Specials http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials.rss en Sat Aug 31 16:53:07 IST 2019 https://www.theweek.in/privacy-an-settlement.html get-ready-for-diwali-post-covid-syndrome <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/10/22/get-ready-for-diwali-post-covid-syndrome.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/10/22/54-Dr-Vivek-Nangia.jpg" /> <p><i>Dear Doctor/ Dr Vivek Nangia, interventional pulmonologist, principal director and head, Max Super Speciality hospital, Saket</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It seems that some of the gains of the lockdown may have been reversed in Delhi-NCR, thanks to the rising air pollution. There is a sudden spurt in cases of allergy, cough, cold, breathlessness, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The other chunk of patients these days is those suffering from post-Covid-19 syndrome. The most common after-effect of Covid-19 is fatigue, which afflicts about 20 to 30 per cent of those who have recovered from moderate to severe Covid-19. Intermittent fever is also one of the complaints. Some patients (10 to 15 per cent) also have breathlessness due to lung fibrosis. As the lung tissue is damaged and scarred, the thickened, stiff tissue makes it difficult for the lungs to work, causing breathlessness. In one or two (of about 300 patients) we have also noticed pulmonary embolism, caused by a blocked artery in the lungs. This can lead to low blood pressure, respiratory distress, pain in the limbs and weakness, and can be life-threatening. Such patients require oxygen therapy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Use N-95, not cloth masks</b></p> <p>With festivals and the wedding season in the offing, there are concerns of a spike in respiratory diseases. People are moving out and a certain fatigue has set in. It is important for people to understand that cloth/fabric masks are not enough anymore. There was a time when N-95 masks were not being recommended because of cost and availability issues, but those issues are past us. Regardless of whether one is in a low or high incidence area for Covid-19, the N-95 mask is a must. Masks have to be worn and physical distancing has to be observed in indoor settings, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Do not miss the flu shot</b></p> <p>Both seasonal influenza and Covid-19 may present with similar symptoms—breathlessness, cough and cold—making it tricky for doctors to handle them. Which is why we are recommending the flu vaccine. Even though the protection offered is less (about 65 per cent), for those in the high-risk group (elderly, those with co-morbidities), it is a must. Affordability might be an issue with the vaccine, and so the government should subsidise the vaccine at least this year, in the same way that it subsidises vaccines for children.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Do not burn incense</b></p> <p>My advice to people for the next couple of months is to stay indoors, keep your hands clean, avoid smoking and preferably be in an area with plants. Avoid exposure to household fumes, including agarbattis (incense sticks). The smoke from incense sticks has been documented to cause COPD.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>People ought to have a healthy diet high in antioxidants, and a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. Keeping yourself hydrated is a must.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>—<b>As told to Namita Kohli</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/10/22/get-ready-for-diwali-post-covid-syndrome.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/10/22/get-ready-for-diwali-post-covid-syndrome.html Thu Oct 22 17:50:41 IST 2020 on-your-knees <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/10/15/on-your-knees.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/10/15/kaushal-malhan.jpg" /> <p><i>Dear doctor/ Dr Kaushal Malhan, director, orthopaedics &amp; joint replacement surgeries, Fortis Hospital, Mulund, Mumbai</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">D</b>uring the past eight months of the Covid-imposed lockdown, we have seen a lot of patients coming to us with problems that are related to sitting for long hours, working from home and staying indoors resulting in back and neck aches, postural issues, muscle pain issues and full body aches. Interestingly, we are also seeing a lot of older patients with osteoporotic fractures of the wrists, hips and shoulders, and these are patients who have not gone out at all, but have fallen at home.<br> </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Right posture matters</b></p> <p>There is an increase in complaints of body aches during the lockdown. A lot of factors have contributed to this such as being sedentary or the absence of the right kind of infrastructure required for long hours of work. It all starts from the right chair. Make sure your back is supported by the back rest, the legs are under the table, the tummy or the chest nearly reaches the edge of the table and the elbows are well-rested on the table. The computer should be at your eye level.</p> <p><b>Osteoarthritis, the villain</b></p> <p>Osteoarthritis is very common among Indians; the knee is the most commonly affected joint which is impacted, followed by hips and shoulders. Genetics, lifestyle and injuries are all the factors that would lead to the wearing out of knees. Stretching exercises will help in creating a balance between the two knees and prevent long-term arthritis.</p> <p><b>To maintain bone health</b></p> <p>I am now seeing osteoporosis in much younger patients than say, a decade back. It is a silent disease which becomes overt and obvious only when the bone fractures and gets injured. Increase your bone density as much as possible in the formative years itself. A high intake of proteins is crucial for bone health, much more than calcium and vitamins. Also, one’s bones must be attuned towards impact exercises such as walking, running, skipping and jumping.</p> <p><b>Localised treatment</b></p> <p>We are now seeing osteoarthritis in much younger patients and in more active patients, and also arthritis is mainly observed in certain parts of the knee among Indians rather than the whole knee. So, our focus has been on minimally-invasive joint replacement and in that respect, we came out with the tissue preserving total-knee replacement technique which gained immense popularity. It has also been picked up by the Limca Book of Records for its speed of recovery; A 94-year-old patient who underwent this surgery for both the knees, began walking within hours of the surgery. At times, patients do not really need full knee replacement, so that gives way to the unicompartmental knee replacement surgery in which we can focus on the damaged area of the knee rather than the whole knee. This has long-term benefits: one can carry out normal functions and the best part is, we are preserving the natural biomechanics of the knee except for the small area that needs medical attention. The first Oxford unicompartmental surgery in the country was done by me 16 years ago. Even in hip replacement, we are the only unit that offers the direct anterior approach (that involves a 3 to 4 inch incision on the front of the hip) with a minimally-invasive procedure.</p> <p>—<b>As told to <br> Pooja Biraia Jaiswal</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/10/15/on-your-knees.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/10/15/on-your-knees.html Thu Oct 15 22:32:35 IST 2020 people-are-investing-in-a-new-workstyle-in-this-new-world <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/10/15/people-are-investing-in-a-new-workstyle-in-this-new-world.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/10/15/devita-saraf-new.jpg" /> <p><b>O</b>nly one woman made it to Hurun’s list of India’s richest self-made entrepreneurs under 40—Devita Saraf. She has been a constant fixture in <i>Fortune</i>’s list of India’s most powerful women in the past few years. But for the lady who found her fortune at the crossroads of business, technology and design, it would perhaps be of greater satisfaction when the market takes to her products.</p> <p>Saraf founded Vu Technologies when she was 24, and from nowhere broke into the high table of India’s television market. Last month, she took another bold plunge, placing her bets on the post-Covid new normal with Meetings by Vu, a video conferencing solution on large screen with multiple camera features and a flexible system where any video call software will work.</p> <p>On the eve of the start of festive season shopping, THE WEEK caught up with Saraf for her thoughts on how the business will evolve and the effects of Covid-19. Excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Vu created its own niche in the Indian TV market. How did you figure out what customers wanted?</b></p> <p>Our biggest focus always has been to reach more educated buyers. We are not price players or the cheapest option in the market. And we realise that while educated Indians love consuming content, they also want something flexible with their lifestyle, new and innovative, has show-off value and something they can play around with. We understand this audience very well, and make products for them and distribute them accordingly.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Innovation and pricing surely helped, right?</b></p> <p>Yes. At the end of the day, when you want to convert a customer, you require good pricing. But the good thing is most people who buy Vu TVs tend to repeat it. About 87 per cent of our customers are repeat buyers. So it is not only innovation and pricing each time, but also about giving fantastic quality, customer service, and brand value. This is what has helped us become a Rs1,000 crore company.</p> <p>Vu is now offering video conferencing solutions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What are your USPs in the crowded market?</b></p> <p>The product we have launched, Meeting by Vu, is a first not just for India but the entire world. This is because other companies in this space, like Cisco and Polycom, have proprietary systems. They need the same software and hardware at both endpoints and are clunky and difficult to use. They also require expensive real-estate investment in the form of immersive video conferencing rooms. At the other end, mobile phones and laptops are running easy-to-use software like Zoom, Skype. But these have terrible picture and sound quality and are tiring to use. Meeting by Vu has the best of both worlds; it has professional-grade audio and video quality and the ease of being able to install Zoom or your choice of software on the system. It is much more relaxing, as you can sit back and do your meetings. Secondly, we offer both sharp and wide-angle cameras, so you can use the system in a small meeting room or a conference room with multiple people. And third is the fact that it works with all software. No one else in the world is doing this.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>If you can stick your neck out a bit, which would be the next business area that you may focus on?</b></p> <p>With Meeting by Vu, we have just entered a new business area. And unlike other companies that only focus on doing what is next, we always make sure that we do it right. We have started a new company as we see work style as a major blue ocean market for us. So before we look at other areas, I want to make sure that I have built a Rs250-300 crore company in this space. It is always best to be disciplined, focused, and grow rather than be taken in by the current latest thing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Where do TVs go from here?</b></p> <p>We have a new high-end TV coming by the end of October. But we can only share more information once we officially launch it. But you will see what the best in TVs is, coming soon.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What is Vu’s strategy on the prime minister’s call for Atmanirbhar Bharat and getting ‘vocal for local’?</b></p> <p>I’m proud to say that Vu is the only company that has invented a product that is made in India—Meeting by Vu. Assembly and manufacturing are also being done in India. So it is a “vocal for local” product. We also hope to take this product abroad.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What is your take on post-lockdown recovery and by when do you think it will be ‘business as usual’?</b></p> <p>First, you must change your definition of ‘business as usual’, as things are not going to fully go back to pre-lockdown days since many habits have changed. People will live in a more hybrid sort of world where certain habits learnt during the lockdown will stay. For example, people will continue using software like Zoom instead of travelling for business.... They will utilise their time much more efficiently. So we feel this new segment will stay highly relevant post-lockdown.</p> <p>The economy is also recovering as we see consumer spend happening on televisions, and for a product like Meeting by Vu, where people have the money to spend. But most importantly, people are investing in a new lifestyle and work style in this new world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How will the upcoming festive season fare?</b></p> <p>We have found that general trade is doing very well in mom-and-pop stores. E-commerce is growing quickly, too. However, large-format store retailers are not doing as well because of the lack of footfalls. But we do not sell in any of these large-format stores, so we have not seen a dip in sales. It will be quite interesting this Diwali, to wait and watch to see the sentiment in the market. But the main thing that people have realised is that the lockdown will not be lifted anytime soon. We will be sitting at home, at least, till the end of 2020. This means that Diwali TV sales will be higher, as this is the only way customers can travel the world. People are also wanting more TVs per household, larger-sized TVs, and more content on their TVs. So it is a great opportunity for this industry.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/10/15/people-are-investing-in-a-new-workstyle-in-this-new-world.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/10/15/people-are-investing-in-a-new-workstyle-in-this-new-world.html Thu Oct 15 20:54:21 IST 2020 let-the-popcorn-flow <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/10/15/let-the-popcorn-flow.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/10/15/theatre-kolkata.jpg" /> <b>In a film-crazy</b> country like India, the shutting down of theatres was almost as disastrous as the pandemic itself. The OTT platforms tried to fill the gap, but nothing can replace the experience of seeing Tiger Shroff’s deadly dance moves or Rajinikanth’s death-defying stunts—up, close and personal. That is why the cinema halls re-opening on October 15 was met with much hip-hip-hurrahs. Even without any big ticket releases, cinephiles still have a delectable spread to feast on, including the Ishaan Khatter-Ananya Panday starrer, <i>Khaali Peeli</i>, and <i>Kedarnath,</i> which will be re-releasing in memory of Sushant Singh Rajput. Before the action begins on screen, we bring you the action that happened behind the scenes! http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/10/15/let-the-popcorn-flow.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/10/15/let-the-popcorn-flow.html Thu Oct 15 22:32:51 IST 2020 forgotten-firebrand <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/10/09/forgotten-firebrand.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/10/9/suhasini.jpg" /> <p>Suhasini was a revolutionary. She was also a singer, a dancer and a poet. Noted American journalist Edgar Snow, in the article ‘The Revolt of India’s Women’, described her as the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Suhasini Nambiar née Chattopadhyay, the first Indian woman to become a member of the Communist Party of India, was all these and more.</p> <p>Suhasini was one of the few, if not the only Indian, to be received by Mao Zedong on visiting China. But, as the Communist Party of India celebrates 100 years of its formation, she remains relegated to the dusty pages of history.</p> <p>“Tracing the details about Suhasini was a laborious task,” said Vappala Balachandran, a retired IPS officer, who wrote <i>A Life in Shadow: The Secret Story of ACN Nambiar</i>—a widely discussed book about Suhasini’s husband. “Whoever she met was totally impressed by her intellect, beauty and fiery personality, but if you look for physical footprints, you may not find any,”he told THE WEEK. Balachandran, who retired as special secretary, Union cabinet secretariat, said that the most detailed chronological details of Suhasini’s life were maintained by the Bombay Special Branch; she was under surveillance till 1951.</p> <p>Born in Hyderabad in 1901 into an illustrious Bengali family, she was the youngest of eight children. Her father, Aghore Nath, was a renowned scientist who was closely involved in the freedom movement. He was the principal of Hyderabad College. Her siblings were all illustrious in their own fields—the most famous being Sarojini Naidu, the Nightingale of India, and Virendranath (Chatto), the revolutionary freedom fighter who believed international support was vital to fight the British.</p> <p>Life changed for Suhasini at 17. She met A.C.N. Nambiar, who later came to be known as Jawaharlal Nehru’s mysterious “journalist friend” who accompanied Subhash Chandra Bose to meet Adolf Hitler. The son of Vengayil Kunhiraman Nayanar, the first short story writer in Malayalam, Nambiar shared a great rapport with Indira Gandhi, too. A Padma Bhushan awardee, Nambiar was Indian ambassador to Germany from 1955 to 1958. Thanks to the speculation that Nambiar was a spy, he still remains a mysterious figure.</p> <p>When the duo met in Chennai, Nambiar was a struggling young lawyer. Both were passionate and hugely talented. What followed was a whirlwind romance and a marriage, against the wishes of Nambiar’s family. The couple moved to London in 1919, soon after the wedding; Suhasini joined Oxford University for studies and Nambiar started working as a journalist. After two years, they shifted to Berlin where she joined Berlin University to study German and Nambiar continued working as a journalist. Suhasini did translation gigs and also taught English to Germans.</p> <p>It was life in Berlin or rather the political climate of Berlin that changed their lives forever. Suhasini gradually got drawn into radical left politics, leaving her Gandhian thoughts behind. Her firebrand brother, on whom British writer Somerset Maugham based a character in his short story <i>Giulia Lazzari</i>, was a major influence. Suhasini wanted to study Marxism deeper and left for the Soviet Union to join the Eastern University for Asian Students. She apparently got so immersed in communist ideology that her visits to Berlin became scarce. Suhasini also got drawn to the Chinese Communist Party around the same time.</p> <p>In 1928, she returned to India, on the direction of Communist Internationale, to activate communist movements in India. The Communist Internationale was of the opinion that the movement was quite “lethargic and moribund”in India. Nambiar stayed back in Berlin and it was a separation that lasted.</p> <p>In Bombay, she became a prominent face of the communist movement and played an active role in assisting those arrested in the Meerut Conspiracy Case. Suhasini played an active role in The Little Ballet Group and Indian Peoples’Theatre Association. Under her leadership, they staged plays which were well received by the public. She also started publishing <i>The New Spark</i> for the communist party.</p> <p>Unaware that Nambiar was getting closer to his German secretary, Suhasini wrote to him for six years, appealing him to come to India. When Nambiar finally ended the marriage, it broke Suhasini and she is said to have gone into depression. “Nambiar and Suhasini were quite an unusual couple,” said Balachandran. “While Nambiar preferred to be a low profile leftist journalist and remained somewhat neutral, Suhasini was full of fire. They were bound to break up.”</p> <p>According to those close to her, Suhasini never really recovered from the emotional blow. But she did not show it. She dived into politics and continued to be the go-to-person in the socio-political scene in Bombay. In 1938, she married R.M. Jambhekar, a poet and trade union activist.</p> <p>“Suhasini, the first Indian woman communist, had various facets in her illustrious life,” said Subhashini Ali, Communist Party of India (Marxist) Polit Bureau member. “When I met her, she was more into social work. But she remained a deeply political person.” According to Ali, Suhasini was very active with her NGO, New Work Centre for Women, till the very end.</p> <p>Suhasini was in politics till the late 1950s. As she could not accept the new style of politics that emerged in the 1960s, she gradually withdrew. Soon, her health deteriorated and she became wheelchair-bound.</p> <p>Suhasini, the deeply political, chain-smoking liberal, whom Captain Lakshmi (Lakshmi Sahgal of the INA) called her first political mentor, died unsung in 1973 in Bombay.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/10/09/forgotten-firebrand.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/10/09/forgotten-firebrand.html Fri Oct 09 18:12:52 IST 2020 stay-hydrated <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/10/09/stay-hydrated.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/10/9/santoshi-nagaonkar.jpg" /> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/10/09/stay-hydrated.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/10/09/stay-hydrated.html Fri Oct 09 16:06:03 IST 2020 indias-gdp-could-contract-between-9-and-12-per-cent-in-the-current-year <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/10/09/indias-gdp-could-contract-between-9-and-12-per-cent-in-the-current-year.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/10/9/gautam-kumra.jpg" /> <p>Gautam Kumra has spent over 27 years in McKinsey &amp; Company, a US-based management consulting firm with a presence in 65 countries. He is a founding board member of the Public Health Foundation of India and the IIT Delhi Endowment Board. Kumra also serves on the board of IIM Bodh Gaya and is a member of the Global Advisory Council of the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts, New York. He spoke to THE WEEK about the challenges the Indian economy faces because of Covid-19 and the need for urgent reforms. Edited excerpts:</p> <p><br> <br> </p> <p><b>What are the uncertainties caused by Covid-19 and how long would it remain? What kind of GDP growth can we expect this year and what can be done to improve it?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The economic impact of Covid-19 is highly uncertain and can be judged only in terms of potential scenarios. According to our scenarios, India’s GDP could contract between 9 and 12 per cent in the current year, depending on the effectiveness of virus containment and economic policy responses. There is very high uncertainty on both the depth and duration of the health and economic crisis. Whatever the extent of the crisis, it could mark the most severe decline in India’s GDP in four decades.</p> <p><br> <br> </p> <p><b>The government has responded with liquidity and fiscal measures, but what reforms are still required?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Beyond immediate crisis response measures, the government has also announced some structural reforms that could have positive effects on medium-term growth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Facilitating cash in hand for the people could stimulate and revive demand in the economy. To enable this, the government has announced several direct benefit measures for the farm sector and vulnerable households. However, given the depth of the crisis, incremental stimulus is likely warranted to stimulate demand (for example, direct income support for informal non-agriculture workers and the urban poor) along with support to stressed sectors, which will struggle to recover, in addition to accelerating spending in infrastructure and expediting pending payments of government and PSU (public sector undertaking) dues.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>It has been observed that some sectors such as manufacturing and services, though limping back to normalisation, still need urgent reforms. What are the sector-specific reforms that can be contemplated by the government?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A significant opportunity of about $500 billion of economic value by 2030 could be captured by developing India into a global manufacturing hub to capture both the domestic as well as export demand across high potential sectors such as electronics and capital goods, chemicals, textiles and apparel, auto and auto components, the electric vehicle ecosystem, and pharmaceuticals, medical devices and food processing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To capture this value, the government has already announced Production-Linked Incentives (PLI) in the manufacturing sector to counter the cost disadvantage in handset manufacturing. Such targeted, time-bound and conditional incentives could be introduced for other critical sectors as well and inverted duty structures could be removed. A set of reforms could reduce the cost of power and logistics by around 20 to 25 per cent in the long run, in turn, improving manufacturing competitiveness of India’s companies. Reforms could include enabling franchised and privatised DISCOM (Distribution Company) models, reducing cross subsidy surcharges, among others. Indian states could also establish well-functioning, port proximate manufacturing clusters that contain free trade warehousing zones, provide land, plug-and-play infrastructure, common utilities, fast approvals and inputs like power and logistics at a lower cost and create demonstration effects that can be replicated by other states.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What are the financial and banking reforms required given that the government has pumped additional liquidity into the public sector banks? Do you feel that privatisation of PSBs is one of the solutions?&nbsp;</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Indian economy may need to raise a capital of almost $2.4 trillion in the fiscal year 2030 and $1.5 trillion in 2025, compared to $865 billion in 2020, to fund the reform agenda. Financial reforms could be needed to generate this capital. They could include measures to channel more household savings to capital markets and to reduce the cost of credit intermediation. India could meet the bulk of its capital requirement through domestic savings. This would raise the share of household savings in the form of financial assets as opposed to physical assets such as land or gold to 11 per cent of the GDP in 2030 from about 7 per cent in 2018. India's net foreign capital inflow would also need to rise from 1.8 per cent to about 3 per cent of the GDP. Of this, net FDI (inflow minus outflow) needs to quadruple from $30 billion to $120 billion.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A more efficient and deeper capital market would be essential to ensure that more household financial savings flow to productive and high growth firms, especially mid-sized and small firms that need to climb the ladder of scale. India could undertake measures to make various asset classes across bond and equity instruments more attractive through transparent pricing and rationalisation of taxation, among others. In addition, measures to strengthen and widen the range of investment vehicles, such as insurance, pension products, mutual funds and alternative investment funds, among others, could also be implemented.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The average commercial borrower in India incurs about 5.2 percentage points of higher cost for borrowed funds than in other outperforming emerging economies. This is driven by higher risk premiums, higher operating expenses of financial intermediaries and crowding out due to government borrowing. One of the solutions could be to improve the health of the financial sector by establishing a framework for 'special asset banks' with private sector funded ARC (Asset Reconstruction Company) driving the resolution of NPAs. In addition, implementation of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code could be streamlined.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another possible solution to reduce borrowing costs could be to move rapidly on the bank privatisation efforts, bringing market-based governance and performance management practices. Public sector banks have typically shown higher cost to income ratios than private sector banks—54 per cent compared to 46 per cent in the fiscal year 2019. The government has declared its intention to limit the presence of state-owned enterprises in strategic sectors, which includes the banking sector, to between one and four. Implementing a privatisation agenda in line with this declaration could help to reap the efficiencies of consolidation and usher in more market-based incentives for performance. India also could reduce the 'crowding out' of commercial borrowings by streamlining public finances.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Many sectors, especially MSMEs, may not be able to improve before the end of the current fiscal. What according to you are the sectors that may take more time to revive and sectors that may revive sooner?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sectors such as non-discretionary retail and agriculture have seen rapid growth with limited impact because of Covid-19. Then there are sectors like pharma, IT, chemicals, freight and logistics that had a dip in Q1 but had a fast-paced pick up later. Sectors such as auto, construction, textiles, metals, and oil and gas exuded slow recovery and then there are sectors such as airline, hotels and tourism </p> <p>[which will take time].</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Particularly on MSMEs, there could be a growing gap between ‘winners’ and ‘losers’. This trend is being seen globally. The gap between the top and bottom quintiles of companies by economic profit was widening before the Covid-19 crisis and has been further amplified as a result of it. MSMEs, therefore, might be hit worse than large corporates.</p> <p><br> <br> </p> <p><b>What is your perception of the public sector enterprises in India? What kind of reforms are needed in them?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While some PSEs are high performers, as a group they face challenges leading to strained public finances because of the need to support them. The overall labour productivity of private sector companies is at least twice as high as that of PSEs in the same sector. This is particularly stark in sectors such as mining (where private sector productivity is 3.5 times higher), steel (5.1 times higher), and telecom and media (about 12 times higher).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Over the past eight years, public sector banks for instance have needed considerable capital infusion. To address these challenges, the government, as part of the Atma Nirbhar Bharat scheme, declared its intention to limit the presence of PSEs in strategic sectors. In nonstrategic sectors, it plans to privatise or merge or bring under holding companies all PSEs, and allow private sector participation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It may be critical to move on the privatisation agenda. Privatisation of 400 SOEs (state owned enterprises) where the government’s share of the book value was $140 billion in 2018, could yield up to 040 trillion ($540 billion) over the next decade. Just 40 or so PSEs could yield 80 per cent of the overall potential privatisation proceeds across sectors like oil and gas, financial services, power, manufacturing, telecom, and mining.</p> <p><br> <br> </p> <p><b>What kind of reforms can be brought in to create jobs in the Indian economy as there have been substantial job losses? Which are the jobs that are going to be in demand in the Indian economy going forward?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Over the next decade, India needs to create at least 90 million new non-farm jobs to absorb the 60 million new workers who will enter the workforce based on demographics and an additional 30 million workers who could move from farm work to more productive non-farm sectors. To absorb the influx, the country will need about 12 million additional gainful non-farm jobs every year from the fiscal year 2023—triple the four million non-farm jobs created annually between 2012 and 2018. For this magnitude of employment growth to be gainful and productive, India’s GDP will need to grow by 8-8.5 per cent annually over 2023-2030. Manufacturing and construction are the two sectors that would need to be amplified the most, with manufacturing generating one-fifth of the incremental GDP and construction generating one-fourth of the incremental non-farm jobs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The McKinsey Global Institute’s recent report 'India’s turning point: An economic agenda to spur growth and jobs' covers six areas of targeted reform in the real sector and three reform pillars in the financial sector to take advantage of key business opportunities and boost productivity and competitiveness. The six areas in the real sector include steps to raise productivity through sector-specific policies, particularly in manufacturing, real estate, agriculture, retail and healthcare; unlocking land for construction, making labour markets more flexible, and privatising some state-owned firms and improving ease of doing business. The three pillars in the financial sector include deepening capital markets and channelling more household savings into financial savings; reducing cost of financial intermediation and streamlining public finances.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What more needs to be done to pep up the economy going forward?&nbsp;</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India needs to undertake different pillars of growth. We need to embrace frontier businesses, or business models that are 2.5 times more productive than traditional business models, which could create $2.5 trillion of economic value in 2030. At the same time around 1,000 plus mid-size and 10,000 plus small firms need to climb the ladder of scale to solve the problem of the 'missing middle' of companies in India. Then significant speed and scale of reforms will need to be implemented and there is a need to raise $2.4 trillion capital in 2030 (three&nbsp; times the current level of investment) that is at 3.5 percentage points lower cost to support the growth agenda. Majority of these reforms could be implemented relatively faster through a policy or law. Out of this, 60 per cent of the reform agenda requires action at the state level.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/10/09/indias-gdp-could-contract-between-9-and-12-per-cent-in-the-current-year.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/10/09/indias-gdp-could-contract-between-9-and-12-per-cent-in-the-current-year.html Fri Oct 09 19:22:49 IST 2020 the-editor-of-all-times <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/10/01/the-editor-of-all-times.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/10/1/harold-evans-new.jpg" /> <p>The book <i>Good Times, Bad Times</i> was becoming a big seller when I attended a media workshop in 1983. The course director at the workshop narrated fascinating anecdotes about the author of the book, the legendary newspaper editor Harold Evans. I never thought I would one day get to know him well enough to call&nbsp;him Harry.</p> <p>Harry had good times most of his life, and the best of times as editor of <i>The Northern Echo</i> and <i>The Sunday Times</i>, two British papers where he excelled in investigative journalism in the sixties and seventies.</p> <p>He became editor of <i>The Times</i>, London, in 1981. The media baron Rupert Murdoch had bought it, as well as <i>The Sunday Times</i> and <i>The Scotsman</i>, from the Thomson family. The owner and the editor shared only one thing in common, a passion for newspapers. As narrated in the book, they fought over editorial independence, and Harry resigned the same year. The book dripped with emotion, but 25 years later, Harry wrote: “I am often asked my feelings about Murdoch today. My concerns are professional rather than personal.”</p> <p>As a newspaperman, Harry had fire in his belly like the steam engines that his father drove in Manchester. He was only 16 when he began writing for a weekly newspaper in Lancashire. After customary military service and a college degree, he returned to journalism demob-happy at <i>Manchester Evening News</i>, perfecting the art of writing, editing and design.</p> <p>At <i>The Northern Echo</i>, he demonstrated the power of investigative journalism and became an ardent campaigner for public good. In 1963, he ran a series of articles on the need to make cervical cancer test compulsory for all women. Then he wrote letters to the MPs, forcing the government to introduce compulsory testing.</p> <p>Another series he ran in 1965 led to the posthumous pardon of the young Timothy John Evans (no relation) who was hanged in 1950 on a wrong charge of murdering his baby daughter, Geraldine. This strange judgment stated that Timothy Evans probably had not murdered his baby, for which he was hanged, but he probably had murdered his wife, for which he was not even tried. After the pardon, his coffin was dug up from prison and handed over to the family for the last rites in a consecrated cemetery. Within months, the House of Commons voted to stall executions in the UK for a period of five years and, in 1969, the death penalty was abolished.</p> <p>This story became a movie, <i>10 Rillington Place</i>, in 1971 with John Hurt as the hanged man and Richard Attenborough (of <i>Gandhi</i> fame) as the serial killer John Christie, who had murdered Timothy Evans’s wife and baby and six others including his own wife. Narrating the story, Harry told me that Attenborough had mentioned to him that it was “the most disturbing role” he had played.</p> <p>Harry’s best-known campaign was in <i>The Sunday Times</i> for compensation for thalidomiders—children born with severe defects due to the German drug thalidomide that their mothers had taken for morning sickness. The drug harmed 10,000 children worldwide during 1958-61. Chasing the story for years, Harry and his team obtained documentary evidence and, in 1972, exposed the drugmaker in the UK—the biggest advertiser in the paper. The UK drugmaker eventually paid the victims £28 million [value today: £341 million].</p> <p>The campaign furthered press freedom. A top court in the UK stopped <i>The Sunday Times</i> from publishing an article on the thalidomide tragedy during the drugmaker’s negotiations with the victims. It upheld the attorney general’s plea that its publication would amount to contempt of court as the matter was sub judice. The European Court of Human Rights, however, ruled that the UK court’s order infringed the newspaper’s freedom of expression. Consequently, the UK government was forced to change its law that prevented civil case reporting. In 2014, a UK documentary, <i>Attacking the Devil: Harold Evans and the Last Nazi War Crime</i>, chronicled Harry’s relentless pursuit of the thalidomide story.</p> <p><i>The Sunday Times</i> famously exposed the duplicity of Kim Philby, an India-born English diplomat who settled in Moscow in 1963 after the British intelligence had declared him a Soviet double agent. Another expose followed the crash in 1974 of a Turkish DC-10 jet near Paris killing 346 passengers; the door of its cargo hold had flown off. Harry’s reporters discovered that the aircraft manufacturer had lied that it had repaired the faulty door. In 1975, Harry risked prosecution under the Official Secrets Act by publishing former Labour party minister Richard Crossman’s diary entries on prime minister Harold Wilson’s cabinet meetings.</p> <p>Harry moved to America in 1984 to join the <i>US News &amp; World Report</i>. Later he became editor in chief of <i>Atlantic Monthly Press</i> and the New York <i>Daily News</i>. He taught at Duke University for a while and in 1986 regained glory as the founding editor of <i>Condé Nast Traveler</i>. Soon he was the all-powerful publisher and president of Random House, offering fabulous advances for the biographies of Marlon Brando, Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon and the young lawyer Barack Obama. He also served as editor at large of the American magazine <i>The Week</i> (founded in 2001) and <i>Thomson Reuters</i>. He was associated with <i>Reuters</i> till the very end.</p> <p>He devoted more time to writing books after his book <i>The American Century</i>, published in 1998, achieved iconic status. And there followed such fine books as <i>My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times</i> and <i>Do I Make Myself Clear: Why Writing Well Matters</i>.</p> <p>Two decades ago, I met Harry for the first time in Edinburgh, Scotland, at the annual assembly of the International Press Institute (IPI). My brother Philip Mathew was IPI vice chairman and Harry was there on a panel discussion. Later, while I was visiting the US, he invited me to his New York home to meet his wife, the renowned journalist Tina Brown, and their children, George and Isabel. Tina had edited <i>Tattler</i>, <i>Vanity Fair</i> and <i>The New Yorker</i>. Her book <i>The Diana Chronicles</i> had done exceedingly well in 12<br> languages. She later became chief editor of <i>Newsweek</i>, which went only digital in 2013. When the former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, Tina wrote a cover story for THE WEEK. They had known each other since their Oxford days.</p> <p>In 2007, Harry accepted my request to deliver the K.C. Mammen Mappillai Memorial Lecture, held in honour of my grandfather who was editor of <i>Malayala Manorama</i>. Later that year in New Delhi, he addressed a packed hall on ‘Freedom of the press in an age of violence’. During that visit to India, Harry and Tina spent a week in Kerala. His meeting with my father, K.M. Mathew, was emotional. They had known each other for long, having first met at a media workshop Harry conducted and my father attended in the early 1960s. My father practised what he learnt from Harry and benefited a lot from it. To my surprise, my father gave me his notes from that nearly 50-year-old workshop! I treasure them still. When I shared these notes with Harry, he wrote back, “I wept reading them.”</p> <p>“It is fair to say that the IPI workshops... encouraged a revolution in Indian newspapers, broadening their appeal, reinforcing their vitality and their capacity to monitor government and business,” wrote Harry in <i>My Paper Chase</i>. “But by no means was this renaissance all inspired only by British and American missionaries, and certainly not carried out by them, but by editors like K.M. Mathew of the <i>Malayala Manorama</i> in Kerala, who put everything he learned into practice and doubled his circulation.”</p> <p>Harry wrote a moving tribute when my father passed away in 2010. Later that year, addressing the 60th year celebrations of IPI, he said, “Today we honour those men and women who created and sustained our institution in the aftermath of the greatest war the planet has endured.” Amongst the few, my father was mentioned.</p> <p>My eldest brother Mammen Mathew worked in Harry’s editorial team in <i>The Sunday Times</i> in London in 1968. Harry was, in fact, his editorial mentor. Mammen recollects Harry’s obsessive passion for checking facts and designing the final front page.</p> <p>THE WEEK magazine has an umbilical link with Harry. He wrote a column, titled Slumpflation, in its inaugural issue in December 1982. He coined the word slumpflation (slump + inflation) expressly for this article, to describe a state of economic slump and rising inflation. THE WEEK has the honour to call him ‘the first columnist’.</p> <p>British journalists honoured him at the turn of the millennium by voting him ‘All Time Greatest British Newspaper Editor’. He was knighted in 2004. To many, Sir Harold Evans will remain a hero forever. The gold standard he set with his crusading style in journalism will always inspire truth seekers in the media world.</p> <p>—<b>Jacob Mathew is managing editor, Malayala Manorama.</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/10/01/the-editor-of-all-times.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/10/01/the-editor-of-all-times.html Thu Oct 01 17:12:26 IST 2020 renal-code <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/10/01/renal-code.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/10/1/chandan-chaudhari.jpg" /> <p><i>Dear doctor/ Dr Chandan Chaudhari, Nephrologist, Wockhardt hospital, Mumbai&nbsp;</i></p> <p>Any infection occurring anywhere in the human body can put pressure on the kidneys. The precautions to be taken by a patient suffering from kidney disease will be the same as in the case of any other Covid-19 patient except for two things: patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) must regularly check their blood pressure at home and monitor their creatinine levels at least once every month. A high-protein diet is not recommended for CKD patients who are not on dialysis and for transplant patients.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>CKD patients who are not on dialysis</b></p> <p>Get a renal function test done every month. Also, do not consume too many Vitamin C tablets, which is otherwise used as prophylaxis for Covid-19, as it might increase potassium levels.</p> <p><b>CKD patients who are on dialysis</b></p> <p>It is often difficult for doctors to convince patients on dialysis that the shortness of breath could be because of Covid-19 and not necessarily because of complications from dialysis. Also, such patients need to regularly visit hospitals for dialysis. This increases their chances of catching an infection. Hence, it is important to wear masks at all times and keep oneself sanitised.<br> Depending on the situation, a Covid-positive or pneumonia patient might have to undergo dialysis three to four times a week, up from two to three times a week, to remove excess water from the lungs.</p> <p><b>Kidney transplant patients</b></p> <p>The immunity levels of a patient who has undergone a kidney transplant is already suppressed to a large extent—such patients are prescribed immunosuppressants so that their body does not reject a transplanted kidney. It is, therefore, easier for them to catch Covid-19. If found to be Covid-positive, they can have severe manifestations of the disease—prolonged pneumonia and low oxygen saturation levels. So, striking a balance between reducing their dosage of immunosuppressants and ensuring that the body does not reject the transplant is challenging. Also, those who have recently undergone a kidney transplant, say, in the last five years, must monitor their creatinine levels at least once in two months.</p> <p><b>—As told to Pooja Biraia Jaiswal</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/10/01/renal-code.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/10/01/renal-code.html Thu Oct 01 18:40:40 IST 2020 be-all-eyes <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/25/be-all-eyes.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/9/25/51-Dr-Rohit-Shetty.jpg" /> <p><i>Dear Doctor/ Dr Rohit Shetty, consultant, cornea and refractive surgery, and vice chairman, Narayana Nethralaya, Bengaluru</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Early humans were hunter-gatherers, who used their eyes to meet their basic needs. These days, people overuse their eyes. In this era of gadgets, our eyes are going through rapid evolutionary changes, and are trying to adapt to changes in the environment. The rest of the body has also undergone changes, but it has been more gradual.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Blink more often</b></p> <p>We don’t blink enough. Every blink brings in more water. It helps keep your eyes lubricated. Eyes that are devoid of moisture are like a barren land, where bacteria grows. The fluid in the eyes gets muddy, and you will keep rubbing your eyes. When your eyes don’t get enough nourishment, bags and dark circles develop. How often should you blink? Anything more than ten times a minute is good.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Are carrots overhyped?</b></p> <p>Carrots contain beta carrotene and lutein that improve eyesight. They are good and healthy, but are overrated. There are many vegetables that can promote better vision. Also, turmeric, sprouts, blueberries, almond and omega-3 fatty acid are good for eyes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Eyes hate to be indoors all the time</b></p> <p>In a study done in Singapore, children exposed to sunlight for up to two hours were found to have less progression of shortsightedness, compared to children who stayed indoors all the time. Sunlight helps in stopping the eyeball growth, and reduces the axial length of the eyeball.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Huge increase in cases of shortsightedness this year</b></p> <p>Due to the scare generated because of Covid-19, people spend long hours indoors. By the end of 2020, there will be an increase in shortsightedness among children, by 20-30 per cent.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Most children, nowadays, spend 80 per cent of their time in front of computer. The more they watch television or use computer, the more will be the elongation of their eyeballs. Ninety per cent of elongation of eyeballs is irreversible.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Eye care during Covid-19</b></p> <p>Wearing masks for long hours could cause face mask-associated ocular disease, characterised by eye irritation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The expelled air that gets trapped in the mask can lead to problems in the ocular surface area. There is an exponential increase in people experiencing it. Lubricating eye drops can help in relieving the irritation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Keep myopia at bay</b></p> <p>Ocular muscles in children are getting weaker leading to shorter attention span. Sometimes they see a shadow above objects or get double vision. This is known as binocular single vision problem. It is one of the most under-reported eye problems in the world and has to be examined by an ophthalmologist.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Eye exercise can be helpful for children with binocular single vision problem. It can have a huge impact on the child’s academic success..</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>—<b>As told to Mini P. Thomas</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/25/be-all-eyes.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/25/be-all-eyes.html Fri Sep 25 19:21:11 IST 2020 education-is-the-only-way-to-free-yourself-from-racism <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/25/education-is-the-only-way-to-free-yourself-from-racism.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/9/25/80-Kagiso-Rabada-new.jpg" /> <p>It is not easy to return from a long break and bowl brilliantly in your first game, even more so in the Super Over that sealed your team’s win. Kagiso Rabada did just that in the Delhi Capitals’ first match of the new Indian Premier League season. The 25-year-old South African has been the pace spearhead of his country for a few years now. He shoulders a similar responsibility in DC’s pursuit of an elusive IPL title.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rabada is representing South African cricket during one of its worst phases. The national cricket board’s coffers are dry and it has been taken over by the national Olympic association; the board is facing allegations of financial mismanagement, corruption and racism. As the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement picked up around the world, the cricketing world was not left untouched. And, a storm is on in South Africa, with the country still struggling to overcome the scars of apartheid.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It started with fast bowler Lungisani Ngidi stating that South Africa must take a stand on BLM like rest of the world, leading to several retired stars making public their experiences of discrimination as players. Their voices reiterated the fact that despite South Africa’s quota for coloured players in its cricket teams, inequality persists in terms of opportunities at every level.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In an interview with THE WEEK, Rabada shares his thoughts on the sensitive BLM movement and the need to educate society on racism. He also expresses how grateful he is to be able to play cricket at a time like this. Excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How does it feel to be in the IPL bio-bubble?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It feels surreal that we cannot leave the hotel. But you learn to look at the positives. The threat of Covid-19 is real. This [bubble] gives us a chance to bond with each other.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Having played no competitive cricket in five months, how hard is it to get back in form for a T20 tournament that is tough on bowlers?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It has not been too bad. I got in and slowly built [my form]. I guess it is because we have been doing this for many years. It does not take too long to get back to where you left off. The build-up has been gradual but steady.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We have analysts to give us an indication of scores. Generally, that gives an idea of how the wickets will be. Getting a feel in the nets also helps. We have a good idea of what to expect, but you never know what will happen in a game. As professional cricketers, it is about adapting to whatever happens.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What are your takeaways from DC’s season last year?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To be honest, why change something that has worked in the past? So we are going to play with the same attitude. The mindset is to win, but I think we have been gelling quite nicely as a team. That is what is important. My role is to try and not go for runs and to get wickets.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Recently in SA, past and present players expressed their views on BLM. What are your views?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I can speak for myself, not for anyone else. For me, black lives matter. It has nothing to do with cricket or sports or business. Just black lives matter, and I will stand up for that. It does not mean that I expect to get treated like royalty everywhere I go. But from the pride and dignity point of view, black lives matter.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>West Indies legend Michael Holding was very emotional about it recently and spoke of how education can eradicate racism. Do you agree?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yes, 100 per cent. Racism comes from somewhere. It does not just come by mistake. Racism is expressed in many ways. There are reasons why people are racists. So I think it is about understanding that. That is how you free yourself, make an informed decision and not just do something because others are doing it. The only way to do so is through education and from credible news.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Will you take the knee in the IPL?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I have already expressed that people know where I stand. But if they say we must, we will do it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What is your main aim this IPL in terms of bowling? Is there pressure since DC is yet to win the IPL title?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For DC to win, I need to make sure I hit my straps. If I do, it increases the chances of winning. That is what I was talking about, team dynamics. If everyone performs, we give ourselves a real chance of winning. As a player, you want to come and play well, and understand that if you play close to your best on a consistent basis, the chances of your team winning are high.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How is it playing under a young skipper like Shreyas Iyer?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I have known him since our Under-19 days, so we have played together and against each other since 2016. He is quite cool and the same age as me. We have tried to keep in touch over the years and met at the NBA All-Star weekend in Chicago. A familiar face for me, Iyer has done well as captain so far. He is a solid player and an interesting guy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How tough will it be for you mentally to play a long tournament like the IPL and remain in a bubble?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We came here to play cricket. That is what one must remember. We are actually grateful to be able to do it. So many people around the world are losing their jobs and we have an opportunity to come and earn, better yet, doing what we love. It is a bummer to not be able to go out and explore such a unique place like Dubai. But at the end of the day, there are too many blessings to count as opposed to the cons of being in a bubble.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>RACISM STORM IN CRICKET SA</b></p> <p>➧ CSA mandates that in a season, the national team must field an average of six players of colour, including two black Africans</p> <p>➧ But 30 former players of colour issued a statement in July alleging racism in the sport</p> <p>➧ Signatories included Makhaya Ntini, Vernon Philander, Ashwell Prince and J.P. Duminy</p> <p>➧ CSA’s appointment of eight white officials over six months also attracted heavy criticism</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/25/education-is-the-only-way-to-free-yourself-from-racism.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/25/education-is-the-only-way-to-free-yourself-from-racism.html Fri Sep 25 18:10:13 IST 2020 decision-on-judgeship-deferred-because-I-am-gay <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/17/decision-on-judgeship-deferred-because-I-am-gay.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/9/17/8-Saurabh-Kirpal.jpg" /> <p><b>SENIOR ADVOCATE</b> Saurabh Kirpal, one of the lawyers in the landmark Navtej Singh Johar case that led to the Supreme Court decriminalising homosexuality in 2018, thinks that his sexuality could be the reason behind the apex court collegium deferring a decision on appointing him as a judge in the Delhi High Court.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The High Court had recommended Kirpal’s appointment as a judge in 2017, and the proposal had come up for discussion before the collegium thrice, but a decision on his file was deferred every time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The 48-year-old, however, says the court has been ahead of the times in its judgments. Kirpal has edited a collection of essays—Sex and the Supreme Court: How the Law is Upholding the Dignity of the Indian Citizen (2020)—on the judgments passed by the apex court on issues ranging from sexual autonomy, gender rights and privacy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Excerpts from an exclusive interview:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/How important was it to chronicle the progressive judgments given by the Supreme Court?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/It was interesting that it was the same bench of five judges that gave three judgments—the adultery judgment, the Section 377 judgment and the Sabarimala judgment—all fairly progressive. The Supreme Court behaves very differently when it sits in benches of five judges, what is known as the Constitution Bench, because then it is aware that it is speaking to history.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These judgments caught the public imagination. But when the hearing was on, people were not commenting about it the same way they comment about how the court carries out its judicial function nowadays. Hence it was important for these judgments to be explained to the common person in relatively simple terms.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/These judgments tackle issues from sexual autonomy to gender rights to privacy and dignity.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/The Supreme Court is not one court…. And different chief justices have different priorities. I think it was a case of the Chief Justice [Dipak Misra] also wanting to take up these issues, which were probably dear to his heart. It cannot be a coincidence that he was close to his retirement and there were these matters that were of interest to the common man and which were progressive and liberal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Has the court been ahead of the times?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/The court does lead from the front and is often ahead of public opinion. And that is the role of the court as the guardian of the Constitutional rights of the minorities and other communities. It has to be counter-majoritarian….</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/What difference has the Section 377 judgment made to the lives of the people?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/There has been quantitative as well as qualitative change. In terms of quantitative change, [it is] the sheer number of people who are standing up to be counted, the number of petitions that are being reported every day about same sex couples going to court and asking for protection.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even more important has been the qualitative change—how LGBTQIA persons look upon themselves and how the society looks upon them now.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/It is said that the recommendation to appoint you as a judge of the Delhi High Court has been hanging fire because you are gay.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/Part of the problem is the complete lack of transparency on what the reason for my file hanging fire is. The typical course for the collegium is to either accept or to reject it. And that is their right and domain. But to defer something not only for three years but on three separate occasions causes one to wonder what the reason may be.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are several media reports and I have no reason to disbelieve those in the absence of any evidence (to the contrary). The reason ostensibly is that the powers that be or the Intelligence Bureau wanted further information about my partner with whom I have been for 20 years and they were unable to get [it]. He has been living in India for the last 16 years and is employed with the Swiss embassy. They could get whatever information they wanted.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/So the issue is that you have a non-Indian partner?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/If I were a straight person, and had I been married, there would have been no such problem. Justice Vivian Bose of the Supreme Court had an English wife. Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar has a Japanese wife. Why is it a problem for me other than the fact that I am a gay man who cannot get married to his partner? I would very much like to, the moment this country permits it. But in the absence of the ability to get married, there is no other explanation for me than that this is because of my alternative sexuality. The court has given me no other reason and the media reports stand unrebutted….</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The judgment in 2018 is a great charter for LGBTQIA rights. In my case, the court has not belied that promise because it has not taken a decision yet. But I think the court is more reticent than need be.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Do you feel disappointed, especially since judgeship for you would have meant a lot for the LGBTQIA community?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/I come from a family where I have seen what a judge’s life is. I know the sacrifices that a judge has to make and the restrictions it puts on your freedom. The judge’s salary—what they earn in a month, I probably earn in half a day. So when they asked me to become a judge three years ago, I was very, very reluctant…. But I felt that if I was not willing to give up the money and the freedom and accept a responsibility and be a role model for the community, then that would have been wrong on my part.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If there was a member of the LGBTQIA community on the bench, not only would there be diversity on the bench, [but also] for that young, gay child or that young trans child in school, there would be a feeling that they, too, could reach great heights.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/17/decision-on-judgeship-deferred-because-I-am-gay.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/17/decision-on-judgeship-deferred-because-I-am-gay.html Thu Sep 17 18:04:33 IST 2020 streams-of-consciousness <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/17/streams-of-consciousness.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/9/17/16-Narendra-Modi.jpg" /> <p>Prime Minister Narendra Modi turns 70 this month with a new book. Letters to Mother is a flashback 34 years to 1986, when Modi had not established himself in the hurly-burly of mainstream politics. As an RSS pracharak, he began jotting down his innermost thoughts “when the pressures became insurmountable’’. Every night before going to bed, he would share his hopes, aspirations and fears as letters to jagat janani, or the mother goddess. Every few months, he “systematically tore up all the pages and threw them into a bonfire”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A friend’s intervention, “emphasising the importance of documentation”, ensured that Modi kept the notes. In 2014, some of them were published in Gujarati as Saakshi Bhaav. The English translation, Letters to Mother, has now been released by HarperCollins India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is Modi’s third book. His first—A Journey, a book of poems translated into English—was published in 2014. “All of us are entitled to self-expression,” writes Modi, “and that is exactly what I have done.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>FOREWORD BY NARENDRA MODI</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is not an attempt at literary writing; the passages featured in this book are reflections of my observations and sometimes unprocessed thoughts, expressed without filters.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A public figure is always judged by his position; irrespective of what he says or does, his persona becomes so exaggerated that it is difficult to trace the man behind the image or, let me put it this way, there comes a time when there is no desire in us to search for the individual behind the mask.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To live an ordinary life is a privilege and deep within, all of us are but ordinary mortals affected by the positive and the negative showering bestowed upon us by the universe. None of us are above vices, virtues, hope, disappointment, love, yearning, expectations or ambitions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Like you, I am an ordinary mortal with some strengths and some weaknesses, and like everyone, I am constantly struggling to become more aware and evolved.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sometime in the past when the pressures became insurmountable, I got into the habit of writing letters to the Mother Goddess, whom I address as Jagat janani. I shared my innermost thoughts with her every night before going to bed, and this exercise had a strangely calming effect on me. I looked forward to everyone falling asleep, so that I could retire to a quiet corner with my notebook.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The intention was never to get published, the jottings were for myself. I am not a writer, most of us are not; but everybody seeks expression, and when the urge to unload becomes overpowering there is no option but to take pen to paper, not necessarily to write but to introspect and unravel what is happening within the heart and the head, and why. The exercise proved cathartic, and even though it was a one-way communication with the Mother Goddess, the discipline of rewinding my daily thoughts healed me in a strange, unique way, like I was being shielded by a bigger force.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I wrote every single night, for years; and every few months, I systematically tore up all the pages and threw them into a bonfire. I have lost count of the number of pages I have consigned to the flames. Then one day, while I was in the process of igniting the flames, my dear friend and respected colleague from the RSS, Narendra bhai Panchsara visited my home unannounced. He was led to the garden where I was busy tearing up sheets of paper. Panchsara bhai snatched the remaining pages from my hand. He was angry and admonished me for destroying my valuable jottings, emphasizing the importance of documentation. “That you wrote them and preserved them all this while is proof that these are precious to you; to destroy them is to disrespect your instinct,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His words impacted me and I promised him that I would revere my instinct and stop lighting my quarterly bonfire. Years went by and one day, I still don’t know how, Image Publishers got wind of my journal and wrote to me seeking my permission to publish these writings as a book. I declined, but once again it was Panchsara bhai who insisted I agree to the offer—probably because he feared that if they weren’t published, I might try to destroy the pages again! The remains of those diary pages comprise Saakshi Bhaav, which was published in the year 2014.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I owe these letters and the book to my respected friend Panchsara bhai: had he not visited me that day, had he not intervened, had he not admonished and awakened me, I would have lost the opportunity of sharing my intimate conversations with the Jagat janani, wherein I present her my innermost feelings of fear, sorrow and conflict, the ordinary feelings of an ordinary man. I’m aware that my expressions are often abstract; perhaps when the heart is overwhelmed the mind races faster than the hand on paper, and so, yes, my expressions are sporadic and at the same time overflowing. I am not a professional writer, I don’t understand structures and formats, but I do understand emotions—and I write because I feel strongly and cannot contain myself at that moment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Mother Goddess understands this, I am sure; she does not judge me, does not grade me by my choice of words or phrases—it does not matter to her whether I write prose, poetry, essays or random thoughts. She understands my intent, understands what is expressed and also what is left unsaid. And if I understand all this, why did I destroy all that I created? The only logical explanation I can offer is that probably because it is painful to revisit suffering.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, however, I seek strength from memories, have faith that all the joyous moments will linger and that sorrows will wither away. If the mind is positive there’s always hope. I love books and read a lot, I am attracted to art and culture, but I don’t fancy myself as a litterateur. I was reluctant to get the Gujarati version of Saakshi Bhaav published but was coerced into it by close friends, and the English translation after six years is a pleasant surprise.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It feels strange to read what you wrote many years ago, because you are not the same person anymore and your circumstances are different too; and yet, it is all a part of you, your journey, and I will not shy away from my outpourings. I wrote then what I felt at the time and I write now what I feel today. People judged me then; people continue to judge me today. I wasn’t seeking endorsement many years ago and I am not seeking validation today.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>All of us are entitled to self-expression and that’s exactly what I have done.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>PAIN IS NOT AN ORPHAN</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>28 December 1986</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Unbearable anguish</i></p> <p><i>Insurmountable surroundings</i></p> <p><i>It is said that in every creation</i></p> <p><i>You sense the suffering of the creator</i></p> <p><i>&nbsp;</i></p> <p><i>Then why is it that</i></p> <p><i>Despite my immense suffering</i></p> <p><i>There is no trace of creation?</i></p> <p><i>Then is it compassion not anguish</i></p> <p><i>That compels creation?</i></p> <p><i>For pain is the aftereffect of sorrow</i></p> <p><i>&nbsp;</i></p> <p><i>Usually it is negativity</i></p> <p><i>That ushers pain</i></p> <p><i>Erodes your senses</i></p> <p><i>And paralyzes you</i></p> <p><i>&nbsp;</i></p> <p><i>Pain has no lineage</i></p> <p><i>Its presence, growth, intensity</i></p> <p><i>Is dependent on emotions</i></p> <p><i>Therefore, pain isn’t an orphan</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Nor is pain always barren</i></p> <p><i>There’s no guarantee of</i></p> <p><i>Creation</i></p> <p><i>Pain can be destructive</i></p> <p><i>It can be productive</i></p> <p><i>It is difficult to predict</i></p> <p><i>&nbsp;</i></p> <p><i>Compassion exhales fragrance</i></p> <p><i>And it is unmistakable</i></p> <p><i>Compassion is never barren</i></p> <p><i>It has effects, no aftereffects</i></p> <p><i>It is inbuilt</i></p> <p><i>It is only about affirmations</i></p> <p><i>Compassion is its own creator</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Alphabet-formed words</i></p> <p><i>Require boundaries</i></p> <p><i>To be glorified as literature</i></p> <p><i>Or certified as knowledge</i></p> <p><i>&nbsp;</i></p> <p><i>What is created out of fervour</i></p> <p><i>Is free, unrestricted</i></p> <p><i>It travels beyond horizons</i></p> <p><i>It is ongoing</i></p> <p><i>All around</i></p> <p><i>And collective in destination</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Compassion is inclusive</i></p> <p><i>Of everyone’s dreams</i></p> <p><i>In my experience</i></p> <p><i>Compassion is the root of creation</i></p> <p><i>&nbsp;</i></p> <p><i>When pain is moderate</i></p> <p><i>Compassion is modest</i></p> <p><i>When pain becomes suffering</i></p> <p><i>Compassion becomes passion</i></p> <p><i>And when its presence, potency, severity</i></p> <p><i>Becomes unbearable</i></p> <p><i>Compassion unwittingly</i></p> <p><i>Transforms into creation</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Yes, at times</i></p> <p><i>Anguish is capable of suffocating</i></p> <p><i>Compassion</i></p> <p><i>That’s because</i></p> <p><i>Compassion disapproves of struggle</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Letters to Mother</b></p> <p>By Narendra Modi</p> <p>Translated from Gujarati by Bhawana Somaaya</p> <p>Published by&nbsp;HarperCollins</p> <p>Price Rs299, pages 112</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/17/streams-of-consciousness.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/17/streams-of-consciousness.html Thu Sep 17 19:12:55 IST 2020 ladakh-ready-for-the-winter-challenge <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/17/ladakh-ready-for-the-winter-challenge.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/9/17/24-Mathur.jpg" /> <p>With Indian troops engaged in a tense standoff with the People’s Liberation Army on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, people in the Union territory are facing multiple challenges going into the long and harsh winter. The alarming security situation and the problems posed by Covid-19 could make this winter far more challenging for them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Leading from the front is Lieutenant Governor R.K. Mathur, who says his administration is prepared to tackle the challenge head on. As Ladakh does not have an elected legislative assembly, the role of the lieutenant governor is all the more crucial. Speaking exclusively with THE WEEK, Mathur says his administration is countering the Chinese infrastructure push on the LAC and the challenge posed by the impending winter by upgrading infrastructure and by ensuring the uninterrupted supply of essential goods such as food, water, power and medicines.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Excerpts from the interview:</p> <p><b>The Union territory of Ladakh was formed last winter. What were the major challenges you faced back then? How are you preparing for the upcoming winter?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The onset of the usual harsh winter soon after the formation of the Union territory was a major challenge. The administration took a number of measures to deal with it. We provided 58 diesel generator sets to remote, unconnected areas, increasing power supply by about six to eight hours a day. Additional water tankers were arranged to supply about 3.5 lakh litres per day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With the help of the Indian Air Force, 415 metric tonnes of fresh vegetables and essential commodities were airlifted. The IAF moved 2,125 passengers and patients in and out of Ladakh, primarily from Kargil, during the winter and the Covid-19 lockdown period. Remote areas which used to be cut off during winters were issued 18 satellite phones to ensure communication for evacuation of patients and availability of essential supplies. From February this year, we have 24x7 power supply.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Looking ahead, the co-operatives maintain a steady supply of perishable items, the power department and all other concerned departments are working full time to stock up. Taking into account the Covid-19 pandemic, the medical department has been directed to procure all essential items such as medicines and equipment. We are also making sure that the snow-prone health centres across Ladakh are sufficiently equipped with essentials (to fight Covid-19).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>With China building roads on its side, what are the steps taken by the new administration to upgrade infrastructure?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Leh-Srinagar highway, which was closed due to heavy snowfall at the Zojila Pass, was opened on April 11 by the Border Roads Organisation, almost a month before the normal time, giving great relief to the people. The Manali-Leh Highway was also opened a month earlier than usual, on May 18. Early opening of internal roads like the Darcha-Padam road, which offers an alternate route to the Zanskar region, and the Khaltsi-Lingshed road, too, was ensured. Road connectivity is the base for any development in Ladakh and is being pursued with utmost importance. So far, there are only two entry/exit points connecting Ladakh with the rest of the country. We are looking at developing other routes. Within Ladakh, major works on roads and bridges have been initiated under the special development package provisions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What is the administration doing to ensure Ladakh’s cultural integration and economic development?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ladakh’s exclusive culture has carved out a name for itself among national and international researchers and travellers. The tourism industry contributes about 50 per cent to Ladakh’s economy. The eagerness among people to study and appreciate this unique culture and ecosystem has resulted in a major influx of guests in recent years. We have prioritised the preservation of Ladakh’s fragile ecosystem and the ancient relics of the monasteries. Last year, the tourism and culture department successfully organised the first winter conclave to encourage Ladakh’s winter tourism capabilities. This year we plan to go even grander, complying with Covid-19 restrictions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Changthang plains in eastern Ladakh produce the finest quality of pashmina and we aim to develop a unique identity for it. The GI (geographical indication) tagging process of Ladakh’s pashmina is in its final stages. Recently, we sanctioned a 03 crore package to the Pashmina Growers Co-operative Marketing Society in Changthang.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How do you propose to make Ladakh self-sufficient?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of our major plans is to improve the agricultural production of Ladakh. We have launched a 0500 crore Mission Organic Development Initiative to convert Ladakh into an organic state by 2025. This will give a major boost to Ladakh’s economy as the market for organic products is vast. Ladakh is home to a wide range of Himalayan medicinal and aromatic plants. A large variety of horticulture products like apricots and apples can be grown here. Developments in this sector will bring major economic benefits to Ladakh. A 5,000MW solar power project has been sanctioned; the tender has already been floated by the Solar Energy Corporation of India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Can we expect Ladakh to become a popular winter tourist destination like Jammu and Kashmir?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kashmir and Ladakh are varied in terms of culture as well as natural surroundings and, therefore, have their own USPs. Till recently, Ladakh had a negligible number of tourists in winter. We are making efforts to promote Ladakh’s winter tourism as it will ensure a steady contribution to the economy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How do you balance the development of Leh and Kargil? There is concern that Kargil may get neglected.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The twin districts of Leh and Kargil have different needs in different sectors. They share a common history and culture, including language. The administration is well aware of the needs and is addressing those needs to enable progress and development of each district in its own way. All 12 departments of the Union territory have their offices in both districts. We are working with a holistic approach and our endeavour is to give full administrative attention to both districts.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/17/ladakh-ready-for-the-winter-challenge.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/17/ladakh-ready-for-the-winter-challenge.html Thu Sep 17 18:48:46 IST 2020 nerve-centre <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/17/nerve-centre.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/9/17/32-Satish-Chandra-new.jpg" /> <p><i>Dear Doctor/ Dr P. Satish Chandra, adviser and senior consultant, neurology, <br> Apollo Hospitals, Jayanagar, Bengaluru</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Covid-19 can affect the brain. The potential neurological complications of Covid-19 include stroke, delirium, brain inflammations and peripheral nerve damage. During the pandemic, neurological complications have been a great concern for people with non-Covid health problems as well.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Stroke point</b></p> <p>Strokes are preventable to a great extent. Almost 60 per cent of strokes are caused by hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol. Heart disease, and consumption of tobacco and alcohol can also raise its risk. Once you are over 40, keep track of your blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol levels, and maintain a healthy lifestyle.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Do not miss your health check-ups. Digital devices can be used for monitoring vital signs regularly. One can avail telemedicine consultations, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Stroke is acute at the onset. Do not ignore stroke symptoms like facial deviation, weakness in one of the limbs, alteration in speech, vision problems and imbalance while walking. If the patient is brought to the hospital in the golden hour (within three hours of the onset of stroke), blood supply to the affected region could be restored before cell death occurs. If the stroke is caused by thrombosis, medications can help dissolve the clot.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Managing short circuits</b></p> <p>Epilepsy is the commonest neurological disorder after headache. One per cent of the general population will have epilepsy at some point in their lives.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Food contaminated with tapeworm eggs or larvae is a major cause of acquired epilepsy. Do not eat unwashed fruits, vegetables and greens or undercooked pork. Low levels of sodium and calcium can also raise one’s risk of epilepsy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>People with uncontrolled or refractory epilepsy require proper neurological evaluation. The rest can be managed with telemedicine. Recording the seizure on phone can help the doctor make the right diagnosis. Epilepsy is eminently treatable. Anticonvulsants for epilepsy may have to be continued for at least two to three years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Forget me not</b></p> <p>Dementia is essentially a disease of ageing. Ageing cannot be prevented, but factors that lead to rapid ageing such as diabetes, hypertension and dyslipidemia could be kept in control.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Have a balanced diet. Low intake of calcium and Vitamin D may increase the risk of dementia. Stroke and head injury patients and those with thyroid and endocrinal problems could also develop dementia. Most dementias are treatable. Some are preventable. Be aware of the early signs and do not hesitate to seek help.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Tackling tremors</b></p> <p>Slowness in movement and thinking, tremor in hands and poor balance and coordination are some of the common symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During the pandemic, people with Parkinson’s can opt for virtual consultations. Exercise and physical activity are key to managing the disease.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>—<b>As told to Mini P. Thomas</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/17/nerve-centre.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/17/nerve-centre.html Thu Sep 17 20:51:34 IST 2020 pregnancy-amid-the-pause <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/11/pregnancy-amid-the-pause.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/9/11/49-Neha-Abhijit-Pawar.jpg" /> <p><i>Dear doctor/ Dr Neha Abhijit Pawar, consultant (gynaecology), Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Mumbai</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Whenever there is a complete shutdown of general health services, women suffer the most. During the initial few months of the lockdown, many women had unplanned pregnancies and came in for medical termination of pregnancy (MTP). We are expecting a baby boom in the coming months in India because of the unplanned pregnancies. We are hoping there will not be too many cases of complications associated with these pregnancies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Contraception, pregnancy and abortion</b></p> <p>If the woman is physically fit, condoms or pills as means of contraception will do and there is no need to visit the doctor. If there are health issues, online consultations should suffice. One must try and avoid visiting hospitals as much as possible. If a woman does get pregnant and does not wish to continue the pregnancy, then she must visit a health care provider at the earliest because the treatment will change as the pregnancy advances. A pregnancy can be terminated up to seven weeks easily with a pill. Beyond that, surgery is required. So, a woman must reach out within two weeks of missing her period, preferably to a certified gynaecologist at a registered MTP centre.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Ensuring zero impact of Covid-19 on foetus</b></p> <p>A pregnant woman automatically falls into the moderate risk category. Even if she has slight cold or fever, she must approach her gynaecologist. It is important for expecting mothers to stay away from crowded places, maintain hygiene at all times, have supplements and stay hydrated. There is no proof yet of the spread of Covid-19 from mother to child. But it has been proven that it can cause clotting in the placenta, which can then increase the chances of hypertension during pregnancy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Covid-positive during pregnancy</b></p> <p>Pregnant women who have tested positive for Covid-19 but are mildly symptomatic can remain in home quarantine and need not be admitted. If found Covid-positive while in an advanced pregnancy stage, we have to monitor the mother and the growth of the baby at regular intervals.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Issues with breastfeeding</b></p> <p>The new mother must prioritise breastfeeding over everything else. Being Covid-positive does not disrupt breastfeeding in any way and the mother can continue nursing her child.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Mental health during lockdown</b></p> <p>Lockdown has taken an immense toll on the mental well-being of women, especially those in charge of an entire household. We see a lot of patients with anxiety, insomnia, depression and stress. It is necessary that the woman approaches a therapist and spares time for herself. We have to learn to live with Covid-19 and cannot stay confined inside the four walls of the house any longer. Move outdoors, exercise, meditate and practise yoga.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>—<b>As told to Pooja Biraia Jaiswal</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/11/pregnancy-amid-the-pause.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/11/pregnancy-amid-the-pause.html Fri Sep 11 22:53:14 IST 2020 proximity-shopping-is-the-new-normal <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/11/proximity-shopping-is-the-new-normal.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/9/11/60-Varun-Berry.jpg" /> <p>A century-old company with an annual revenue of more than Rs9,000 crore, Britannia Industries is a household name in India and more than 60 other countries. Its products—ranging from biscuits and bread to beverages and dairy products—are available in five million retail outlets across India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For the quarter ended June 30, Britannia posted a net profit of Rs543 crore—more than double what it earned in the corresponding period last year. Managing director Varun Berry, who had joined the company in 2013, has helped the company weather the Covid-19 lockdown. A mechanical engineer by training, he has more than 27 years of experience in companies such as Hindustan Unilever and Pepsico. In an exclusive interview with THE WEEK, he talked about the company’s growth strategy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How has the pandemic affected the packaged food segment in India?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some sectors like FMCG have stayed more resilient than others, despite operational challenges. Steady demand kept consumer product companies relevant through this period. Britannia was categorised within the essentials goods category and we were given permissions to operate even during the lockdown. In the initial weeks we were restricted by supply chain blockages, shortage of labour and insufficient transport facilities. We set to iron out the operational hazards.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With people cooking at home and children staying indoors, demand for ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook foods shot up. People were restricting their movements to the neighbourhood grocery stores and stocking up essential supplies. We focused on our staple brands like Good Day, Marie Gold, Milk Bikis and Nutrichoice. With the exception of some of the more ‘on-the-go’ categories, such as salted snacks and dairy drinks, all others saw solid growth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What factors contributed to your growth in the lockdown period?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In disruptive times like these, consumers seek out brands they trust. So our brand equity proved to be a strong asset. The biggest contribution to [Britannia’s] growth came from our teams across the country. They enabled sales orders in real time, ensuring a close connect with our customers, distributors and retailers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We facilitated picking up of stocks from distributor points, wherever stocks could not be delivered to retailers. We also facilitated direct supplies to distributors from our warehouses, despite it being a bit expensive [from our] standpoint. Such measures ensured that our products were available in the market ahead of others. We were able to service 100 per cent of our distributors within the first fortnight of the lockdown.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Quick digital interventions were also key. We partnered with Dunzo and launched a ‘Britannia Essentials Store’ to enable seamless delivery of products. We also launched a WhatsApp-based store locator service. These timely tech solutions helped us respond swiftly to the surge in demand.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Have things stabilised on the production front?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We were quick off the block to resume production and the labour situation has been streamlined. We are producing to capacity now and meeting demand across all geographies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What new products are in the pipeline?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our R&amp;D centre in Bengaluru is working on some very exciting innovations. In the next six months or so, we will look at launching products that cater to the demand for health and boosting immunity. These will be in the biscuits and dairy segments.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What kind of new normal are you expecting in the processed food segment?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our revenue growth in Q1 this year can be attributed in large measure to the increase in home consumption. In the last couple of months, we have seen unprecedented growth for highly salient brands such as Good Day, Marie Gold, and Milk Bikis. Our cheese portfolio is also riding the trend of in-home cooking, and we are doing a YouTube series with Saif Ali Khan on [making] cheese-based dishes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Increased home food consumption, coupled with an increased interest in health and immunity products, would be here to stay. Consumer preference for proximity shopping [will be] the new normal. Neighbourhood mom-and-pop stores have always been the backbone of India’s retail economy. They have ensured a steady supply of essentials in the country. E-commerce is also emerging as a grocery platform of choice, predominantly in cities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What new expansion initiatives are you planning?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We are looking at a capital expenditure of around Rs700 crore over the next two and a half years [to build] greenfield facilities and expand capacities in our existing plant in Ranjangaon, Maharashtra. New manufacturing facilities are also being planned in Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Odisha. These new facilities will increase Britannia’s capacity by 10 to 15 per cent. We have also mapped an additional Rs300 crore for new launches.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What are your interests and hobbies, and how do you spend your free time?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I enjoy a good game of golf, as it helps me re-centre and focus on the day’s priorities. Also being a movie buff, I enjoy some quiet downtime in a fully-fitted home theatre.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When I joined Britannia in 2013, there was a lot of anticipation. With a remarkable team by my side, we have been able to transform the company into a leading global total foods company. Agility, adaptability, consistency and resilience are the traits I hone in the team. Safeguarding consumer trust and delighting them with good products are our endeavour.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/11/proximity-shopping-is-the-new-normal.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/11/proximity-shopping-is-the-new-normal.html Fri Sep 11 21:59:55 IST 2020 the-pranab-da-I-knew <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/03/the-pranab-da-I-knew.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/9/3/34-Pranab-Mukherjee-new.jpg" /> <p><b>OUTWARDLY, PRANAB</b> da was an intimidating figure. A parliamentarian with 43 years of experience, a senior minister who held the most important portfolios in the government, a consensus builder respected across the political spectrum and a scholarly elder known for his memory, quick grasp of issues, flashes of temper and inability to tolerate fools. But, for those who worked with him, Pranab da was a kind, loving father figure with a good sense of humour and fondness for narrating stories from his rich past.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Pranab da liked to describe himself as a village boy from Bengal. He would often tell me how he had to walk miles through paddy fields and puddles to go to school. His memory of events, dates and numbers was legendary. He gave credit to his mother for his prodigious memory as she used to make him recount every evening even the minutest details of all the things he had done that day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Books were a passion for Pranab da. He would read several at a time. One of the first projects initiated in the Rashtrapati Bhavan during his tenure was the restoration of the library. Once the library was returned to its old glory, he became the first president in over 30 years to visit the room, sit there with his chai, and indulge in his favourite pastime.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A devout Hindu, Pranab da observed rituals and enjoyed going to temples. It was known that nothing and no one could disturb him during his daily morning puja. He rarely missed going to his village for Durga Puja every year. But, he was never orthodox or fundamental. Pranab da never consumed alcohol, but would narrate with impish delight how he joined a debate in Parliament on the inclusion of a reference to soma and sura in NCERT text books. He silenced outraged MPs, pointing out that the description of Durga in the Chandi Path could be interpreted as her being drunk while killing Mahishasur. When this infuriated the MPs even more, Atal Bihari Vajpayee pulled them back saying, “Don’t mess with Pranab da. He knows what he is talking about.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Helping Pranab da write his memoirs gave me many opportunities to discuss the important moments in his life. I was struck by his stoicism and equanimity when faced with setbacks. I recollect him describing the shock he felt when Rajiv Gandhi dropped him without warning in 1984, although he was the senior-most member of the cabinet. He was dismissive about the accusation that he projected himself as successor to Indira Gandhi following her assassination. His matter of fact response was, “Some Congress leaders asked me what precedents existed and I pointed out the fact that Gulzarilal Nanda succeeded Nehru on his death.” Pranab da at all times had the highest respect for Manmohan Singh, who was junior to him in politics and administration, despite having lost out to him in the prime ministerial race.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Pranab da believed that Parliament made him what he was. It was there he was the happiest. I recall many occasions when he would sit wistfully in front of his television watching debates in Parliament and say, “I wish I was there”. He was fond of describing how Jawaharlal Nehru would go to Parliament whenever possible. He was touched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s gesture of prostrating on the steps of Parliament before entering the house for the first time in 2014. In his view, the ability to engage in the cut and thrust of debate was the most important skill of a parliamentarian. He enjoyed narrating stories of his role in various debates and admired Vajpayee for his skills in this regard.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Pranab da was at ease interacting with world leaders like Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping and also with those from India’s neighbourhood. I recall Obama saying how happy he was that a person of Pranab da’s wisdom and stature was at the helm of affairs in India. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh was like a member of his family.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Pranab da believed the president had an important role to play as the conscience keeper of the nation. He fulfilled this role through the speeches he delivered in which a recurring theme was the need to uphold India’s pluralism and oppose intolerance. Pranab da was second to none in his devotion to duty. The day his wife passed away, he completed all rituals and was back in his office by evening. He would not countenance any suggestion that the meetings be called off.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Pranab da remained concerned about the affairs of the nation till his last breath. He infused in everyone around him an unlimited passion for India, its democracy and the principles of freedom, equality and pluralism. It was fitting that the nation honoured him with its highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rajamony is Indian Ambassador to the Netherlands.</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/03/the-pranab-da-I-knew.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/03/the-pranab-da-I-knew.html Fri Sep 04 12:15:45 IST 2020 man-for-all-seasons <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/03/man-for-all-seasons.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/9/3/36-Manmohan-Singh-and-Pranab-Mukherjee.jpg" /> <p>Pranab Mukherjee’s name does not invoke much awe among Congressmen in his home state, West Bengal, although he was the president of the country and a Bharat Ratna. Many of them think he was the “real destroyer” of the Congress in the state. When he was nominated by the Congress in 2012 as its presidential candidate, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee made her opposition public and said, “Pranab da did not do anything for Bengal.” But when it became clear that he would win, she came around and endorsed him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was perhaps Mukherjee’s meteoric rise in the party and in Delhi that made him an object of envy. Although Bengal has been home to a galaxy of eminent Congressmen, Mukherjee was in a league of his own, especially in national politics. His capability to maintain cordial relations with people from across the political spectrum and to sense the political atmosphere made him indispensable to the Congress and the governments he was part of.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was senior Congress leader Siddhartha Shankar Ray who recommended Mukherjee’s name to Indira Gandhi in 1969 as a potentially efficient administrator. Indira made him a member of the Rajya Sabha and, in 1973, appointed him deputy minister of industrial development. In 1974, he was appointed minister of state for finance. Mukherjee played an important role during the Emergency as Indira’s key man overseeing the bureaucracy. When she was voted back to power in 1980, he was inducted into the cabinet as commerce minister and two years later was made finance minister, a post he held till her death in 1984.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As finance minister, one of the major challenges before Mukherjee was to fund the Tamil revolutionaries in Sri Lanka. Indira also wanted him to finance her defence budget, which required a considerable outlay. He achieved both targets and also arranged for paying back loans owed to the International Monetary Fund. According to Congress insiders, it was Mukherjee who conceived Indira’s famous ‘Garibi Hatao’ slogan and designed various poverty alleviation schemes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mukherjee played a key role in appointing Manmohan Singh as governor of the Reserve Bank of India. It was perhaps an irony of fate that he had to serve under Manmohan a few years later. It happened because of a political miscalculation he made after Indira’s death. At the time, there were rumours that Mukherjee was trying to elbow out Rajiv Gandhi, a political novice, in the race to succeed Indira. And he did nothing to dispel the rumours.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After Rajiv took over as prime minister, Mukherjee was dropped from the cabinet. When he rebelled against the decision, he was expelled from the Congress. Mukherjee reconciled with Rajiv in 1989 and was made a member of the Congress Working Committee and, later, a spokesperson for the party.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The maturity Mukherjee gained during his years in political wilderness was evident in the manner in which he handled the challenging transformation faced by the Congress after Rajiv’s assassination. He attempted the uphill task of convincing Sonia Gandhi to take the plunge into politics. At the same time, he became the most trusted lieutenant of prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, serving as deputy chairman of the Planning Commission and running the ministries of commerce and external affairs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After the Congress lost the general elections in 1996, Mukherjee became close to the new party chief, Sitaram Kesri. Yet, he gave full support to Sonia when she became Congress president in 1998. The sudden shift in loyalty, however, did not earn him the top spot in 2004, when Sonia chose Manmohan as prime minister. Mukherjee, however, took it in his stride and was, in fact, happy, handling key portfolios such as defence, external affairs and finance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During an interaction with this correspondent during his last election campaign in 2009, Mukherjee opened up about why he could not become prime minister. “Yes, there were chances,” he said. “But they were lost most likely because I could not bring more MPs from my home state.” Many Congressmen wanted him to be the president of India back in 2007, but Sonia did not want that to happen. “She said my service in the government was much more needed,” said Mukherjee. In 2012, he was the unanimous choice as the presidential candidate of the United Progressive Alliance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This correspondent first met Mukherjee in 2000 as a student to interview him for a dissertation on a decade of economic reforms in India. He spoke about India’s massive agricultural production and pointed out that reform in that sector could turn India into an economic superpower. “For that, farm workers and labourers must have money to spend on goods and services,” said Mukherjee. So when India encountered an economic recession in 2008, Manmohan tapped Mukherjee to be his finance minister, as he knew that his former boss could deliver during a recession.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During our 2009 encounter, I asked Mukherjee what could be in store if he was again given the finance portfolio. “There is a huge drop in demand and people do not have money in their hands,” he said. “I would do everything possible to infuse money into the system. To be precise, I would give money directly to their accounts.” He proposed to do so by augmenting the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and other welfare schemes. When I asked him about finding money for his plans, he said he would print more money if needed, as inflation, back then, was quite low.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As promised by Mukherjee, the second UPA government saw huge government spending. He raised MNREGA outlays to Rs40,000 crore and absorbed media criticism when inflation crossed double digits. But he helped India ward off the recession.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mukherjee was always a careful speaker, but was also known for occasionally losing his temper. I once pestered him for his reaction to West Bengal governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi’s decision to switch off lights in the Raj Bhavan against police atrocities in Nandigram in 2007. “The role of the governor is being debated at different political platforms across India,” said Mukherjee. When pressed further, he lost his cool. “Just shut up,” he shouted.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mukherjee, however, was quick to own up to his mistakes and make amends. I once asked him for his reaction to a comment by a former BJP minister about his performance at the finance ministry. “He should not talk like a mad man,” he said. Within ten minutes, I got a phone call from Mukherjee. “Please don’t use the word mad,” he said. “The man is a BJP leader, but he is a respected person.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That was Mukherjee. Sensitive, intelligent and a stickler for political and personal propriety. The diminutive giant of Indian politics remained a fighter till his last breath.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/03/man-for-all-seasons.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/03/man-for-all-seasons.html Fri Sep 04 12:06:55 IST 2020 the-people-president <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/03/the-people-president.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/9/3/39-Philip-Mathew.jpg" /> <p>Pranab Mukherjee’s official set of wheels as president was a gleaming black Mercedes-Benz S600 Pullman Guard. The bullet-proof vehicle had a mini-fridge, a television and seats with massage functionality. But Mukherjee never abandoned his trusty, white Ambassador. The car with a red beacon and West Bengal number plates had a special place in the presidential garage.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When his car glided across Delhi roads at top speed, Mukherjee would just read. And, reading really was at the heart of his presidential sojourn. If A.P.J. Abdul Kalam made the Rashtrapati Bhavan more democratic, Mukherjee threw open libraries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A few months after taking over as president, he went to see the library in the presidential estate. One of the most beautiful rooms designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, it had a fireplace and was adorned by the intricate bright yellow mosaic of Jaisalmer. But it was being used as a store at the time. Mukherjee ordered its restoration and also took the lead in recovering and rediscovering the books in the Rashtrapati Bhavan. One of them, in fact, dated back to the days of Lord Curzon.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Pranab Mukherjee Public Library was opened within the first two years of his tenure, with a special section for children. The idea was to fight the challenges of the internet and television. But he also embraced technology and had the books digitised.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>History was not something Mukherjee took lightly. He recorded it, restored it, encouraged scholarship and relished it. The president was a daily diary writer, and his discipline seeped down the ranks. Almost all officers of the president’s secretariat took to writing. And, Mukherjee was the first president to pen his memoirs—he did it in four parts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mukherjee was also meticulous about documentation. For the first time after the Lutyens period, an inventory of furniture, artefacts, books, textiles, paintings and even banquets of the past was prepared. He commissioned splendidly produced books in what could easily be the first formal documentation of the Rashtrapati Bhavan since independence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The effort revealed quite a few interesting details about certain high-profile visits to the presidential palace such as the state of Bombay waiving prohibition in 1954 to allow Yugoslav president Marshal Josip Broz Tito to savour his favourite slivovitz on the train journey from Bombay to Delhi, the story of Chinese leader Zhou Enlai getting dussehri mangoes secretly loaded on his aircraft or how milk for Queen Elizabeth was brought daily from Bharatpur during her visit.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>More than just providing nuggets of history, Mukherjee ensured that it enjoyed pride of place during his tenure as president. His speeches were peppered with quotes from Rabindranath Tagore and Swami Vivekananda. Mahatma Gandhi and former president S. Radhakrishnan, too, were his favourites. Apart from libraries, he also set up museums and donated his famous collection of pipes to one of the museums. He restored the Durbar Hall and the guest wing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He also used the past to demonstrate how powerful a tool it was to cement relations. When the Japanese emperor Akihito and empress Michiko came on a visit in 2013, a video clip of their 1960 visit to India as crown prince and princess when they were on their honeymoon was dug up to welcome them. He also took steps to rediscover and restore the Rashtrapati Bhavan’s visual archives. Mukherjee revived the presidential tradition of using the six-horse, gold-plated buggy to travel to the Beating Retreat ceremony, braving Delhi’s chilly January weather.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He welcomed writers, artists and scholars. Amitav Ghosh once spent a few days as writer-in-residence at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. A true lover of classical arts, Mukherjee encouraged art in every form. He often asked the naval band to play something less cerebral like the yodelling Kishore Kumar. But, of course, his favourite song was “Ekla chalo re”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He was up at 5am every day and would leave for his morning walk by 5:30. He came back and read. He travelled widely. He broke the rules of ‘At Home’ receptions, choosing to mingle with his guests rather than remaining aloof. And he will forever be remembered for throwing open the doors of the Rashtrapati Bhavan to let people gaze at the marvel. He loved durbars, and would likely be regaling everyone with his endless collection of anecdotes now, wherever he is.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/03/the-people-president.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/03/the-people-president.html Fri Sep 04 12:05:56 IST 2020 hyundai-is-working-on-affordable-electric-technology <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/03/hyundai-is-working-on-affordable-electric-technology.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/9/3/58-Kim.jpg" /> <p>The Covid-19 pandemic and the nationwide lockdown hit the automobile industry hard, as demand slumped and companies were forced to suspend operations in much of April and May. Hyundai Motor India, however, is not stepping off the gas. India’s second largest carmaker launched four products this year, and the second generation Creta SUV, launched just before the lockdown in March, received some 70,000 bookings in five months.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>S.S. Kim, managing director and CEO of Hyundai Motor India, says the pandemic has not altered the company’s plans and it will invest Rs5,000 crore in the next few years. Excerpts from an exclusive interview:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>July data suggest that vehicle sales are on the cusp of getting back to normal. Some experts, however, say it is because of the pent-up demand. What is your opinion?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In July 2020, the Indian auto industry reached 80 per cent of the monthly average of calendar year 2019. However, Hyundai did better than the industry by reaching 90 per cent of monthly average of 2019 with over 38,000 units in the domestic market, marking an achievement of nearly 98 per cent of last year’s corresponding sales numbers. Post the unlock period, we have witnessed the demand for automobiles picking up gradually as personal mobility is gaining traction. The demand was more from tier 2 and tier 3 cities than metropolitan markets due to low spread rate of pandemic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the past four months, digital consumption has increased across platforms. Our Click To Buy digital sales platform saw good customer response. Hyundai is also offering customers its 360-degree digital service and contactless service experience through the Hyundai Care app, WhatsApp, website or a call to dealers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Indian auto sector was battling a slowdown even before Covid-19 hit. Is India’s auto market geared up for a quick revival?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Last year, the Indian automotive sector witnessed uncertainty and slowdown due to factors such as transition from BS IV to BS VI emissions and revised banking norms. However, the growth of motorisation is progressing positively in India, the potential buyers per thousand population is still lower than the US and Europe. In the current situation, we are introducing new technologies, connected features and advanced powertrains to excite and surprise our customers. I would like to add that despite this challenging situation we have launched eight new products in India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How do you intend to keep the leadership in SUVs?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hyundai India has contributed strongly in the utility vehicle segment with four super performer SUVs—the Creta, the Venue, the Tucson and the Kona Electric—registering sales of 34,212 units (April-July, 2020). With the five lakh sales mark, the Creta has set yet another benchmark in the industry. The new Creta has received over 70,000 bookings in 5 months.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hyundai is offering customers a wide array of highly efficient and powerful powertrain options. The contribution of diesel in the new Creta bookings continues to soar and is now at 60 per cent. The BS VI diesel technology is primarily preferred by the Indian customers for its power delivery, driving pleasure, fuel efficiency and lower emissions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>India has been one of the largest markets for Hyundai. In a post Covid-19 world, are things going to change?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India is an extremely important market for Hyundai. We have a long-term product roadmap for the domestic market and we will abide by these plans and continue launching exciting products for our valued customers. Our focus is towards introducing safety and health features benefitting our customers. Additionally, we are enhancing our product offerings with a renewed emphasis on connectivity and product differentiation through our technological prowess.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What are the key pillars that will help Hyundai’s sales, even as Covid-19-related uncertainties are likely to continue for some time?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our first priority is to resolve customer anxiety in this challenging environment. Under the ambit of Hyundai Cares, we have introduced multiple financial schemes to enhance customer confidence through programs such as EMI Assurance and associations with banks to offer unique customer centric car finance schemes. Hyundai was the first company to enter subscription space in 2019 to mitigate the financial burden of customers offering peace of mind. We have witnessed an increase in interest from customers towards our offering in subscription model. This is on account of increased need towards personal and safe mobility without owning a car. Additionally, Click To Buy has pioneered online car buying with an end-to-end solution offering customers the ability to purchase cars online and even get loans through a single platform without the need to visit dealerships.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Over the next 3-5 years, what will be the key focus areas you will be investing in?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We are deeply committed to the country and have a strong line-up of future products for the customers. Regardless of this pandemic, we will continue with our investment plan of 05,000 crore for India as committed in 2019. We want to continue being the preferred brand for the customers, offering them smart mobility solutions through product differentiation with our technological prowess.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>There has been a lot of talk on EVs gaining momentum. Based on the experience with Kona, will we see more EVs being rolled out by Hyundai?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hyundai Kona is India’s first full range electric SUV that has received tremendous response and created a perception change about the concept of EVs in India by addressing concerns and myths about charging and range anxiety. We are committed to meeting the needs of today’s urban and progressive customers and are fully aligned with the government on its vision of steering in an electric vehicle culture in India. With our experience of introducing the Kona Electric and its overwhelming acceptance in India, we are now working towards bringing-in new affordable electric technology for our future customers.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/03/hyundai-is-working-on-affordable-electric-technology.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/03/hyundai-is-working-on-affordable-electric-technology.html Fri Sep 04 11:42:53 IST 2020 soak-up-the-sun-stay-mobile <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/03/soak-up-the-sun-stay-mobile.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/9/3/62-Dr-Rajesh-Malhotra.jpg" /> <p><b>WE SPEND</b> too much time indoors nowadays, owing to the Covid-19 scare. Work-from-home and online food and grocery shopping have made us literally immobile. Being homebound for months can impact one’s bone health.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Let the sun shine on you</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Vitamin D, known as ‘sunshine vitamin’, is an essential hormone. People with Vitamin D deficiency are hit harder by Covid-19. Vitamin D helps in the absorption of calcium and phosphate as well. It reduces the risk of a fall in the elderly and thus fractures. Vitamin D deficiency could weaken bones and affect other organs. Exposure to the sun allows the body to convert cholesterol into vitamin D. You need an uninterrupted exposure to the sun for 30-45 minutes, between 10am and 3pm. Ensure your face, neck, upper parts of the trunk and arms are exposed to sunlight.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Optimal levels of vitamin D are between 25-30 nanogram/mL. If your Vitamin D levels are below 20, you need to take supplements (60,000 international units) once a week. Continue it for 12 weeks and then bring it down to one dose every month.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Keep moving, but exercise caution</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Movement is essential for bone health. Joint movements help circulate the synovial fluid that nourishes the cartilage and keeps it healthy. When somebody is bedridden, the knee joints start degenerating from disuse. Sitting for long periods can take a toll on your bones and joints. Use a sit-stand desk, which allows you to switch between sitting and standing. Anybody who stands for more than a couple of hours continuously or jogs at a speed of more than 3-4km per hour or climbs more than 15 stories in a day is damaging his knees.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Why women should exercise?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Postmenopausal women tend to have lower levels of oestrogen, which, in turn, could lead to weaker bones and osteoporosis. Regular exercise can help keep bone diseases at bay. Kick-start your day with suryanamaskar. Do dumbbell exercises to strengthen your upper body and core muscles. For those who are younger and fitter, skipping is a good exercise. Wearable weights help strengthen the bones.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Life after a knee or hip replacement surgery</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Exercise your muscles so you get full benefit of your replacements. If you do not stretch your knee joint in the months after the surgery, it could get a slight bend and could reduce your ability to walk.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Food for stronger bones</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Include milk and milk products in your diet. Salmon, liver, cheese and egg yolks are rich in vitamin D. Indian food like chapati and rajma (kidney beans curry) contain phytates that block the absorption of vitamin D and calcium. By soaking and sprouting the kidney beans, you can reduce the amount of phytates in rajma.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>—<b>As told to Mini P. Thomas</b></p> <p><i>Dr Rajesh Malhotra is the head, department of orthopaedics, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi</i></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/03/soak-up-the-sun-stay-mobile.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/09/03/soak-up-the-sun-stay-mobile.html Fri Sep 04 11:33:43 IST 2020 staying-in-has-its-advantages <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/08/27/staying-in-has-its-advantages.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/8/27/anupam_-sibal-new.jpg" /> <p>In my speciality, I notice that vaccination of children under two years has been affected severely by the pandemic. Many vaccines require more than one dose—diphtheria, tetanus, pneumococcal meningitis, mumps and measles-rubella—and a huge gap between doses or an incomplete course is not a good idea. By all means, precautions need to be taken, but people need to remember that kids are susceptible to a number of infectious diseases, and they cannot afford these delays.</p> <p>Studies across the world have proved that children are not a high-risk group for catching Covid-19, though they can be carriers of the infection and end up passing it on to grandparents. Other diseases such as chronic liver disease and infectious bile disease also need urgent attention.</p> <p><b>Fewer gastric infections</b></p> <p>Staying in though has had its advantages. Typically, during this time of the year, we see a rise in cases of diarrhoea, typhoid and viral hepatitis. However, cases of viral Hepatitis A and E and diarrhoea have come down since food and drink indulgences—such as sugarcane juice and cut fruit salads—from outside the home have reduced. It is important to pay attention to the quality of water and ensure that fruits and vegetables are washed properly.</p> <p><b>Be patient with children</b></p> <p>Being at home has also meant that parents and children are getting time to bond like never before. For some families though, it can be a big struggle. Having children focus during online classes is challenging. My advice to parents would be to be patient with such kids since it is a radical change after all, and some children need time to adapt.</p> <p><b>Eating healthy at home</b></p> <p>Paying attention to a child’s nutrition is also a must. A typical Indian<i> thaali</i> is a great way to provide a mix of cereal, vegetables, dal and salad. Green leafy vegetables and fruits are extremely important to provide vitamins and minerals. With reduced physical activity, children are also gaining weight. Constant munching has to be avoided. Colas, sweets, packaged fruit juices and pastries need to be avoided. Indoor exercises such as skipping need to be emphasised. Obesity can predispose them to health problems such as high blood pressure, high sugar levels and dyslipidemia (abnormal amount of lipids in blood) that can cause heart disease later in life.</p> <p>Lastly, I think the fear psychosis owing to the ‘infodemic’ around Covid-19 needs to be remedied by focusing on the positive aspects—the disease is being better understood, outcomes are definitely better, and until a vaccine is out, adequate precautions should be taken.</p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">-As told to Namita Kohli</b></p> <p><b><i>Dr Sibal is&nbsp;group medical director and senior paediatric gastroenterologist, Apollo Hospitals Group</i></b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/08/27/staying-in-has-its-advantages.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/08/27/staying-in-has-its-advantages.html Thu Aug 27 16:27:10 IST 2020 happy-feet-again <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/08/27/happy-feet-again.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/8/27/lavneet.jpg" /> <p><b>For months</b> Smitha Suhas had been looking forward to her 15th wedding anniversary on June 24. The Bengaluru-based software engineer wanted to travel somewhere outside the city. The lockdown played spoilsport. But then she read about LuxeCamper, a motor home service. More commonly called a recreational vehicle in the west, the campervan is a compact 200sqft vehicle where you can sleep, cook, play or take a shower all the while zooming past golden fields, rivers and forests. With queen-size beds, kitchenette, microwave, shower, toilet, a lounge to laze in and a motorised canopy for a snooze in the sun, one need not check into a hotel. Right in the middle of a pandemic, Suhas found the snappiest chariot to ferry her homebound family out of the drudgery of online classes, work calls, cooking, cleaning and doom-scrolling.</p> <p>“The week we were supposed to leave, there were new cases in our apartment building. But that did not deter us. Social stigma was more of a problem than the fear of Covid-19, so we did not tell anyone about this trip,” says Suhas. She picked Bheemeshwari, which is about a four-hour drive from Bengaluru. For Rs53,000, Suhas booked the caravan for three days for her family of four. The campervan picked them up from home at 6am on June 18. The driver’s cabin was completely segregated from the guests’—only four guests allowed at a time. Parked outside the lodges of Bheemeshwari Adventure and Nature Camp, Suhas and her family kayaked, took coracle rides, ziplined and huddled around a bonfire. They were the first travellers on LuxeCamper, which has now completed around 25 trips in Karnataka, from Bandipur to Kabini, Hampi and Kodagu. Monuments, museums, wildlife safaris and national parks have been thrown open to visitors in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Some five water bodies like Chilika Lake and the Mahanadi in Odisha now work day-cruise services. The Archaeological Survey of India has reopened some 820 monuments, including the Taj Mahal. Virtual heritage walks and tourism webinars are encouraging people to rediscover their states.</p> <p>From #IntezaarAapka to #InterzaarKhatamHua, the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board is using social media to tell people that service providers are ready to welcome visitors again, with hotels and restaurants allowing 50 per cent occupancy to ensure better social distancing. “For now it boils down to road travel. And our location is our biggest advantage—right in the middle. We are surrounded by five to six big states,”says Yuvraj Padole, senior tourist officer at Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation. While there are no quarantine restrictions, travellers will be checked for a Covid-negative certificate while entering the state. “Even if you don’t have one, we will do the thermal screening. If there are symptoms and if you inform us, we will offer all the help to get you medical aid,”says Padole. The state has specialised travel plans for visitors from other states, including 16 weekend trails across categories of adventure, heritage, nature, spiritual and wildlife tourism.</p> <p>In Himachal Pradesh, an RT-PCR test certificate, done 72 hours ago, is mandatory at border checkposts along with e-pass registration and hotel booking proofs. All hotels are open for business, but a minimum five-day stay in the same hotel is the norm for now. While Rajasthan is not receiving any foreign tourists, domestic traffic from Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh has picked up, says Alok Gupta, principal secretary in the tourism and devasthan department of Rajasthan. “We did not see tourists in June. July has been better, occupancy in resorts are picking up,”he says. “We recently started a social media campaign—Short Stay Safe Stay and Dekho Apna Rajasthan—inspired by the Dekho Apna Desh webinars of the ministry of tourism.”</p> <p>With air travel arrangements with the US, France, Germany, the UK, Canada, the UAE and Maldives, globetrotters in India can start making plans. But as of now, there is truly a case for slow, hyper-domestic, conscious DIY travel. This kind of itinerary requires planning, a sense of responsibility and an irrepressible urge to be on the road again. Have a car? Or, a touring-optimised motorcycle? It is time to hit the trail, pound the pavement and walk the tracks.</p> <p>“Travel and tourism was the first sector that got affected by the pandemic and it could be the last one to come out of it,” says E.M. Najeeb, senior vice president of the Indian Association of Tour Operators. “But travel will revive gradually with new practices after this period.” Health protocols will be faultlessly followed by all verticals, he says. “Touchless travel has already been introduced by airlines and hotels. There will be greater demand for domestic travel to quieter locations with perfect health protocols and memorable service,” he adds.</p> <p>For filmmaker and photographer Lavneet Gyani from Delhi, car travel has proven to be the best option. On July 14, he celebrated his wife’s 40th birthday at Citrus County farmstay in Hoshiarpur in Punjab. He and his family, which includes a dog, started from Delhi for their seven-hour journey with a few friends. Stopping for <i>chai-paani</i> at a <i>dhaba</i> or a restaurant along the way was out of question. “We did not even buy a bottle of water on the way. We carried adequate provisions of our own. We only stopped for the dog to take a walk,” says Gyani. At the border, they produced e-passes, and were randomly checked for symptoms and temperature. And since the party was going for less than 72 hours, they did not have to show a Covid-negative certificate. “Once you get used to this new normal, it all gets very easy. At Citrus County, the owner has not allowed his staff to step out of the premises through the pandemic. He does the shopping for the kitchen with all the safety and sanitation protocols. In fact, he delivers their food to them,” says Gyani, who took a biking group to Citrus County for the Independence Day weekend. He plans to travel to Ladakh next month.</p> <p>With travellers seeking a more isolated experience, big heritage hotels are struggling to manage costs. Occupancy is picking up, says Siddharth Yadav, vice president of operations at Narendra Bhawan, a boutique hotel in Bikaner. “It is about 30 per cent now,” he says. “In a normal year, it is 60-65 per cent.” Most guests now, he says, prefer to stay in rather than explore the city. “Our worries are just that we are not going to see any other form of business—the weddings and parties are all going to be curtailed,” he says. “The large chunk of business is totally wiped out.”</p> <p>Chitra Raghavan, a Bengaluru-based lawyer and hobbyist photographer who went for a two-week trip to The Bison in Kabini with her partner in June, has always sought out smaller properties with lesser people around. Safety protocols apart, travelling is still the same for her. “There is a realisation that the more you are at home, the less precautions you are taking. So you might as well be outside and be taking more precautions. In my building, I see people who are not wearing masks or maintaining social distance,” says Raghavan. “There is a false sense of security in an apartment where you think you are safe. You might as well go and enjoy yourself.”&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/08/27/happy-feet-again.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/08/27/happy-feet-again.html Thu Aug 27 14:55:14 IST 2020 day-trips-and-weekend-travel-are-gaining-popularity <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/08/27/day-trips-and-weekend-travel-are-gaining-popularity.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/8/27/prahlad-singh-patel.jpg" /> <p><b>How has the Dekho Apna Desh webinar series helped in the revival of domestic tourism?</b></p> <p>Recognising the fact that revival in the tourism sector will be largely spearheaded by domestic tourism, focus is being given to domestic tourism and towards this end, the ministry of tourism is arranging a series of webinars under the theme of ‘Dekho Apna Desh’.</p> <p>A total of 48 webinars were held from April 14 to August 15 and these were well received by the travel industry, students and the general public. The webinars have seen participation from over 60 countries other than India and we have had over 2.30 lakh participants....</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>With the setting up of air travel bubbles with countries like the US and France, how soon do you think international travel will pick up pace?</b></p> <p>Opening of domestic flights was the first major step in restoring connectivity. The ministry of tourism is working closely with the ministry of civil aviation. The Vande Bharat flights have been a great success. I had a very fruitful meeting with our civil aviation minister on August 13. We discussed refund policies, flight plans, helicopter services and better use of Khajuraho, Imphal, Dehradun for international [flights]. I am sure the ministry of civil aviation will take a call on adding more countries as air bubbles. There have been no foreign tourist arrivals yet.</p> <p><b>What changes have you seen in domestic tourism?</b></p> <p>As the ‘unlock’ process has started, domestic travel has started resuming slowly. People are exploring their neighbourhood attractions through self-drive holidays. Day trips and weekend travel are gaining popularity. A few states are encouraging people to travel and explore their own state....</p> <p>Safety and hygiene will be the primary concern of people while planning their travel.... With this objective, we have released a set of operational guidelines for hotels and other accommodation units, restaurants and tourism service providers like tour operators, travel agents and tourist taxi operators....</p> <p>This change has taught the tourism industry the need to enable training and develop programmes for its employees to help them innovate and organise, so as to pioneer a new and better model of business which, in the future, will be able to withstand any crisis.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How is technology being used to revive tourism in India?</b></p> <p>We are using social media with an objective to have a conversation with travellers. Building a bond beyond pure marketing of the destination, the ministry is actively using its social media handles on all platforms since the end of March more aggressively....</p> <p>Furthermore, the ministry has introduced 24/7 chat bot interface to assist tourists for better planning and quick query resolutions. Also, the website has been assisted with Adobe solution suite to effectively engage with visitors across web and social media platforms. The real-time analytics features help to understand the tourists’ demographics and in profiling visitors better.</p> <p>In view of the pandemic, the ministry developed a microsite— strandedinindia.com—to help foreign travellers stranded anywhere in India.</p> <p>The ministry has also revamped the Incredible India website.... It is also fully responsive with mobile devices....</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Are rehabilitation efforts being planned for job losses in the travel industry?</b></p> <p>The situation we are facing today is mainly because of the sudden fall in demand for travel not only in India but also globally. The government of India announced the Atmanirbhar Bharat package, which is primarily aimed at rebooting the economy.... The package has provisions for collateral-free automatic loan for businesses, including MSMEs.... The definition of MSMEs has been more inclusive by doing away with the distinction of services and manufacturing MSMEs and introduction of the additional criteria of turnover. About 70 per cent of tourism units come under MSMEs. A large segment of tourism service providers are expected to benefit under these provisions.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/08/27/day-trips-and-weekend-travel-are-gaining-popularity.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/08/27/day-trips-and-weekend-travel-are-gaining-popularity.html Thu Aug 27 14:45:06 IST 2020 recovery-in-international-air-travel-slower-than-expected <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/08/27/recovery-in-international-air-travel-slower-than-expected.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/8/27/david-lim.jpg" /> <p>David Lim has been overseeing India operations for Singapore Airlines since April 2016. A Singaporean, Lim graduated from the National University of Singapore and has spent more than three decades with the company, in various capacities within passenger and cargo service operations. His overseas assignments have spanned across cities such as Berlin, London, Hong Kong, Copenhagen, Zurich and Tokyo. Singapore Airlines, which recently completed 50 years in India, is undergoing challenging times because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The airline suffered a net loss of $815 million in Q1 of FY21. Conditions continue to be gloomy for the aviation sector in India and globally. In an exclusive interview with THE WEEK, Lim talks about the challenges for the airline and the road ahead. Excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What has been the scenario in the airline segment, especially with regard to your operations from India, since the Covid-19-induced lockdown started?</b></p> <p>The nationwide lockdown in India coupled with the imposition of the international flight ban brought all domestic and international commercial passenger flight operations to a standstill. However, with the country slowly opening up, we have revived our cargo operations and are currently operating passenger aircraft carrying cargo to and from India. However, the global aviation scenario is still highly uncertain as there is no clarity about when travel restrictions will be eased and international borders will start to open up. Pre-Covid and before the international flight ban was imposed in India, the SIA group, which includes Singapore Airlines, SilkAir and our low-cost arm Scoot, offered over 140 weekly services from India to Singapore.</p> <p><b>What about your relationship with Tata Sons regarding Vistara? How is that relationship growing and where does it stand today?</b></p> <p>Vistara is a strategic investment for us in India, which is one of the world’s fastest growing aviation markets. We remain committed to our relationship with Vistara.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What measures have you taken to deal with the situation, including cost optimisation measures?</b></p> <p>Currently, SIA is operating at about 7 per cent of passenger capacity compared with January. We will continue to adjust our capacity to match the demand. We have also deferred non-essential expenditure projects and imposed tight controls on discretionary expenditure and are in negotiations with aircraft manufacturers to try and adjust our delivery stream for aircraft orders placed in the past.</p> <p>Additionally, our senior management has proactively taken pay cuts since March 1, with pay cuts of 20-35 per cent from April 1. Directors have also taken a 30 per cent cut in their fees to show solidarity with the management and staff. Further measures include varying days of compulsory no-pay leave every month for pilots, executives and associates, as well as furlough for staff on re-employment contracts. These measures have been taken in addition to a hiring freeze, voluntary no-pay leave schemes and an early retirement scheme.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What is the current status of your operations? A major chunk of your traffic is to the US and Australia from India?</b></p> <p>This remains a highly challenging time for the Singapore Airlines Group. While there are some bilateral moves to create travel bubbles or green lanes, their impact on air travel and the pace of any recovery in demand remains highly uncertain. Globally, Singapore Airlines and SilkAir have increased the frequency of selected services in their passenger network in August, September and October, and reinstated flights to Cebu, Istanbul, Milan, Perth, Phnom Penh (Cambodia) and Taipei. By the end of October, the group’s passenger capacity will reach approximately 8 per cent of its pre-Covid-19 levels.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>By when do you see a revival happening?</b></p> <p>The recovery trajectory in international air travel is slower than initially expected. Industry experts, including International Air Transport Association and International Civil Aviation Organization, have continued to revise downwards their projections for the recovery of global passenger traffic in the near term. Industry forecasts currently expect that it will take between two to four years for passenger traffic numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels. Progress towards global lifting of border controls and travel restrictions, which could facilitate or result in the easier movement of people between countries, is slower than earlier expected. As a result, international passenger traffic remains low.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/08/27/recovery-in-international-air-travel-slower-than-expected.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/08/27/recovery-in-international-air-travel-slower-than-expected.html Thu Aug 27 14:36:18 IST 2020 seeking-help-is-the-first-step <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/08/13/seeking-help-is-the-first-step.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/8/13/neermi-shah.jpg" /> <p>It has been over six months since the first Covid-19 case was registered in the country, and numerous people have come to me with a variety of mental health issues. People across age groups have been affected. From a child stuck indoors to a youth who is anxious about her career to even frustrated homemakers, everyone is struggling to come to terms with the stress and the anxiety in the present circumstances.</p> <p><b>Get over the stigma</b></p> <p>There is a stigma attached to mental health as Indians do not take issues of the mind seriously. People do not want to come to the clinics for fear that someone might spot them. We need to give importance to mental health issues like severe depression like any other disease. There are tools to treat every mental disorder, and so it is crucial that people seek help.</p> <p><b>Children express differently</b></p> <p>Nervousness, irritability, anger and lack of concentration are some of the signs most commonly observed among children in these times. These are signs of underlying depression. If the child becomes more demanding and attention-seeking, parents have to take the child’s tantrums seriously. Provide them with a listening ear, validate their feelings, reassure them and encourage group activities.</p> <p><b>Women are most vulnerable</b></p> <p>Many women have reported burnout and depression as a result of juggling multiple tasks along with daily chores. There are women seeking help for depression for the first time in their lives. Maintaining a daily routine and a balanced diet and following breathing exercises can help get over mental, physical and emotional exhaustion.</p> <p><b>Tackling addiction</b></p> <p>I have observed people resorting to tobacco and alcohol misuse and then struggling with withdrawal symptoms of extreme restlessness and irritability when these substances are not available. A young man who had a pre-existing mental health condition went further into his shell when he lost his job during the pandemic. He began to blame himself for not being able to provide for his family. Fortunately, he sought support, else there was no way he would have come out of it. Get counselling. That is the first step towards tackling addiction.</p> <p>—<b>As told to Pooja Biraia Jaiswal</b></p> <p><b>The author is a psychiatrist at Sir H.N. Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai</b><br> </p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/08/13/seeking-help-is-the-first-step.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/08/13/seeking-help-is-the-first-step.html Thu Aug 13 18:26:14 IST 2020 negligence-is-aapparent <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/08/13/negligence-is-aapparent.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/8/13/gautam-gambhir.jpg" /> <p><b>A lot has been</b> written about Delhi’s response to Covid-19.</p> <p>Being the capital of the world’s second most populous country, Delhi has a high density of population. Millions come to this city in search of a better life, and it is a prime destination for travellers around the world. These factors had put Delhi in a precarious position when the pandemic hit our country.</p> <p>A lockdown was needed to avert a complete collapse of our health infrastructure and to build facilities for treating millions of potential patients. This lockdown impacted the most vulnerable sections of the city—labourers, migrants and the poor. On March 28, just days after the imposition of the lockdown, thousands of dejected migrants lined up at the Anand Vihar bus station and elsewhere to leave the city. They were absolutely disappointed with the state government’s response. Shocking videos of migrants indicated that they had been given information about buses and trains by members of the ruling Aam Aadmi Party. This implied that the AAP wanted migrants to leave so that they had less people to worry about.</p> <p>This was just the beginning of Delhi’s disastrous Covid management. A city that has built the best hospitals, including the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, could not even provide personal protective equipment to doctors and nursing staff. There were horror stories from across the city—patients being denied beds, hospitals charging exorbitant rates and relatives unable to collect bodies of their loved ones.</p> <p>Meanwhile, radio and television sets across Delhi ran lengthy ads of the chief minister patting his own back and patronising people for their resilience. Crores were spent on these ads while he asked for funds from the Centre and batted for the lifting of the lockdown. Shops that sold non-essential items like liquor were opened, leading to thousands of people violating all social distancing norms.</p> <p>The government remained a mute spectator. The chief minister was desperate for funds because the state was not left with any savings after the advertisement blitz and the distribution of freebies in the run-up to the assembly elections in February. His Twitter bio reads ‘<i>Sab insaan barabar hain</i> [all men are equal]’, but he became an exclusionist overnight. He started blaming patients from the national capital region for exhausting resources and passed an order denying them access to health care in India’s capital. Thankfully, the lieutenant governor revoked the obnoxious order.</p> <p>The state government then blamed the Centre and absolved itself of all responsibilities. On June 9, the deputy chief minister made a sensational claim—that Delhi would have around 5.5 lakh cases by the end of July. With this, the state government completely surrendered before the pandemic and asked the Union government to step in.</p> <p>Union Home Minister Amit Shah soon responded. On June 14, he chaired a high-level meeting attended by the chief minister and high-ranking officials. Several key decisions were taken in this meeting—to increase testing exponentially, map patients in containment zones, cap Covid test charges, appoint a team of doctors from AIIMS to supervise treatment in all hospitals, arrange for a large number of beds, and so on.</p> <p>The situation, which had seemed catastrophic, slowly started to improve. On July 20, the number of new cases dropped to less than 1,000. Amit Shah’s timely intervention averted a major disaster.</p> <p>But the battle has not been won yet. We have to be cautious, so that Delhi does not relapse into misery and despair. The most painful part is that many citizens had the worst experience of their lives because the state government was more interested in being seen to be working rather than actually working.</p> <p><b>The author is an MP, BJP leader and former cricketer.&nbsp;</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/08/13/negligence-is-aapparent.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/08/13/negligence-is-aapparent.html Thu Aug 13 18:19:56 IST 2020 i-have-not-asked-for-any-position <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/08/13/i-have-not-asked-for-any-position.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/8/13/sachin-pilot.jpg" /> <p>Congress leader Sachin Pilot is back in Jaipur after a month-long standoff with his bête noire, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. As the uneasy truce plays out, Pilot said the main issue that he and his fellow MLAs wanted to raise with the party leadership was about Gehlot's style of functioning.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In an exclusive interview with THE WEEK, Pilot said Gehlot had to be more inclusive in his manner of functioning and the decision-making could not be limited to just four or five persons.</p> <p>He revealed that he had not wanted to be deputy chief minister and would have been happy working outside the government since he had apprehended the arrangement might not work out well.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>About allegations that he colluded with the BJP in trying to topple the Gehlot government, Pilot said that he and the other MLAs had pooled in money to bear the logistical as also legal expenses of their stay in BJP-ruled Haryana. As for the court cases, he said his first choice was Congress' Abhishek Manu Singhvi, but he was already taken by Gehlot. So he turned to Harish Salve.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the road ahead, Pilot said he was open to any role that the party gives him, but stressed that Rajasthan would always be his <i>karmabhoomi</i>. Excerpts<b>:</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>In the one month you stayed away from Jaipur, you were accused of putting your own government in peril.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I was served a notice by the Special Operations Group of the Rajasthan Police under the sedition charge. For a serving deputy chief minister to be served that notice was unwarranted and unprecedented. We took the issue to Delhi to make the leadership understand what is going on in the government. The very next day, some coercive actions were taken, including expulsion of ministers, suspension of MLAs, FIRs being registered and notices by the Speaker. All this was not required because having a difference of opinion with the chief minister's style of functioning is not anti-party or illegal, and certainly not anti-national.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Finally, after all these weeks, I stand vindicated. We did not utter a single word against the party or our own government. Finally, when Priyankaji (Priyanka Gandhi Vadra) and Rahulji (Rahul Gandhi) met me, we had a threadbare, frank discussion for two to three hours, and all those issues were heard.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Did Priyanka play a central role in resolving the issue?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She spoke to me a couple of weeks ago. And I met both of them at Rahulji's residence. When I spoke to her [the first time], certain actions were being taken in Jaipur which were [contrary] to what was being said in Delhi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What made you to finally sit down with senior Congress leaders and work out a resolution?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Channels for talks were open, and we were in Delhi only to talk. But on the one hand, you are discussing issues and on the other hand, you are suspending and expelling MLAs, filing cases and serving notices. The actions were not consistent with what was being said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How will you reconcile with the harsh words used by Gehlot against you?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even if you say such words to your house help, that person will not work in your house anymore. However, I swallowed it because I thought the political discourse needs a dignified conversation. Two wrongs do not make a right. I did not want to respond in the same tone and tenor. Things became acrimonious from their end, but we maintained a dignified silence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>All this bitterness cannot be brushed under the carpet?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I came to Jaipur as party president when the number of MLAs was reduced to 21 out of 200. Ashokji was chief minister when this happened. He was not made Congress Legislature Party leader or Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president. I worked with all honesty and dignity. Eighteen months ago, when the decision of who will become chief minister was left to Rahulji, he said it should be Ashokji. Rahulji insisted I become deputy chief minister. I was quite happy not to be in the government because I thought it might not work out well. And my apprehensions turned out to be true.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The chief minister said he had not spoken to you for one-and-a-half years.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Then what kind of government was he running? As head of the government, it is incumbent upon him to take everyone's views on board. But to say this gives an insight into how things may have been.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is no point in being in the government for just a house and a car. You need dignity, honour, space and respect to work in any organisation. This is what I communicated to the party leadership. A committee will look into the issues, and they have promised us that corrective steps will be taken in a timebound manner.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>So the main issue was that you were being side-lined in Jaipur?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is not just about me. It is about the people who gave their sweat and blood on the streets of Rajasthan for five years. From 21 [seats] to forming the government with full majority, the people who struggled to make this possible must feel that this is their government. You cannot ignore them and run the government with four to five persons.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Was there a deliberate attempt by CM Gehlot to edge you out?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When I was PCC president, I had all the right qualities. It is with respect to the last one-and-a-half years that he made some personal comments such as ‘He is English speaking’ and ‘good looking’. Why make it personal? You may have disagreements and may not get along, but the choice of words is very important. Also, when you are part of the government, you need space and honour.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Did you demand from the party high command a leadership change in Rajasthan?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With an open heart, I said everything I had to say to the Congress leadership. I think they understand the gravity of it. It will not be proper for me to spell out the laundry list of what was discussed. But the issue is not about any individual. It is about three years later, when we have another election to face.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ashokji was the chief minister earlier when we had 153 MLAs out of 200. We were reduced to 56. [After] the second time he was the chief minister, we were reduced to 21. We are 107 at present, and we do not want history to repeat, so there must be some course correction because if we do the same thing that we did the last two times, we will end up with the same result.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>You were called over-ambitious and it was said that you are in a hurry to become chief minister.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I have not asked for any position. I have been lucky enough to be a minister at the Centre and a deputy chief minister. For 20 years, I have given my best to the party.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Was there a delay on part of the central leadership to deal with the unrest in Rajasthan?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is a structure in the party and there are people responsible for being the bridge between Jaipur and Delhi. They are supposed to be [nonpartisan] and communicate the reality to the leadership. Obviously, this was not happening. And these individuals—I will not take names—were obviously unable to do their job and were prejudiced. That is why issues kept building up.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The Congress said you and the other MLAs were enjoying the hospitality of the BJP in Haryana, protected by their police, and engaging lawyers close to the BJP for your court cases.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The MLAs had like 40 FIRs against them and feared coercive action, so they were afraid of going back to Rajasthan. Whether we stay in Noida, Delhi, Faridabad or Gurgaon, I think it made no difference. For the record, all 20 of us had pooled in our resources and paid for all the logistical and legal expenses. As for the court cases, the first person I called was Abhishek Manu Singhvi. He is a dear friend, but he politely declined, saying he was doing cases for Ashokji. The other good lawyer that I know personally is Harish Salve, who now lives in London. So, I called him. You engage professional people for making sure that you have a good case.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The very first day I had said that I would not join any political party. And 30 days later, those people who have been saying all these things have to face today's reality, that we were not in touch with anybody from any party.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>No longer deputy chief minister or PCC president, what is the road ahead for you?</b></p> <p>I have never run after posts and positions. Whatever role the party may deem fit for me, I will certainly do, but I have not asked for any position. But Rajasthan is my <i>karmbhoomi</i> (land of labour) and my relationship with the people and this land will be till my last breath. I have learnt from my father to seek people's blessings, be with the masses, be with the workers and help them in their bad times. That is my biggest strength.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/08/13/i-have-not-asked-for-any-position.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/08/13/i-have-not-asked-for-any-position.html Thu Aug 13 20:15:11 IST 2020 nep-2020-is-transformative-not-incremental <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/08/06/nep-2020-is-transformative-not-incremental.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/8/6/24-Amit-Khare.jpg" /> <p>The Union government has announced a new National Education Policy, 34 years after the last one. The proposals in it have largely been welcomed by stakeholders. Higher Education Secretary Amit Khare speaks to THE WEEK, explaining how the policy will take effect over the next few years. Excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>By when should we see the NEP rolling out?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are around 140 recommendations each, for school and higher education. So, the policy will be rolled out in phases. For the new degree system, we will have credit transfers, and [for that] we have to create a credit storage first. The credit bank should be ready by December. So, from academic year 2021, flexible degrees will be introduced in the Institutes of Eminence (IOE) and in state universities that wish to join.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In schools, we need to have the curriculum framework ready for the first five years of the 5+3+3+4 system. The working groups have been formed, their reports should be submitted by next March, so the new system can be introduced gradually from 2021 itself. By 2023, the first batch of students should be taking the new board exams for Classes 10 and 12.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, for the next few years, both systems will continue, in schools and colleges, so that students who are already studying in one system are not inconvenienced.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The National Education Technology Forum (NETF) should be set up by December, the Higher Education Commission Bill will be placed in public domain by September end, so that vice-chancellors and academicians can share their comments. The National Research Foundation (NRF) should be ready by December.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>So now, will the bachelor’s degree be a four-year course?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The NEP committee was clear that the graduation course should be a four-year programme, leading to a one-year master’s and then directly to PhD. However, a large proportion of students acquire a degree for employment and are not interested in studying further. So, we proposed two degrees. There is a three-year programme, which allows for exits even earlier. For those who want to continue in research, the programme continues to the fourth year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The system is flexible, and allows students to get back to education after a break, so even those who did the three-year degree can return for a postgraduation after collecting the required credits. Ultimately, the system will be more on collecting credits and not on the strict first-year, second-year format.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Since the new system will bring down the strict walls between the arts, science and commerce streams, now the degree will be called a Bachelor of Liberal Arts, and not a BA or BCom. The graduate can now, for example, have a bachelor’s degree with an honours in physics and a minor in music.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>As a spinoff of the policy, will the prerequisites for writing the entrance test for a professional course change, too?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yes. We already have the Common Aptitude Test (CAT) that does not distinguish between candidates on the basis of subjects studied in school or college. Other entrance tests will also prescribe a syllabus. It is up to the candidate whether she studies for the syllabus through her school curriculum or by herself. These changes might take some time, though.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>For a reorientation of education, one requires the right human resources. How long before we have the new army of teachers?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The policy is clear that teaching needs to be of a certain quality. Teaching cannot be considered as a last option, it has to be treated as a respected profession. Presently, we will be introducing a four-year integrated course for teachers. We will also have to focus on re-training existing teachers. Yes, we need a huge capacity building here. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that education has to be about critical thinking and not rote learning.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What is the mainstay of NEP 2020?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is transformational, not incremental. The focus is on foundations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>There is criticism that the policy is focussing more on the vocational aspect and less on academics.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I would not call the thrust vocational, but rather, on life skills. Today, we have huge dropout rates. While enrolment for pre-primary is almost 100 per cent, only 26 per cent make it to graduation level. Similarly, there are huge dropouts after Class 8, 10 and 12.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are two aspects here. One is, the syllabus should not cause students to drop out. We are even planning that for certain subjects like mathematics, schools will offer two levels, A and B, at the +4 level. Because, if a student wants to get into statistics, why should he be forced through trigonometry?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The other aspect here is that not every student needs to reach the degree level. Yet, those who leave the system at any level should be equipped with life skills. This is for the student as well as for the country. Because their contribution to the GDP increases with skill enhancement.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Implementation is a worry. How will you provide quality teaching when many schools are not more than a shed?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Equity has been a major focus of the policy. Technology-enabled systems are great levellers. In a conventional system, it might take more than a lifetime to see every school equipped with just a good laboratory. However, through virtual labs, we can reach out much better. IIT Madras has already made some virtual labs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The NETF seeks to look at technology solutions in association with leading software companies and academic institutions. The question of equity is very important for us, we are aware that even technology-enabled solutions may not bridge the gap if schools and students cannot access these technologies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>MAJOR PROPOSALS IN THE NATIONAL EDUCATION POLICY 2020</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>• Expanding age group of mandatory schooling from 6-14 to 3-18</p> <p>• 10+2 school curriculum to be replaced by 5+3+3+4 structure</p> <p>• Emphasis on mother tongue/regional language as medium of instruction until at least Class 5</p> <p>• Replacing the UGC and AICTE with Higher Education Commission of India</p> <p>• Introduction of a four-year multidisciplinary undergraduate programme with multiple exit options</p> <p>• Scrapping of the MPhil programme</p> <p>• Setting up of a National Research Foundation</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/08/06/nep-2020-is-transformative-not-incremental.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/08/06/nep-2020-is-transformative-not-incremental.html Fri Aug 07 11:41:34 IST 2020 do-not-delay-cancer-treatment-for-the-fear-of-covid <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/08/06/do-not-delay-cancer-treatment-for-the-fear-of-covid.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/8/6/48-Pramesh-new.jpg" /> <p>For the past four to five months, most cancer hospitals have seen a significant reduction in patients. In&nbsp;several of the&nbsp;220 centres attached to the National Cancer Grid,&nbsp;there has been&nbsp;a cumulative drop of 30 to 50 per cent in the number of new patients. Now, it is open to interpretation whether they have been going to smaller centres, or they have avoided hospitals because of the fear of contracting Covid-19.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fortunately, the&nbsp;NCG was able to convince many state governments&nbsp;who were planning to convert cancer care centres into Covid-19 centres to permit them to continue treating cancer, given that the impact on the patients would be severe. &nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Cancer patients staying away from hospitals are likely to delay diagnosis, which is bound to result in patients presenting themselves in advanced stages.&nbsp;This is particularly true for certain kinds of cancer— for example blood cancers such as lymphoma and leukaemia—where days, and sometimes even hours, matter a lot.&nbsp;In such life-threatening situations, the delay can have a bigger impact than in other kinds of cancers.&nbsp;These are also the cancers which if treated promptly and appropriately, have better long-term survival outcomes.</p> <p>It is true that cancer patients with their immunocompromised systems are at higher risk for contracting Covid-19. If the fatality rate is 3 to 4 per cent in the case of Covid-negative cancer patients, it is 8 to 10 per cent for those&nbsp;who have the&nbsp;disease. However, the chances of&nbsp;contracting the infection in the hospital are not high enough for them to reconsider whether to come to hospital for cancer treatment.&nbsp;Hence, I would advise those with suspected or proven cancers&nbsp;not to be apprehensive of approaching a hospital for cancer care.&nbsp;I would also suggest that they seek an expert with reasonable experience—by reasonable I do not mean only an oncologist, but someone who is an&nbsp;expert in surgery and medicine so that the urgency of the situation can be assessed and care can be sought.&nbsp;The risk of not getting appropriate and timely care is much higher than contracting Covid-19 disease, especially given that SARS-COV2 is going to stay here for a long time. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p><br> One of the things we have been promoting more aggressively is&nbsp;tele- and video-consultations for follow-ups&nbsp;and new patients.&nbsp;Since we are a tertiary care centre, we usually get patients who have already done at least a few preliminary tests. If they come to us with symptoms alone, we ask them to get the tests done at a centre closer to their home, and then seek a second-opinion through tele-consultation, if needed. In terms of Covid-19 precautions, cancer patients need no extra precaution other than physical distancing, maintaining hand hygiene, wearing masks and avoiding crowds.</p> <p><b>As told to Namita Kohli</b></p> <p><i><b>Dr C.S. Pramesh, director, Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai</b></i><br> </p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/08/06/do-not-delay-cancer-treatment-for-the-fear-of-covid.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/08/06/do-not-delay-cancer-treatment-for-the-fear-of-covid.html Fri Aug 07 10:52:33 IST 2020 avoiding-hospitals-has-affected-heart-patients-in-a-big-way <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/07/30/avoiding-hospitals-has-affected-heart-patients-in-a-big-way.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/7/30/dr-kaul.jpg" /> <p><b>When we talk</b> about heart patients, we must remember that these are people who may also have high blood pressure and diabetes. The threat of infection has meant that while people have been advised to avoid hospitals, it has affected non-Covid patients of heart disease in a big way.</p> <p>For chronic patients though, staying away from a hospital physically is not that much of a problem. In their case, telemedicine works because only a follow-up is needed for monitoring their condition. They can also monitor their blood pressure regularly at home. Gadgets to check their blood sugar levels are also available.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Seek early care in case of a heart attack</b></p> <p>However, it is the patients of heart attack that seem to be suffering the most because they have been avoiding hospitals. I have national data from 60 hospitals that shows that between January and March and April and June heart attack cases came down by 70 per cent. Now, it is not that heart attacks have just disappeared. Rather, the reason is that people have been delaying going to a hospital or not going at all. Some of them are now coming in and reporting worsening of their condition and complications such as bad valves and holes in the heart. If care is delayed, then bypass or angioplasty becomes very difficult. There is also a high chance of death if such patients do not receive care at the right time.</p> <p>Do not ignore symptoms that cause concern; report to the hospital to ensure immediate care. Most hospitals now have processes and facilities to ensure that Covid-19 patients, suspects and non-Covid patients are dealt with appropriately.</p> <p><b>Do not ignore symptoms</b></p> <p>If people have shortness of breath, they should not confuse it with Covid-19, since that is also a symptom of the infectious disease. It is important to remember that differentiating between the two is a doctor’s call. I would strongly urge people to report to the doctor immediately if there is discomfort in the chest, if a person who could climb three flights of stairs is now out of breath after climbing just one, if an elderly person complains of abdominal distress after having food—one that is relieved after belching or sitting down, since these are all symptoms of heart disease. Weight gain and lack of physical activity is also emerging as an additional factor.</p> <p>I would also advise people to wear their masks properly—and not on their neck—and try to stay safe because though a majority of the young people may be asymptomatic, they do meet their parents and grandparents who are vulnerable because of their age and comorbidities. We cannot afford to be in denial about Covid-19, or non-Covid diseases.</p> <p><b>Dr (prof) Upendra Kaul is&nbsp;chairman, Batra Heart Centre, and dean, academics and research,&nbsp;Batra Hospital and Medical Research Centre, New Delhi</b></p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">As told to Namita Kohli</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/07/30/avoiding-hospitals-has-affected-heart-patients-in-a-big-way.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/07/30/avoiding-hospitals-has-affected-heart-patients-in-a-big-way.html Sat Aug 01 23:28:08 IST 2020 need-two-years-to-administer-the-covid-19-vaccine-across-India <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/07/30/need-two-years-to-administer-the-covid-19-vaccine-across-India.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/7/30/adar-poonawalla.jpg" /> <p>Adar Poonawalla’s Serum Institute of India (SII) is part of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca initiative to develop a Covid-19 vaccine. SII is also working with the US-based firm Codagenix whose vaccine is still in the pre-trial phase. Poonawalla spoke to THE WEEK about the developmental progress of the vaccine candidates and the challenges in administering it.</p> <p>Edited excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What is the status of your Covid-19 vaccine projects?</b></p> <p>The Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine (COVISHIELD) is showing promising results based on the ongoing trials and has been cleared for the final phase. We are hopeful that it will be an efficacious and immunogenic vaccine that is viable for mass use.</p> <p>We seek to apply for licensure trials within a week. With the government fast-tracking everything, we are hoping to get approvals for this soon. Post this, we will begin the phase-III of human trials in India with around 4,000 to 5,000 people.</p> <p>Once we get necessary regulatory approvals, we will start manufacturing it in large volumes. As per our arrangement with AstraZeneca, we will be making one billion doses over the next one year for India and other low- and middle-income [Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance] countries. We will manufacture about 60-70 million doses per month (which might stretch to 100 million doses later). With this, we are looking to manufacture around 300 to 400 million doses by the end of this year. Based on the success of the trials, we are expecting to launch this vaccine by the end of this year. I believe by the first quarter of the next year, the vaccine will start reaching the masses. Meanwhile, the Codagenix vaccine candidate is in its pre-trial phase, and it is expected to progress to the human trial phase towards the end of this year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What makes COVISHIELD unique?</b></p> <p>We will have to wait for all the trials and test results for a clearer understanding of its efficacy. So far, based on the trials conducted, we believe it would be an immunogenic vaccine. As per the data from the results, we have found that it has given only mild reactions such as fever, and headache, which is expected out of vaccines. This vaccine candidate has not caused any severe side-effects. In addition, the T-cell response is much better in COVISHIELD, which is an indicator of providing long-term protection to people.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How much time will it take to vaccinate India?</b></p> <p>Holistically, it will take around two years or so to administer the vaccine countrywide. In the initial phase, it will be part of a government-administered vaccine programme. It is very important to ensure that the vaccine reaches the most vulnerable and the remotest corner of the country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>In an earlier interview with THE WEEK (April 28), you said that the vaccine may be available by September-October. Is it possible for you to fast track the work for the vaccine?</b></p> <p>Usually it takes a minimum of five to seven years for a vaccine to be approved and made available for mass use. However, owing to the current situation and circumstances, the approval processes are being fast-tracked. But none of the tests, trials or similar requisites are being fast-tracked for this. Our aim is to provide an effective and safe vaccine for all. Based on the positive results of phase II and III, we hope to provide the vaccines across markets by the end of this year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Will you provide the vaccine at a subsidised rate to the government?</b></p> <p>It is too early to comment on the vaccine’s price. However, we will keep it under 01,000....We are certain that it will be procured and distributed by governments free of charge.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>SII has invested heavily in Covid-19 vaccine research.</b></p> <p>We have invested close to $200 million in the current phase of producing the COVISHIELD vaccine. Once the vaccine goes into the developmental phase, we will be able to elaborate more.</p> <p>We are also working on two of our own vaccines. We seek to release them by the end of 2021. In addition, we are conducting phase-III trials of the recombinant BCG vaccine shots to improve the innate ability to fight the virus and reduce the severity of Covid-19 in India. This is an extremely safe vaccine since it is given to newborn babies, and we have been selling this in more than 100 countries for many decades. Based on our trials, we will be certain on the efficacy and viability of the vaccine, post which we will initiate mass production.</p> <p>We are working with Mylab Discovery Solutions and are producing two lakh Covid-19 test kits per day. As per our associations, we are to manufacture and distribute the Novavax candidate (which is just a month or two behind AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine) across GAVI countries. Codagenix vaccine is in pre-clinical trials and we have worldwide rights for it. We have also tied up with a company for a mRNA [vaccine] candidate and hope to announce it soon.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Closest to success</b></p> <p>COVISHIELD is one among the five Covid-19 vaccine candidates (as on July 27) in phase III, the most advanced stage of clinical trials</p> <p><b>Official name</b></p> <p>AZD1222</p> <p><b>Developers</b></p> <p>University of Oxford, AstraZeneca Work started in: January 2020</p> <p><b>Based on</b></p> <p>A weakened version of a common cold virus that affects chimpanzees; contains genetic material of SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein Interim results (phase I/II)</p> <p><b>With a single dose of vaccine</b></p> <p>•Four-fold increase in antibodies to the coronavirus spike protein in 95 per cent of participants one month after injection</p> <p>•In all participants, a T-cell response was induced, peaking by day 14, and maintained two months after injection</p> <p><b>Participants (phase I/II)</b></p> <p>1,077 healthy individuals aged 18-55 in five UK hospitals</p> <p><b>Expected price</b></p> <p>Less than Rs1,000 per dose</p> <p>SII’s production plan</p> <p>In a year: 1 billion doses</p> <p>In a month: gradual increase from 60 million to 100 million doses</p> <p><b>SOURCE WHO, AstraZeneca, Oxford University</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/07/30/need-two-years-to-administer-the-covid-19-vaccine-across-India.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/07/30/need-two-years-to-administer-the-covid-19-vaccine-across-India.html Thu Jul 30 16:34:22 IST 2020 confident-of-holding-elections-during-pandemic <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/07/23/confident-of-holding-elections-during-pandemic.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/7/23/10-Sunil-Arora.jpg" /> <p>The pandemic has thrown up new challenges, and conducting polls will not be easy, says Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora. He is, however, confident of holding the Bihar elections, due in October/November, on time. Requisite changes are being made in electoral processes, he says, to ensure that safety guidelines are followed during campaigning and voting. Excerpts from an interview:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>In view of Covid-19, how confident are you of holding elections on schedule in Bihar?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Since its inception, the Election Commission has been conducting elections amid varied circumstances. In the recent Rajya Sabha elections, [our ability to] conduct polls amid a pandemic got tested. Though the scale was smaller, our new standard operating procedures (SOPs) are [being] laid down. We are confident that we will be able to fine-tune logistics and requirements for the forthcoming elections.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How will elections be different now?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Electoral processes would be suitably modified to ensure social distancing, sanitisation and the use of masks and gloves. We conducted the Rajya Sabha polls quite successfully, and even made arrangements for Covid-19 positive voters. All guidelines pertaining to electoral machinery, voters, political parties and candidates are being tweaked. Training and capacity-building of electoral machinery is underway.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>But campaigning involves rallies and gatherings.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The commission will ensure that SOPs are followed. During campaign, political parties will have to ensure that the safety guidelines issued by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) are adhered to. Any violation would be an offence under the Disaster Management Act.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How will social distancing be ensured at polling booths?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The number of voters per polling station will be restricted to 1,000, as opposed to the current limit of 1,500. The chief electoral officer in Bihar has already identified 33,797 additional polling stations. A requirement of 1.8 lakh additional polling personnel, sector officers, vehicles has been worked out. Additional EVMs and VVPATs have been provided.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Any concerns about voting percentage being affected because of Covid-19?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>CEO Bihar has been directed to launch a campaign to enrol citizens left out [of the voters’ list]. This will help migrants who have returned and are not registered as voters. Postal ballots for senior citizens and Covid-19 positive persons will help ensure that the vulnerable sections are not exposed to risk during voting. We shall step up the use of digital technologies in voter awareness.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The Election Commission has proposed expanding the ambit of postal ballot, but it ran into political opposition.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The NDMA guidelines for Covid-19 state that vulnerable persons, including those over 65 years, should stay at home. The commission considered the extraordinary situation and recommended extension of postal ballot to two identifiable categories—voters above 65 years and voters who are either Covid-19 positive or suspected to have the disease—to avoid their presence in polling stations and yet not deprive them of their voting rights. However, the Commission has decided not to extend the facility of postal ballot to voters over 65 years of age in the Assembly elections in Bihar and byelections due in near future in view of constraints of logistics, manpower and safety protocols of Covid-19. But the facility will be available to those who are over 80 years of age, people with disabilities, voters engaged in essential services and voters who are Covid-19 positive or suspected to be infected and in home or institutional quarantine.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Political parties said the changes were unconstitutional.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The statutory framework prescribed under Section 60(c) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, says that any person belonging to a class of persons notified by the Election Commission in consultation with the government can cast his vote by postal ballot. The commission had earlier extended the facility to three categories of voters—80 years and above, those with disability and those employed in essential services. This was notified on October 22, 2019. The commission did not receive any concern on this from any stakeholder, including political parties.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>With electioneering moving online, how will it be monitored?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We have elaborate mechanisms of model code of conduct. Candidates have to provide details of their social media accounts while filing nomination. All expenditure on social media shall have to be accounted for, and advertisements pre-certified by the Media Certification and Monitoring Committees. Regulations applicable to electronic media also apply to social media.The commission, after consultations with social media platforms, has successfully executed a voluntary code of ethics for social media since the 2019 general elections. Necessary advisories will be issued to political parties.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>UPCOMING ELECTIONS</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Bihar</b><br> October/November 2020</p> <p>243 seats</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Assam </b><br> April/May 2021</p> <p>126 seats</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Kerala</b><br> April/May 2021<br> 140 seats</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Puducherry </b><br> April/May 2021<br> 30 seats</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Tamil Nadu</b><br> April/May 2021<br> 234 seats</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>West Bengal</b><br> April/May 2021<br> 294 seats</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>POLLS IN PANDEMIC</b></p> <p>• Electoral processes being tweaked to comply with social distancing norms and safety measures</p> <p>• No rallies; political parties will have to improvise campaign strategies</p> <p>• Candidates will have to provide details of social media accounts; expenditure on social media campaigns to be monitored</p> <p>• Remote voting being examined by experts</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/07/23/confident-of-holding-elections-during-pandemic.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/07/23/confident-of-holding-elections-during-pandemic.html Fri Jul 24 10:58:10 IST 2020 no-need-to-panic-buy-oximeters-and-oxygen-cylinders <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/07/23/no-need-to-panic-buy-oximeters-and-oxygen-cylinders.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/7/23/20-Professor-Suri.jpg" /> <p><b>Drop in infections</b></p> <p>In some ways, it has been a blessing in disguise. All the hand washing, physical distancing, taking other precautions and maintaining hygiene have actually worked to reduce some infections, particularly flu. What has also helped is that pollution has gone down. People are staying home, not travelling in crowded metros or visiting busy markets. This has led to a drop in some respiratory infections.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Seasonal allergies, too, are not typical to this season—the months of March, April and May see a rise in pollen that leads to allergies. During monsoon, we see a rise in vector-borne diseases and patients with flu as well. October onwards, we anticipate a rise in patients with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Before Covid-19 struck, we were treating several patients for asthma, COPD, lung cancer and other respiratory problems [in hospitals]. Since the pandemic, many of those receiving regular treatment are staying away from hospitals because of the fear of contracting the virus. It is true that patients suffering from chronic lung diseases, severe asthma and TB are more prone to severe Covid-19. Age also plays a role—the vulnerability increases with each decade after the fifth (50 years), along with the presence of comorbidities. However, regular medication and video consults for follow-ups are advised for chronic disease patients.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Panic buying</b></p> <p>What I notice is that people are buying pulse oximeters and oxygen cylinders out of sheer panic due to Covid-19. For normal people, these things are not required. People cannot administer oxygen by themselves at home; you need to be in a hospital if you require oxygen. However, if you have a pulse oximeter at home, you need to ensure that oxygen levels are between 97-98 per cent. If the oxygen levels are at 95 per cent, with fever, then it indicates mild disease. If it is between 90-94 per cent, then it is moderate, and if under 90, then it is severe. Those suffering from mild disease can be managed at home, provided there is adequate facility for isolation. Those with moderate disease need to be taken to a hospital, and those with severe disease need intensive care.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Immunity boosters</b></p> <p>There is some evidence that vitamins such as D and C and zinc can help fight infections in a better way. However, there is no definite proof that they can increase immunity. People with these vitamin deficiencies can take supplements. But these should be taken under medical supervision. Besides these, good food, good sleep and good exercise also help in staying healthy and avoiding diseases. Deep breathing can help open up lungs; it also reduces stress. Respirometers are useful in a group of patients; for healthy people, they are of no use.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>—<b>As told to Namita Kohli</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/07/23/no-need-to-panic-buy-oximeters-and-oxygen-cylinders.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/07/23/no-need-to-panic-buy-oximeters-and-oxygen-cylinders.html Fri Jul 24 10:58:57 IST 2020 too-early-to-announce-covaxin-launch-date <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/07/16/too-early-to-announce-covaxin-launch-date.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/7/16/krishna-ella.jpg" /> <p>He is of humble origins. The man on whom India has pinned its hopes for a Covid-19 vaccine. Dr Krishna Ella’s parents were farmers in Thiruttani, Tamil Nadu; Ella learnt the basics of biotechnology from his family farm.</p> <p>Young Ella wanted to become a farmer. However, he took up a job in Bayer to support his family economically. Scholarships enabled him to pursue his master’s at the University of Hawai’i and his PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also had a stint at the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, as a teacher and researcher.</p> <p>With well-equipped labs and funding opportunities, the US has been a dreamland for researchers. Yet, Ella chose to return to India.</p> <p>In 1996, he founded Bharat Biotech in Hyderabad. The lab had a modest beginning. The biotech research and development park known as Genome Valley, one of his dream projects, was commissioned in 1999. Genome Valley is now home to more than 100 biotech companies including Bharat Biotech.</p> <p>Ella is passionate about making the impossible possible. The vaccines developed by Bharat Biotech speak volumes about the man and his mission. The hepatitis-B vaccine is the cheapest in the world, costing just 04 per dose. ROTAVAC, the first indigenous vaccine against rotavirus infections, has also been a real game changer. Other vaccines being developed by Bharat Biotech include the ones against zika, chikungunya and malaria. The company is poised to become the world’s largest supplier of rabies vaccine.</p> <p>The first phase of human trials of Bharat Biotech’s vaccine against Covid-19—COVAXIN—has begun. The sites for the trials include Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Patna, Rohtak and Vishakhapatnam. The results of the animal trials are quite promising.</p> <p>COVAXIN is India’s top contender in the Covid-19 vaccine race. It competes with around 100 other vaccine candidates from different countries at different stages of development. Russian scientists have claimed that they will launch the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine in August, which has led to intensified competition among vaccine researchers. Excerpts from an interview:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>When can we expect the launch of COVAXIN?</b></p> <p>It is too early to remark on this, as we are in the beginning phase of human trials. Only after the safety data is established and upon receiving regulatory approvals will we be able to decide to move into the course of licensure.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What are the features of COVAXIN?</b></p> <p>COVAXIN is an inactivated vaccine developed on a Vero-cell [a lineage of cells used in cell cultures] platform. Inactivated vaccines have a well-proven and accepted track record.</p> <p>Conventionally, inactivated vaccines have been around for decades. Numerous vaccines such as those for seasonal influenza, polio, pertussis, rabies, and Japanese encephalitis use the same technology. Once the vaccine is injected into a human, the virus has no potential to infect or replicate. It just serves the immune system as a dead virus and mounts an antibody response towards the virus.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Will it be an oral vaccine?</b></p> <p>It will be an injectable vaccine.</p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Tell us about your research journey.</b><br> </p> <p>The vaccine strain was first isolated from the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune. It was further developed into a vaccine candidate at Bharat Biotech.</p> <p>Upon receipt of the virus strain from the NIV, Bharat Biotech was able to quickly lay out the good manufacturing practice (GMP) protocols for the manufacture of the vaccine candidate. Bharat Biotech developed the first set of GMP batches within 40 days, and upon completion, the pre-clinical trials commenced. COVAXIN was evaluated in animals following the Schedule Y guidelines [established under Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1945] and World Health Organization guidelines. COVAXIN was reported to be safe and immunogenic in all animal trials. We have now moved forward towards the clinical development of this vaccine.</p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">How big is your study group? Is it difficult to find volunteers for the human trials?</b><br> </p> <p>Right now, we are also awaiting ethical committee approvals from various institutions. Some of them have already come.</p> <p>Enrolment of the cohort for the phase-1 is underway. We will be following a statistically-derived number of subjects required for the human clinical trials. The trial will be a multi-centre study in multiple cities across India.</p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">At what price will the vaccine be sold?</b><br> </p> <p>As a socially-inclined organisation, we endeavour to deliver world-class vaccines at affordable prices. We have done this earlier and we hope to achieve the same for COVAXIN. It is too early to make any statement regarding price.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>Vaccine race</b></i></p> <p><i>As on July 14, the WHO has listed 23 vaccine candidates in different phases of</i></p> <p><i>clinical evaluation stage (human trials)</i></p> <p><i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;"><b>Phase III</b></i><br> </p> <p><i>Fully assess efficacy, effectiveness and safety; involves up to 3,000 participants Candidates in</i></p> <p><i>phase III: 2 Developers: Sinovac (China), University of Oxford/AstraZeneca (United Kingdom)</i></p> <p><i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;"><b>Phase II</b></i><br> </p> <p><i>Assess efficacy and side effects; several hundred participants Candidates in phase II: 2 Developers:</i></p> <p><i>CanSino Biological Inc./Beijing Institute of Biotechnology (China), Moderna/NIAID (United States)</i></p> <p><i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;"><b>Phase I</b></i><br> </p> <p><i>Tests on 20 to 80 healthy volunteers; assess safety Candidates (phase I and II combined): 8 [Bharat Biotech belongs to this phase] Candidates in phase I: 11</i></p> <p><i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;"><b>Pre-clinical evaluation:</b></i><br> </p> <p><i>Evaluates test results in animal models Candidates in pre-clinical evaluation stage: 140</i></p> <p><i>*Russia’s vaccine candidate that claims completion of human trials is still in phase 1</i></p> <p><i><b>Source: WHO</b></i></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/07/16/too-early-to-announce-covaxin-launch-date.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/07/16/too-early-to-announce-covaxin-launch-date.html Thu Jul 16 16:55:28 IST 2020 keeping-your-pre-lockdown-schedule-is-important <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/07/16/keeping-your-pre-lockdown-schedule-is-important.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/7/16/ambrish-mithal-new.jpg" /> <p>For both doctors and their patients, the past few months have been challenging, and stressful. “At the beginning of the pandemic, we asked patients to stay home and visit the hospital in case of an emergency only. We also instructed them to monitor their sugar levels, keep up their exercise regimens, maintain their diets, and be regular with their medication,” says Dr Ambrish Mithal, chairman and head of endocrinology, Max Healthcare. Some struggled to cope, while others managed better, as they found more time for themselves amid the lockdown.</p> <p><b>Time to go to OPD</b></p> <p>In the past four weeks or so, though, things have begun to improve further, says Mithal, as he doffs his PPE gear at the end of a four-hour OPD. “More people are now comfortable with video-consults, and if, need be, they do come and see me. Especially if they are first-time patients, those with Type 1 diabetes and pregnant women.”</p> <p><b>Maintaining the routine</b></p> <p>Despite the challenge of maintaining a diet-exercise-medication routine during a crisis, diabetics need to be extra cautious because in Covid-19, poorer outcomes have been reported for diabetics infected with Covid-19, says Mithal. People ought to keep testing their sugar levels at home. “Keeping your original schedule [pre-lockdown] is very important. Waking up at the same time, getting ready for work as you used to, and keeping to meal timings help,” he says.</p> <p>Mithal advises moderation and careful planning, especially in dietary indulgences. Mangoes are not banned, and one medium-size mango a day is fine. However, the fruit should be split into a couple of servings, and total carbohydrates from fruit intake in a day should not exceed 30gm. “If you have the entire fruit [mango] at one go, the carbohydrate load is too high. Have a slice at one time, and don’t have it after meals as one has already had carbohydrates in the meal. Instead, have it as a snack, and have it with nuts or something with protein,” he advises.</p> <p>The “fear” of Covid-19 might have kept patients from seeking health care, but it has been an unlikely ally in helping motivate diabetics to take care of themselves, and stick to their schedules. “The threat of Covid-19 is more immediate for people, rather than, say, a heart attack a few years down the line,” he says.</p> <p><b>Coping with the testing times</b></p> <p>For a doctor, too, life can be challenging—staying glued to a computer screen for hours during video consultations, squeezing time for meals in between, and finding time for exercise. “I spend my evenings on my terrace, taking pictures of the sunset every evening,” says Mithal. “I also visit a biodiversity park and spend time with nature to beat the stress.”</p> <p>—<b>As told to Namita Kohli</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/07/16/keeping-your-pre-lockdown-schedule-is-important.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/07/16/keeping-your-pre-lockdown-schedule-is-important.html Thu Jul 16 19:19:07 IST 2020 prison-un-break <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/06/25/prison-un-break.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/6/25/52-In-prisons-where-eMulakat.jpg" /> <p><b>KUNDAN BHOI,</b> 22, had been meeting his elder brother in Udaipur Central Jail in Rajasthan once in two weeks. He trudged 15km from home every time. But the last time he went there two months ago, the prison had stopped allowing visitors because of the pandemic. He returned home distraught. Later, the prison advised him to apply for an online meeting through the National Prison Portal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Such meetings, called eMulakat, had started in Rajasthan on April 2. On the ePrisons page, Bhoi keyed in the details of his elder brother, who was serving a seven-year sentence for murder. An OTP confirmed his registration for eMulakat and he got a website link for a video-call and the date and time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When he logged in from his smartphone for that first video-call with his brother, he was delighted by the swiftness of it all. “My brother met all the family members all at once. We showed him his house waiting for his return. This system is so time-saving,” says Bhoi, who is doing his BCom in a Udaipur college. “Better than going all the way to the prison complex, waiting there and then going through multiple people to meet my brother.” He has met his brother online four times now. “I hope they keep this system working even after Covid-19.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Surendra Singh Shekhawat, deputy inspector general of Rajasthan prisons, is also excited about how the state is embracing the new system. “We are No 1 in running eMulakat,” he says. “It is happening in most of Rajasthan jails. And not just central jails. There are five subjails in Udaipur; even they have it.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shekhawat concedes that connectivity is a major worry and that many prisoner families in remote, tribal belts do not have access to the internet. “Prisoners get five minutes to meet their kin via video-calls. Yes, they complain about the short time. There are some technical problems,” says Shekhawat, who plans to upgrade the infrastructure for eMulakat. “We are also in the process of getting families to make online payment for canteen material, so they do not have to come every time to deliver fruits and knick-knacks.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Restrictions on visits and fears about the virus had led to riots in the Dum Dum correctional facility, the largest prison in West Bengal, in the third week of March. Four inmates were killed and 60 policemen injured in the clashes and arson. “A complete ban on visitations can do great emotional and mental damage to prisoners in these uncertain times,” says Sanjeev P. Sahni, criminologist and principal director of the Jindal Institute of Behavioural Sciences, Jindal Global University, Sonipat.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sahni says, “States like Odisha, Rajasthan, Punjab and Gujarat are leading in digitisation of visits. Odisha has even ordered [starting of] eMulakat in all 30 district jails. Prisons are establishing visitor rooms equipped with laptops and broadband, and making suitable arrangements at prison cells. These facilities are advantageous for visitors from poorer families.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But eMulakat scheme remains under-utilised for various reasons. R. Rochin Chandra, director of the Centre for Criminology &amp; Public Policy, says prisons tend to balk at spending on high-speed wired internet connection for eMulakat as it is expensive. “The states are struggling to cover the usage fee for video-calls.” In prisons where eMulakat is working well, he says, the demand is increasing, which is why inmates get to see their relatives only for five minutes. And if they somehow miss an appointment, the web link expires, and they have to wait for long for a new booking. Chandra also notes that many families have lost their livelihoods during the lockdown and may not have the means to take internet subscriptions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Criminal psychologist Anuja Trehan Kapur warns against making eMulakat a norm. “These are video recordings at the end of the day. They can be weaponised later as evidence for punishment even though it is illegal,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Much has been said about mass release of undertrials and petty offenders to decongest prisons, but it is easier said than done because lawyers are no longer readily accessible. “The district legal services authorities are themselves wary of prison complexes which are seen as high-risk contamination zones,” says Smita Chakraburtty, founder of Jaipur-based Prison Aid Action Research, who has been working across jails in Rajasthan as an independent observer and adviser. She says prisoners should be allowed to use eMulakat to interact with their lawyers as well. One can get out of prison only through remission or bail, and one needs a lawyer’s help for that, she notes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Chakraburtty says open jails are better equipped to handle overcrowding. Rajasthan has the largest number of open jails in the world, nearly 40 of them. “Nobody has run away from open jails,” she says. “Prisoners live with their families. Closed colonial-era structures do not work anymore; they are inhuman and expensive. Even the Supreme Court has admitted that open prisons should become the norm in the future. There is no need for eMulakat there.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/06/25/prison-un-break.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/06/25/prison-un-break.html Thu Jun 25 18:26:55 IST 2020 apples-in-the-deccan <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/06/25/apples-in-the-deccan.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/6/25/54-A-Limba-Reddy-and-Kendre-Balaji.jpg" /> <p><b>MAY WAS EXCITING</b> and emotional for A. Limba Reddy and Kendre Balaji. While the rest of the world was reeling under the impact of Covid-19, these farmers, from different parts of Telangana, were eager for a 'bite of history'. Even as temperatures soared to over 40 degrees Celsius, both would visit their orchards daily to tend to fruit trees that were a misfit in the Deccan plateau. They had succeeded in cultivating apples, originally from snow-capped mountains in Central Asia, in tropical south India. “The fruit was very sweet,” said Reddy, his success perhaps enhancing the taste.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Reddy, 67, hails from Nizamabad district in southern Telangana. His five-acre orchard has around 500 apple trees. After he tasted the first apple, he wanted to delay the harvest as he felt that the crop was not mature. But as word spread about the crop, visitors flooded the orchard. Recently, a minister came calling, with a huge crowd and the media in tow. Despite Reddy's reservations that the apples were not ready, the visitors plucked, ate and appreciated them. “Now, I don't have any left,” said Reddy, with a laugh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Reddy, an MSc in physics, took to farming around three decades ago, after stints as an entrepreneur and at a private firm. He said that he used to grow mango and guava, and wanted more varieties of fruit. “I watched a lot of YouTube videos and once stumbled across an apple variety that can be grown in a warm climate,” said Reddy. This was in November 2018. Reddy contacted farmer Hariman Sharma of Himachal Pradesh, who had developed the HRNM-99 variety.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I placed an order for 500 saplings,” said Reddy. “He said that he can only deliver 200. I insisted that I wanted 500. He could sense my commitment and agreed.” In December, he received the plants by courier and planted them within a week. His friends and relatives wrote it off as a futile attempt.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Last summer, the trees bore apples the size of strawberries. This year, they got bigger and better. Did he do anything particular? “They need water like any other crop,” he said. “Since I have been preparing manure for other fruit trees, I used it for apple trees as well. It is not difficult to grow them.” His apples will hit the markets next year. “I was told that I can earn up to Rs10 lakh on each acre of apple trees,” he said. “I will be happy even if I get Rs5 lakh per acre every season.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Balaji, 38, hails from Komaram Bheem district. He had a different reason to grow apples. “In 2013, I visited a doctor. I saw an old lady with her husband there,” he said. “The doctor told the lady that she had low haemoglobin and needed to eat fruits. He recommended apples and immediately asked the husband to buy fruit. While the patient waited, her husband came back with an apple. The old man could not afford more as each apple cost around Rs20. I decided that day that I will grow apples to make the fruit affordable to the poor people of my region.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With the image of the poor old couple etched in his mind, Balaji began his quest. “I could not find anyone in south India who grew apples,” he said. “It took me more than a year of research before the next step. A friend in the Army, posted in Himachal Pradesh, send me apple plants. I planted them in a two-acre field.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2015, after reading newspaper reports about him, scientists from Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, visited his farm and recommended the HRNM-99 variety. They supplied 150 sapling; he added 250 more later. Some of the older saplings did not survive; he now has 400 apple trees. The farm is located in a hilly terrain. So how does he ensure the good health of his crops? “On either side of the apple trees, I planted mango, pomegranate and sweet lime so that they protect the apple trees from harsh sunlight and heat,” said Balaji. “Marigolds have been also planted strategically so as to provide them with nutrients and also double as manure.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Balaji's efforts were recognised by Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao on June 2—Telangana formation day—when he tasted an apple from his orchard. “He said it was very tasty,” said Balaji. The next year is going to be the most crucial for him as he intends to market his produce. “My aim is to sell in Telangana markets,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Both farmers said that scientists and agriculture experts have tasted the fruits and certified them to be of high quality and with more nutrients than the ones grown in northern India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As a result, a number of Telangana farmers have lined up to follow in their footsteps. Vissa Kiran Reddy of Rhythu Swarajya Vedika, an NGO that works on farmers' issues, said that growing apples was a “crazy idea and is not an option for local farmers”. He added that the successful cases were an exception rather than the norm. “The climate and soil condition in this region are not suitable for apples,” he said. “This fruit cannot be grown even in the lower reaches in north India.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But pragmatic views do not seem to matter much to dreamers like Balaji. As he already has the tag of Telangana's first apple farmer, he now has another wish: “I want apples grown in our state to be named after me; after all, I created history.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/06/25/apples-in-the-deccan.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/06/25/apples-in-the-deccan.html Thu Jun 25 18:23:44 IST 2020 the-lord-is-my-shield <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/06/25/the-lord-is-my-shield.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/6/25/56-Syed-Ziaulla-Sha-Khadri.jpg" /> <p><b>PRAYING FOR A MIRACLE</b></p> <p>In the year of the Mask, spikes of an invisible foe pierced our lives, an oblique attack.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Its crown eclipsed our visages, shadowing our smiles, burying our dreams,</p> <p>locking up all of us in a difficult berth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Mask is a temporary weapon, a shield and a guard, a new normal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a masked year, the ego has fallen, oneness is back.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>People of all belief ask for one miracle.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Only one.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To end the wait, to go out, to celebrate; to take off our masks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Everyone awaits a miracle.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Let it come from the sea or the sky.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Or any country on the earth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The world is hoping for a miracle.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A vaccine.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/06/25/the-lord-is-my-shield.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/06/25/the-lord-is-my-shield.html Fri Jun 26 15:34:59 IST 2020 we-need-to-create-industrial-clusters-to-decongest-cities <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/06/18/we-need-to-create-industrial-clusters-to-decongest-cities.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/6/18/Nitin-Gadkari-2.jpg" /> <p>Nitin Gadkari has been a man with a mission amid the Covid-19 crisis. Every day, he holds videoconferences with various stakeholders, listening to their concerns and offering them hope.</p> <p>The micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector has been the worst-affected by the lockdown. Several measures Gadkari had proposed have become part of the Union government’s Rs20 lakh crore economic stimulus package.</p> <p>Gadkari spoke to THE WEEK on a range of issues—from highways and industrial clusters to politics and China. His mantra in these gloomy times: Be positive and self-confident to emerge victorious. “<i>Kadam se kadam milakar chalna hoga. Koshish karne waalon ki kabhi haar nahi hoti</i> (We should march together. Those who try, will not lose),” Gadkari said, reciting lines from a poem written by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.</p> <p>Excerpts from the interview:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q</b>/<b> You are very optimistic in your interactions with industry bodies. Has it rubbed off on the industry?</b></p> <p><b>A</b>/ I have spoken to a lot of people, ranging from those in the entertainment sector and hair salons to restaurant waiters and owners. This is not the first crisis we are facing. Our country has always faced disasters like earthquakes, floods and diseases. There is an urgent need to build positivity and self-confidence in people. If this happens, we will win.</p> <p>Everyone is facing problems. Some state governments don’t have enough funds to pay salaries. The government of India has seen its revenues drop. The banking system is facing challenges. Migrants are facing a jobs crisis.</p> <p>My first suggestion is that everyone should face this grave problem with self-confidence. The government has given a package amounting to 10 per cent of the GDP—Rs20 lakh crore. Still, there may be problems, for which we have opened a website called Champions (champions.gov.in) to redress grievances of MSMEs. Over 50,000 grievances have been addressed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q</b>/<b> You had suggested liquidity of </b>Rs<b>50 lakh crore for the economy. Could you elaborate?</b></p> <p><b>A</b>/ I had said that there is a need to increase liquidity in the market. We have given a package of 020 lakh crore. Economists say there will be a Rs10 lakh crore budget deficit in the state and at the Centre. Now, [with] the funds available from the budgets of state governments and the Centre, the current economic package, and Rs10 lakh crore from public-private investments, the Indian economy would get a boost of Rs50 lakh crore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q</b>/<b> MSMEs say government departments owe them money, and that there are still problems in getting loans.</b></p> <p><b>A</b>/ Public-sector units and government departments owe some money to MSMEs; a decision was taken that [the money] be released in 45 days. I had also written to chief ministers to release payments that were pending with state departments.</p> <p>The Reserve Bank of India had issued orders and guidelines for banks to smoothen the [lending] process. If someone still faces an issue, he can go to our new portal, Champions, and register a complaint. We will address it quickly.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q</b>/<b> The country witnessed a humanitarian crisis as migrants were forced to leave cities. What should the industry do?</b></p> <p><b>A</b>/ There is an impression that the entire industry is dependent on migrant labour. There are only 10 to 20 per cent migrant [labourers]; [the rest] are local workers. Now, up to 70 per cent of the industry has restarted, and most of the migrants want to return. I suggested that [industrialists] coordinate with district collectors to bring labourers back.</p> <p>The ideal state is that people need not travel. MSMEs account for 29 per cent of the economy and 48 per cent of exports, and have created 11 crore jobs. The rural industry has a turnover of Rs88,000 crore. We have decided to increase this turnover by involving agro-industry, handloom, khadi, honey and biofuel. We will encourage them to become a 05 lakh crore industry in the next two years, so that people get jobs where they were born.</p> <p>We want to create industrial clusters in Delhi, Mumbai, Noida, Gurgaon, Pune, Kolkata and Chennai to decongest cities. For instance, 1.5 lakh people in Dharavi work in the leather industry. I told the Maharashtra government that we should create a leather cluster along the Delhi-Mumbai highway so that they could work and stay there. [The leather industry’s] turnover is Rs1.45 lakh crore, of which Rs85,000 crore is from the domestic market. The workers will get homes and their condition will improve. The clusters will also decongest big cities and help stop migration.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q</b>/<b> The government is pushing for self-reliance and is trying to attract business from China to India. Some say it is easier said than done.</b></p> <p><b>A</b>/ Many countries do not want to do business with China. This has created an opportunity for us; we should take advantage of it. We have skilled labour, infrastructure, ports and raw material. For example, we have a textile cluster in Nagpur, Orange City, which makes Peter England shirts. I asked them to make PPE (personal protective equipment) kits. Now five lakhs PPE kits are being made in India and getting exported. This happened in just two months. Before that, we had to get a planeload of PPE kits from China.</p> <p>Similarly, sanitiser used to cost Rs1,200 per litre. But we gave permission to sugar mills to make it, and it now costs Rs160 per litre. And we are ready to give it to the world. [This crisis] is a blessing in disguise. The industry needs foreign investment and technology upgrades. Countries that have better facilities and good foreign relations will benefit.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q</b>/<b> You gave the example of creating industrial clusters and moving people out of Dharavi. But how different is this model from the United Progressive Alliance government’s failed special economic zones?</b></p> <p><b>A</b>/ We are constructing the Mumbai-Delhi highway—a 14-lane, concrete road that starts from Sohna in Gurgaon and passes through Sawai Madhopur, Jabua, Ratlam and Vadodara to reach Mumbai. It will reduce 220km between Delhi and Mumbai. As it passes through tribal and backward regions of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, our acquisition cost has been reduced from Rs3 crore per acre to Rs10-20 lakh. We have saved Rs16,000 crore in land acquisition. Our plan is to develop roadside facilities like industrial clusters, smart cities and smart villages.</p> <p>This road passes through Thane district, so I told the state government that we would acquire land and create rail and airport connectivity. I suggested that the state government give power and water supply and arrange transport. Through this joint venture, we can create the leather cluster. People who move to the cluster can get houses through the PM Awas Yojna and claim benefits under 16 different schemes. If three lakh people move from Mumbai, it will help the city. And help other saturated cities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q</b>/<b> You had set an ambitious target for highway construction. Will you need to rework it?</b></p> <p><b>A</b>/ Till March, we had been building around 30km every day. The target is 40km. Work has been very slow in the last three months. It has re-started, but now it is monsoon time. But we have not changed the target. In the six months after the rains, we will work day and night to achieve it.</p> <p>I have tried to get foreign funding as the National Highways Authority of India has AAA rating. Our toll income is Rs28,000 crore. We had expected it to reach Rs40,000 crore by year-end. Now, I don’t know what we will earn. But we will get investments from banks like Asian Development Bank, BRICS, investors and pension funds. We are trying everywhere.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q</b>/<b> The opposition says the BJP has restarted political activities even before the pandemic is over, and that it has been focusing on destabilising state governments and trying to ‘buy’ MLAs.</b></p> <p><b>A</b>/ We never indulge in horse-trading. This is a wrong allegation. We are using technology to reach out to people. The Congress can also do so. We have followed all health protocols, including social distancing norms. This opportunity is available to all political parties.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q</b>/<b> Some economists say social harmony is necessary for economic growth. They say the Centre’s ideological policies will discourage foreign investors.</b></p> <p><b>A</b>/ Some people have been making these allegations because we have impacted their business. We don’t do caste- or religion-based politics. In the past six years, we have not taken any decision that is against anyone. [Those who do] vote-bank politics think that they cannot win elections unless they play the minority card. They try to create fear in the minds of the minority; and when they fail, they confuse them. That is their strategy. We believe in Sabka Saath, Sabka Vishwas.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q</b>/<b> The Bihar assembly elections are round the corner. Do you think it would be held on time? Will campaigning be impacted?</b></p> <p><b>A</b>/ You have put the right question to the wrong person. I was BJP chief, but now my responsibility is the MSME ministry. My policy is to focus on the task at hand. [BJP president] J.P. Nadda is the right person to answer this question.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q</b>/<b> The government’s response to China’s border incursions appears to be muted.</b></p> <p><b>A</b>/ [Defence Minister] Rajnath Singh<i>ji </i>will be the right person to reply.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q</b>/<b> What are the lessons from this pandemic?</b></p> <p><b>A</b>/ There are people who convert problems into opportunities. And there are people who convert opportunities into problems. We should deal with this crisis with self-confidence. Together, we will fight the coronavirus and win the economic battle.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/06/18/we-need-to-create-industrial-clusters-to-decongest-cities.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/06/18/we-need-to-create-industrial-clusters-to-decongest-cities.html Thu Jun 18 16:21:04 IST 2020 the-ocean-challenge <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/06/15/the-ocean-challenge.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/6/15/46-inflatable.jpg" /> <p>There is a saying among sailors that there are no rules at 40° South, no laws at 50° South and no gods at 60° South. The location where the debris of MH370 was found by satellites was at 44° South in the Indian Ocean, well entrenched in the roaring forties. The southern hemisphere of the planet is the realm of the oceans. South of the equator, there is more sea than land and the distance between the shores of any two continents at 40° South is at least 7,000km.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For this reason, frontal weather systems or extra tropical cyclones, originating south of the Tropic of Capricorn, blow unhindered on their eastward passage. When a front passes, the barometer drops like a stone and winds often build up to hurricane force, bringing cold torrential rains in tow. The long fetch also means that they often whip up waves of 10m and more. Waves often roll, and there is surf all around because accompanying winds are so strong that tops of waves are chopped off and the sea assumes a white colour as foam spreads. The sky is a similar story in grey. These systems hit you with alarming regularity, sometimes at the rate of one per week. A very bad day in the monsoon is better than an average day in the Southern Ocean.</p> <p>I remember the first front that hit me. It had a very defined advancing end extending from the surface of the sea right up to the edge of the sky and it looked like a thousand elephants marching in quick pace kicking up grey dust storms. In December 2012, I was sailing off the area where the suspected debris was recently found and weather conditions had been similar. Winds were blowing gale force, breaking even strong stainless steel fittings in the boat. Temperatures dropped close to 4°C, waves were breaking all over and there were white streaks of sea all around. It was gloomy, overcast, certainly frightening, and very apocalyptic and it lasted a good four days.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The peculiarity of the southern hemisphere is the rarity of landmass as opposed to the northern hemisphere, which automatically means fewer ports and fewer ships plying between these ports. Since international search and rescue at sea heavily depends on directing the nearest ship to the scene of incident, difficulties are compounded. Ships have greater staying power but are slower to reach. Aircraft, therefore, are a quicker and faster option. They don’t need much time to mobilise and they can reach a search area quickly. But they don’t have as much staying power and they are much more susceptible to weather. Aerial search and rescue also suffers from the fact that there are no floating airfields in the middle of the ocean. Transits are lengthy affairs, often contributing to crew fatigue.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Distance and bad weather compound problems. The fact that Perth is around 2,500km away did not help. The day the suspected debris was found in the Indian Ocean, the weather around was described as gale force winds with large waves, heavy rains and low clouds. A search and rescue aircraft taking off from Perth would be akin to a takeoff from Thiruvananthapuram followed by a transit flight all the way up to Seychelles in the thick of monsoons to visually look for the proverbial needle in a haystack. The aircraft would then have to fly very low, well below cloud base, in severe turbulence and bad visibility, and every member of the crew would be straining their eyes to collect physical evidence of the wreckage.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Commander Abhilash Tomy is the first Indian to circumnavigate the world solo.</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/06/15/the-ocean-challenge.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/06/15/the-ocean-challenge.html Mon Jun 15 18:55:24 IST 2020 for-harvest-for-hearth <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/06/12/for-harvest-for-hearth.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/6/12/56-Workers-returned.jpg" /> <p>The once teeming jute industry in West Bengal has put its best foot forward during the pandemic. On June 1, the Indian Jute Mills Association (IJMA)—an apex body that control’s the trade of the fibre—opened 70 of its mills on the banks of the Hooghly in Howrah, and in North 24 Parganas district, amid easing of lockdown restrictions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This, after the state government allowed mills to function with 100 per cent work force.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Earlier, in April, the government had allowed jute industries to open with 15 per cent workforce, on the lines of the labour-intensive tea plantations in north Bengal. But many mills could not start operations till June 1, as the industry needs at least 50 per cent of the labour force to begin manufacturing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The jute industry has an inherent strength, because its labourers maintain over two metres social distancing while at work. The IJMA believes that it would take up to three months for the business to gain momentum, amid an estimated loss of Rs1,250 crore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Gradually, production will come back to normal because we had to wait for long to start functioning,” said Sanjay Kajaria, ex-chairman, IJMA. “There was an acute labour crunch, as many had left during the initial enforcement of lockdown restrictions…. To make matters worse, the deadly strain of pathogen, and the growing fear of contamination halted manufacturing.” The mill owners are now trying to meet pressing deadlines, as the supply backlog has risen to 2.5 lakh bales for the rabi season. Jute is crucial to Bengal’s economy, as some 70 mills together employ around three lakh workers. A crucial employer in a state struggling with unemployment, and the fallout of Covid-19 infections and Cyclone Amphan.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/06/12/for-harvest-for-hearth.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/06/12/for-harvest-for-hearth.html Fri Jun 12 11:54:15 IST 2020 caring-in-crisis <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/06/04/caring-in-crisis.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/6/4/vikas-Samvad.jpg" /> <p>On the afternoon of April 23, Devendra Ujle, 26, stood forlorn in front of Prakashchandra Sethi Government Hospital in Indore. He had been frantically trying to find a vehicle to shift his pregnant wife, Asha, to MY Hospital. An anaemic Asha was close to her due date, and had been at the government hospital for two days. But as her condition worsened even after blood transfusions, she was referred to MY Hospital for delivery. Being a Covid-19 hotspot, Indore was totally shut down, and Devendra could not find any mode of transport. That is when Lalita Ujle (not related to the couple) arrived. Lalita, 31, is a driving instructor with Samaan Society, an NGO. She was on her way home when she spotted the couple. “Lalita didi not only took Asha and me to MY Hospital, but also persuaded the blood bank officials to give a bottle of blood to Asha,” says Devendra. “She was with us till 11pm when my daughter was born. But for Lalita didi, I don’t know what would have become of my wife and daughter.”</p> <p>When the Ujles were discharged, Lalita drove them home, about 10km from the hospital. “As part of Samaan Society, we do relief work in the city and therefore have curfew passes,” says Lalita. “So I simply helped when I saw them in trouble.”</p> <p>Lalita is part of Samaan Society’s 'Sakha Cabs' for women. She and three other women drivers now deliver relief material to those in need. The organisation has been working in the most affected areas of Indore like Palda and Malwa Mills, providing ration kits to people who lost their livelihood during the lockdown. “We distributed grocery kits along with soaps to about 600 needy families,” says Rajendra Bandhu, executive director of Samaan Society.</p> <p>The organisation essentially works for women empowerment, but has now busied itself with relief work. Several such organisations have reached out to those in need during the pandemic, going beyond their usual area of service. Apart from NGOs and people's networks, these civil society groups also include informal groups that were formed during the Covid-19 crisis.</p> <p>Sachin Jain of Vikas Samvad, a Bhopal-based advocacy group, which is documenting such efforts across India, says that not everyone had access to big donors; they funded their relief work jointly or through contributions from friends. While there were attempts to weaken and vilify civil society groups by closing funding avenues and using laws against them, he adds that the work that is being done by these groups needs to be discussed.</p> <p>Take, for instance, the work being done by Sangram Sanstha, which has distributed grocery kits to 689 sex workers in Maharashtra’s Sangli, Miraj, Karad, Satara, Ichalkaranji and Kolhapur districts. Meena Seshu of the Sanstha talks about a 27-year-old sex worker who immolated herself in March after she developed fever. “She did not test positive for Covid-19,”she says. “She was probably anxious, distressed about the loss of livelihood, of having to send her six-year-old child to her parents’place and her lover stopping his visits. We did counsel her, but she took the extreme step. Her case is typical of the situation that most of them are in.”</p> <p>Like other daily wage earners, sex workers, too, were deeply affected by the lockdown. But organisations like Sangram Sanstha, that are part of the National Network of Sex Workers (NNSW), have managed to provide relief to more than 5,000 families in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka.Apart from providing groceries and other essentials, the NNSW has been creating awareness about the pandemic among the community. “Having suffered from HIV, sex workers are quick to understand the threat of viruses,” says Seshu. “They were told about the contact spread of Covid-19, asked to use face mask and sanitisers and keep buckets of water and soaps for clients, even before the pandemic threat peaked in the country.”</p> <p>The help from NNSW has been much appreciated by Prema from Kanyakumari. “I am not infected by Covid-19, but affected by mental stress and anxiety due to loss of income,” she says. “This help from NNSW has been a great support during such difficult times.”</p> <p>Cut to Kalyani in West Bengal, where students of Bidhan Chandra Agricultural University came together to help migrants. In the early days of the lockdown, they got distress calls from villages that they had visited for field work. “The villagers initially sought information about Covid-19,” says Julekha Perveen, a third-year student at the university. “Slowly, they started telling us about the situation faced by their kin who had migrated across the country for work. So, my friends, Tamonath Roy and Chandan Bhattacharya, and I decided to do something concrete.”</p> <p>The trio collected 060,000 from friends, family and teachers and bought groceries for the needy. With help from other student volunteers—now around 60—they contacted migrants from West Bengal scattered across the country. Thus was born the informal Joint Forum Against Corona Crisis.</p> <p>“We started connecting migrants with local organisations so that they could get food and other help. If we did not find anyone, we would transfer some money to them,”says Perveen. One such beneficiary is Sushanta Sarkar, a jewellery artisan from Burdwan, who is stranded in Jaipur. Sarkar says he and his five friends are surviving on the money provided by the forum as none of them have been paid their salaries. The forum also introduced migrants to apps of government schemes that could help them financially or return home. “It was not easy to explain it to them, so we made small videos using screenshots of these apps and sent them,” says Perveen.</p> <p>Technology has been an effective tool to provide help during the pandemic. When incidents of violence against Covid-19 workers took a communal colour in Indore, members of Aim for the Awareness of Society (AAs) realised that people were anxious because of the pandemic and the unavailability of medical staff to treat other ailments. So, AAs compiled a list of a dozen doctors who were ready to provide free telemedicine services. Posters were put up with phone numbers and availability hours of the doctors. Volunteers also visited homes of patients to facilitate phone calls to doctors and delivered medicines.</p> <p>“I was already helping people through phone counselling, but when AAs contacted me, I thought this could formalise my work,” says Dr Azhar Qureshi, who continues to work as an intensivist at a local hospital. “Now I get 20-25 phone calls every day and suitably guide them. People with anxiety as well as the kin of critical patients contact me. I also call them for followups.”</p> <p>Also, AAs has created videos and text messages, inclusive of religious teachings, to encourage people to undergo tests, if needed, and not confront the administration in this regard, says Waseem Iqbal of AAs. Since it handles Child Line in Indore, AAs is keeping children in shelter homes engaged through online classes in dance, yoga, aerobics and Japanese language. “We also helped send children stranded in different educational institutes including madrassas, back home,”says Iqbal.</p> <p>In Jammu &amp; Kashmir, which was under lockdown long before the pandemic, Koshish has been using technology to create awareness and carry out relief work. Audio and video messages in local languages have been circulated on social media and are also being played at mosques. Likewise, local mosque committees were activated for Covid-19 relief work. “They already engage in relief work from time to time, but we activated them and connected them with each other to create a wide network,” says Dr Rauf Malik of Koshish.</p> <p>In the tribal-dominated villages of Rewa, Satna, Umaria, Panna, Niwari and Shivpuri of Madhya Pradesh, people are pleasantly surprised when they receive grocery kits, including nutritious items like jaggery, sattu (powdered, roasted gram) and laai (rice product), at their doorstep. Bhopal-based Vikas Samvad Samiti and its associate organisations are undertaking relief work. They have already delivered grocery kits to more than 3,000 families. Also, the kitchen gardens set up by the organisation at community and home levels have helped villagers get fresh vegetables and fruits during lockdown.</p> <p>A widow with two daughters, Pan Bai Gond of Kataria village in Umaria is grateful for the help from groups. She was forced to seek alms during the lockdown. “But one day, two persons came to our house with a bag of rice, wheat, pulses, oil, jaggery, spices and other things,” she says. “Now we have enough to eat for a month.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/06/04/caring-in-crisis.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/06/04/caring-in-crisis.html Thu Jun 04 17:56:54 IST 2020 plague-ground <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/06/04/plague-ground.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/6/4/50-locusts.jpg" /> <p>Remember the rains in March, which cleaned the air much before the lockdown did and kept summer at bay from the northern plains for weeks? Humans were not the only ones who enjoyed it. Far away in the sands of the Thar, for a species of locust called&nbsp;Schistocerca gregaria,&nbsp;the rains were a trigger to go into a frenzy of breeding.</p> <p>By April, the desert sands were abuzz with the patter of millions of little feet. As the young hoppers rubbed their legs against each other, their bodies started producing serotonin—the same hormone, which in humans is known as the happiness or feel good hormone. The hormone converts solitary insects into gregarious ones, makes them indiscriminate feeders and strengthens their leg muscles for long distance flights in search of food. The swarms could become several kilometres long and as dense as 150 million/sqkm.</p> <p>On April 11, the Locust Warning Office (LWO), a department in the agriculture ministry, saw the first incursions of these hoppers at the Indo-Pakistan border. The desert locust has three breeding areas—the Horn of Africa is its winter breeding ground (October-February); Balochistan and the Persian Gulf for spring breeding (February-July); the Thar desert in India and south west Pakistan is the summer nursery (July-October). “By February 17, we had no locust in India,” explains K.L. Gurjar, deputy director, locust division of agriculture ministry’s plant protection department, Faridabad.</p> <p>“The insects, which were heading to Iran for spring breeding, saw conducive conditions in Pakistan, and stayed back to breed there. So, we have an unnaturally high population, much earlier, this year.” The other nurseries are also highly fecund. East Africa and the Arabian Plateau have had good monsoon for the past few years, thanks to an active Indian Ocean Dipole, a sea surface temperature oscillation phenomenon, leading to a population explosion of the desert locust. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), they are breeding 400 times faster than usual. Africa is reeling under locust-induced famine since last year; Iran is staring at its worst infestation in 70 years. Pakistan has already declared a national emergency as locusts threaten its food security for the second consecutive year, bringing the worst plague in 27 years.</p> <p>In India, the May swarms ate their way through the Rajasthan scrub into the alluvial fields of western Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and reached the orange orchards of Nagpur, aided by the winds caused by Cyclone Amphan. The FAO warns of several successive waves till July (from across the border) into Rajasthan with eastern surges up to Bihar and Odisha. It is even possible that swarms from Africa may come here in July, aided by the monsoon winds, says Gurjar. While Rajasthan and Gujarat are used to annual locust infestations—last year alone they destroyed 3.5 million hectares of cash crop—elsewhere, farmers are flabbergasted, using drums and shouts to scare away the insects.</p> <p>The early incursions have not caused much damage, since the rabi harvest is in the granary and the kharif yet to be sown, though vegetable crops, especially around Jhansi, have been chomped up. However, subsequent swarms could threaten India’s food security in a year where resources are already strained by Covid-19. &nbsp;</p> <p>India has reacted quickly, rolling out its established contingency plan. India and Pakistan have an established process for locust warning and management, with six official meetings between June and November, during which time they even run a wireless communication between Jodhpur and Karachi.</p> <p>This time, with the spring breeding grounds in Sistan-Balochistan area of Iran and Pakistan threatening incursions eastwards, India offered 20,000 litres of malathion insecticide— the most effective weapon against locusts—to Iran, which gratefully accepted it. India approached Pakistan, too, but got no response to the request to advance locust management meetings, or to the offer of a malathion gift package. Pakistan, however, is partnering with China, which donated 300 tonnes of pesticide and 350 mounted sprayers. India, meanwhile, is planning drone spraying on the swarms.</p> <p>The swarms in India right now are of immature hoppers, which will eventually return to the summer breeding grounds to mate. There, they will multiply in even larger numbers, and India can expect several waves of swarms from across the border. One female locust, in her 90-day life span, can lay three batches of around 400 eggs.</p> <p>India has not seen locust plagues in a long time—the last plague cycle was in 1959-1962. The last upsurge (unnaturally big swarm) was in 2011. “We have therefore become complacent, and have not invested in research on locust control,” says Jyoti Sharma, head, Centre for Environment Science and Engineering, Shiv Nadar University. “Chemical pesticides come with environment damage. During the British Raj, there were better efforts at control. They encouraged natural predation by birds; today, bird populations are dwindling. We could have done so much genetic research, found a serotonin inhibiting gene.”</p> <p>India is doing some research with the fungus&nbsp;Metarhizium acridum,&nbsp;as a biopesticide. “However, it is only effective at the hopper stage,” says Gurjar. “And it takes between a week to 15 days to kill the insects, by which time they can devastate huge swathes.” Malathion kills in half an hour, and is already a commonly used agriculture pesticide. It remains for a shorter time in the environment in comparison with other organophosphates.</p> <p>However, with climate change triggering more insect attacks, there is a greater need to look for bio control. “The locust is a highly unpredictable insect. Let us not take it for granted,” says Sharma.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/06/04/plague-ground.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/06/04/plague-ground.html Thu Jun 04 16:36:14 IST 2020 covert-affair <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/22/covert-affair.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/5/22/12-Sheikh-Mujibur-Rahman-new.jpg" /> <p>For his neighbours, Ahmed Ali was master moshai, known for his proficiency in English, Urdu and the Quran. The soft-spoken 71-year-old used to teach students in the neighbourhood. He also used to lend money, at exorbitant interest. But he chose to keep it private, just like his rented apartment in Bedford lane, a central Kolkata locality with a significant Muslim presence, where he lived with his wife, Zareena, and their 10-year-old daughter.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“A long curtain always covered the gate,” said Safiq Ul Rahman, Ali’s landlord. “The door was always closed. Even I could not go in, although the house was mine. But he always paid the rent on time.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ali, who had been living in Kolkata since 1996, went missing from his house on February 21. Two weeks later came reports about his arrest in Bangladesh and the shocking revelation that he was Abdul Majed, a retired major in the Bangladesh army. He was wanted in Bangladesh for the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, revered as the father of the nation. He was executed on a long-pending death warrant on April 12.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For decades, Bangladesh has been doggedly pursuing six of its former military officers—Captain Abdur Rashid, Major Shariful Haq Dalim, Lieutenant Colonel Noor Chowdhury, Lieutenant Colonel Rashed Chowdhury, Lance Naik Moslem Uddin and Major Abdul Majed—implicated in Mujib’s assassination. Majed had been on the radar of intelligence operatives from India and Bangladesh for a while because of his trips to the US to meet his son from his first marriage and also for his frequent telephone conversations with his tainted colleagues.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The sleuths moved in on February 21, reportedly without the knowledge of the West Bengal government and its intelligence apparatus. CCTV footage showed a five-member team picking up Majed in the morning. After extensive interrogation in Delhi, he was sent to Dhaka. There are reports that Moslem Uddin, too, has been picked up from West Bengal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By helping Bangladesh nab two of Mujib’s killers when the country celebrates his birth centenary, India has taken a big step in repairing bilateral ties which have come under considerable strain after the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and the passing of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Following Majed’s execution, a Bangladesh cabinet minister said Prime Minister Narendra Modi completed work left unfinished by Indira Gandhi. “The way he handed over the two fugitives will be recorded in history,” said the minister. Interestingly, India has remained silent about the whole process.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Majed’s execution, however, has come as a rude shock to his family and friends in Kolkata. “We had no clue about his past. He was a polite man who used to pray five times a day,” said Zareena’s brother Nazeemuddin Mullick. “A local lawyer brought us his proposal around ten years ago. After meeting him, we agreed to the marriage, although he was 30 years older than Zareena. My sister never had any complaints about him.” It was Zareena’s second marriage as well. Mullick said Zareena and her two daughters—she has a daughter from her first marriage, too—were in deep trouble. “We have written to the chief minister for monetary help. My sister is bedridden and has become mentally unstable,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mullick said Majed was a gentleman, but he used to get irritated when asked about his past. “He looked like someone with a military background,” said Mullick. Majed, who had always kept a low profile, started getting noticed after he played an active role in the anti-CAA protests. He had also established himself as a committed worker of the Trinamool Congress.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Majed was on good terms with the CPI(M) as well. He moved to Kolkata in 1996, after Mujib’s daughter Sheikh Hasina came to power in Bangladesh. At the time, the CPI(M) reigned supreme in West Bengal. He even managed to get a ration card in the below poverty line category. He switched his allegiance to the Trinamool Congress after Mamata Banerjee came to power in 2011. “In the past decade, he got everything, thanks to the local leadership of the Trinamool Congress,” said Sajjad Hossain, a local trader.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When Majed came to Kolkata, he was forced to stay in one the most backward areas of Kolkata, where the streets were always full of garbage. “Only poor Muslims from Bihar used to stay there. Today, things have changed, but the area is still known as a settlement of impoverished people,” said social activist Shansha Jahangir.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Majed was forced to endure such indignity after Hasina decided to hunt down her father’s killers. After losing his job as Bangladesh’s defence attache to Libya, he fled to Thailand. From there, he found his way to Kolkata, which was, by then, a well-established refuge for exiled Bangladeshis. When Hasina lost the elections in 2001 to Begum Khaleda Zia, Majed briefly went back to Bangladesh. He stopped going after Zia was voted out of power in 2006.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Like Majed, Moslem Uddin, too, had sought refuge in India. While Majed chose the slums of Kolkata, Moslem Uddin went to a border village in the North 24 Parganas district where he worked as a quack and ran a pharmacy. According to sources, Majed gave up Moslem Uddin’s whereabouts during interrogation. Bangladesh has confirmed that his identity is being verified and he, too, could soon face the death penalty.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mujib was only 55 when he was assassinated. A retired army officer said the rebel officers were initially not keen on killing the president. “He was given multiple options to save his life, including a chance to resign,” the officer said. “But being a mass leader, he chose to fight back. He threatened to call the Indian prime minister. Subsequently, the officers decided not to take any chances and shot him and most of his family members.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The entire operation was planned by Rashid and Major Farooq Rahman. Apart from the military angle, the assassination, which took place on the morning of August 15, 1975, also involved political and diplomatic operations. Awami League MP A.K.M. Rahmatullah, who was a student leader at the time, said Mujib’s cabinet colleagues like Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad, who became president for a brief period after the assassination, helped the military. Army vice chief General Ziaur Rahman—Begum Khaleda Zia’s husband, who was president from 1977 to 1981—too, joined the plot because he was miffed with the elevation of his junior officer K.M. Shafiullah as army chief. The United States also allegedly played a key role, with CIA station chief Philip Cherry being kept in the loop by the army.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The army was out on the streets by late night on August 14, but nobody was bothered because Mujib had declared a national emergency to counter the demonstrations organised by extreme left groups against the government’s handling of the famine of 1974. Many observers feel that Mujib’s idea to go ahead with a one-party system was a major reason behind the army’s decision to remove him. Rashid told the marching soldiers that the army and the top political brass wanted to finish the “autocratic regime”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was Noor who fired the bullets that killed Mujib. He was later made lieutenant colonel and was posted abroad as high commissioner to Hong Kong and ambassador to France. He now lives in Toronto under the protection of the Canadian government.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Barring Rashid, Dalim, Noor, Rashed, Majed and Moslem Uddin, the rest of the conspirators were captured and executed between 2000 and 2010. Majed’s execution and Moslem Uddin’s reported capture have spurred Bangladesh missions abroad to nab the remaining four.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Speaking exclusively with THE WEEK, Bangladesh’s Minister for Liberation War Affairs A.K.M. Mozammel Haque said Majed could be executed only because of India’s help. “Moslem Uddin is in Indian custody, and his identity is being verified. Noor is sheltered by Canada and Rashed by the US.” He said the remaining two—Rashid and Dalim—could be in India or Pakistan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dalim had served at several Bangladeshi missions in the Middle East. When Bangladesh established diplomatic ties with Pakistan, Rashid was posted there. Now retired, he runs businesses in Kenya, but he reportedly stays in Pakistan. Dalim, who runs petroleum businesses in many countries, too, lives in Pakistan, according to intelligence reports.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Haque said Mujib’s assassination was an international conspiracy orchestrated by Islamabad. “All those officers were trained in Pakistan and had links with Pakistan army institutes,” he said. “Pakistan had a direct role in the assassination of the father of our nation. And, they had the support of many western countries.” Hasina has written to President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for their support in extraditing Rashed and Noor. While Noor’s case is going on in Canada’s immigration court, the US has so far refused to hand over Rashed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Noor leads a lonely life with his wife, after having stopped interacting with the local Bangladeshi community. “During a function five years ago, one man walked up to him and slapped him several times. He stopped socialising after that incident,” said Sajjad Rahman of the Canadian Bangladesh Centre.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Noor refused to respond to THE WEEK’s queries. His lawyer Barbara Jackman said Noor wanted to be left alone. “He is very much saddened. He does not want to be disturbed,” she said. Noor’s extradition battle has affected diplomatic relations between Canada and Bangladesh. “I am fighting in the court on his behalf. So, please do not ask me to reveal the details. It might jeopardise his case,” said Jackman.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rashed, however, travels across the US to take care of his business interests and is said to be close to several key politicians. Trump wrote to Hasina in April to wish her on Mujib’s birth centenary and called the former president a global icon, but he has so far refused to respond favourably to the extradition request.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We can understand Pakistan’s lack of commitment, but we have failed to understand the role being played by the US and Canada,” said Haque. “What would have been their reaction if we sheltered the assassin of an American president or a Canadian prime minister? Their logic is that death sentences are inhuman. But what about the murder of a head of state? Western leaders refuse to see what these people did and how they killed the entire first family of our nation, except for two people.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With one retired officer getting executed and five more in the line, there have been some concerns in Bangladesh about the army’s response. Information Minister Hassan Mahmud said the country was united on the issue. “Mujib’s killers are the most hated people in Bangladesh,” he said. “There is no hue and cry over the hanging of his murderers. We are confident that we will be able to bring all those criminals to justice.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/22/covert-affair.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/22/covert-affair.html Fri May 22 19:41:02 IST 2020 we-thank-prime-minister-modi-for-handing-over-mujib-killer <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/22/we-thank-prime-minister-modi-for-handing-over-mujib-killer.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/5/22/17-Abdul-Momen.jpg" /> <p><b>AS HIS COUNTRY’S</b> top diplomat, A.K. Abdul Momen handles the extradition of the assassins of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who is revered as the father of the nation. Momen scored a success on this front recently with the arrest and execution of Abdul Majed, a former Bangladesh army officer who was hiding in India. In an exclusive interview with THE WEEK, Momen spoke about Bangladesh’s efforts to nab the fugitives. He also thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for India’s cooperation in the process. Excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Bangladesh seems to be in a hurry to arrest and execute the remaining killers of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/This year marks the 100th birth anniversary of Mujibur Rahman. So we have taken an oath to find the remaining six who are hiding in different countries and bring them to justice.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Why do you say they are self-proclaimed killers?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/They confessed to their crimes soon after the killing. The people of Bangladesh, India and the entire world know it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/What steps have you taken so far?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/We have written to the countries where we believe they are in hiding, seeking their extradition. India has been one such country. Two of the fugitives are in the US and Canada.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Are you talking about Noor Chowdhury and Rashed Chowdhury?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/Yes. We are trying to bring them back as they have been convicted by a court of law in our country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/What did the US and Canadian governments tell you?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/Both countries have come out with lame excuses. They say because of the death sentence awarded, the two fugitives cannot be extradited. Both countries are our close friends and we have strong business ties with them. But we cannot accept their response on such an emotive issue.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/How do you know that they are in the US and Canada?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/Our missions abroad have been activated to find these people. These people were posted as diplomats in different countries. Our diplomatic missions got in touch with the respective countries and gave us reports about these people staying there. Both the US and Canada have accepted the facts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/What initiatives have you taken?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/I have spoken to authorities in many countries, including the foreign ministers of the US and Canada for the smooth handover of the two prime convicts. Our prime minister wrote to both heads of state. But the outcome, unfortunately, has not been satisfactory.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/One of the convicts was recently captured in India and handed over to you, which resulted in his swift execution.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/We were very lucky that India responded to our application with firm and positive action. India knows Mujibur Rahman and because of Prime Minister Modi we could get this man, who was later brought to justice by the Bangladesh judiciary.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/One more convict is said to be in custody.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/I have heard that Lance Naik Moslem Uddin has been captured as well. But his identity is yet to be verified. Both countries are working on that.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/How do you look at India’s cooperation on the issue?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/Prime Minister Modi is very assertive and has supported us a lot in handing over major Bangladeshi criminals. We have also ensured that Bangladeshi territory is never used to promote anti-India activities. The Indian government’s help in this regard is paramount to the safety and security of Bangladesh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Barring the two convicts in the US and Canada, are you sure the rest are in India?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/I have no idea. But we are sure that if they are in India, the Indian government will hand them over to us. We will definitely get them today or tomorrow.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/How was your experience working with Mujibur Rahman?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/I travelled with him to West Pakistan [in 1970] for the round-table conference [after which he was arrested]. I used to look after his day-to-day paperwork. After independence, I served him in different ministries as a senior bureaucrat. I found him to be extremely committed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Now you work with his daughter.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/Both father and daughter have big hearts.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/22/we-thank-prime-minister-modi-for-handing-over-mujib-killer.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/22/we-thank-prime-minister-modi-for-handing-over-mujib-killer.html Fri May 22 19:34:12 IST 2020 virtual-vile <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/22/virtual-vile.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/5/22/18-Virtual-vile-1-new.jpg" /> <p>Richa Sharma says it was just a “thinking” picture of her sitting, lost in thought, with her finger on her lips. But the 17-year-old from Bengaluru could not have imagined that the stranger she briefly interacted with on Instagram would morph it into the horror show it later became.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In early April, Richa got a message on her profile from a Delhi boy her age. She did not suspect anything fishy; he had a respectable-looking profile, she says. Richa has been running a YouTube channel on teenage dilemmas and she assumed the boy was a follower. Moving on from small talk, the boy urged Richa to send him a nude picture. Taken aback, Richa said no and ignored the alarming request. Fed up with her resistance, the boy, says Richa, pulled out the “thinking” picture from her profile and foisted her face on a nude body. He then sent her the photo. “The last message I sent him was me saying he could do whatever he wanted,” she says. “I never sent him anything from my side. Why should I have been scared?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The next day, on a story she posted on her profile, the same boy trolled her with obscene Hindi slang. Richa ignored it. Then, one Sunday, Richa saw the ‘Bois Locker Room’ incident trending on social media. A group of boys from upscale Delhi schools had allegedly shared, on Instagram, photos of underage girls with deeply misogynistic remarks, some even vindicating sexual assault. “I shared the news as a way to create awareness,” says Richa, whose father is a manager in a multinational company. “The next day, when the list of members of the locker room came out, I saw the same boy’s name [come up] as an admin. That is when I panicked.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Richa, an only child, does not want to take legal action or even tell her parents. They do not know about her YouTube channel. “I cannot talk about these things with my parents,” she says. “They are not very supportive. They will just ask me to wear full clothes or sit at home quietly.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So, she got more information on the boy from an ethical hacker, but has not decided what to do with it. “At least in Delhi, this is happening in private chat rooms,” she says. “In my (Bengaluru) school, every day I hear someone come and tell me how they were inappropriately touched by boys outside, during the lunch break. And there are cops stationed around our girls’ school.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The last time the phrase “locker-room talk” gained attention was in 2016, when then Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump apologised for bragging about groping women, saying it was “locker-room talk”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Most people have been subjected to snatches of crude, vulgar, extreme talk, especially about one’s sexual conquests, in closed-door spaces of schools, colleges, offices and so on. The Bois Locker Room case, which erupted on May 5, highlights how this culture of boasting plays out in the most insidious ways when it is transposed to the unfettered world of social media. A private chat group on Instagram, formed by a group of bored, well-off schoolboys in Delhi, has brought to the fore a viscous web of cyber criminality among minors who struggle to control their impulses for quick thrills and a sense of power. Fake profiles, stalking, bullying, blackmailing, morphing images, sexting, dating aggression, revenge porn, gang-violence, cyber-suicide—just this one case has come to represent the toxic cocktail of discontent in the private lives of modern Indian teenagers, clueless about netiquette and cybersecurity. “The Bois Locker room incident is just the tip of the iceberg,” says Pavan Duggal, a cyberlaw expert. “There are hundreds of cases of misuse available on various platforms that service providers know of, but have not yet been reported.” Pointing out the inadequacy of the current provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000, and also those of the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act to deal with cases of cyber-bullying, Duggal says no specific law on these issues is being contemplated. “The Indian cyberlaw was amended 12 years back,” he says. “Since then, there have been massive developments in technology, which necessitate that the law be updated to make it topical and relevant.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the same week the Bois Locker Room incident came to light, a 17-year-old boy jumped off the 11th floor of his apartment building in Gurugram. A girl had reportedly accused him, on social media, of molesting her two years ago. Mumbai-based cybercrime investigator Ritesh Bhatia talks about a case where four boys from a well-known international school in Mumbai ganged up against another boy—who was also their friend—to shame him in a private chat group on Instagram in April. The four boys found their friend to be a “sissy”; they did not like his “lady-like, effeminate” conduct on TikTok videos and in Instagram pictures. In the chat group, they would objectify his body parts. The boy took screenshots of their unsavoury conversations, showed them to his mother and then posted them on social media. The four boys, in turn, got cyber-bullied by a lot of people. “Do not make social media a court,” says Bhatia. “This boy, without informing anyone, put out everything on Instagram. The boys’ parents should have been contacted first. The principal suspended the four boys after receiving complaints against them. But the new fashion is to take everything online. This is not a platform to seek justice. Only when other platforms are not working should you name and shame.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bhatia strongly believes that the teens are only aping adults. “Aren’t we constantly trolling women journalists, vocal actresses and minority women with death and rape threats? Think about how (environmental activist) Greta Thunberg gets trolled,” he says. “What has the government done to take on these trolls? All the parents who troll others, now it is passing down to their children.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He adds that there has to be a way to instil fear of the law in trolls. “Teenagers on Instagram follow celebrities and they see how elders comment and how no action is taken either by the platform or the government,” he says. While the sedition law has been used to arguably muzzle dissent against political leaders, there has been precious little done to bring online trolls to task. “Online trolling is not an offence under the IT Act, 2000,” says Duggal. “Also, online trolling cannot be effectively covered under the existing provisions of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. India has failed to get a single conviction concerning online trolling. This itself should be a trigger to amend its cyberlaw to not only cover online trolling, but also to make it a heinous offence.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Says Sonali Patankar, president-founder of the nonprofit Ahaan Foundation and Responsible Netism: “With early access to hand-held devices, online bullying starts in the fifth grade itself. Our ground research has shown that these kids are extremely independent; they seem to have everything sorted and they do not like any adult interference. But they are just not aware of the legal and psychological consequences of their online behaviour. People do not know that the bully needs more help than anyone else. I can teach my child to be empathetic and careful, but I am fighting an entire lobby of my friends who are teaching their kids just to do the opposite.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Patankar, who has worked across schools in Maharashtra to promote cyber education and online wellness among children and adults, says the lockdown has exacerbated bullying. “Let me tell you, this is happening across the board,” she says. “Minors are sharing horrifying content on social media and on WhatsApp. There is no economic, cultural, religious, gender or state divide. Boys are equally bullied. Vulnerabilities are higher with illiteracy and [among] first-generation internet learners. Gaming platforms are the worst-hit; you are threatened with death there because you just cannot play.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When Sarah (name changed) from Delhi saw how the Bois Locker Room case exploded, she came out with her own story. A year ago, the 18-year-old from a prominent Delhi school became the target of a ‘girls’ locker room’. While one would expect the participants of such a group to direct their puerile remarks at men, this chat group was formed only to bully Sarah. While the trigger for creating this group sounds like a plot from an asinine American teen comedy involving mean girls and ex-boyfriends, the obscene dissection of her Instagram pictures and stories, apart from physical threats in clubs, drove Sarah to the therapist’s couch. “There were 15 other girls when this group started, but six of them were more active,” she says. “I actually threatened them with a case. After this, I was not in a good place mentally, so I slashed my wrists.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sarah, the only child of a real-estate developer in Delhi, was hospitalised after the suicide attempt. “Back then, the cops came to my house,” she says. “I even gave a written complaint. Instead, I got a lecture on how suicide was illegal. No action was taken against the admin of the girls’ locker room. Now that same girl has started a smear campaign against one of the girls who first outed these boys from the Bois Locker Room case.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sarah shared the screenshots of the girls’ locker room on social media only this month. “That was the only way I could find closure,” she says.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/22/virtual-vile.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/22/virtual-vile.html Fri May 22 19:29:02 IST 2020 starving-steeds <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/22/starving-steeds.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/5/22/58-A-sickly-horse.jpg" /> <p><b>A VISIT TO</b> the City of Joy feels incomplete without a ride around the Victoria Memorial in a horse-drawn carriage. The lockdown, however, has left the area deserted, in turn affecting the carriage business and leaving the horses underfed. The animals now loiter around in nearby Kidderpore, tired and looking for food.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On a regular day, before the pandemic, more than 150 horses carried tourists in well-decorated carriages and sometimes children on their backs. Now, however, their owners are unable to feed them. In fact, many of the owners have returned to their homes in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, abandoning the animals in Kolkata. “We are taking care of their horses,” said Mohammad Feroz, one of the local owners. “Even if the lockdown is lifted, there will be no tourists for some time. We used to earn Rs400 a trip and around Rs6,000 to Rs8,000 for weddings, depending on distance.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Said Ajay Daga, a member of the NGO People For Animals: “When news of a horse dying during the first week of lockdown appeared on social media, I got a call from (BJP MP and PFA founder) Maneka Gandhi. She inquired about the condition of the horses here.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The former Union minister, known to be an animal lover, has assured all assistance, he added. “At present, we are feeding these animals with the help of the people of Kolkata who are generously donating,” said Daga. “We also got support from the Kolkata Mounted Police and the local councillor.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As of now, PFA is feeding the horses for two and a half days a week; other organisations chip in on the remaining days. “We will feed the horses till the situation becomes normal after the lockdown is lifted,” said Daga.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Susmita Bhattacharya, the local councillor, said she was trying to help them in several ways, including by providing drinking water for the horses and by getting help from other organisations. “Normally, a sack of fodder would cost around Rs850; now it about Rs1,150,” she said. “Thanks to PFA, the Kolkata Mounted Police and others, we have been able to keep these horses alive.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/22/starving-steeds.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/22/starving-steeds.html Fri May 22 22:30:39 IST 2020 skeletons-of-the-economy <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/14/skeletons-of-the-economy.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/5/14/58-retail-new.jpg" /> <p>As the world is slowly opening up, businesses have started taking stock of the damages of the lockdown. The Covid-19 pandemic has left many sectors in ruins, and they are struggling to deal with the fall in demand, supply chain disruptions and shortage of labour. But they have already started piecing together the broken parts. This, after all, is just another test for the indomitable human spirit</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Retail: </b>The closure of shops and malls has washed out the sale of seasonal fashion accessories. The retail sector may see huge job cuts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Infrastructure:</b> Projects like construction of bridges, roads and metro lines depend on migrant workers. Most of these workers, however, have left the cities and might not return for a while.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Agriculture:</b> Farmers had big financial losses despite the government’s efforts to help them sell the produce. The slump in demand, ban on interstate transportation and labour shortage have left fruits and vegetables rotting in farms.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Recreation:</b> Amusement parks and businesses depending on travel and tourism were badly hit as people’s movement was restricted and gatherings were banned.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Advertisement: </b>As companies have stopped spending on marketing and advertisement, most billboards remain naked, giving cities an apocalyptic look.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Manufacturing: </b>Medium and small scale industries are among the worst affected as they were under stress even before the pandemic broke out.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Real estate:</b> Many realty projects have been paused because of the slow market and shortage of labourers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Cinema:</b> The halt in the production of cinemas and television series has left many artists and technicians jobless.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/14/skeletons-of-the-economy.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/14/skeletons-of-the-economy.html Thu May 14 18:43:05 IST 2020