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New Indian High Commissioner: Trinidad &Tobago government

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India can learn a lot from how Trinidad & Tobago is a fusion of ethnicities and religions work so beautifully. So said India’s newly-appointed high commissioner to Port-of-Spain, HIS EXCELLENCY GAURI SHANKAR GUPTA, a career diplomat who has served in several other countries. The diplomat, an author in his own right, also said T&T’s crime situation was not unique, even though India had perhaps the lowest per capita crime rate in the world.

Q: Your Excellency, most diplomats, especially heads of missions, are briefed before embarking on their posting. What were you told about T&T?

A: (Crossed legs, seated on his couch at his Victoria Avenue, Port-of-Spain, office on Thursday afternoon) What they told me was that it is a wonderful place, it is a country that is most important in the Caribbean region, a country that was described as a fusion of ethnicities, and this is what I found when I came here.

If we should get to the hard news first, were you told about our crime situation?

No. Not at all. It was not told to me there, but I discovered a little bit after I came here that there were cases of murders, robberies, but these things do happen in all countries (frowning) around the world. I was told that the Government is trying very hard to control the crimes and the rate was comparatively down, I was told yesterday. I think it is very important for the country’s prosperity for the crime rate not to be very high.

Is it your view, sir, that India has anything to offer us by way of curbing our crime rate?

You see, if you look at India, we would say we have one of the lowest crime rates in the world per capita. We are a country of 1.2 billion people, we have crimes, I don’t deny that, but very few when it comes to where people are actually killed or murdered. There are some pickpockets and stabbings which are happening in each big city of the world but in terms of per capita, they are much lower.

This really goes to the Indian ethos which says we have a theory of karma that you will reap the harvest of what you do, so people don’t want to do too many bad things. If they do, they will have to reap the harvest the next time around.

Do you believe, Your Excellency, that we are reaping our karma now in terms of the crime situation?

I am sure some people here believe in karma, but the ethos of this country has evolved from the fusion of various cultures and ethnic groups, so it is not one single thread which has come in the case of India, which comes from the Vedic civilisation. One thread. But here it has come from Africa, India, America, Latin America, from Europe, so some people here may believe in it, some may not.

I don’t know how much you have gleaned about our crime challenge in the short time you have been here, but is there anything we are not doing which could put a dent in our situation?

(Slightly rubbing his chin) I think education and social engagement are the two important things to curb the crime; education plays a very important role and so does the behaviour of the society. How does the society engage the criminal elements to convert them to good people, and this is the task of both the Government and the NGOs.

There is the school of thought which says poverty is the main factor in the activities of the criminally minded. Do you buy into that?

I don’t think there is a direct, proportionate relationship between the two. There could be some relationship, but it is not direct and proportionate.

If we should get to your assignment in Port-of-Spain, what can we expect by way of trade between our both countries?

Ok. (Adjusting his glasses) Trade between T&T and India is comparatively small. It is in the range of a hundred million dollars, which is not very substantial, but I think the potential is much larger.

How can we tap into that potential?

That’s what I wanted to mention…One important area is energy, where you have the resources natural gas and petroleum, we need those products in our country. I think it is one area where we can do some collaboration. Some Indian companies came here in the past and wanted to negotiate some long-term contracts, but it did not work out. But we will continue that effort, and I hope that we will reach some agreement on that.

Why this specific matter did not work out?

You know these are commercial considerations on both sides, so I don’t want to go into the precise details of those negotiations. I am sure things will be better in the future. Then we have IT cooperation and, in fact, we are discussing certain proposals which are in the pipe…

Such as?

I don’t want to give you the precise details, but things will work out very soon. It can bring in Indian investment, Indian knowledge to benefit Trinidad and Tobago in this field. There are also some proposals for collaboration in the film and music sectors. You have highly developed music traditions in this country including the tradition of films as well. Some Indian companies are considering serious proposals, and if things work out well that can become a reality. These are some of the areas we can work tougher.

What about the financial sector?

Of course, things can work out there as well. You are well placed to be the financial hub in the Caribbean and even linking the North and South Americas. Then a direct shipment of goods; For example, we are very strong in clothing, so I am looking at these possibilities to boost our trading relationship.

Your Excellency, as you spoke about clothing, your immediate predecessor said that your countrymen were bringing inferior stuff here from India.

I don’t want to say anything on that because India exports quality clothing all over the world. The largest and best-branded stores buy Indian goods. If things work out we will be happy to collaborate with stores in T&T.

Culture?

In terms of culture, things are working quite well to begin with. We have the Mahatma Gandhi Centre for Cultural Cooperation in Chaguanas, we also have cultural troops coming here from India. Next year we intend to do a cultural festival of India in Port-of-Spain, and we are in touch with the Culture Ministry on that matter.

Have you heard of the chutney genre?

(Eyes lit up with a big smile) Yes. I would say it is a fusion of music between our two countries. It has become very popular in India, it is a great Trinidadian contribution to our music world.

Are you aware that there are certain Indo Trinis who object to some aspects of the chutney such as gyrating or, as we Trini call it, wining?

(Laughs) I don’t think we have that variety yet, but we have the fusion of the two music which is being used in Bollywood films. Chutney is also an Indian word, you know, which basically means a mix of many spices.

Mr Raphael, if I can mention this, I think one area which India can learn tremendously from you is how the fusion of ethnicities and religions each work in your country so beautifully. This is one area where not only Indian but many other countries in the world can learn. You are a small country with a great fusion of all ethnicities, nationalities, so there are many areas we can work to strengthen our ties.

India has been criticised by some more industrialised countries for allegedly producing inferior medications. Is this a fair criticism?

Not at all. Our pharmaceutical industry is one of the best and the cheapest in the world. Some of these accusations are because they are posing a competition to big pharmaceutical companies in the world. We have been able to provide very cheap medication for Aids, for cancer, for other diseases which is not particularly liked by these large companies so, therefore, the accusations are based on the competition they are receiving from India.

Mr Gupta, on the ongoing unsettled situation between India and Pakistan, do you think there would be peace between both countries in your lifetime?

I think so because things are improving slowly. We already have composite dialogue process in place, but there are some periodic incidents of terrorism promoted by our neighbours. I hope our neighbours will understand that terrorism is not the answer to the problems.

Finally, Your Excellency, whenever I happen to see images of India it always strikes me that you cannot tell an Indian from India and an Indo-Trini…that’s before they open their mouth. Has that been your experience?

(Laughs) I agree with you, without opening their mouth sometimes it is difficult to say it is an Indian from India. We see that to some extent in Mexico, as a lot of Mexicans look like Indians and unless they speak you won’t realise if they are Indian or not.

Finally Sir, what legacy do you hope to leave at the end of your posting in Port-of-Spain?

(Chuckling) I don’t want to say I want to leave any legacy, but I will do my best to promote relations between both countries.

This article was first published at www.guardian.co. Image-Krisna.hu

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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.

whatsapp
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)