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The teleprompters behind Modi magic on Capitol Hill



Modi magic

As American Congressman rose to congratulate Prime Minister Narendra Modi on an incredible speech on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, an intense discussion erupted on social media about whether or not the Indian premier had chosen to go US President Barack Obama way and use a teleprompter to address the joint session.

While some were convinced the prime minister had delivered an extempore speech, like he usually does when he addresses public rallies back home, others were convinced that the trusted teleprompter was at hand to help Modi with his impressive speech in English. Soon, Twitter was flooded with photographs of Modi at the US Congress with two teleprompters on either side.

Over the next couple of hours, media reports confirmed the teleprompter theory.

Incidentally, according to reports, Modi first spoke using a teleprompter in July 2014 during the PSLV launch in July at the Indian Space Research Organisation. He continued to use the device intermittently on his subsequent foreign trips, especially when he had to deliver his speeches in English. Used as we are to clunky monitors that scroll down text as it is read out, the latest versions are hard to spot. Which explains why many were convinced the PM did not use one on Capitol Hill.

How does the teleprompter work?

For Prime Minister Modi’s speech, a StagePro Presidential Teleprompter Series was likely to have been used, a popular device on the lecture circuit as well and which displays smooth scrolling text on glass reflection monitors. While the text is clearly seen from behind the lectern, it is completely invisible to the audience in front since the screen is transparent from the other side. Behind the scenes is a teleprompter operator, controlling the speed of the scrolling text, carefully following the pace of the speaker.

During the speech, the speaker simply looks from one teleprompter to the other. This gives an impression that he is looking at the audience while giving his speech.

A teleprompter operator feathers the speed of the script to match the pace of the speaker. If the speaker slows down or stops, like during a standing ovation of which Modi received quite a few, then the operator will follow suit. Some modern, lower grade systems can operate without an operator by using a preset speed on loop, but it can be unnerving to the speaker to follow a machine.

The prompter operator also interacts with the camera crew and sets up the teleprompter equipment so everything is connected to the tripod and balanced correctly. Plus, an operator edits the script and often wordsmiths the lines. Phrases that look good on paper don’t always sound great when spoken aloud.

When teleprompters embarrass

Some critics say politicians who rely on teleprompters are more performers than leaders. But that really depends on what the politician says and how he says it. The teleprompter is merely a performance device. It doesn’t write the speech or control what is being said, or how.

The danger with teleprompter use is that the speaker will be more focused on reading the words than in conveying a sense of understanding about what he’s saying. The prime minister, an inveterate speaker, has clearly mastered the art of using the device.

But he too had to undergo a learning curve. For instance, in February 2015, Modi became the butt of jokes on the social media when he took his teleprompter a little too literally.

While greeting visiting Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and his wife, Modi committed a gaffe, by calling the visiting first lady, M R S Sirisena.

The gaffe that was reminiscent of a Doordarshan anchor who lost her job for a similar misreading, as she had referred to Chinese President Xi Jinping as ‘Eleven’ Jinping during his visit to India.

Clearly, Prime Minister Modi seems to have mastered the skill over time.


Donations by companies to PM-CARES Fund notified as CSR

Companies have off late announced donations to the PM-CARES Fund along with several other initiatives to combat the coronavirus pandemic.





New Delhi, May 27 : Two months after it made the announcement, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs has finally notified that donations made by companies to the Prime Ministers Citizens Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM-CARES Fund) will be considered as expenditure on corporate social responsibility.

The ministry late on May 26 notified that it has amended Schedule VII of the Companies Act, 2013 by including contributions to PM-CARES Fund as valid CSR activity along with the earlier insertion of Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund.

However, to the relief of corporate contributors, the notification had clarified that changes will be deemed to have come into force on March 28, 2020 to allow for all the corporate contributions to PM-CARES Fund made in last two months to qualify as CSR spend.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had tweeted on March 29 that CSR Funds can now donate to PM CARES Fund. A ministry of corporate affairs circular issued then had also said the same suggesting that the Fund has been set up to provide relief to those affected by any kind of emergency or distress situation. But, a formal notification of the proposal never came in March.

Sources said delay in notifying the circular was primarily over the issue of whether such changes would require an amendment to Companies Act or can be done through amending the rules. Legal opinion gave a nod to the notification.

Corporate spending for various activities related to COVID-19 including promotion of healthcare, preventive healthcare, sanitation, disaster management would qualify for treatment as CSR, as per a previous circular by the ministry.

The corporate social responsibility rules make it mandatory for large Indian firms to set aside at least 2 per cent of their average net profit for socially responsible expenditures. The norms are applicable to firms with at least Rs 5 crore net profit or Rs 1,000 crore turnover or Rs 500 crore net worth. The list of activities included under CSR is decided by the government.

Companies have off late announced donations to the PM-CARES Fund along with several other initiatives to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

The total corporate social responsibility (CSR) spending by the top 500 companies in the country since the applicability of mandatory CSR in 2014 is likely to cross Rs 60,000 crore by the end of the month as per industry reports.

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Political heat rises over Shramik Special; Maharashtra, Kerala slam Railway

A senior railway ministry official on Tuesday said till Monday, 3,274 Shramik Specials have been run which ferried 44 lakh passengers to their home states.




NCP nawab malik

New Delhi/Mumbai/Thiruvananthapuram, May 27 : The tiff over Shramik Specials intensified further as Maharashtra Minister Nawab Malik and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan slammed Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal late Tuesday night over number of trains being available.

In a statement, Malik, who is an NCP Minister of Minority Development in the Uddhav Thackeray-led three-party coalition government in Maharashtra, alleged that for the last two days, the Railway Minister is doing politics.

“He said 49 trains would leave from Mumbai’s Lok Manya Tilak terminus. However, the Divisional Railway Manager said only 16 trains will be allowed.”

Hitting out at the Central government, the NCP leader said, “Passengers of 49 trains arrived at the station, but the railways was not ready to run the trains.”

“We feel the Railway Minister and Central government are intentionally doing politics,” Malik said.

Later the Divisional Railway Manager of the Lok Manya Tilak Terminus in a tweet said, “Never given such a statement to anyone. We as Indian Railways are committed to run the trains and help the migrants in distress.”

In his diatribe against Goyal, Malik in fact was responding to the charges levelled by the Railway Minister that the state government had failed to make arrangements for passengers to travel to railways stations, which resulted in fewer trains for the migrants.

“As many as 85 trains were supposed to run out of 145 trains, till 6 p.m. today (Tuesday), from Maharashtra. However, due to the failure of the state government to make arrangements for passengers, only 27 could run,” Goyal said, adding, “I again request the Maharashtra government to help us take back the poor labourers back home.”

This is not the first time Goyal has taken a dig at the Maharashtra government over the issue. On Tuesday, he urged the state government to cooperate with railways for operating the Shramik Specials. In a series of tweets, Goyal said, “On request of Maharashtra government, we arranged 145 Shramik Special Trains today. These trains are ready since morning. Fifty trains were to leave till 3 p.m. but only 13 trains have due to lack of passengers.”

“Further delays will affect the entire network and planning,” Goyal said in another tweet.

His remarks came two days after he asked Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to share the list of passengers for arranging Shramik Specials.

The war of words between the Centre and the state government began after Thackeray commented on Sunday that though the state wanted 80 trains daily to send migrants home, the Railway Ministry was allowing around 30-40 trains.

The Central Railways in a statement said that on Tuesday the national transporter had offered 125 trains for evacuation of migrants from Maharashtra. “But the state government was only able to offer information for 41 trains till 2 a.m. on May 25. Out of these 41 trains, 39 could run as passengers could not be brought by local authorities,” the CR said.

It further said that it took meticulous planning and sustained effort to mobilise resources at a very short notice to prepare 145 Shramik trains for Maharashtra on May 26.

“These trains have already been notified for today from Maharashtra as per a state-wise break-up. Till 12 noon, 25 trains were planned from Maharashtra to run, but several departures were cancelled due to lack of passengers. Boarding of the first train could commence at Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus at 12.30 p.m.,” it added.

The Central Railways further said that from Maharashtra, 68 Shramik Specials were supposed to leave for Uttar Pradesh, 27 to Bihar, 41 to West Bengal, two to Odisha and Tamil Nadu and one each to Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Kerala.

Meanwhile, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan late on Tuesday night also hit out at the Railway Minister saying the national transporter was sending trains to Kerala without prior information and that it would undermine measures taken to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Vijayan said the issue had been brought to the notice of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Vijayan said last week, after the railways sent a train to Kerala from Mumbai without informing the state government about its stop in Kannur, he had written to the Railway Minister saying the state must be informed in advance about such trains.

“The Minister was told that such a step would dent the steps being taken by the government to contain the disease. But, the railways decided to send a train to Kerala from Mumbai. This has been brought to the attention of the Prime Minister,” Vijayan said.

“Trains are coming to Kerala from all parts of the country. Our only condition is that there should be prior intimation from the Railways. They should give us a list of passengers who have booked tickets. In the same way, it is important and compulsory for passengers to register on the Covid Jagratha portal before the journey. We will be prepared to receive the passengers,” he said.

From May 21 to 25, several Shramik Special trains were delayed for hours as these were diverted due to congestion on the Jabalpur-Manikpur section.

The railways has said that the issue of congestion has now been resolved.

The Indian Railways, which has suspended the passenger, mail and express train services from March 25 amid the nationwide lockdown to combat the spread of coronavirus has started Shramik Specials from May 1.

The railways also started to operate 15 pairs of the Special air-conditioned trains from May 12.

The Shramik Specials were started to transport stranded migrant workers, tourists, pilgrims and students.

A senior railway ministry official on Tuesday said till Monday, 3,274 Shramik Specials have been run which ferried 44 lakh passengers to their home states.

On Monday, railways said it has operated 223 Shramik Specials and transported 2.8 lakh passengers. The railways has planned to operate 200 trains from June 1 on the time-table basis, bookings for which have already started.

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Ayushmann replies to Mumbai Police’s ‘Gulabo Sitabo’ inspired meme

This is not the first time Mumbai Police has used a reference from a Bollywood film to create awareness.




Gulabo Sitabo

Mumbai, May 27 : Bollywood actor Ayushmann Khurrana has replied to the COVID-19 meme inspired by his upcoming film, “Gulabo Sitabo”, which has been shared by Mumbai Police.

Mumbai Police on their official account tweeted a still from the film, featuring Ayushamann with his co-star Amitabh Bachchan.

The caption, in Marathi, read: “Home is yours, land is yours, choice is yours, but for going out, permission is ours, for your safety. The safest place to stay away from Coronavirus is your haveli. Do not go out without any reason. Stay safe”

Ayushmann replied to the tweet: “Agdi barobar @DGPMaharashtra Police Gharat Surakshik, baher sadhya nahi (absolutely true Maharashtra Police, home/staying indoors is safe, outside isn’t).”

This is not the first time Mumbai Police has used a reference from a Bollywood film to create awareness.

Previously they have tweeted with stills and dialogues from films like “Main Hoon Na” and “Stree” among many others.

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