerge roads, destroy homes and wash away crops, leaving the disaster management authority struggling to monitor and assess the damage, and to distribute aid effectively.

But new satellite mapping of flood-prone areas should transform disaster response by equipping authorities with near real-time information about inundated villages, officials said.

Bihar, which borders the Himalayan nation of Nepal, is India’s most flood-prone state. More than 70 percent of its total geographical area is at risk of annual floods, which put lives at risk and lead to heavy financial losses.

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A major challenge for the Bihar state disaster management authority (BSDMA) has been mapping and monitoring flood-hit areas, according to the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), which works to promote development across the Hindu Kush Himalayas.

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Since floods started in the state last month, more than 200 people have died and more than 300,000 have been forced from their homes, disaster officials said.

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ICOMOD has helped generate innovative flood mapping for 33 districts in Bihar and an online flood information system that is allowing faster response to a crisis, quicker damage assessment, and better risk management than with conventional methods, said officials from ICIMOD, based in Kathmandu.

“Traditionally, field teams are organized and dispatched to flooded areas to map floods. This can be time-consuming and operationally difficult during a flooding event,” Shahriar M. Wahid, a senior ICIMOD hydrologist, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation via email.

While “satellite-sourced flood maps alone cannot provide early warning to [the] at-risk population”, he said, satellite data, in combination with flood simulations, can do this.

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If flash floods triggered by torrential rain occur in Nepal, Bihar’s residents can expect to see inundations about eight hours later, according to data from the BSDMA. Wahid said the new flood maps will be most useful for the distribution of relief, assessment of damages and to determine crop insurance payouts, among other benefits.

The project uses satellite technology that penetrates cloud cover, unlike optics-based satellite imagery. This is useful in the Himalayan region where monsoons bring thick clouds.

Flood maps can be generated within five to six hours after raw satellite data is received. The floods are circulated to government officials and relief agencies through a satellite communication network.

Space satellite technology is often touted by disaster relief experts as an important tool in managing the growing number of climate-linked disasters around the world.

But the cost of such technology for developing countries, even fast-growing ones like India, can be a challenge. ICIMOD is able to obtain some satellite data and images at no cost, which it then passes to the government for free, it said.

For many residents of Bihar’s capital, Patna, prevention is the first step towards building resilience against floods that are increasing in intensity and frequency due to climate change.

Satellite maps can also aid prevention because they act as a template for years to come, recording rainfall patterns and data from the water department, among other factors, ICIMOD said.

“The very principles of urban planning in Bihar need a drastic review,” said social worker Kumar Gaurav.

Planning “must now take into account global warming, intense and concentrated rainfall along with the construction boom that is responsible for high-rises on the Ganga’s riverbed and floodplains,” he said. (VOA)

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Punjab CM Directs Crack Down on Liquor Smuggling

Chief Minister has also ordered immediate action against police officers who are supporting such illegal activities

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Amarinder_Singh liquor smugglers
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh directed the police department to crack down on all kinds of liquor smuggling. Wikimedia Commons

Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday directed the police department to crack down on all kinds of liquor smuggling, bootlegging and illicit distillation of liquor to protect the cash-strapped state from incurring revenue losses due to such activities. Indian Economy and other sectors are already facing huge losses due to the ongoing pandemic.

The Chief Minister has ordered immediate action against police officers in whose areas such activity is seen taking place, and strict proceedings against any government officer or official found negligent or supporting any illegal activity in any manner relating to distillation, smuggling and distribution of liquor.

On the directives of the Chief Minister, Director General of Police (DGP) Dinkar Gupta has issued necessary directives to identify liquor smugglers, suppliers and bootleggers, district-wise and police station-wise, by May 23.

The officers have been asked to take all possible legal action against all such persons, including under the relevant provisions of the Disaster Management and Epidemics Act.

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The officers have been asked to take all possible legal action against all persons who’re indulged in such illegal activities. VOA

The DGP said the Chief Minister has made it clear that due to acute economic and financial stress all over the world and India, arising out of the curfew and lockdown to contain the spread of Covid, the state government needs to mobilize all possible revenue.

Thus it cannot afford any loss of revenue on account of smuggling of liquor from outside the state, or on account of illicit distillation of liquor or bootlegging, he said.

Read More: Union Government Permits Commercial Coal Mining

In pursuance of the Chief Minister’s orders, the police officers have been asked to put the SHOs of all police stations, especially the bordering police stations on notice, and direct them to ensure that no smuggling of liquor into Punjab takes place.

The DGP warned that in case of failure to do so, the SHO concerned will be shifted out, and necessary departmental action taken against him as well as the defaulters.

Any government officer and official found supporting any illegal activity would be proceeded against very strongly, as directed by the Chief Minister, he added. (IANS)

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What is the Future of US-India Relations? Here’s the Answer

The US presidential elections and future of India-US relations

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Given the love fests of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'Howdy Modi' event in Houston, Texas, in which Trump participated in September of 2019, and Trump's 'Namaste Trump' event hosted by Modi in India in February of this year, it might be assumed that the future for US-India relations is a splendid one. Wikimedia Commons

BY FRANK F. ISLAM

As the coronavirus pandemic dominates global news in the United States, progress toward the next presidential election scheduled to be held on November 3 moves slowly forward. President Donald Trump had no real opposition in the Republican party and is running for re-election. And it has now become apparent that former Vice President Joe Biden will be his opponent as the Democratic candidate for president.

What would a Trump victory bode for the future of US-India relations? What would a Biden victory bode? Let me answer each of those questions in turn.

Given the love fests of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Howdy Modi’ event in Houston, Texas, in which Trump participated in September of 2019, and Trump’s ‘Namaste Trump’ event hosted by Modi in India in February of this year, it might be assumed that the future for US-India relations is a splendid one. This would be an incorrect assumption.

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Both of these events were more symbolic than substantive. Trump’s participation in them undoubtedly helped to persuade some — perhaps many — Indian American Modi supporters who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 to cast their ballots for Trump in 2020. Trump’s campaign team took steps to ensure this by holding an event at his Mar-a-Lago resort in which a group of prominent Indian Americans announced their plans to work for his re-election and to mobilize Indian Americans on his behalf.

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It is essential that India and the US develop a strategic relationship that enables them to become those indispensable partners. Wikimedia Commons

To understand the future potential of India’s relations with the US. with Trump as president, however, it is necessary to look beyond these political moves and to examine the present state of those relations and Trump’s personal style.

In a word, the best way to characterize the current relations between the US and India is “functional”. The relationship was relatively good for the first two years of Trump’s presidency. In fact, near the end of 2018, Alice Wells, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, was quoted in the media s saying: “This has been a landmark year for US-India ties as we build out stronger relationships across the board.”

Then, in 2019, the relations went off the track in the first half of the year after the US and India got into a tit-for-tat tariff war after the US terminated India’s Generalized System of Preferences which allowed India to send certain goods to the US duty-free. There have been continuing efforts to structure a “modest” trade deal since then. It was thought there might be some type of deal done in September of 2019 while Modi was in the US by year’s end, and then during Trump’s India visit. But, as of today, there is still no deal.

This inability to get any meaningful trade agreement in place speaks volumes about India’s potential future relations with India with Trump as president. So, too does Trump’s style.

Trump’s campaign slogans this time around are “Keep America Great” and “Promises Made, Promises Kept.” Trump is not a policy wonk and most of his effort will go toward “America First”. This involves making the US more isolated by withdrawing from international agreements, restructuring trade agreements, emphasizing building walls to stop immigrants at the border, using tariffs to block trade with countries who are taking away American jobs, and confronting businesses who are allegedlly stealing American trade secrets.

This perspective suggests what India can expect for its relations with the US if it has to deal with Trump for a second term as president. The relations will stay functional at best. As I have said before, that’s because the words partnership, cooperation and collaboration are not in Trump’s vocabulary. Nationalism, isolationism and protectionism are.

Joe Biden stands in stark contrast to President Trump both professionally and personally. Biden is a strategic thinker and doer with a solid eight-year track record of leadership experience as Vice-President in forging alliances that have made a difference around the world and he has also been a long-standing friend of India.

India USA
To understand the future potential of India’s relations with the US. with Trump as president, however, it is necessary to look beyond these political moves and to examine the present state of those relations and Trump’s personal style. Wikimedia Commons

He was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a leading advocate for the Congressional passage of the Indo-US civic nuclear deal in 2005. At a dinner convened 10 years later in 2015 by the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Vice President Biden discussed the tremendous joint progress that had been made by the two countries in the past and declared “We are on the cusp of a sea change decade.”

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Early in his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president in July of 2019, in laying out his foreign policy vision, Biden stated that the US had to reach out to India and other Asian partners to strengthen ties with them. The items on Biden’s foreign policy agenda for strengthening which are of importance for India include climate change, nuclear proliferation and cyberwarfare.

During his vice presidency, Biden worked side by side with President Barack Obama to do things that would contribute to achieving Obama’s vision stated in 2010 of India and America being “indispensable partners in meeting the challenges of our time.” In 2020, those challenges are even greater than they were a decade ago.

That is why it is so essential that India and the US develop a strategic relationship that enables them to become those indispensable partners. That can happen if Biden assumes the presidency on January 20, 2021. It cannot happen if Donald Trump remains as president for a second term.

Also Read- Apple to Display COVID-19 Testing Sites on Maps

The results of this upcoming election in the US matter greatly for the future of the United States. They matter greatly for the future of India-US relations as well. Time and the American electorate will tell what that future will be. (IANS)

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Social Distancing and Lockdown are The Strongest Vaccine: Health Minister Harsh Vardhan

Bennett University organized an International Conference on COVID-19: Fallout and Future

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Health conference
"We do not anticipate the worst kind of situation in India like other developed countries, but still we have prepared the whole country for the worst situation," said Vardhan. Wikimedia Commons

By Kanan Parmar

Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan emphasised on Social Distancing saying, “Social Distancing and lockdown are the strongest vaccine against COVID-19 at the moment,” during an International Conference on COVID-19: Fallout and Future.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan addressed the International Conference on COVID-19: Fallout and Future organized by Bennett University on April 9, 2020.

Dr. Vardhan spoke about how India has taken all the necessary steps to prevent coronavirus in India and also gives the latest updates on COVID-19 news.

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The minister said that more than a lakh people were trained and educated about the COVID-19 pandemic. These included aviation crew, airport staff, healthcare professionals, etc.  Over 2,500 Indians have been evacuated from various countries. There have been dedicated ICU beds and ventilators for COVID-19 patients.

The health minister highlighted that the even bigger challenge than containing COVID-19 is to stop the spread of misinformation. The minister said, “Anyone who wants authentic information about coronavirus should go through the website of Ministry of Health and Welfare to obtain information.”

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The Health Minister advises that N95 masks are to be used only by healthcare professionals. Pixabay

He also thanked healthcare professionals saying, “I would like to thank all the COVID-19 warriors to fight this war against coronavirus.”

The health minister advises that N95 and surgical masks aren’t to be worn by all citizens but only medical staff due to the shortage. The basic necessity is to cover your mouth using any cloth or cotton mask which can also be homemade.

Talking about the positive aspects, Health Minster Dr. Harsh Vardhan said, “COVID-19 is a blessing in disguise. Most of the medical equipments used to be imported but now with the help of Ministry of Textiles, we have found manufactures in India.”

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“We are in constant touch with the World Health Organization and the WHO has appreciated the efforts taken by the Government of India and Ministry of Health to contain coronavirus,” said Dr. Vardhan.

Many other professionals were present in the conference. These include. Dr. David Nabarro, the special envoy for WHO, Mr. Arvind Virmani, an economic advisor, Mr. Subash Chandra Garg, the former finance secretary of India,Gurcharan Das, Prof. Wenjuan ZhangProf. Beatrice GallelliEoghan SweeneyIrene Jay Liu, a data journalist, Prof. Rasmus Nielsen, Prof. Ashish Kumar Jha and many more.

Other presenters talked about the economic, social and political impacts of the pandemic.

Health conference
Dr. David Nabarro is an international civil servant and diplomat.

Dr. David Nabarro, the special envoy for the World Health Organization said that all the information given by WHO is based on researches done by scientists and doctors.

Health conference
Mr. Gurcharan is an Indian author.

Gurcharan Das, an Indian author said, “Biggest failure of the government is not testing enough.” He also said that the Modi government is in a ‘Dharam sankat’ and faced a challenge on whether to lift the lockdown or not.

Health conference
Mr. Subhash Chandra Garg has served as the Economic Affairs Secretary and Finance Secretary of India.

Mr. Subhash Chandra Garg, the former finance secretary of India believes that there should be a partial lockdown in India.

Also Read- Prime Minister Narendra Modi Urges Citizens to Help Financially Poor People

Ms. Beatrice Gallelli tells us about what went wrong in Italy and also talks about the North-South equality in Italy which lead to the increase in coronavirus cases.

Eoghan Sweeney talks about the spread of misinformation during the times of an epidemic or pandemic.