Tuesday, July 28, 2020

COVID-19 and its impact on the Agri Economy of Punjab

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Syed Ahmed Uzair

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COVID-19 and its impact on the Agri Economy of Punjab


Global Views 360

Publication Date

July 28, 2020


Women planting paddy seedlings in agricultural field | Source: Diganta Talukdar via Wikimedia

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the agricultural economy of the Indian state of Punjab really hard. Punjab’s paddy farmers have traditionally relied on migrant agricultural labourers who are mostly natives of the state of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Due to the pandemic, a large number of migrant labourers have returned to their native place causing a massive shortage of farm workers in Punjab.

Its impact became more severe as the paddy transplantation period was already around. Gurbachan Singh, a local paddy farmer told news agency ANI, "There is a shortage of labourers as the government sent back the migrant workers without proper planning."

The shortage of migrant workers forced the farmers to rely more on the local labourers. The local labourers used this opportunity to demand more wages which has resulted in almost doubling the labour cost. The migrant labourers used to charge around ₹2500 per acre for sowing paddy while the local ones were demanding ₹4000 per acre for the same work.

The  village panchayat (Local village council) tried to fix the labour charges of ₹3,000 per acre which did not go down well with local labourers. This caused a dispute which even resulted in a clash between labourers and farmers where the shots were fired as well.

The labour shortage does not appear to be ending soon as most migrant labourers are not willing to come back. Viresh Kumar, a labour contractor from Sonbarsa in Bihar’s Sitamarhi district who supplies workers to paddy farmers in Phagwara, told ThePrint, “Workers from Bihar and UP either don’t want to come back to fields in Punjab or they want farmers or us to bear the cost of bringing them back, which is a very expensive and complex procedure now. Due to the lack of sufficient number of regular trains, the cost of bringing a single migrant to Punjab is around Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 per person.”

The shortage of cheap labour has forced the local farmers to start looking for some alternative which could maintain the economic feasibility of farming.also provided some benefit

Agricultural Secretary of Punjab government, KS Pannu noted that some of the farmers have started employing new technology to cope up with the labour shortage. "Farmers have sown paddy at around 5 lakh hectare land with Direct Seeding of Rice technology this year. Some farmers, however, shifted back to the puddling method for cultivation as they could not adapt to the technology," Pannu told ANI.

Manpreet Ayali, a member of Punjab State Legislative Assembly, and a wealthy farmer, says that this labour shortage is a blessing in disguise for the farmers as it would make them more self-reliant, rather than depending on labour for the transplantation season.

The shortage of cheap migrant labour has forced many farmers to cut down the area of paddy cultivation. Experts believe that due to the reduced area of transplantation the groundwater levels might improve in the state which tops the country in over-exploitation of groundwater reserves.

It is still too early to give a definite verdict on the long term impact of the COVID-19 on the agricultural economy of Punjab, but in the short term it is nothing short of a disaster for the local farmers.

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January 18, 2021 2:21 PM

The Toxicity in Video Games and Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077, the most awaited video game was released on consoles and PC on 10th of December, 2020. The game went under 10 years of build-up and had kept gamers waiting for over 8 years. Cyberpunk 2077 is inspired by a cult-favourite tabletop roleplaying game. The video game was designed by well-known Polish studio, CD Projekt Red. Cyberpunk was the studio’s first big console game since The Witcher 3: Wild hunt which was an extraordinarily triumphant game that won numerous awards after its launch in 2015.

The popular video game, when released, faced backlash from the gaming community and non-gamers for several reasons. To many observers and gamers, Cyberpunk 2077 even proved to be an absolute failure. Several gamers called out the game developers for the promotion of sexiest ideologies and transphobia. However, the reviews weren’t well received by the fans. Cyberpunk 2077 fans responded with unacceptable abuses, harrasing and hateful messages and even rape and death threats.

Keanu Reeves in Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 released ample previews, trailers, motion pictures and marketing material. Aside from this, the appearence of popular Canadian actor, Keanu Reeves as a character in the game carved the expectations of gamers and promised a sexy and kinky world of futuristic and revolutionary action. CD Projekt Red, one of Europe’s most successful video game company announced Cyberpunk 2077 project in 2012 and released the first trailer in 2013

The game is set in an alternate timeline in the city of California. The streets in the game are owned by tyrannical corporations. Everyone in the game modifies their body with illegal technology. Much of the state in the video game setting is said to be suffering from the impacts of a major nuclear attack which happened years ago. Every player gets to be a cyber-enhanced human who has to fight against physical and psychological threats to their survival. The game character of Keanu Reeves comes in as your sidekick.

In 2018, the developers insisted and had assured the gamers that Cyberpunk 2077 would not include in game purchases. CD Projekt Red did not want to lock any content behind a paywall. The studio was also insistent that the game would come out only when it was completely “ready”. They announced that the release would take place in April 2020 but it was delayed multiple times due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as other quality problems that the game was facing. When it was finally released in December 2020, gamers expected their experience of the game to be “worth the wait”. However, the video game wasn’t well revived by all. In spite of several months of work that went into making and developing the game, the game was launched with several technical issues. Players on both PC and consoles were having terrible experiences. As a result of multiple glitches and technical problems, the characters’ faces were obscured and the game would reset randomly. Some of the environments or areas of the game map was unappealing. The game even caused consoles to crash repeatedly and sometimes sacrificed players’ progress. One glitch led to characters’ breasts and penises being exposed. The characters’ genitals would poke out of their clothes. CD Projeckt Red offered refunds to players who were disappointed with the product. In fact, they updated a self-review discouraging gamers from playing the game on console until the game was fixed and improved.

Cyberpunk 2077 was roundly criticized by reviewers, game designers, industry insiders and other gamers across the gaming community. The wait and hype for the game had already created a fanbase which turned toxic by harassing reviewers who criticised the game.

There is another reason why the game wasn’t well received. Cyberpunk 2077 transphobia was apparent in the game contradicting the fact that the developers had claimed that the game was ahead of its time. The game has an incredibly detailed character creation menu. The players can control several aspects of their character’s appearance including the shapes and size of the genitals. The game even allows players to decline the option of including genitals to their characters. However, this isn’t the problem and is in fact appreciable. The idea of not determining gender by the character’s genitals in fact made many trans players happy. But this soon turned into disbelief and disappointment. The gamers realised that the game actually assigned the gender to the characters not based on their genitals but rather by the voice. Characters with higher-pitched voices were identified as females and characters with deep-voiced characters were assigned male pronouns. This purports the toxic idea that people’s gender can be determined by certain traits. A non-sexist video game would determine the gender of a player’s character based on an independent choice made by players themselves. This is uninfluenced by other physical traits or qualities.

Several reviewers called out Cyberpunk 2077 for promoting sexist ideologies. Unfortunately, toxic fans harassed the reviewers. “You just KNOW when you're going to get harassed. If the game with all the hype has anything wrong with it, and you're honest about that, or even just want to provide any context outside of ‘it's fun’, you're going to get harassed. It's a given.” These were precisely what Susan Arendt, a podcast host quoted. She even second guessed herself whether sharing her true opinions was worth the hateful, threatening and harassing messages that she received.

Controversial Tweet by Cyberpunk 2077 Twitter Handle

In the early days of arcade, gaming was a family activity. The popular male dominance and stereotype that only boys or men are good at video games were perpetuated in the past three decades. We observe this change due to sexualisation of video games. Today, most video games aren’t family friendly as they include explicit and sexual content. This, in fact, is a marketing tactic used by developers to target the male population. In 2018, a Cyberpunk 2077 fan who was awaiting the game at that point of time tweeted that the user wanted to see more from the “guys” at CDPR. In response to this tweet, CD Projekt Red tweeted, “Did you just assume their gender?!”. On the look of it, the tweet seems innocent but it is a joke at the expense of the trans community. After receiving backlash to the tweet, CDPR took it down and issued an apology staying sorry to “all those offended”. The apology seems like another targeted mockery and CDPR did no right by not taking responsibility for its actions.

Not only is Cyberpunk2077 transphobic and sexist, it is non user friendly as well. The game has several epilepsy triggers without any warnings about it. There are several instances and situations in the game where the effects and the graphics are brighter, louder and flashing. This is a general trigger for seizures. Liana Rupert, a player of Cyberpunk 2077 suffered a major seizure and at several moments felt that she was close to another one. After bringing this to the notice of CD Projekt Red, the company agreed to add trigger warnings wherever necessary.  

The gaming industry has definitely taken a few steps forward in terms of inclusivity of all genders but has also taken a few steps backward. While all genders are welcome, they still face harassment and judgement for simply existing in the community and need a lot more improvement.

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