Tag Archives: safety

Experiencing Two Lockdowns: Traveling to India During a Pandemic

My mother lives in Jamshedpur, India. I live in San Jose, California. For the past many years, my siblings and I have made multiple trips to Jamshedpur every year to spend time with our mother.

And then 2020 hit and travel came to a screeching halt.

Just like a lot of you, I have navigated these uncertain times seeking clarity on what was appropriate, what was safe, what was responsible. When COVID cases seemed to have declined sufficiently, Vijay and I decided to travel to India once again. We read extensively about the new travel guidelines, spoke with friends and family in India about COVID norms. 

Then COVID cases started exploding in India. We were in a quandary – although we were now vaccinated, should we still make this trip or postpone it? When would be a good time for this? Realizing that no one could give us any definite answers – we decided to move ahead with our travels as planned.

Since I’ve arrived here I’ve been asked by dozens of friends about my travel experience, so I decided to document some useful tips for travelers to India:

Before the start of travel

(i) Passengers need to have a negative RT-PCR COVID test (not antigen test) report in order to board flights to India. The test must be done NO MORE THAN 72 hours before the start of travel. This is important. Make sure and schedule this ahead of time.

You may not have a reliable internet connection when you land, so make a hard copy of the report and have it handy. 

(ii) Fill out the Air Suvidha self-declaration form, mandatory for all international travelers to India. You will need to upload a soft copy in pdf format for yourself and the rest of your travel party. You need to submit only one form for the whole family. 

Make sure you print and carry a hard copy of this form and carry it with your passport, VISA/OCI.

During the flight:

I had booked a direct flight from San Francisco to Ranchi on United, so was able to check in the baggage all the way to my final destination.

Passengers and flight crew were masked for the entire flight. Crew reminded folks to wear the masks even while sleeping. Sanitizers were available for all. We felt safe.

Tips:

(i) Wear masks that are comfortable for the long haul

(ii) Fill out the disembarkation card before landing 

Arriving in India:

We were pleasantly surprised to see that everyone at Delhi airport was masked – airport staff, officers, passengers

Upon disembarking: we had to show proof of the COVID test at two separate desks, manned by two diff entities. We were not sure who they were, but our boarding passes were stamped by each.

At the immigration counter: We were asked for our stamped boarding passes, Disembarkation card, Passports, OCI cards, and the Air Suvidha form. 

By the time we were done with immigration and arrived at the baggage claim, the baggage had been removed off the carousels and lined up for passengers. I was rather shocked at the speed with which this had happened!

Customs: this channel is usually open, but this time there was a queue, so it took a few minutes to walk out and into the domestic transfer area at T3.

Transfer to domestic: Those who have traveled through T3 know this – this is the most ridiculous design for an international airport like Delhi! There is ONE elevator that takes ALL international passengers transferring to the Domestic terminal on T3. The signage in this area is nonexistent, so you have to ask folks manning the counters. 

There was much confusion about where to drop off our baggage, but eventually, we found the right queue. We were disappointed that we could not just drop off the luggage but had to line up for check-in by Vistara yet again along with all other passengers. We pointed out that we were already checked in, had our boarding passes, and just needed to drop off the luggage – but it was of no use. There was no convenient drop-off or handover organized by Vistara.

Vandana & her Mom
After a LONG journey, Vandana gets to hug her mom

Waiting at the airport: There are several lounges on the domestic terminal and we made our way to the Plaza Premium Lounge that has a partnership up with Vistara. Seats were blocked to create distancing inside the lounge. We rested there till it was time to board the next flight. We felt safe.

So after a 16-hour flight from San Francisco, a 6-hour wait at Delhi airport, a 2-hour flight to Ranchi, followed by a 2.5-hour drive to Jamshedpur – I was finally able to hug my mom – masked!!

UPDATE: It’s been a week since I got here and today the Jharkhand State government has announced a “Complete Lockdown.” As someone who experienced “Shelter in Place” in California last year, I know what that means. I just didn’t think that I’d experience this in two countries. 

The US says that one should not travel to India right now. But I’m already here. I’m considering what I should do now. Follow my Facebook profile for developments.


Vandana Kumar has been the Editor of India Currents and has been serving as the Publisher since 2004.


 

Reimagined Communities: Safety For All

(Featured Image: Srishti Prabha at the September 23, 2020 protest at San Jose City Hall)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of India Currents and India Currents does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

Imagine you were sleeping in your house and you heard someone break-in. Would you protect yourself and your family?

Kenneth Walker, Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend, fired his gun in self-defense, in accordance with Kentucky gun laws, which permits the shooting of someone trespassing on your territory. He was immediately arrested with an attempted murder charge and his partner was fatally shot. 

The three white Louisville Metro Police Department officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove, who shot and killed Breonna Taylor, roamed free after the incident. Last week, September 23, 2020, they were cleared of the first-degree murder charge, with only one officer receiving a lighter indictment for wanton endangerment

A protest was in order. In a case so clear, how could these men be let off with a slap on the wrist? I took to the streets of San Jose to show my support for the injustice inflicted upon Breonna Taylor’s memory and her family.

A bright and beautiful black woman, who served her community as an EMT, was taken in her sleep.

“Black women matter!,” we chanted as a group at SJ City Hall. A group much smaller than what I had seen earlier this year. 

Michael German, Fellow, Brennan Center for Justice, Liberty and National Security | former Special Agent, FBI

The protest cycle, gaining and losing traction, is not a new one, neither is the information it is disseminating. Michael German, a Fellow from the Brennan Center for Justice and former Special Agent for the FBI, spoke about the pattern of white supremacy and far-right militant behavior repeating in 1990, 2006, 2015 at the Ethnic Media Services briefing on September 5th.

“White supremacy and far-right violence in the US is a problem that…is poorly understood, partly because the federal government deprioritizes it and the state and local governments don’t want to pick up the slack,” informed German. A consistent issue and a potential threat since the 90s, the ideology of white supremacy cannot be dismantled unless it is understood. 

Why do I bring up white supremacy in relation to Breonna Taylor? It’s this simple. 

The initial act of entering unannounced and shooting an unarmed black woman comes from the fear of her Blackness. The potential cover-up of her murder and the subsequent ruling in favor of the three white cops is the influence and power accrued from fear and oppression of colored communities. 

Data presents a clear distribution. For every 100,000 people, 2306 black people are incarcerated to the 450 white people. A number five times higher. 

There is always some ambiguity in a case or the possibility of nitpicking a story. Here is the question that should be asked…

Did the warrant put out related to a drug offense that was MAYBE loosely linked to the use of Breonna Taylor’s house require an unwarranted attack? 

The fact remains that black people are disproportionately exposed to such encounters or convicted of crimes. Why is that?

Brennan Center for Justice finds that “structural or institutional bias against people of color, shaped by long-standing racial, economic, and social inequities, infects the criminal justice system.” And these systemic inequities are exacerbated and can lead to implicit bias when the law enforcement interacts with the public.

In any ordinary job, negligence would lead to the loss of a job, at the very least. Even insider trading has a consequence. And killing an innocent person has little to no repercussion? 

“Crime in the United States has been a highly politicized issue,” Michael German very succinctly states. Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove did not do their job. A job where their first and foremost duty was to provide safety to the community they served, to the people they served, to Breonna Taylor. 

A study by The Sentencing Project provides some historical basis for the drivers of this disparity. They find three recurrent explanations from a multistudy analysis: policy and practice, the role of implicit bias and stereotyping in decision-making, and structural disadvantages in communities of color which are associated with high rates of offending and arrest.

Dr. Dorothy Johnson-Speight, Founder and National Executive Director of Mothers in Charge Inc.

The structural disadvantage for communities of color permeates through and beyond policing. Societal thought and implicit bias are part of the quotidian. Dr. Dorothy Johnson-Speight and her nonprofit organization, Mothers in Charge, work to understand the violence in their communities. Johnson-Speight didn’t need to be part of the criminal justice system to live through the injustices faced in her community. As a mother who lost her adult son to gun violence, she poignantly said, “You don’t really have a clue, if you haven’t walked in those shoes.” 

During the briefing, she mentions case after case where there is video evidence that speaks contrary to the police narrative. She uses Breonna Taylor’s murder to highlight the multitude of ways that powerful people use untruths to support the violence inflicted in her communities. 

“She has never had any criminal history but to save the face of the corrupt police officers…to get them off [for murder]…they create these untrue stories. These are the kinds of things that have been happening in communities of color for years.”  

What needs to happen for these narratives to be revised? Where do we start?

Raj Jayadev, CoFounder of Silicon Valley De-bug

No one understands this better than community activist and CoFounder of Silicon Valley De-Bug, Raj Jayadev. “Communities have been sacrificed in the name of safety”, advocates Jayadev and very quickly makes the adverse correlation between safety and policing. The premise of law and order has been synonymous with policing, surveillance, prosecution, and incarceration, yet,  evidence proves those two are antithetical. 

Jayadev’s organization runs out of San Jose, a rather progressive city with a low crime rate. Despite this, he points out that San Jose has a relatively high rate of death caused by police violence. White supremacy is not limited to one particular space, it is national. We are all having the same political discourse. 

Jayadev probes, “How do we reimagine safety, safety for all, if law and order isn’t the mechanism to get there?” 

“Defund The Police” reads my sign that I hold up to passing cars at City Hall. I hear a call, “What is her name?!” The group responds, “Breonna Taylor!”

In unison we chant, “Black Lives Matter” to anyone who is willing to hear us. 

Black Lives Matter. Say Their Names. Defund The Police.

The words are different but the message is one. We are hoping and praying for a reimagined world in which safety means communities of color are part of the whole. A world where safety means equal access to mental health services, education, livable wages, rehabilitation, halfway homes, housing, and social services geared towards the benefit of all. 

Deprogramming what we know is difficult and will take time. Together we can reimagine…


Srishti Prabha is the Assistant Editor at India Currents and has worked in low income/affordable housing as an advocate for children, women, and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.

Earthquakes Hit Southern California: Are You Prepared?

With the earthquakes rocking Southern California, we Californians are again reminded of the dark shadow of the possibility of a ‘big one.’ In the middle of lazy summer days filled with backyard picnics and vacations, who is in the mood to be earthquake ready? No one really. But, we ignore this basic safety exercise at our own peril. Here are simple ways to get you started. 

Before An Earthquake 

  1. Prepare now by keeping an earthquake preparedness kit. The CDC provides a comprehensive list of what you may want to put in your earthquake kit. 

https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/earthquakes/supplies.html 

During An Earthquake 

  1. If an earthquake hits, do not stand under a doorway. This common misconception may lead to serious injury. An easy phrase to remember what to do is ‘Drop, Cover, Then Hold On.’ 

After An Earthquake 

  1. To be safe after an earthquake, be prepared for aftershocks. Make sure that you are not injured and others around you are uninjured. 
  2. Save phone calls for emergencies only, and monitor local news reports for emergency information and instructions. 

For a comprehensive and detailed list of what to do before, during, and after an earthquake read this article: https://www.ready.gov/earthquakes 

The best way to stay safe is by knowing what to do if an earthquake hits, so take your time to explore these valuable resources and stay prepared.

Shalika Oza is a summer intern at India Currents magazine.

 

Multi-year Effort to Revitalize the Crissy Field Area

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The National Park Service, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, and the Presidio Trust launched the planning and public engagement process for a multi-year effort to revitalize the Crissy Field area of the Presidio. With a growing urban population, unique natural and cultural features, and a changing bay environment, the next chapter of the much-beloved Crissy Field begins. The project, named  HYPERLINK “http://www.nps.gov/goga/crissyfieldnext.htm” Crissy Field Next, is especially focused on gathering input and ideas from existing as well as new audiences to create an inclusive, welcoming space for all communities.

“We’re excited to be taking the widely popular Crissy Field to another level through improved services and better maintenance for all of our communities to enjoy,” said Laura Joss, Golden Gate National Recreation Area General Superintendent.  

The National Park Service and the Parks Conservancy began transforming Crissy Field in 1998 from an army airfield into the first visitor destination within the Presidio, a national park site. A few years later, the Presidio Trust began developing the buildings along Mason Street, welcoming in visitor-serving park tenants – and now is working in partnership with the Park Conservancy and the NPS on the Presidio Tunnel Tops, connecting the Main Post of the Presidio to Crissy Field. Now, nearly 20 years after its restoration, parts of Crissy Field are in need of repair and rehabilitation, while other areas may not be used to their full potential. Crissy Field Next offers an opportunity to make improvements to Crissy Field so that all visitors are able to enjoy and connect with this location in the park. There may be new features, while the sense of tranquility and history that makes it such a special place will always be preserved.

“When we began the transformation of Crissy Field 20 years ago, we knew it was a special place worth saving, but what we didn’t realize was how important a role Crissy Field would play for San Francisco residents and visitors alike,” remarked Greg Moore, Parks Conservancy President & CEO.

 “We are excited to champion Crissy Field in its next chapter, and hope through this process that we come up with more ways to connect visitors with this beloved bayfront area and the rest of the 1500- acre Presidio,” said Jean Fraser, CEO of the Presidio Trust.

Crissy Field Next has five project goals to address in six topic areas: community, recreation,
access and safety, ecology, history, and sustainability. Goals include:
 To connect with the community by creating an inclusive, welcoming space that’s
accessible and easy to enjoy.
 To add more opportunities for recreation, renewal, and reflection — a visitor experience
worth a day trip or more.
 To improve access and safety for Crissy Field visitors, with smoother traffic flow,
practical parking options, and safer ways for pedestrians and bicyclists to travel.
 To preserve and enhance the value of the ecology and history of Crissy Field, with
educational opportunities and insights that respect the richness of the place.
 The ultimate goal is to create a sustainable, well-designed space that’s durable,
flexible, and easy to maintain in the decades to come and is inviting to current and new
audiences.
As part of the planning and public engagement process, the project team and partners are
inviting our communities to a special family-friendly kick-off event for Crissy Field Next. This day
will invite current and new community members to learn more about the unique areas within
Crissy Field and provide ideas and input on what they want to see next in each area. There will
also be a representative from the Tunnel Tops project – which will add 14-acres of new national
parkland over the freeway tunnels – to provide important information on how the two projects are
connected in making a new Presidio visitor experience.

Crissy Field Day will be held on Saturday, October 20, from 11 am- 2 pm, at Crissy Field East
Beach (1199 East Beach, San Francisco, CA). This family-friendly event will have hands-on
crafts and science fun, live music, and free gifts.

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About the National Park Service
The National Park Service (NPS) is a federal agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior
charged with managing the preservation and public use of America’s most significant natural,
scenic, historic, and cultural treasures. The NPS manages the Golden Gate National Recreation
Area, as well as 417 other park sites across the U.S. For more information, visit nps.gov/goga.
About Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy

The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy is the nonprofit membership organization that
supports the Golden Gate National Recreation Area—one of the most-visited units in the
national park system in the U.S. Since 1981, the Parks Conservancy has provided over $500
million of support to site transformations, habitat restorations, research and conservation,
volunteer and youth engagement, and interpretive and educational programs. Learn more at
parksconservancy.org or call (415) 561-3000.

About the Presidio Trust
The Presidio Trust is a federal agency that manages the Presidio of San Francisco, a national
park at the heart of the 82,000-acre Golden Gate National Recreation Area. In partnership with
the National Park Service and the non-profit Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, the
Presidio Trust brings alive the park’s historic, natural, and recreational assets for the inspiration,
education, health, and enjoyment of all people at no cost to taxpayers. Learn more at www.presidio.gov