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The deadly second wave of Covid-19 has provoked an intense public debate and anger on the reasons why it was allowed to hit us at all and the points raised have varied from delayed preparatory moves to failures of response from an overrun healthcare system that resulted in casualties owing to shortages of beds, oxygen, and medicines at the hospitals. What matters more, however, is that once the crisis broke out the government at the Centre did speedily source the vital equipment including oxygen and its bureaucratic machinery, not used to micromanagement, also took on the national challenge of logistics and delivery to the people on the ground — of whatever was available.
The pandemic overwhelmed all systems and inevitably a large number of tragic deaths occurring across the nation could become a part of the collective historical memory — but with the remembrance also of the enormous work done by our medical fraternity for saving lives despite shortages of supplies and equipment. The crisis has produced a political fallout and the opposition has seized the opportunity of pressing forth with its criticism of the Modi government concerning the long-term preparations required for meeting the health hazard.
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It is the politics of perceptions that are in full play now but all of that could change in the future depending on the way events unfold themselves and the success the present regime achieved in planning for all contingencies in the times ahead. In the entire narrative of how the government of the day performed in helping the people, the vital question of how the public responded to this live threat to everybody’s life should also be looked at as there are socio-cultural learnings on how a big nation should cope up with a humanitarian crisis of this magnitude.
There is no denying the fact that even in the ‘unlock’ phases Prime Minister Modi had constantly emphasized the need for Covid precautions to be followed strictly. Many people in India regrettably did not come out at their best as far as their own conscious or innocent contribution to the spread of the pandemic was concerned. Social festivities like weddings and get-togethers continued particularly in the North in utter disregard of the Covid restrictions. There could be a variety of reasons why this happened. Herd mentality, so typical of the public here, came into play in adding to the defiance of the standardized Covid-appropriate behavior.
Evidently, there was also a widespread absence of scientific temper that would be a major reason why people failed to grasp the prime importance of the elementary preventive measures of the mask, safe distancing, and hand sanitization. This was seen even in the segments of the population that could afford to buy quality masks and sanitizers. Migrations of the economically weak on account of lockdowns — that had not guaranteed their wages even for a temporary period — proved to be a debilitating factor. The pull of faith as a mitigator of threat to health, and even of danger to life, was also there in the context of an event like Kumbh. The pandemic demanded voluntary postponement of mass agitations, political activity in normal times, in the interest of the public at large.
Excessive reliance on the powers that be for delivery, big or small, in a public crisis, could be the outcome of a system where the voter accepted the promise that everything possible under the sun would be done by the victorious candidate or party. This would, in an emergency, focus the public wrath entirely on the government and completely disregard the importance of the attitude of ‘self-help’ among the people in overcoming a public crisis. On the whole, a higher degree of public awareness would have reduced the gravity of the incidence of the second wave and checked its cumulative spread. As the government proceeds at a rapid pace to make up for deficiencies and arrange for universal vaccination the role of the people in countering the pandemic is still going to be extremely important in the months to come.
A few illustrations of the typical behavior of people in the midst of the Corona threat would be worth mentioning. Even the educated lot was seen wearing a regulatory mask when they came out but not covering the nose. It is like displaying the mask but without an understanding of the crucial point about its utility — covering the mouth and nose was for ‘the user’s own safety’ against some other potential carrier around. It does not matter that the users might themselves be healthy. Further, it could even be in the psyche of a well-to-do person to put himself above the ‘compliant’ common man and not accept an ‘inconvenience’.
The logic of wearing a mask while facing a courier or a repairman is not understood well enough and there is an attitude of negligence towards anybody called for domestic assistance in the matter of checking out for any exposure elsewhere. There have been numerous cases of serious and even fatal consequences of exposure to an asymptomatic infected person who was a regular visitor to the victim’s house. The point is about lack of awareness in a situation where common sense itself would have suggested the dos and don’ts of Covid precautions. Now that even children are said to be in the zone of vulnerability, the adults across the society have to once again redefine their responsibilities.
What is truly deplorable is that the health emergency exposed the socio-cultural degradation of many in Indian society, a society that prided itself and genuinely so for its inheritance of moral and spiritual legacies. This has produced a spectacle of innumerable individuals and philanthropic bodies coming forth to help those in distress on the one hand and a significant number of depraved individuals making huge monetary gains, on the other, by selling medical equipment and medical supplies in the black — in full knowledge of the threat to life that this caused. Deterrent action against such culprits, wherever possible, has to be taken to build the confidence of the citizens in governance.
The crisis has unraveled the poor state of management that various establishments deemed to be autonomous in their working, had suffered over the years — whether it was the case of a hospital, a university, or a civil supplies center of the government. Misconduct of a ward boy with a Covid patient going unpunished has become the symbol of how this country’s systems had been allowed to run without supervision. A lesson from this pandemic is that the internal governance of the country across all segments and states needed to be upgraded to a point where organizations in the public or private sector would be audited for performance in terms of their compatibility with the national interests and public good.
There are many more lessons to be drawn from pandemic India is passing through, creating the ‘fear of the unknown’ in every citizen here. The experience calls for greater public education on governance and policymaking — subject, of course, to the requirement of confidentiality on grounds of national security. A daily national bulletin on the important aspects of the pandemic would help to keep the people attuned to their responsibilities and counter any serious attempts at spreading misinformation. Robust functioning of Parliamentary Committees has to be ensured, accountability for the failure of implementation of the given mandate on the head of an enterprise or a department of the government has to be fixed and punishment meted out to functionaries in leadership positions who misused the authority of the state for personal benefit.
The Covid crisis showed up flaws in the implementation process — there was an immediate public appreciation of the government functionaries who performed well — and it is necessary, therefore, to determine whether some lives could be saved through competent and prompt handling by the personnel concerned. The challenge of riding a crisis tests decision-making and the pandemic would have revealed how outstanding performers stood in contrast to the incompetent. The Intelligence machinery of the Centre has once again proved its sterling worth by acting as the eyes and ears of the government to give an objective picture of the impact of the pandemic — it should be strengthened further in the interest of the nation and democratic governance.
Perhaps the most meaningful lesson in handling a national emergency that affected the entire population is that the process should be taken down to the level of districts and the DM-SP duo made the nodal point of ‘survey’ and ‘implementation’. Some of the districts of India are of the size of a small country and they offer a decentralized autonomous center of governance closest to the people that could represent both the Centre as well as the state government. Shortages of hospital beds, oxygen, and critical care medicine stocks in the district could be ascertained by the DM within hours and communicated to the authorities above for urgent attention and despatch of life-saving equipment on prioritization.
This practice should be invoked even now as the crisis is likely to prove to be a long-term challenge — the virus is predictably spreading towards rural India. This strategy will also be of great value in helping to build the medical infrastructure across the country that had fallen so short of the national requirement — and which was undoubtedly the biggest reason why India lost so many lives in this pandemic. It is a matter of great satisfaction that Prime Minister Modi himself reached out to the district magistrates of affected districts and encouraged them to take charge of the situation and boldly plan out the strategy of meeting the challenge of the Corona crisis on a long-term basis. (IANS/KB)
(why wearing a mask is important, the impact of the pandemic, covid in India, importance of sanitation, covid precautions)
With the festive season on in full swing, iconic brand Johnnie Walker, is all set to re-energize the country's after-hour culture. Through its one-of-a-kind campaign #RevibeTheNight, the brand brings together beloved music artists like Divine, Ritviz, Lisa Mishra, Taba Chake along with popular indie bands like When Chai Met Toast and Mad Boy Mink, among others to perform live across iconic community spaces in India.
The collaborative effort by Johnnie Walker aims to bring back the after-hour culture through live performances across popular hotspots in India. The brand's goal is drive social regeneration in India and bring back the vibe of socializing through local music artists and reignite the trade, driving social culture by executing the live events with Covid measures in place and a limited capacity audience capacity.
The collaborative effort by Johnnie Walker aims to bring back the after-hour culture through live performances across popular hotspots in India. | Photo by Vishnu R Nair on Unsplash
Prior to the world going into lockdown, the after-hour culture in India bloomed at celebrated community hubs, that eventually became a safe-haven for individuals, a place where they found their sense of self-expression and belonging, that fuelled progress. This community was driven through the culture of live music and enthralling performances that created their very own vibe, a vibe that built extraordinary, forever-lasting relationships. Through #ReVibeTheNight, one can reconnect with this community bringing music curated by artists who have a history of captivating crowds with their one-of-a-kind live experiences. Catch the gigs and live performances for artists in these venues/cities for the live performances.
(Artiicle originally published on IANSlife) (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: johnnie walker, social, #revibethenight, performances, community, artists, culture, festivity, begin
By Nikhila Natarajan
In a continuing study on the effects of machine learning (ML) on public conversation, Twitter has confirmed that its algorithms amplify right-leaning political content. "In six out of seven countries - all but Germany - tweets posted by accounts from the political right receive more algorithmic amplification than the political left when studied as a group," Twitter blogged.
"Right-leaning news outlets, as defined by the independent organisations, see greater algorithmic amplification on Twitter compared to left-leaning news outlets." Since 2016, Twitter users are able to choose between viewing algorithmically ordered tweets first in their home timeline or viewing the most recent tweets in reverse chronological order.
"An algorithmic home timeline displays a stream of tweets from accounts we have chosen to follow on Twitter, as well as recommendations of other content Twitter thinks we might be interested in based on accounts we interact with frequently, tweets we engage with, and more. "As a result, what we see on our timeline is a function of how we interact with Twitter's algorithmic system, as well as how the system is designed."
The new research is based on tweets of elected officials of House of Commons members in Canada, the French National Assembly, the German Bundestag, House of Representatives in Japan, Congress of Deputies of Spain, House of Commons in the UK, and official and personal accounts of House of Representatives and Senate members in the US, as well as news outlets, from April 1 to August 15, 2020.
Tweets about political content from elected officials, regardless of party or whether the party is in power, do see algorithmic amplification when compared to political content on the reverse chronological timeline. | Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash
The study was conducted by Ferenc Huszar (Twitter, University of Cambridge), Sofia Ira Ktena (now at DeepMind Technologies), Conor O'Brien (Twitter), Luca Belli (Twitter), Andrew Schlaikjer (Twitter), and Moritz Hardt (UC Berkeley).
The questions probed were:
How much algorithmic amplification does political content from elected officials receive in Twitter's algorithmically ranked Home timeline versus in the reverse chronological timeline? Does this amplification vary across political parties or within a political party?
Are some types of political groups algorithmically amplified more than others? Are these trends consistent across countries?
Are some news outlets amplified more by algorithms than others? Does news media algorithmic amplification favour one side of the political spectrum more than the other?
Tweets about political content from elected officials, regardless of party or whether the party is in power, do see algorithmic amplification when compared to political content on the reverse chronological timeline. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: algorithmically, timeline, algorithmic, tweets, political, survey, twitter, study, germany, skew
Even as India celebrates reaching a milestone of 100 crore Covid vaccine doses, Snapdeal co-founder and COO Rohit Bansal on Friday lauded a man who facilitated 64 registrations for the vaccine on the CoWin portal. In a video shared on his Facebook and Twitter page, Bansal hailed Sonu Kumar as a "citizen celebrity".
Bansal said that Kumar not only helped "just co-workers and family but complete strangers too. With patience, empathy and uncanny jugaad". He added that Kumar joined him "many moons ago" and completed his open school from a parking lot.
"Education has helped this wonderful man enable others to get India back on track. Bravo! The CoWin portal on Thursday mentioned that a total of 100 crore vaccine doses has been administered so far to the eligible population under the vaccination drive in India, nine months after the nationwide inoculation programme was started to protect the people against Covid-19.
"It's a cause of significant celebration and happiness," Bansal said in the video. He said that while people just help a few around them, Kumar "bridged the digital gap" for 64 people, who were finding it difficult to register themselves online on the vaccine portal. Kumar said he doesn't feel that he has contributed much towards the 100 crore vaccine dose count. "I have been able to help only 64 people, if I was able to help more I would have been happier." (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: cowin, covid, india, people, Rohit bansal, Sonu kumar, vaccine, snapdeal, registrations