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Normal life brought to a standstill by National Bandh today

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

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New Delhi:  The industrial workforce along with a myriad of blue collar employees struck their work. For the first time a nationwide strike has completely and successfully halted the pace of the normal life since PM Modi came into power in 2014.

Leaders of central trade unions which called the day-long strike claimed “unprecedented success” as banks, insurance companies and state-run as well as private factories shut across the country. Transport unions and traders too joined the protest in many places, leading to the closure of educational institutions and thin attendance in government offices.

“The response has been unprecedented,” veteran union leader Gurudas Dasgupta from the All India Trade Union Congress told a media outlet. “In Delhi we are seeing such an impact for the first time. We didn’t expect this.”

The strike is in support of 12 demands, including withdrawal of labour law amendments, a minimum wage of Rs.15,000 a month and against privatisation of public sector units. Unions said about 300 million workers were involved in the protest.

The strike was largely peaceful except in parts of West Bengal where clashes were reported in Murshidabad, Howrah and North 24 Parganas between Left activists and members of the ruling Trinamool Congress.

Financial services were hit hard as lakhs of bank and insurance employees – including those from cooperative banks and regional rural banks – joined the strike, All India Bank Employees Association general secretary C.H. Venkatachalam told the media in Chennai.

He said the strike was a success in major cities like Mumbai, the country’s financial capital, as well as New Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata.

But unions in State Bank of India and Indian Overseas Bank did not take part.

In Mumbai, union leader V. Utagi said: “The strike in the banking and financial services sector is near total. Work at Mumbai Port Trust is hit. And Maharashtra’s 1.50 million government employees have joined us.”

But public buses and Mumbai’s suburban trains plied though their unions lent “moral support” to the strike. A section of cabs and auto-rickshaws in Mumbai also joined the strike, which Utagi said was “a major success”.

In Delhi, banks, insurance companies and industrial areas observed a shutdown. Most auto-rickshaws, the poor man’s taxi, went off the roads. But Delhi Metro reported normal operations.

The strike hit hard life in Kerala, a Left bastion. Most IT firms in Technopark and Infopark reported very thin attendance. Work at the Cochin Port was affected.

The shutdown evoked mixed response in Karnataka. Buses and autos didn’t ply while factories, banks and shops were closed. Thousands of commuters were stranded in cities and towns across the state.

The strike hit transport and banking services in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh too.

Buses of state-owned road transport corporations in both states went off the roads as did auto-rickshaws in Hyderabad and other towns. Truck owners and drivers also joined the strike in some places. Petrol bunks were shut in a few places.

In Bhopal, all state-run public buses remained off the roads. Shops and banks too were shut. The strike was particularly effective in major cities like Indore, Jabalpur and Ujjain.

Normal life was hit in Bihar as thousands of workers in the government and private sector joined the strike. In some places, strike supporters blocked roads and halted train services.

The strike was total in Left-ruled Tripura. All offices, shops, markets, banks and educational institutions were shut while vehicular traffic went off the roads.

In Kolkata, while educational institutions and commercial establishments were largely closed, buses and the metro operated normally. But there were fewer commuters.

Train services on the Eastern Railway and South Eastern Railway were hit as strike supporters blocked the tracks in several areas.

The strike had the least effect in Tamil Nadu although life was hit in industrial areas besides banks and insurance companies.

The impact of the shutdown in Himachal Pradesh was seen in Shimla, Rampur, Theog, Solan, Mandi, Nahan, Una, Bilaspur, Hamirpur, Dharamsala, Palampur, Kangra, Kullu and Manali towns as bus operators joined the protest.

In Goa, markets and public transport were hit hard, union leaders said. Police arrested about 200 workers who had blocked National Highway 17 near the Verna Industrial estate, 25 km from Panaji.

(With inputs from IANS)

Next Story

This AI System Can Evade Censorship In India, China and Kazakhstan

Researchers develop an AI tool that evades censorship in India, China and Kazakhstan

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(AI)-based system automatically learns to evade censorship in India, China and Kazakhstan. Pixabay

Researchers have developed an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based system that automatically learns to evade censorship in India, China and Kazakhstan.

The tool, called Geneva (short for Genetic Evasion), found dozens of ways to circumvent censorship by exploiting gaps in censors’ logic and finding bugs that the researchers said would have been virtually impossible for humans to find manually.

The researchers are scheduled to introduce Geneva during a peer-reviewed talk at the Association for Computing Machinery’s 26th Conference on Computer and Communications Security in London on Thursday.

“With Geneva, we are, for the first time, at a major advantage in the censorship arms race,” said Dave Levin, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Maryland in the US and senior author of the paper.

“Geneva represents the first step toward a whole new arms race in which artificial intelligence systems of censors and evaders compete with one another. Ultimately, winning this race means bringing free speech and open communication to millions of users around the world who currently don’t have them,” Levin said.\

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This AI system that evades censorship is called ‘Geneva’. Pixabay

To demonstrate that Geneva worked in the real world against undiscovered censorship strategies, the team ran Geneva on a computer in China with an unmodified Google Chrome browser installed.

By deploying strategies identified by Geneva, the user was able to browse free of keyword censorship.

The researchers also successfully evaded censorship in India, which blocks forbidden URLs, and Kazakhstan, which was eavesdropping on certain social media sites at the time, said a statement from the University of Maryland.

All information on the Internet is broken into data packets by the sender’s computer and reassembled by the receiving computer.

One prevalent form of Internet censorship works by monitoring the data packets sent during an Internet search.

The censor blocks requests that either contain flagged keywords (such as “Tiananmen Square” in China) or prohibited domain names (such as “Wikipedia” in many countries).

When Geneva is running on a computer that is sending out web requests through a censor, it modifies how data is broken up and sent, so that the censor does not recognise forbidden content or is unable to censor the connection.

Known as a genetic algorithm, Geneva is a biologically inspired type of AI that Levin and his team developed to work in the background as a user browses the web from a standard Internet browser.

Like biological systems, Geneva forms sets of instructions from genetic building blocks. But rather than using DNA as building blocks, Geneva uses small pieces of code.

Censorship
By deploying strategies identified by Geneva, the user is able to browse free of keyword censorship. Pixabay

Individually, the bits of code do very little, but when composed into instructions, they can perform sophisticated evasion strategies for breaking up, arranging or sending data packets.

The tool evolves its genetic code through successive attempts (or generations). With each generation, Geneva keeps the instructions that work best at evading censorship and kicks out the rest.

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Geneva mutates and cross breeds its strategies by randomly removing instructions, adding new instructions, or combining successful instructions and testing the strategy again.

Through this evolutionary process, Geneva is able to identify multiple evasion strategies very quickly, said the study. (IANS)