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All about ‘The Rafale Deal’

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The ‘Rafale deal’ is a major political controversy in India. It is related to the purchase of 36 multirole fighter aircraft for a price estimation of €7.8 billion by the Defense Ministry of India from France’s Dassault Aviation.

In 2007, based on the demand by the Indian Air force, the UPA government released tenders for 126 MMRCA (Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) fighters. In January 2012, Dassault Aviation, a French company made the lowest bids for its aircrafts Rafale. According to the deal conditions, 126 jets were required. Out of them, 18 fighter jets were to be imported in a flyaway condition and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was supposed to manufacture the remaining 108 jets with assistance from Dassault.

In 2014, HAL and Dassault signed a work-share agreement and even negotiations were carried out over the pricing, technology, weapons system, customization, and maintenance but there’s no final UPA deal because it was never finalized. Even today, the congress party claims that it had negotiated the deal with a price of Rs.526 crore per jet. But, it is still a question whether the Dassault agreed to deliver the jets with the requirements of India and within the given timeline. It is because the UPA government never went through the deal. As disagreements over the deal’s cost and warranty for the aircraft produced by HAL continued, the then defense minister Manohar Parrikar said that ‘Sukhoi Su-30MKI’ could be acquired as an alternative to Rafale, but Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha disagreed. He said that they both differ in their capabilities.

Then, after the NDA government took over to rule, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Paris in April 2015. There, he announced the government’s decision to buy 36 Rafale fighters in a flyaway condition citing the critical operational requirements by the Indian Air Force. In June of the same year, the defense ministry withdrew the 126 aircraft deal tender officially. In the following year 2016, the French president Francois Hollande visited India on the occasion of Republic day. In that visit, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed between India and France on the purchase of Rafale jets following the clearance from the Indian Cabinet committee regarding security. In 2016, a final deal for 36 Rafale jets was signed for €7.87 billion (approx. Rs.59,000 crore) by India and France. The delivery of the jets would start from September 2018 according to this deal.

Business tycoon Anil Ambani entered the picture officially in October 2016 stating that the Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defense and Dassault Aviation are making a joint venture and named it Dassault Reliance Aerospace Limited (DRAL). The joint venture is made to focus on aerostructures, engine components, and electronics and also to foster research and development projects under the initiative, “Indigenously Developed Designed and Manufactured” (IDDM). Dassault was forced to make compensation investments in India that worth 50% of the purchase value. Despite having no experience in aircraft part production, choosing Reliance Group as a partner instead of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited has raised doubts of a close acquaintance of Narendra Modi with the Ambani family.

Fast forward to 2018, there were allegations that the Modi government has signed the contract with France at a much higher price than the negotiated during the UPA rule. Rahul Gandhi and many other Congress leaders have demanded the NDA government to reveal the price of Rafale. The government has rejected to disclose the price considering the secrecy clause of the deal. However, defense minister Manohar Parrikar justified the costs by saying that the cost of an aircraft will often eclipse the cost of equipment required to make it combat-ready. He adds that the new agreement includes developmental costs for the integration of a helmet-mounted display and also a serviceability agreement.

Petitions were filed before the Supreme Court raising questions regarding the pricing, choosing Reliance as an offset partner, and also the process followed in finalizing the Rafale deal. On 14 November 2018, after extensive arguments, a bench headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi reserved the verdict while the apex court said that the details of pricing would be disclosed only after deciding on whether to make it public or not. On 14 December 2018, considering all the hearings, the Supreme Court said that it found nothing wrong with the Rafale deal. A bench led by CJI Ranjan Gogoi said that it studied the issue extensively and stated that it was satisfying and there is no occasion to doubt the Rafale deal signing process. The Supreme Court makes a clear statement that the Rafale deal process was perfectly fine and also dismissed all the PIL’s that demanded the court probe into it. The Supreme Court also declared that it was not the court’s job to examine the pricing of the Rafale jets.

Recently, on 27 July 2020, the first batch of five Rafale jets took off from France for India. It is nearly four years after the inter-governmental agreement was inked with Paris. The aircraft flew from the airbase in the French port city of Bordeaux. It covered a distance of nearly 7,000 km with air-to-air fueling and with a single stop in the UAE before arriving at Ambala airbase. These aircraft are deployed to significantly boost the Indian Air Force’s combat capabilities at this time when India is locked in a tense border row with China in the eastern Ladakh.

The first Rafale jet was handed over to the Indian Air Force in October 2019, during a visit to France by our Defense Minister Rajnath Singh. As per an official statement, it is said that the delivery of 10 aircrafts’ has been completed at the scheduled time and five will stay back at France for training missions. It also stated that the delivery of all the 36 aircrafts’, as per the deal will be completed by the end of 2021. Regarding the features of the combat aircrafts’, out of 36 Rafale jets, 30 will be fighter jets and the rest six will be trainers. Indeed, the trainer jets will be twin-seater that will have almost all the features of the fighter jets.

Career Opportunities post COVID-19

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Every country faces numerous challenges for every recession hit, making it difficult for industries to survive and strive. But, they have also accompanied an era of opportunities for new-age industries to sprout and shape consumer behavior for decades.

On similar lines, the global recession induced by the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak will fundamentally change the way humanity works and socializes for years to come. The COVID-19 crisis acts as a stimulant to the unprecedented changes in every industry. In order to transform into new realities that will emerge, every industry will be forced to reform and restructure accordingly to correlate with the situation.

The transformation of industries can be feasible by the following three factors:
1. Agility
2. Digital Transformation
3. Work from Home culture

Agility is about making quick changes in organizational leadership and communicating the same decisively to the organization, partner companies, and customers. Insightful planning and execution would bring efficiency and optimization to proactively seize the emerging opportunities, and create a meaningful impact on society to prosper.

Digital transformation will be about exploring the canvass of opportunities presented by cloud, big data, analytics, AI, IoT, and other emerging realities that shape a new wave of customer behavior.

The “Work from Home Culture” plays a defining role and has the potential to STOP the crisis. It is trillions of dollars industry worth and in many cases, it’s priceless. In elaborate, the Work from Home (WFH) culture has benefits like social distancing (required at the moment), no travel time, no occupancy concern, and pollution-free (since commuting is reduced). IT giants have started to vacate rented buildings at all major IT parks and have planned to open “Supervising hubs” (controlling offices) in small buildings. 75 to 90% of staff are going to work from their natives.

Every industry must find ways to transform. The following industries and sectors are well-composed to leverage opportunities faster than others and create large employment opportunities:

1. Digital payments

The smartphones associated with internet usage are in surge from day to day and their increased use will propel the digital payment market to grow in strong double-digits. Across the globe, governments will take initiatives to promote digital payments. Through digital India initiatives, India is set to create many employment opportunities. Every merchant will switch to digital payment adoption, growing the POS (point of sale) and mobile payment technology platforms.

2. Cloud Computing

An exponential rise in cloud computing will be witnessed post-COVID-19 phase as it is affordable, easy to use, and highly customized to requirements of scalability and it will undoubtedly become the bedrock for every organization in the future. A larger workload of every enterprise application is likely to be moved into the cloud where the cloud simplifies the monitoring of resource consumption, and every service delivery will be capitalized on this opportunity. Cloud services will move beyond foundational infrastructure to cover every facet of the organization process, including sales and marketing.

3. Healthcare

Healthcare comprises hospitals, medical equipment, diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, and telemedicine which assure tremendous growth. From testing, medicines, health cards, and telemedicine, digital health will impact the entire value chain. This healthcare sector will certainly benefit a lot of medical schemes and other healthcare expenditures, by the government.

4. Content

To attract customers, all major networks and studios will launch ‘direct to consumer’ streaming services, and content libraries. The entire scope of video, music, and gaming will be covered by content, and with 5G support, this industry will witness a stratospheric growth. With the possibility of having customized and targeted advertising options, and ad-free content, subscription services are definite to become promising.

5. Cyber Security

In the new era, post-COVID-19, every industry will choose to adopt digital transformation. Hence, the development of safe, and secure payment gateways will drive cybersecurity market growth. This industry involves the use of blockchain technology, application program interface (API), and other advancements to apprehend the occurrence of cybercrimes and financial fraud.

6. E-commerce

The rise of internet penetrations and data speeds shows an emerging scope of the e-commerce industry. An exciting future of e-commerce can be visualized as a lot of new categories will join the basket of e-commerce with every new product, or service available online. Post-COVID-19, the e-commerce growth rate will outpace earlier levels and this fact is undeniable. This sector is sure to expand from B2C (Business-to-Consumer) to B2B (Business-to-Business), enabling companies to buy products and services for their workforce.

7. Insurance

Society will become more conscious from here on about health, natural calamities, epidemics, and the need for social security. So, the insurance industry will become more relevant and important in this context. These insurance companies will provide services, as opposed to the entities that issue insurance policies. Due to this pandemic, individuals will realize the societal value, and importance of insurance against unexpected events regarding health, bankruptcy, retirement, and overall protection for home and families, and hence this industry will have utility value post-COVID-19.

8. Online Education

One of the most affected fields due to the pandemic is the education sector. To revamp with the education, reaching every learner, online learning stands as the only hope. Educational institutions will come up with a strategy to provide classes through the digital platform, and the traditional teaching standards will become a thing of the past. This impact will be seen from pre-school to higher education, with the flexibility of learning to students, and the flexibility of teaching to teachers. This means of education is accessible to a large section of society and the cost of education will become cheaper.

All the above-mentioned industries are sure to make a boom during and post COVID-19. These industries will embrace agility, digital transformation, and work from home culture, which would proactively make our lives easier, and businesses more profitable. These sectors and industries continuously hire for talent and could become one of the largest sources of employment generation.

Racism: A Tug of war between Whites and Blacks

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What is racism? Where were its inception roots from?

Racism is a belief that humans may be divided into separate biological entities based on inherited physical traits, intellect, morality, personality traits, and other cultural and behavioral features. It was the heart of North American slavery and the colonization and empire-building activities of western Europeans, especially in the 18th century. The idea of race was popped up to magnify the differences between people of European origin and those of African descent whose ancestors had been compulsively enslaved and transported to America. The Africans and their African American descendants were characterized as lesser human beings by Americans, while portraying the United States as a bastion and champion of human freedom, with human rights, unlimited opportunities, democratic institutions, and equality. The ideology of human equality and slavery remained in contradiction and the accompanying philosophy of human freedom and dignity demands the dehumanization of those enslaved.

By the 19th century, racism is found deep-rooted among all people around the world. Even leaders of many countries began to differentiate their societies in racial terms and designated accordingly as “higher: and “lower” races. Those seen as a race of lower status are exploited for their labor. Discrimination against them became a common scene in many areas of the world.

Many conflicts around the world have been interpreted in racial terms since the mid-20th century even though their origins were in the ethnic hostilities. The deepest forms and degrees of divisiveness are reflected in the acceptance of racism. Many societies have begun to fight racism by raising awareness by promoting human understanding in public policies, as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, set forth by the UN in 1948.

The brutality of the police in the United States

The unwarranted and excessive illegal use of force against civilians is quite often by US police officers. The forms of police brutality ranged from assault and battery to mayhem, torture, and murder against the blacks. Other forms of mistreatment encompass harassment (including false arrest), intimidation, and verbal abuse.

The majority of victims who have been subjected to police brutality in the United States are African Americans. The key factor explaining the predominance of African Americans among the victims of police brutality is anti-black racism among members of the police department who were mostly the whites. Though police brutality against blacks had become a serious problem in many urban areas by the mid-20th century, most whites were unaware of the happenings.

One such brutal happening in recent times was the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man by a white police officer. On May 25, he was arrested by the Minneapolis police officers when a convenience store employee called 911 and told the police that Mr. Floyd had bought cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. In seventeen minutes after the first squad car arrived at the scene, Mr. Floyd was unconscious and pinned beneath three police officers with no sign of life. Mr. Chauvin, who is a white, immobilized Mr. Floyd to the ground with the knee on his neck. The officer didn’t spare him after Mr. Floyd lost consciousness. He did so for some time enough to execute or kill him. There were three officers in the crime scene of which two restrained bystanders from intervening the action while the other, Mr. Chauvin executed Floyd’s death, ignoring the onlookers’ pleas to remove his knee, which he didn’t do until the medics told him to, who arrived at the scene twenty minutes later.

This is a live incident that happened despite the combats against racism by spreading words about human rights that are on go.

Juneteenth: State holiday declared by New York
Juneteenth, the day named for June 19th, commemorated the end of slavery. The New York governor Andrew Cuomo declared Juneteenth as a paid state holiday. Virginia and Philadelphia also declared the day as a holiday, marking the end of slavery.

How can we stop the pandemic of racism?

The tragic death of George Floyd, who was a black man, sparked protests worldwide. These protests have moved the US lawmakers to introduce a new bill to end the excessive use of force by police.

The COVID-19 pandemic has its spread through the SARS-CoV-2 virus while the pandemic of racism has no question that it’s human-made. It originated from a delusional view of a group of people thinking that they are better than other people. The white European elites have used this view of the world to rationalize their imperialist, colonialist, and racist policies, proclaiming that they are culturally and biologically superior. Dark complexions are associated with low-grade labor while fair-skinned are associated with higher social and cultural refinement. In a more subtle and hostile way, the consumer society keeps the racism alive by beauty concepts and tend to celebrate the glamor of fair skin people.
It is both our individual and collective task to curb the pandemic of racism. According to Franz Boa, who is a socio-cultural anthropologist, culture is not something absolute and no one size fits all where the culture relates to this context. He gave a push for a democratic understanding of culture and race concerning differences so that no single group is considered as a jewel in the crown.

Overcoming racist perspectives and racist behaviors at an individual level starts with a change in our worldview. One must blur the concept of self and others, irrespective of their skin color, and simply treat everyone equally.

We should oppose the contemporary ideologies of scientific racism at organizational and community levels. For example, admissions at schools, public services, and corporations’ shouldn’t discriminate against people based on their color or race while organizations should actively support people who are oppressed due to racist discrimination and underrepresented in all areas of public life.

Finally, yet importantly, governments around the world should work towards lessening structural inequalities created by racist social hierarchies. All of us should deconstruct the old normal of white supremacy and move towards believing in racial equality in the view that every person has equal respect and dignity.

COVID-19: Medication

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The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak has shed the entire world economically but the medical and pharmaceutical industry is in boom to the widespread need for medication at the moment. So far, over nine million population globally have been tested positive for COVID-19 and the need for successful treatment becomes an urgent need. The pandemic has accelerated the development of vaccines for novel coronavirus across the biotech industry. Both the pharma companies and research organizations are hand in hand to bring out the medication for the COVID-19 cure.
According to Xu Nanping, China’s vice-minister of science and technology, the first COVID-19 vaccine was expected to be ready for clinical trials by the end of April in China. Gilead’s ‘Remdesivir’ has demonstrated efficacy in treating the coronavirus infection as noted by the health officials from WHO.

Some of the most effective medication, approved for the treatment of coronavirus are jotted down the page.

US FDA approval of Chloroquine for emergency use

Limited emergency use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19 is been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Chloroquine is tested in various clinical trials by medical academic institutions and government agencies. Also, other antiviral drugs are planned to be fast-tracked for testing coronavirus.

Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) was first developed in India as an anti-malarial drug. However, the drug is also a disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug that helps to reduce swelling and pain in arthritis patients. Some laboratory tests suggested that HCQ can prevent COVID-19 infection. Since then, many nations including India have been using the drug as prophylactic and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has prescribed its use to all frontline workers and people working in close contact with COVID-19 patients.

Favilavir: The first approved drug in China for coronavirus

An antiviral drug, Favilavir, has been approved by the National Medical Products Administration of China, as a treatment for the coronavirus. In a clinical trial involving 70 patients, the drug has reportedly shown efficacy in treating the disease with minimal side effects.

Glenmark’s FabiFlu tablet

Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Limited has announced the introduction of Favipiravir under the brand name Fabiflu in tablet form to treat mild and moderate COVID-19 cases in India. The company has received approval from the Indian drug regulator for manufacturing and marketing the Favipiravir in oral form in India as 80% of all COVID-19 positive cases are under the mild and moderate category. As the need of the hour is to cure the infection in its initial stages, patients can get treatment at home and have a faster recovery by its use, as per physicians’ prescription.

The Japanese Flu drug: Favipiravir

It is an antiviral drug that was developed by a Japanese pharma company, Fujifilm Toyama Chemical, to treat influenza and hence the name ‘The Japanese Flu drug’. According to the scientists, the drug showed antiviral activity against all the subtypes of the influenza virus and is seen to restrict the multiplication of the virus in the body of the host. Favipiravir restricts the RNA polymerase enzyme, a key protein enzyme for the virus to multiply inside the body of the host. Thus the virus will be disabled to replicate and spread in the host body.

The Ebola drug: Remdesivir

A US-based pharma company, Gilead Sciences, was the first to develop Remdesivir during the outbreak of Ebola. The drug was not effective in Ebola patients. Later, it was tested against coronavirus strains, SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) in the year 2017. The research showed that the drug was able to stop the enzyme RNA polymerase which was necessary for virus multiplication which ensured that the virus could not spread in the body upon its use. The US FDA has issued emergency use authorization for the use of Remdesivir for treating severe COVID-19 patients for its effectiveness against the virus infection.

Anti-parasitic drug: Ivermectin

The drug ‘Ivermectin’ is still under trials to effective treatment of coronavirus. The drug is used for the treatment of head lice and intestinal worms. On testing against the coronavirus, scientists found that ivermectin could restrict the growth of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the cells of the host within 48 hours and kills it eventually. This drug has been tested effective against other viruses like dengue, influenza, and even HIV.

COVAXIN

India’s first COVID-19 vaccine for human clinical trials is developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech Company in collaboration with the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) and the National Institute of Virology (NIV). To conduct Phase 1 and Phase 2 trials, the vaccine has received approval from the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) and this makes it India’s first vaccine candidate to receive approval for human trials. No information regarding the nature and development of the vaccine has been announced yet.

The medications listed above have some in trials and others to curb the virus at a mild stage of infection. A complete remedy to treat the SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 infection is the most awaited vaccine at the moment. Globally, the medical team in entirety is in constant effervescence with the microscopic slide testing the weapon to kill the virus. There is an absolute hope to discover the medication very shortly. Until then, taking the necessary precautions to avoid the reach of the virus is essential.

Are Sleeping Pills Harmful..!?

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The evolution of medication from ‘Ayurveda’ to ‘Allopathy’ has a sharp surge in usage from ancient to modern times where ayurvedic medicine has its own importance at a corner while the allopathic medicines occupy the entire room and the reason being the curing pace of a pathology is quick due to allopathy intake rather than ayurvedic.

Most of the population in the world now are inclined to consuming a pill now and then as a remedy to every small malfunction in the body that may be caused naturally or due to internal stress caused. In the same line stands the medication to something that has its natural occurrence of action to the biological clock set but due to various reasons, people either stop or procrastinate doing. It is the act of resting after working for hours, communicating and mechanizing the brain, which is named as Sleep. When the natural biological clock is disturbed, it leads to a situation where you find yourself deprived of sleep resulting in unnecessary chemical secretion in body causing various breakdowns in the system’s natural functioning.

To compensate the sleep deprivation, rather adopting to various natural remedies to get in sync with the sleep clock, a pill replaces as remedy due to its quick action. Besides the side effects it bears, people tend to choose and consume it, as it has a ‘get-set-go’ action in a short while.

Sleeping pills help you fall asleep for sure. But at what cost? What are the real side effects seen so far and why are they dangerous for the health? Even though prescribed by physicians, sleeping pills come with real risks that are publicly unknown. These risks include cancer, memory loss and sleepiness.

What are sleeping pills?

Also known as hypnotics, these sleeping pills are obtained via prescription from doctors. ‘Sleeping pills’ is an umbrella term that has under its shade covering different types of sleep medication:

  • Hypnotics: These induce sleep in body.
  • Tranquilizers: These lower anxiety levels in body.

Benzodiazepine is the chemical element used in these pills which has its direct action on nerve endings and muscle fibers to induce sleep and reduce anxiety. Habituation to these pills is also a problem. A 3-week usage in continuum makes the body dependent on them to fall asleep. Some of the health issues that arise on taking this medication include headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, hallucinations, day time drowsiness and depression.

Risks accompanied with sleeping pills

Innumerous risks are associated with sleeping pills while making their prescription is still a controversial and much debated factor in medical fraternity. The risks linked with benzodiazepines affects different parts of the body like brain, muscle, heart etc.,

  • High risk of mortality:

A risk of death is over 4 times greater in people who consume the pills on regular basis than in people who do not take them. According to researchers, it can raise the depression levels leading to suicide risks.

  • Increased risk of cancer:

A 35% higher risk of developing cancer is revealed in a study on people who take notable amount of benzodiazepines than in people who don’t.

  • Risk of Alzheimer’s:

Use of benzodiazepine for more than 3 months linked a greater risk (up to 51%) of developing loss in memory leading to Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is a deterioration in mental ability which mostly occurs in middle or old age people due to generalized degradation of brain with age. But on consuming the tranquilizing pills, the risk is likely to happen at a young age.

  • Sleepiness during the day:

This pill consumption gives a grumpy day start and drowsiness throughout the day due to which work to be done can be ineffective. Most of the deaths caused in road accidents are due to this ‘falling asleep on wheel’ while driving on road.

  • Risk of habituation and dependence:

Hypnotics attach themselves onto the nerve cell receptors creating dependence on their intake. Stopping its usage is therefore difficult in patients who try to stop their treatment abruptly.

  • Degradation in sleep quality:

The benzodiazepine chemical damages the quality of sleep, deep sleep in particular modifying the architecture of sleep. This causes tiredness, inattention and lethargy.

As mentioned above, sleeping pills come with several risks which sometimes leads to fatality. They can nevertheless be effective in cases when doctors prescribe them for short amounts of time. It is also recommended to treat the roots of insomnia (stress, anxiety etc.,) to limit the risks caused, once taking pills is stopped.

When is a sleeping pill recommended?

At best, sleeping pills are temporary band aids while at worst, they’re addictive making insomnia worse at long run.

  • In case of severity in insomnia than more occasional sleeplessness, the pill consumption is preferable.
  • To avoid risk of daytime drowsiness, it is to be taken in right time at night just before going to bed.
  • Doctors tend to recommend the pills for people only with severe sleep disorders.

Ways to overcome sedative addiction:

  • Do nothing with your medication but support your nervous system and create a good sleep routine.
  • Gradually decrease the dose of pill consumption with the guidance of doctor.
  • Create a pre-bed time routine that is not medication based.
  • Ensure adequate hydration to body, cut caffeine and sugars as much as possible.
  • Consult your doctor or pharmacist to de-addict from usage as they know which drug, what dose and how long you have been using it.
  • Make a transition to using natural sleep aids. A herb named ‘Valerian’ is a natural and fantastic relaxant that helped people to get to sleep and stay asleep. In fact, valerian had a positive effect on withdrawal from benzodiazepine use.
  • Be patient!

The longer since you have been taking medication, the longer it will take to return to a non-medicated sleep. One may sleep longer, sleep less, dream more or feel groggy during this process. It is important to realize that body needs to adjust and it will take time for the person to get used to the difference for a rehab from the drug addiction.

Future Scope: Online Learning or Classroom Learning

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The COVID-19 pandemic has halted almost all the human activities for a while till now and one of the most affected columns is education. This outbreak has disrupted the academic year, canceled classes and examinations all across the country. To ensure that students do not miss out on their studies, schools and educational institutions moved the classes online, forcing students to attend the lectures through their gadgets. However, this way of learning has sparked a debate on whether an increased amount of screen time helps the students learn or retard their progress. Online learning may be a new experience to few but carries its pros and cons. The pronounces like reopening of schools, finding medication to curb the virus, getting rid of the virus completely have a void answer back. To hook the process of learning in children, online classes are the only means to sustain. To the educators who are acclimatized to classroom teaching, online teaching is a challenge to them. They are attuning themselves to new software, applications, and leaning to habituate towards technological ways to teach their students. Whatever happenings are seen in the education domain now are completely taking stance on the technology platform but which type of learning benefits the student more is a major point of discussion. Let’s get into deliberation by popping a few questions that strike in the way.

The screen time for students has increased because of online classes. Is it?

Online learning is probably the most helpful means of learning to students in the current situation but may not completely agree that the same has increased the screen time. As we see, children of this generation are more into the virtual world than reality by sticking to the screens in the form of television, mobile, or computer. They have been addicted to the screens even before COVID-19 began and the usage would be around eight to nine hours a day. So, the debate cannot be one-sided cornering that the effects are caused only due to online learning. Moreover, when it comes to online lessons, most schools are not depending only on screens but they are giving students a blended approach by including various activities like conducting yoga sessions, asking them to paint or craft, experiment something in the kitchen or make a salad. So, there is a bit of screen time interspersed with hands-on activities. Childhood is the crucial time of a child’s brain development where they learn something new every day. So, even a single day cannot be afforded a miss for children to receive the right kind of simulation, which only teachers can provide as they are trained to offer age-appropriate education.

Looking at the screens for longer duration can be harmful and as all the schools have shifted to online instruction, it does imply. This doesn’t seem to be a healthy way of learning but turned up to be the sole option to opt. Acquaintance to screen for long hours not only impacts health but also seems isolating and lonely for a child without their peers around them. Parents would be busy around their work and hence children may not get the right kind of supervision as in classroom learning. Also, the capability to interact and communicate can be lost in time if the trend of learning online is in a continuum. All these facts impact the process of learning. Hence, appropriate measures are to be taken regarding online learning as the future is mostly in its scope.


What guidelines are to be inclusive of online learning?

Online learning requires the use of technology and technology gadgets. Many children, especially those attending government schools, are being deprived of education during this pandemic as they have no access to online facilities. Though some families may have access to digital technology, there may not be enough devices for each family member’s personal use. There may be parents working from home who require gadgets and in this case, each household needs to have their gadget to do with their work which is certainly impossible to a large section of the population.

Multiple issues are surrounding online learning. A sudden rush to switch to classes happened overnight. Hence, some courts have asked the government to come up with guidelines on online instructions. They require guidelines in the lines of what online classes entail, what it means, how the process is going to happen, and what will be the impact through this way of learning. The Early Childhood Association has prepared detailed guidelines to be followed in online learning and mentioned that schools must be opened only if they can follow these guidelines.

Though many countries have started re-opening schools, it may not be possible in India to do so due to reported increase in the number of COVID-19 cases mostly in metro cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Hyderabad.


What will be the mode of education post-COVID-19? Will online lessons continue? What can be the learning level of students?

A large section of the population is unable to access technology which is a huge concern at the moment. Some children belonging to migrant families have moved far away from their schools. There is no guarantee that these families would return to cities and so is the situation of students to come back to schools. Teachers are trying to develop better online modules based on activities but not many are benefitting from it. The problem is with our education policy, which is always neglected for a marginalized child. All our policies tend to have a focus on those who already have access to certain facilities rather than the poor and marginalized and this is why we still have many children who aren’t in school yet.

If we stop online education, the children who have access to technology will lose out. So, stopping online classes may not be a solution. Instead, we need to work on providing technology access to those disadvantaged children by providing smartphones, electronic tablets, and teach them the right way to make use of technology.

Education is not only about sharing information or content that is learnable to students via screens. It is about a lot more and most of it takes place through social interactions in school with peers and teachers which is possible only through classroom learning. So the long run of online learning can impact the cognitive and developmental abilities of a child. It is high time that we started talking about how the schools can be made a safe space again for children to come back rather than making a complete switch to online learning.

What are the alternatives to ensure that students don’t fall back academically due to this or any other outbreak that might happen in the future?

Many policies fault lines during this pandemic and most of them are in the health and education sectors. Our health sector isn’t geared up to face this pandemic and even within the education sector, it is clear that we haven’t invested any in a way that it can take care of a situation like this. We have to think on these lines and improve our education system in such a way that we do not need to close schools even during the situations of this kind in the future. We need to ensure that there is no shortage of teachers and also make it possible for students to have a safe environment even during a pandemic. It is not only about online instruction, but we also need to prepare action plans to deal with students who lost out on education due to his pandemic. The majority of students who were unable to access technology in this pandemic may become drop-outs and this goes against their fundamental right to education.

From the guidelines, post-COVID-19, it is suggested to open schools or any educational institutes in a staggered manner. Social distancing must be strictly followed by teachers and students. Priority is to be given to opening schools for marginalized and migrant children, as they might not have access to technology in this pandemic time.

The government must take sufficient measures and create policies in a way to confront any such future outbreaks and retain stability in a short while.

Financial Crimes: ‘Money Laundering’ & ‘Bankruptcy’ in INDIA

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What is bankruptcy?

When a person or a business organization is unable to repay their outstanding debts to their creditors, they may seek relief from some or all of their debts. Mostly, a petition is filed in the court for the same where all the outstanding debts of the respective company are paid out, if not in full, from the company’s assets. The process of bankruptcy begins with a petition filed by the debtor, which is most common. The petition, being filed on behalf of creditors is a rare happening or less common.

Filing a bankruptcy is a legal course undertaken by the company to free itself from debt obligations. The debts, which are not paid in full are forgiven for the owners. Though, bankruptcy filing varies in every country. If bankruptcy is filed in India, then it will not go down well with the credit rating. It means it may be tough to get a new loan if a new plan is started afresh. However, it will save from any financial trouble in the future.

What is money laundering?

An illegal process of making large amounts of money by criminal activities such as drug trafficking or terrorist funding and making it appear to have come from a legitimate source. That money obtained illicitly by criminal activity is considered dirty, and the process “laundering” appears to make it look clean. Money laundering is a serious financial crime. It is widely used by criminals by adopting various techniques to make illegally obtained money look legit. Cryptocurrencies and online banking have made it easier for criminals to transfer and withdraw money without detection.

Prevention of money laundering has become an international effort and most of the financial companies have anti-money-laundering (AML) policies in place to detect and prevent this activity.

Repercussions of ‘money laundering’ and ‘bankruptcy’

There have been numerous ‘money laundering’ and ‘bankruptcy’ cases in India.
Money laundering leads to the destruction of financial-sector institutions that are critical to economic growth. It reduces the productivity in the economy’s real sector by diverting resources and encouraging crime and corruption thereby slowing down economic growth.
The consequences of bankruptcy are significant and the debtor will likely lose the property. The negative bankruptcy information will remain on that person’s credit report for ten years after the filing date.

 

The two sensational business tycoons who lit the news committing the financial crime are ‘Vijay Mallya’ and ‘Nirav Modi’. They fled away disrupting the financial flow of our country. This problem is to be addressed by the Government of India by introducing anti-fraud bankruptcy and money laundering policies and make them strict to every citizen because a common man will be the most affected due to the happening of these financial frauds as the government compensates the loss incurred by them in the form of tax from citizens of the nation.

Case of Vijay Mallya:
Vijay Mallya once called the “King of Good Times”, is an Indian business tycoon and son of businessman Vittal Mallya. He was even a former member of Rajya Sabha. He is the main subject of an extradition effort by the Indian government to return from the UK to face the charges of financial crimes in India. Mallya is a former owner of the Royal Challengers Bangalore cricket team and ex-chairman of United Spirits Company in India. He continued to serve as a chairman of United Breweries Group which is an Indian Conglomerate with interests including beverage alcohol, real estate, aviation infrastructure, and fertilizer. More than 50% of the market share is held by United’s Kingfisher beer.

Kingfisher Airlines was a major business venture by Mallya, which was established in 2005 which eventually became insolvent and forced to its shut down. It had not paid salaries to its employees for 15 months, as of October 2013. The amount owed to the banks had grown to at least $1.35 billion by November 2015 and there were other debts owed for taxes and to numerous other small creditors. As the Kingfisher collapsed, Mallya is being accused of “willful defaulter” under Indian law, including accusations of money laundering, misappropriation, etc. A group of 17 Indian banks, who financed Mallya, approached the Supreme Court of India in March 2016, to stop Mallya from going abroad due to the pending money of Rs.9000 crores in loans to be paid by companies he owned but by then he left India on 2 March 2016.

On a request by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PLMA) court declared Mallya as a “proclaimed offender”, on 13 June 2016, in connection with an accusation of money laundering probe against him. He was arrested in London as a part of the case on 3 October 2017 and he’s fighting an extradition case in the UK since then.

Recently, a consortium of Indian banks led by State Bank of India (SBI) is pursuing their bankruptcy order against liquor baron Vijay Mallya in the U.K. High Court to compensate the assets of Mallya with the debts he made in Indian banks and the case is still on go since 2016.


Case of Nirav Modi:
Nirav Modi is a diamond merchant and a fugitive Indian businessman. He is the most wanted by the Interpol and Government of India for criminal conspiracy, breach of trust, cheating and dishonesty, corruption, money laundering, and breach of contract since August 2018.

In February 2018, acting on a complaint from the Punjab National bank (PNB), the Indian government’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) launched an investigation of Modi. He and his partners were alleged for defrauding the bank of Rs.28000 crore by conspiring with the bank officials by fraudulently obtaining ‘Letters of Undertaking’ for making payments to overseas suppliers. The potential loss to PNB is reported to be up to Rs.11000 crore and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is looking into the case of financial fraud that has been registered against Modi by the CBI. He flew away to the UK and applied for asylum, claiming that he was a victim of “political persecution” and denied any wrongdoing. He was arrested on 20 March 2019 in London after a warrant was issued against him. The Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PLMA) court, on 8 June 2020 has ordered the confiscation, of nearly Rs.1400 crores worth property of Nirav Modi.

These are the two major causes of Indian businessmen who committed financial frauds and are under judicial considerations of the concerned UK authorities. Stringent rules and financial policies must be embedded by the Government of India to prevent or curb any such future fraudulent attempts that cause a decline in a country’s economic growth.

Intrapreneurship and Entrepreneurial thinking: Future of business

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Who are Intrapreneurs?

Employees who act like entrepreneurs while working within a company are called Intrapreneurs. What essentially makes an intrapreneur stand out in their way is that they are innovative, usually, come up with new ideas and take the role of a leader. They can utilize existing resources and foundations available in their company of work to create new ideas that may be implemented into the company leading to its growth.
The idea of intrapreneurship is quite fascinating as it provides people with the stability of a job and freedom of entrepreneurial experience at the same time.

Comparison of Intrepreneurship with entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurs, for their business to grow, face uncertainties to manage with various aspects. This may be overwhelming as individuals have the pressure of managing their whole business without lows, especially if the business is their only source of income they can rely on. Also, for an entrepreneur, the uncertainties can be due to the lack of resources needed to expand their business which leads them to fall back and have a huge financial impact on them.

At this moment, intrapreneurship comes into the picture and could be argued as the perfect blended opportunity to grow.

Why Intrapreneurship?

Intrapreneurs are self-motivated, proactive, and action-oriented individuals who can think out of the box. An intrapreneur can be comfortable in his position as they are employed in a company with a guaranteed income. Also, they can have access to the resources and tools provided by their company. Besides, they are allowed to completely focus on their vision and ideas and work towards them and bring them to life with a far less perceived risk.

How interesting is Intrepreneurship?

Intrapreneurs are also considered as the future of business as they can be the creators of change. Intrapreneurs are comfortable in their working role, can be more innovative, and produce their ideas to implement and act as change agents which will have a huge impact on the business and the business may evolve, opening doors to new levels. Besides actively creating change in the business, they also can become role models for the change they made which will inspire their colleagues or other companies enabling a follow in similar footsteps.

An element of ‘risk’ is involved for a change to occur and many companies are afraid to adopt to this factor as they are unaware of the repercussions and risks posed in the future for trying out something new in the business. This is where intrapreneurs come into the picture changing the future of business by creating a culture that is daring enough to take up risks and face them with courage, and this provides the company with an ability to grow and prosper.

Intrapreneurs’ space for thoughts and work 

As a whole, intrapreneurs are leaders by being able to take and bear the risks and enforce a change. In turn, they could encourage and influence their peers, thereby improving organizational culture and bottom line. They differ in their thoughts and actions by adopting different motivations and aspirations which leads them to want to work in different working environments. They can scale what it takes to adapt to a working environment that constantly keeps changing. They bring innovation, growth, leadership, and the unknown to the table as they go against the traditional set up of an organizational workplace.

With all these ideas in mind, a workplace that has thriving and innovative intrapreneurs can be an enthralling ambit to join and work with assured freedom of thought. The ideas, inputs, and decisions by intrapreneurs in the company could lead it to become one of the most powerful work agencies. A continuous growth can be seen as there would be innovative ideas rolling out to ensure the company keeps growing and come up with big things in time.

So, there is a scope of potential growth if the employment will be in terms of intrapreneurial regard. Companies must adapt to hire intrapreneurs seeking a change in the working world. Also, an individual has to be liberated in sharing thoughts and ideas in a company enabling the inner entrepreneur in him/her to become an intrapreneur in his field of work. A future big picture can be envisioned by flourishing intrapreneural culture in the work environment of companies.

Speech Recognition Model from FACEBOOK: Supports 51 different languages

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Data scientists of Facebook have developed their claimed first ever largest automatic speech recognition (ASR) model of its kind. It is a model capable of understanding 51 different languages on training over 16,000 hours of voice recordings. From a paper published in this regard, the co-authors say that the system contains parameters that improve performance up to 28.8% on a benchmark in comparison with baselines, using this new model.

Usually, ASR engines could understand only a single language with the necessity of multiple such models for a voice assistant to communicate in more than one language. A single model design to recognize speech in multiple languages is most desirable in the domain of automatic speech recognition, for several reasons as it simplifies the bank end production pipeline. Facebook’s designed model puts all the languages into a single module. It essentially uses the hours of voice data collected from public and anonymized videos on Facebook, to analyze not only what someone is saying but also know what language they are speaking.

Studies have shown that training multilingual models of similar languages can lower the overall word error rate (WER).

The functioning of Facebook’s Speech Recognition model

Facebook’s speech recognition model also known as the ‘joint sequence-to-sequence model’, was trained by sharing the parameters from an encoder, decoder, and token set across all the languages. The input audio sequences are mapped to intermediate representations by the encoder while the decoder maps these representations to output text, and the token set simplifies the working process with many languages by sampling the sentences at different frequencies.

Researchers have divided the 51 languages into distinct groups with a different decoder to each language. Then, for each language set, they selected 10,000 sub-word units as the token set. In the next step, they manually combined a few smaller language groups until they ended up with a count of six in total. This prevented the group sizes from becoming overly skewed by the number of languages contained by them.

According to Facebook, there are a billion parameters for a language in the ASR model, which makes its speech recognition far better conventional models used.

How best is Facebook’s speech recognition model in comparison with others so far?

According to citations, authors explain that it is possible to train a massive single ASR architecture this work by Facebook is the first one ever to study multilingual systems on a massive scale. They found that, better than 51 different monolingual baselines, this way consumes considerably less time to tune.

Facebook’s interest to create a single model that can understand and communicate in numerous languages is beyond academics. Moreover, the company has been investing more in improving conversational AI on several fronts. Recently, it has launched a new open-source chatbot named ‘Blender’ which is more advanced than any rival, including Google’s new Meena chatbot. This Blender is designed to make a conversation with a user on any subject and show its affinity. Facebook wants to keep collecting voice data from users, for training the speech recognition engines. There is a necessity of a multilingual setup if Facebook wants to compete on the global platform. Though Alexa and Google Assistant could already speak numerous languages, they have limited multilingual modes. Depending on the speaker’s location, Alexa can identify and reply accordingly to those users who speak in English, Spanish, French, or Hindi while the Google assistant can be bilingual. It can assist your voice in English and any other language that is already spoken by it.

Hence, Facebook’s speech recognition model is proved to be the first ASR to tune and respond to a multitude of languages in the sphere of data science.

Usage stats and parameters

A training data set is created from the anonymized videos that are publicly shared on Facebook. These are divided into three categories:

1) High-resources languages (e.g.: English, Hindi, French) which consists of over 600 hours of training data.
2) Mid-resource languages (e.g.: Bengali, Japanese, Russian) with 300-500 hours of training data.
3) Low-resource (e.g.: Norwegian, Swahili, Lithuanian) with 100-150 hours of training data.

Following certain guidelines, these videos are transcribed and tuned with the model’s hyperparameters, or those parameters whose values are used to control the process of learning.

By several experiments, researchers from Facebook report that the best performing version of their model developed by them improved WER on an average by 9.1% for high-resource languages, by 12.44% for mid-resource languages, and by 28.76% for low-resource languages. Also, this model of ASR has performed well on low-resource languages which it hadn’t seen before and these languages include traditional Chinese, Persian, and Telugu.

How to make a great impression during a first job interview via video?

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COVID-19 has brought about innumerable changes in the functionalities of every domain. Considering the work sector, remote working has been in action during this lockdown period to cope up with the work and economy of the company and country. Companies have reshaped their hiring strategy to operate and hire new talents. Most organizations are opting for video or phone interviews to hire employees into their workspace. So, what matters the most here is the way the interviewee presents himself/herself to impress a potential boss and bag the job albeit making the interview from home.

Here are few tips to go well with a video interview process:

1. Confirm your details

A lack of clarification or miscommunication on the interview details can have deleterious effects on your interview outcome. E.g. If you live in a location that is different from the time zone of the company’s office, then make sure the time zone that is stated, in which the interview will happen and schedule your move accordingly. Also, make sure that you are clear to whom you will be initiating the video conference for the interview. You are supposed to call the interviewer but out of mind you do it to someone else at the specified time, this may cost you the consequences of losing the job.

2. Dress up appropriately

A remote interview, whether phone or video, must be treated as any traditional face-to-face interview process or meeting. Imagine yourself that the interview is happening at the recruiter’s office and dress accordingly for the part. Dressing appropriately not only makes a smarter impression of you on camera but also will put you in a more professional, ethical, and confident frame of mind.

3. Set-up your surroundings

In the near future, most of us will be working remotely from their places of stay. So, the recruiter might also be having a glance around during the video call to ensure that you have the right set-up to work efficiently from home. Hence, pay attention to the environment around you while communicating. It may help if you can display that you have a dedicated desk area to work with an appropriate seat and a good surrounding that looks free from distraction and any other interruptions.

4. Do a technical rehearsal

It’s better to switch on all the required equipment well before 15 minutes to make sure that there are no technical glitches. Also, have a check on lightening, camera angles, test the microphones, headphones, or any other gadgets that you use for the moment. Enable a silent mode on phones or for any other desktop notifications. It’s a good idea to practice call with friends or your familiars to acclimatize to a feel of the interview and ensure that you portray your personality nicely.

5. Do not perplex by the problems

A video call is certain to have ‘sound drops’ or ‘image freezes’ due to internet connectivity issues sometimes. Do not get annoyed or fazed if the sound drops or the image freezes and convert the situation naturally. Try to say that ‘I’m sorry, I missed that’ or ‘could you please repeat?’ and move forward smoothly. Do not forget that your boss will be watching you on how you react to minor inconveniences or interruptions that happen meanwhile.

6. Clear the distractions of backgrounds

Be attentive to what can be seen on the camera behind you. It doesn’t purport well if you have any young children running behind, the family having a chit-chat or any sound from television. Try to find a corner or a room in your house where you can ensure at least an hour’s worth of quietness so that the recruiter can focus on your answers and that the process can end smoothly. Also, when speaking, look directly into the camera. This creates a feel to the other person that you are looking at them and it is also a gesture of confidence and truth to what you say.

7. Write a cheat sheet to help yourself

A major benefit of the video interview is that the hiring manager will not be able to see anything else from your desk. So, don’t be afraid to have any documents that you may require within the reach of your arms. The documents include a copy of your resume with job description information about the company and some list of questions you may want to ask the recruiter regarding the job.

All the above mentioned is a compilation of a few tips and tricks to make up yourself for a job interview via video. Make sure you follow each one of these to come out with flying colors, securing the job of your desire. Also, a job interview through video has quite heavy advantages than chances of turning down. It all depends on how you organize, prepare, and portray your personality on the screen of the recruiter.