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The Political Fix: What BJP’s rejected offer to suspend farm laws tells us about Modi’s tactics - Scroll.in
A newsletter on Indian politics and policy from Scroll.in.
Welcome to The Political Fix by Rohan Venkataramakrishnan, a newsletter on Indian politics and policy. To get it in your inbox every week, sign up here. We dont charge for this newsletter, but if you would like to support us consider contributing to the Scroll Reporting Fund or, if youre not in India, subscribing to Scroll+. If history is supposed to not repeat itself, but rhyme, this one is a bit of a slant. As weve reminded you before, Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his first tenure in 2014 with a set of pro-business reforms to Indias land acquisition laws that drew the ire of rural India. Having led his Bharatiya Janata Party to the first majority in Parliament in three decades, the assumption was that Modi had enough political capital to push through the new law, despite some pushback and accusations of being a suit-boot ki sarkar beholden to big business. That assumption was wrong. After months of pressure, Modi caved, withdrawing the laws and as many have observed moving away from pro-business reforms to new welfarism to counter the narrative. Over the last week, it appeared that Modis government was about to do something similar. Having spent much of 2020 comparing three new agricultural laws to an emancipation proclamation for Indias farmers, Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar announced that the government was willing to suspend the laws for 12 to 18 months and set up a committee to examine the concerns of protesters who have been protesting on Delhis borders for nearly two months in the cold. The offer, coming after the government had already promised to make a number of substantial amendments to the laws, represented a significant climb-down for Modi, less than two years after he was re-elected with a massive mandate. The government had spent the previous 50 days pulling out all of its familiar weapons ignoring protests and responding in nationalist language, labelling demonstrators terrorists and anti-national, attempting to drive a wedge between various farm unions and even banking on the Supreme Court to solve its problem. That Modi had to offer to suspend laws that had been passed by Parliament didnt just reflect the failure of these tactics. They also belied the BJPs claims that the protests were limited to a small section of the farming community and ought to simply dissipate. Not only have the protests lasted much longer than the government anticipated, they have grown in numbers our reporters saw tractors lined up for 40 kilometres outside Delhis borders and have been attracting participants from well beyond Punjab and Haryana. It is not good for the health of society for any agitation to run for too long, said Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi, a senior leader of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Hindutva organisation that is the BJPs ideological parent. We just want the agitation to end quickly now. Curiously, Tomar, the Union minister, even declared that it will be a victory for Indian democracy the day farmers agitation ends. From this perspective, the governments legally dubious offer to suspend the laws for 18 months seems more like damage control than clever tactic. Which may be why the farmer unions decided to say no. People have trust issues with the government. What if they implement these laws again after a stay for a short period? said Rakesh Tikait, a farm union leader and one of the spokespersons of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, the umbrella body of protesting farm groups. After long deliberations, we came to this conclusion that we will not return till the laws are repealed. We can stay here for six more months, it hardly matters to us. The unions did consider the offer, since it was undoubtedly a major concession from the government relative to what had been on the plate so far. Reports suggest that a counter-proposal to suspend the laws for four or five years until the next elections was discussed, but ultimately these were all set aside, in part because there was no clarity on how laws passed by Parliament could be put on hold for a set timetable. Another leader brought up the tactical question at hand: These laws will be hanging like a sword It will not be so easy to start another farmer movement such as this soon, so nothing less than repeal of these laws is acceptable to us. And so the deadlock is still in place. The government insists its offer to suspend the laws is final. The farm unions are demanding a full repeal. After much discussion with the Delhi Police, farm groups have been given permission to enter the Capital on the outskirts on January 26 Republic Day for a tractor rally protest that will begin after the prime ministers speech and annual military parade has ended. The government had earlier argued that allowing this would be a huge embarrassment for the nation. Uttar Pradesh has decided it will not supply any diesel to tractors through the week. It is unclear what happens after. The protesters and the government, for the first time, have not set another date to meet. Ministers have gone back to talking about invisible forces derailing the talks. There are some who believe that the farmers may have overplayed their hand, and wont get any more from the government. Others expect the protests to swell, forcing the government to offer more concessions just as it has over the past two months. That the government even made the offer, however, leads to a few observations:
- Unlike in the first term, Modi did not begin his legislative agenda in 2019 with this or other development policies. Instead, he went for more culturally contentious, long-standing Hindutva demands first criminalising triple talaq, stripping autonomy from Jammu and Kashmir and passing discriminatory Citizenship Act amendments with a promise of a National Register of Citizens.
- The offer to suspend may be formally new as a tactic, but informally it has also been applied to the last of those culturally sensitive efforts: the CAA and the NRC. Widespread protests against these around the country prompted Modi to falsely claim that his government had not even contemplated a National Register of Citizens, while the Citizenship Act amendments have not been implemented despite having been passed a year ago. In effect, for two winters in a row, protesters have managed to force the government to suspend legislation.
- In the first term, the reason given for caving on the land acquisition law was that the BJP was still a minority in the Rajya Sabha. So the party put efforts into better managing Parliament, somehow passing the farm laws without even counting all the votes.
- Yet, as in the case of CAA, the party has learnt that managing Parliament isnt the same as creating public consensus. In fact, the BJPs conscious decision to turn Parliament into little more than a rubber stamp has driven political contestation to the streets. Political scientist Neelanjan Sircar argues that the same is true for elections funding has become so opaque and corporate, that even elections are no longer sufficient sites for political contestation.
- Tomar almost seemed to acknowledge this when he said that the end of the protest would be a victory for Indian democracy. As many supporters of the governments reform agenda fear, giving in to the farm union demands will only embolden other players to take to the streets and repeat these tactics. Of course, few groups have the wherewithal of the farm unions, but reports suggest the protests have already prompted the government to be cautious about its new labout code despite industry concerns.
- Modis entire narrative project is built on the assumption that he alone represents the publics interests. This is the reasoning given for running roughshod over Parliamentary procedures, and why any opposition to Modi is immediately depicted as either corrupt or anti-national. The government has been unable to do this with the farmers. Or at least it has struggled to make that image stick. And so despite the widespread belief and not-so-reliable surveys saying Modi remains extremely popular, it is the government that has had to give in to the farm unions so far. If it does indeed rollback the laws eventually, that will once again set the tone for how reformist the rest of Modis legislative agenda is likely to be.
- India has been providing or arranging the sale of millions of Covid-19 vaccine doses to countries both in its neighbourhood and around the world, helping New Delhi build diplomatic ties even as it competes with China.
- The Congress was supposed to have held internal elections for its new President by now. Instead, the party plans to wait until state elections in April-May and is now promising its own internal polls only by June.
- The ninth round of military talks between India and China over the disputed territories in Eastern Ladakh which saw violent confrontations in 2020 began at 10 am on Sunday and went well into the night, with little in the way of progress reported so far.
- In West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee refused to speak at an event to commemorate Subhas Chandra Boses 125th birth anniversary after pro-BJP members of the crowd chanted religious slogans when it was her turn to address them.
- Campaigning also began in Assam, with visits by Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, and Tamil Nadu, where Congress Rahul Gandhi also turned up. Elections in West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry are due by April-May.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Thank you Rahane and Co, in gloomy times we needed a blissful moment like this - Scroll.in
Brisbane 2021, and indeed this series, must be seen as arguably India’s finest ever overseas cricket performance. It couldn’t have come at a better time too.
Its pitch dark. Its cold. Bloody cold. 5.30 am in January in the national capital can be cruel on the body. Wrapped up in a warm blanket, bleary-eyed, you tip-toe out of the room so that the wife is not disturbed. She thinks you are insane: she has thought so since a honeymoon in Kasauli where you took a local club membership only to watch an India versus Pakistan cricket match on the sole television set then available in the Himachal hill station. But the madness for the sport is not without reason. India versus Australia, final day of the Brisbane Test. India need 328 runs to win the Test series. Its the kind of match that demands an early morning alarm. Youve done it as a teenager in the 1970s when listening to the crackle of radio commentary from Australia. Thats when you first fell in love with the game: the Chappells, Lillee, Thommo, and ah yes, the Bee Gees songs that played in between the broadcast. Cricket Down Under became an addiction. Now youve grown up, well sort of, but the game keeps tugging at your childhood romantic dreams. The radio age has given way to the lure of television as Harsha Bhogles mellifluous voice breaks through the silence. Please keep the volume down, warns the wife. It isnt easy being a cricket widow. Watch: A day-by-day recap of Indias incredible Test series triumph over Australia Moments to cherish for #TeamIndia#AUSvINDpic.twitter.com/Ujppsb3nfU — BCCI (@BCCI) January 19, 2021 By the time youve settled in for the first cup of coffee, Rohit Sharma is gone. With it have, you fear, Indias chances. After all, Rohit has the skill to win a game off his own bat. We should play for a draw now so that we retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy, you text an old friend in Mumbai. You even check Google for the latest weather updates from Brisbane: what has happened to the promised thunderstorms? Your friend is more confident: Have faith man, Shubman and Pant will do it! Ah, young Shubman Gill, barely 21, playing only in his third Test but batting sure-footedly as if he was destined to play for India. Australian captain Tim Paine has sledged us, suggesting Indian batsmen would struggle with the bounce at the Woolloongabba an exotic name derived from an Aboriginal expression, a ground which Australia see as a fortress. Australia in fact havent lost a Test here since 1988. Gill was born in 1999. The great thing about being so young is that history is dispensable: you dont need to look in the rearview mirror. Gill is playing his shots with a panache that promises a long and fruitful 6000-Test-runs-plus career. Shubman Gill is a national treasure: Reactions to Indian openers sparkling 91 in Brisbane Test At the other end is a batsman who has already scored more than 6000 Test runs. Cheteshwar Pujara is an anomaly in modern day cricket, almost a museum piece in this age of slam-bam sport. He plays Test cricket like it was meant to be played, or as you remember it in the Sunil Gavaskar era. Just grind down the opposition with sheer defensive technique. Forget strike rates, you need at least one player in the side who will tire out this formidable Aussie pace attack. In an age where most players bat like hedge funds, you need a fixed deposit. Pujara is that man. The Aussies pepper him with short balls: he is hit on the helmet, on the arm, on the fingers. You almost feel the pain he is going through each time. But Pujara is a cricketing soldier from Saurashtra: he isnt going to flinch. The big two Aussie bowlers Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood glare at him with war-like intent. Pujara doesnt blink: he just gets back to doing what he does best by keeping the next ball out. Watch: Pujara stands tall despite multiple blows at Gabba When Gill is out just short of a well-deserved first century, captain Ajinkya Rahane walks in. Like Pujara, Rahane too is a bit of an oddity. This is a 21st century cricketer who doesnt cuss, doesnt walk with a swagger and could be easily lost in a crowded Mumbai local amidst the swarm of commuters. He is our Amol Palekar in the age of Ranveer Singh: the quiet middle-class boy next door. But the silence and shy smile conceals an inner steel. Hes come up the hard way: taking an early morning commute from the Mumbai suburb of Dombivili to get to practice is a life lesson. Hes tough but wont wear his aggression on his sleeve. Hes scored a match-winning hundred in Melbourne and led the side with dignity and grace. It cant have been easy replacing the charismatic Virat Kohli as captain in the middle of a tour, but hes done it uncomplainingly and not without a fair amount of skill. When you send him a text to congratulate him on his Melbourne century, the reply is instant: Thank you sir, happy new year! Polite to a fault, is Rahane. When hes out for a relatively rapid 24 of 22 balls, the game is in the balance. Out strides Rishabh Pant, another of the millennial generation cricketers, he of IPL fame, multi-crore contracts, six-hitting exploits. Hes lost his place in the white-ball team, been called impetuous and temperamental, even been criticised for being a tad overweight. His keeping is under the scanner, his batting perhaps a bit hit and miss. Hes just scored a stunning 97 in the previous Test in Sydney on the last day to almost pull off an improbable win. It is obvious that the Aussies fear him: the field spreads out when he takes guard. Pant is super talented and fearless, a deadly combination for a 23-year-old. Pant takes his time to settle in: its a bit like a pugnacious Sumo wrestler sizing up his opponent before going for the kill. A ball from Nathan Lyon hits a crack and turns square, beating the defensive bat. The next ball Pant just steps out and hits a six against the spin over long on. The off-spinner Lyon, who is playing his 100th Test, just looks at the young batsman in front of him with awe bordering on disbelief. In the commentary box, a prescient Shane Warne warns, An hour of Pant at the crease and this game could be gone for the Aussies!. At tea, there is no sign of the late afternoon rain prediction. There are 37 overs to go, 145 runs to get, seven wickets in hand: could India be on the verge of something historic? You cancel a scheduled Zoom call, refuse to leave the chair youve nestled into since pre-dawn and wait for the final session to unfold. The Aussies have a new ball waiting. Its their last chance at redemption. All through the series, Cummins has bowled with the heart of a lion. He makes one last charge, dismissing Pujara and Mayank Agarwal. But Pant is still there, prowling in the crease, picking the right ball to hit. With just over fifty runs to get, he is joined by another IPL and Under-19 star, Washington Sundar. Its a rather unusual name for a cricketer from Chennai: apparently his father named him after a neighbour who was an early benefactor to the family. Washington is playing his first Test but you wouldnt know it from his demeanour. These young Indian players carry themselves with a chutzpah that signals the arrival of a new India bold and unafraid. Washington has scored a half century in the first innings and is carrying the form into the second: he quite audaciously hooks Cummins for a six! Every session we discovered a new hero: Reactions to Indias series win The score crosses 300, just 28 runs remain. As the score inches forward, Washington tries one shot too many and is bowled attempting a reverse sweep. Just ten runs remain to be scored in barely half a dozen overs: the Aussies are almost on their knees. The final punch in this heavyweight contest is landed, appropriately, by Pant. A short ball by the tireless Hazlewood is hooked with a swivel that has Pant on the ground and the ball over the boundary. Your dad has told you stories of the West Indies batsman Rohan Kanhais falling sweep shot but that was played to spin; this is a hook shot played with an acrobatic impishness to one of the finest fast bowlers. Pant gets up and dusts himself with a smile. Forget Caribbean flair, this is an Indian magic show on display. Hazlewood just shrugs with exhaustion. The Aussies have given up. Almost. They snare another wicket when Shardul Thakur, also a match hero and top scorer in the Indian first innings, tries to hit the winning shot but only skies the ball to a fielder. Just three runs are left, three wickets to go. Pant has had enough: an off drive settles it. The Gabba fortress has not just breached, its been well and truly conquered. Pants teammates rush onto the field to embrace the man of the moment. The cricketer blessed with an X factor has delivered on the big stage. But he isnt alone: this has been the ultimate team effort. #AUSvIND The moment history was created. Take a bow, Rishabh Pant. Take a bow, Cheteshwar Pujara. Take a bow, Shubman Gill. Take a bow, Team India!pic.twitter.com/wqh0mYGdAd — The Field (@thefield_in) January 19, 2021 Mohammed Siraj, the son of a Hyderabad auto-rickshaw driver, has a broad smile: he lost his father while on tour but chose to stay back so that he could fulfil the family dream of playing for India. Hes done more than just play out his fantasy; hes snared 13 wickets in his debut series. There is T Natarajan, another debutant with a fairytale story: his parents had a roadside chicken shop, their son has ensured a pucca house in the village. Natarajan only played this Test because of injuries to the frontline bowlers, but even if he doesnt play another, he is assured of his place in the cricketing sun. As is Navdeep Saini, another of the reserve fast bowlers, also a small town boy who is part of this band of hungry young cricketers who have changed the geography of the sport in India. Saini from Karnal, Thakur from Palghar, Natarajan from Salem: this is Indian cricket shining outside the big cities. And who can forget the heroes of Sydney: Ravindra Jadeja, a three-in-one cricketer, and unarguably the best fielder in the world. The redoubtable Jasprit Bumrah, barely three years into his Test career but already the leader of the fast bowling pack, someone who never lets the side down. And then the defiant Ashwin Ravichandran and Hanuma Vihari, who batted out an entire last session injured to salvage a draw that felt like a win. Theyve all been sturdy warriors in a team ready for combat, finely led and yes, well managed too. Coach Ravi Shastri has seen it all: a World Cup champion in 1983, a champion of champions winner in 1985, he now has scaled a peak as the man in charge of the backroom. It takes an enormous amount of character and self-belief to comeback in a series after being bowled out for just 36 in the first test and being written off by expert opinion. Shastri built his own cricketing career around sheer resilience; now he has passed on this never-say-die defiance to the next generation. Injuries, alleged racist taunts from the crowd, bio-bubble concerns, just the wear and tear of competitive sport, this Indian team has never let the heads drop. Which is why Brisbane 2021, and indeed this series, must be seen as arguably Indias finest ever overseas cricket performance. It couldnt have come at a better time too. In this age of the pandemic, when the world has undergone such trauma and despair, just watching high quality sport seems like a luxury. To then see an Indian cricket team script history makes this extra special. Maybe, sport is adolescent escapism but it remains truly wondrous in its knack of spreading happiness in tough times. So thank you, Ajinkya Rahane and team India for a Tuesday morning to remember, and celebrate the joy of sport. You made us smile with pride and affection. Maybe even shed a tear. In gloomy times, we needed a blissful moment like this. Thank you. Post-script: This year, marks 50 years since Indias first big overseas Test series wins in West Indies and England. Then, Indian cricket was finding its feet as was a relatively young country. Then, the players earned Rs 250 a Test; now, they will get a Rs 5 crore bonus! Rajdeep Sardesai is a senior journalist and author of Democracys XI: The Great Story of Indian Cricket
The Political Fix: Why is BJP treating the Supreme Court like a tie-breaker for the farmers protest? - Scroll.in
A newsletter on Indian politics and policy from Scroll.in.
Welcome to The Political Fix by Rohan Venkataramakrishnan, a newsletter on Indian politics and policy. To get it in your inbox every week, sign up here. We dont charge for this newsletter, but if you would like to support us consider contributing to the Scroll Reporting Fund or, if youre not in India, subscribing to Scroll+. Subscribe now The Big Story: Policy by proxy As 2021 gets under way, after 45 days in the cold and despite eight rounds of talks with the government, tens of thousands of farmers continue their demonstration on the borders of Delhi. The farmers are protesting three agricultural laws passed in controversial manner by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government that seek to deregulate portions of the farming sector. While the government sold the laws as reforms that would liberate and energise Indian agriculture, the protesters saw them as a gateway to a corporate takeover of farming. The subsequent pushback led to one long-time political ally of the BJP quitting the government and prompted thousands of protesters Mint says the number is around 200,000 making their way to the borders of the capital. For background on the farmer protests, read our earlier articles: The protests managed to extract significant concessions from the government in the first two weeks after they began. But the farmers have been steadfast in their demand that the laws be completely repealed. They are represented by a collection of farm leaders who managed to put aside their other disagreements and profit from a mistake when Haryana farm leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni broke through police barricades instead of settling at the Haryana-Punjab border as planned. The eighth round of talks, held on January 8 between the 41-member delegation of protestors and several Union ministers, was a clear indication of just how deadlocked the issue remains. First, the ministers kept the farm leaders waiting for a half hour, as they have routinely done during negotiations. When talks began, the farmers restated their demand for a full repeal. The government refused. Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar claimed that not all farmers were against the laws and so the ones who are protesting should stand down. What followed was heated tempers and raised voices, and no resolution in sight. The farm leaders left, agreeing only to meet again on January 15. Reports suggested the government did make two proposals to break the deadlock. One was to set up a small informal committee with representatives from both sides that would draw up a non-binding proposal for a way forward. The farmers had already rejected this, demanding that the laws should be repaled before any discussions on how agricultural policy should proceed. The other was to use the Supreme Court which is taking up the matter on Monday as a sort of tiebreaker. According to India Today, The government proposed that if the Supreme Court says that the laws are illegal then the government will withdraw them and if Supreme Court decides they are legal, the farmers must end their agitation. This is the sort of argument that in the past has made sense to many, especially in elite English media circles. In these classes, Indias activist Supreme Court has often been viewed as a better venue for arbitration than the messy democratic politics of the street. In reality, it has only lived up to this image regularly on issues that concern Indias upper classes. More often than not, instead of acting as a check on government excess, it has tended to side with those in power. Indeed, 2020 may have been the year when this impression of the Supreme Court was driven home, whether through its pursuit of contempt charges against renowned lawyer Prashant Bhushan or its decision to hurriedly intervene to free jailed pro-government TV anchor Arnab Goswami, while failing to show such alacrity in many other cases regarding civil liberties. For context, read pieces from 2020 by my colleagues Sruthisagar Yamunan and Shoaib Daniyal: Although later clarifications seem to suggest the government wasnt handing over the entire farm law issue to the Supreme Court, it was content to convey the impression that the judges would act as third umpires. In our democracy, it is Parliament which makes the laws. But the Supreme Court has every right to examine it, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said after the talks with the farm leaders. Whatever decision the court gives, the government is committed to following it. The protesting farmers, however, seemed to have a more clear-headed understanding of the Supreme Courts role in Indian democratic set-up than even other political parties, which have often hoped to fight policy or ideology battles in the courtroom. Its a sad day for democracy when an elected government in the middle of talks takes resort in the Supreme Court and says that we should fall back on the Court, said Kavitha Kuruganti, a leader from the Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch who is part of the 41-member negotiating team. This is a matter of the livelihoods of millions of farmers. It is a policy decision which should be taken in consultation with farmers. Hannan Mollah of the All India Kisan Sabha echoed this view. Why should we go to court over a decision of the executive? This is a conversation that farmers who constitute 60% of the population want to have with their elected government. It is important to remember that though the governmen claimed to have consulted with farm leaders across a spectrum before promulgating these laws as ordinances, it had no record of having done so when asked about this processs through a Right to Information request. Moreover, the Opposition demand in the Parliament before the laws were passed was for them to be sent to a committee for scrutiny, which would have allowed for more consultation. And, of course, the government decided not to convene a winter session of Parliament, which could have well discussed the farm laws, proposed amendments and more instead of leaving such matters to the Supreme Court. I wonder why the government is so keen to wait until the Supreme Court hearing, said Kulwant Singh, president of Jamhoori Kisan Sabha. They said they cant repeal the laws as it will set a wrong precedent. Flotsam and Jetsam
- If you missed it at the start of the year, India cleared a Covaxin, a Covid-19 vaccine, for emergency use in clinical trial mode without any clarity on what this means, and despite the expert committee raising questions about its usefulness since it has yet to conclude Phase 3 trials. Questions have also been rasied about whether its trials are being conducted properly, especially in Bhopal where hundreds of volunteers were victims of the Union Carbide tragedy.
- Haryana Chief Minister ML Khattar was forced to cancel an outreach programme on the new farm laws after protesters ransacked the venue. Earlier Haryana Police had used water cannons, batons and tear gas to prevent protesting farmers from turning up.
- Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy is on day four of a protest against Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi, who he alleges has been interfering with the elected governments day-to-day administration.
- States around India have begun killing poultry and banning their sale after an outbreak of avian flu was confirmed. So far, the outbreak has been confirmed in Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Gujarat.
- GoAir, the Indian airline, has reportedly fired a pilot who served in the Indian Air Force for 25 years after he posted a tweet calling the prime minister an idiot.
Chandrayaan-3 and five other space missions to look forward to in 2021 - Scroll.in
India may land on the Moon this year, while Nasa will launch its new, powerful rocket farther into space than any other spacecraft with humans.
Space exploration achieved several notable firsts in 2020 despite the Covid-19 pandemic, including commercial human spaceflight and returning samples of an asteroid to Earth. The coming year is shaping up to be just as interesting. Here are some of the missions to keep an eye out for. Artemis 1 is the first flight of the NASA-led, international Artemis program to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024. This will consist of an uncrewed Orion spacecraft which will be sent on a three-week flight around the Moon. It will reach a maximum distance from Earth of 450,000 km the farthest into space that any spacecraft that can transport humans will have ever flown. Artemis 1 will be launched into Earth orbit on the first NASA Space Launch System, which will be the most powerful rocket in operation. From Earth orbit, the Orion will be propelled onto a different path towards the Moon by the rockets interim cryogenic propulsion stage. The Orion capsule will then travel to the Moon under the power provided by a service module supplied by the European Space Agency. The mission will provide engineers back on Earth with a chance to evaluate how the spacecraft performs in deep space and serve as a prelude to later crewed lunar missions. The launch of Artemis 1 is currently scheduled for late in 2021. In February, Mars will receive a flotilla of terrestrial robotic guests from several countries. The United Arab Emirates Al Amal (Hope) spacecraft is the Arab worlds first interplanetary mission. It is scheduled to arrive in Mars orbit on February 9, where it will spend two years monitoring the Martian weather and disappearing atmosphere. Arriving within a couple of weeks after Al Amal will be the China National Space Administrations Tianwen-1, consisting of an orbiter and a surface rover. The spacecraft will enter Martian orbit for several months before deploying the rover to the surface. If it succeeds, China will become the third country to land anything on Mars. The mission has several objectives including mapping the mineral composition of the surface and searching for sub-surface water deposits. NASAs Perseverance rover will land at Jezero Crater on February 18 and search for any signs of ancient life which may have been preserved in the clay deposits there. Critically, it will also store a cache of Martian surface samples on board as the first part in a highly ambitious international program to return samples of Mars to Earth. In March, the Indian Space Research Organisation is planning to launch its third lunar mission: Chandrayaan-3. Chandrayaan-1 launched in 2008 and was one of the first major missions in the Indian space programme. Comprising an orbiter and a surface penetrator probe, the mission was one of the first to confirm evidence of lunar water. Unfortunately, contact with the satellite was lost less than a year later. Sadly, there was a similar mishap with its successor, Chandrayaan-2, which consisted of an orbiter, a lander (Vikram) and a lunar rover (Pragyan). Chandrayaan-2 prepares for lift-off. Photo credit: Indian Space Research Organisation via Facebook Chandrayaan-3 was announced a few months later. It will consist of only a lander and rover, as the previous missions orbiter is still functioning and providing data. If all goes well the Chandrayaan-3 rover will touch down in the lunar south poles Aitken basin. It is of particular interest as it is thought to host numerous deposits of subsurface water ice a vital component for any future sustainable lunar habitation. The James Webb Space Telescope is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope but has had a rocky path to being launched. Initially planned for a 2007 launch, the Webb telescope is almost 14 years late and has cost roughly $10 billion after apparent underestimates and overruns similar to those experienced by Hubble. Whereas Hubble has provided some amazing views of the universe in the visible and ultraviolet region of light, Webb is planning to focus observations in the infrared wavelength band. The reason for this is that when observing really distant objects there will probably be gas clouds in the way. The galaxy NGC 2275 seen by Hubble. Photo credit: Esa/Hubble & Nasa, J Lee and the PHANGS-HST Team, CC BY-SA These gas clouds block really small wavelengths of light, such as X-rays and ultraviolet light, while longer wavelengths like infra-red, microwave and radio can get through more easily. So by observing in these longer wavelengths we should see more of the universe. Webb also has a much bigger mirror of 6.5-metre diameter compared to Hubbles 2.4-metre diameter mirror essential for improving image resolution and seeing finer detail. The primary mission of Webb is to look at light from galaxies at the edge of the universe which can tell us about how the first stars, galaxies and planetary systems form. Potentially this could include some information about the origin of life as well, as Webb is planning on imaging exoplanet atmospheres in high detail, searching for the building blocks of life. Do they exist on other planets, and if so, how did they get there? We are also likely to be treated to some stunning images similar to those produced by Hubble. Webb is currently scheduled to launch on an Ariane 5 rocket on October 31. Ian Whittaker is a Senior Lecturer in Physics at the Nottingham Trent University. Gareth Dorrian is a Post Doctoral Research Fellow in Space Science at the University of Birmingham. This article first appeared on The Conversation.
Covid-19 vaccines focus on the spike protein – but there’s another way to attack the virus - Scroll.in
Researchers have discovered that humans actually make the most antibodies to the N protein and not the spike protein.
The latest results from the phase 3 Covid-19 vaccines trials have been very positive. These have shown that vaccinating people with the gene for SARS-CoV-2 spike protein can induce excellent protective immunity. The spike protein is the focus of most Covid-19 vaccines as it is the part of the virus that enables it to enter our cells. Virus replication only happens inside cells, so blocking entry prevents more virus being made. If a person has antibodies that can recognise the spike protein, this should stop the virus in its tracks. The three most advanced vaccines (from Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna) all work by getting our own cells to make copies of the virus spike protein. The Oxford vaccine achieves this by introducing the spike protein gene via a harmless adenovirus vector. The other two vaccines deliver the spike protein gene directly as mRNA wrapped in a nanoparticle. When our own cells make the spike protein, our immune response will recognise it as foreign and start making antibodies and T cells that specifically target it. However, the SARS-CoV-2 virus is more complicated than just a spike protein. There are, in fact, four different proteins that form the overall structure of the virus particle: spike, envelope, membrane and nucleocapsid. In a natural infection, our immune system recognises all of these proteins to varying degrees. So how important are immune responses to these different proteins, and does it matter that the first vaccines will not replicate these? The SARS-CoV-2 virus is more complicated than just a spike protein. Photo credit: US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Public domain) Following SARS-CoV-2 infection, researchers have discovered that we actually make the most antibodies to the N protein not the spike protein. This is the same for many different viruses that also have N proteins. But how N protein antibodies protect us from infection has been a long-standing mystery. This is because N protein is only found inside the virus particle, wrapped around the RNA. Therefore, N protein antibodies cannot block virus entry, will not be measured in neutralisation assays that test for this in the lab, and so have largely been overlooked. Our latest work from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge has revealed a new mechanism for how N protein antibodies can protect against viral disease. We have studied another virus containing an N protein called lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus and shown a surprising role for an unusual antibody receptor called TRIM21. Whereas antibodies are typically thought to only work outside of cells, TRIM21 is only found inside cells. We have shown that N protein antibodies that get inside cells are recognised by TRIM21, which then shreds the associated N protein. Tiny fragments of N protein are then displayed on the surface of infected cells. T cells recognise these fragments, identify cells as infected, then kill the cell and consequently any virus. We expect that this newly identified role for N protein antibodies in protecting against virus infection is important for SARS-CoV-2, and work is ongoing to explore this further. This suggests that vaccines that induce N protein antibodies, as well as spike antibodies, could be valuable, as they would stimulate another way by which our immune response can eliminate SARS-CoV-2. Adding N protein to SARS-CoV-2 vaccines could also be useful because N protein is very similar between different coronaviruses much more so than the spike protein. This means its possible that a protective immune response against SARS-CoV-2 N protein could also offer some protection against other related coronaviruses, such as Mers. Another potential benefit that may arise from including N protein in SARS-CoV-2 vaccines is due to the low mutation rates seen in the N protein sequence. Some changes to the sequence of SARS-CoV-2 have been reported over the course of this pandemic, with the most significant changes occurring in the spike protein. There is some concern that if the spike sequence alters too much, then new vaccines will be required. This could be similar to the current need for annual updating of influenza vaccines. However, as the N protein sequence is much more stable than the spike, vaccines that include a component targeting the N protein are likely to be effective for longer. The first wave of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines brings genuine hope that this virus can be controlled by vaccination. From here it will be an ongoing quest to develop even better vaccines and ones that can remain effective in the face of an evolving virus. Future vaccines will probably focus on more than just the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, and the N protein is a promising target to add to the current strategies being considered. Sarah L Caddy is a Clinical Research Fellow in Viral Immunology and Veterinary Surgeon at the University of Cambridge. This article first appeared on The Conversation.
Facebook, Instagram and Messenger users face glitches across the world - Scroll.in
The outage began in India around 3 pm, according to outage tracking website Downdetector.com.
Users on Thursday reported glitches from all over the world while using social media networking site Facebooks primary application, Messenger and photosharing app Instagram. The outage began in India around 3 pm, according to outage tracking website Downdetector. Social media users reported that 70% of the problems were related to the news feed, 17% of the glitches were found in the website, and 12% faced problems while logging in. The tracker also showed that reports of an outage on Facebook Messenger began trickling in around 3 pm. Of the problems on the app, 40% were faced while connecting to the server, 35% were reported while receiving texts, and 23% of users faced problems logging in. On the Facebook app, 66% of users from India faced troubles while logging in, 22% struggled with the networking sites mobile app, and 11% had difficulties related to images. Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, users in London seemed to be facing the outage more. The glitches were also reported in Belgium, France, and Poland, according to Metro. Facebook confirmed that some of its users were facing problems while sending messages on its platforms. Were working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible, a spokesperson of the company said, according to Reuters. Here are some of the reactions following the outage: me to Instagram after restarting my phone 5 times thinking my phone was the problem#Instagram#instagramdownpic.twitter.com/Cns2lQTY85 — S (@hobimasunshine4) December 10, 2020 Me running to Twitter to see if my Wifi is playing up or if the Facebook messenger is down #facebookmessenger#facebookpic.twitter.com/9Uu0pdQBy8 — Xx_Shonaaa_Xx (@RKOAngelx) December 10, 2020 When Instagram and Facebook have been down for a couple of hours... pic.twitter.com/6bVCOWdvjP — ODDSbible (@ODDSbible) December 10, 2020 Me running to the Instagram and Messenger offices to get them to fix their apps #instagramdown#messengerisoverpartypic.twitter.com/F6PnbdJaz4 — Josephine W. (@wildjosephine) December 10, 2020 everyone trying to connect on @Facebook & @instagram right now#facebookdownpic.twitter.com/Yq5ypzXmhp — Chopstix (@ChopstixFB) December 10, 2020 Me at @instagram for the past days pic.twitter.com/VKPtVXyQMB — Paty I LetMeReintroduceMyself is OUT (@MusicCoffeeLol) December 10, 2020
Hyderabad civic polls results: Telangana CM's TRS takes lead, Owaisi's party in second place - Scroll.in
The BJP, which led an aggressive campaign, has bagged 22 seats till 5.30 pm.
The ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi and Asaduddin Owaisis All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen are locked in a close race as votes were being counted for the bitterly-fought Hyderabad municipal elections on Friday, NDTV reported. The Bharatiya Janata Party, on the other hand, has made big gains. As per the update at 5.25 pm, results have been declared for 99 of the 150 seats, according to The News Minute. Of these, the TRS has won 41 seats while the AIMIM has got 34. The BJP has bagged 22 so far while the Congress secured two seats. The results are likely to be known only by evening or night since ballot papers were used for casting votes. However, as the TRS lead widened, celebrations broke off outside the partys headquarters in Hyderabad, The News Minute reported. Celebrations begin at #TRS head quarters!! Currently, the party is leading with 70 seats, while #AIMIM is with 46, #BJP is with 29 and #Congress has 4#GHMCResults#GHMCElections#HyderabadCivicPollspic.twitter.com/rvs8FsLupn — Rajeswari Parasa (@ParasaRajeswari) December 4, 2020 Several TRS leaders exuded confidence that they were poised for a victory. TRS is winning in most seats, party leader K Kavitha told ANI. As voting was by paper ballot we have to wait 3 to 4 hours to get exact numbers. I believe BJP numbers will further decline and heavy support for TRS will surface. Telangana minister Talasani Yadav claimed the TRS will form the government in the Hyderabad civic polls by a 100% majority. He also accused the Bharatiya Janata Party for interfering in a local election. Why did the central government leaders come here to interfere in a local body election, when there are so many pressing issues like the farmers protests, is what is not understandable, he told ANI. They did not mention anything about what the Centre has done for the development of Hyderabad. The TRS will form the government in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) elections this time by 100%: Telangana Minister Talasani Srinivas Yadav https://t.co/GZ5qKsX77m — ANI (@ANI) December 4, 2020 Former Hyderabad Mayor and AIMIM candidate Mohammad Majid Hussain, meanwhile, won from Mehdipatnam, according to The Hindu. Speaking to reporters outside the counting centre, Hussain credited his victory to Owaisi. He said the work done by him during the last term ensured his smooth victory. Despite the high-pitched campaign by nearly all parties, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation polls reported an unimpressive 46.55% turnout on Tuesday with 34.50 lakh people voting from a total of 74.67 lakh voters. Even though the polls are for electing a city mayor, the intense campaign witnessed comments on Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, surgical strikes, allegations of Rohingya infiltrators and one focused on Hindu-Muslim narrative. Once a BJP candidate wins the mayor post in these elections, there will be a surgical strike on patha basti [Old City], Telangana unit chief Bandi Sanjay Kumar had said. Its the BJPs responsibility to kick out these Rohingyas and filthy sons of Pakistan. In his speeches, BJPs Tejasvi Surya, the Bangalore South MP, had also made several controversial remarks while taking on the Opposition. He had accused Owaisi of speaking Pakistan founder Muhammad Ali Jinnahs language of rabid Islamism, separatism, and extremism, and claimed that every vote for the Muslim leader was a vote against India and everything India stands for. Political observers said the acrimonious campaign is not new to the citys political landscape, but it still escalated to a new and dangerous level this time. The BJP had brought in several heavyweights, including Union Home Minister Amit Shah, party chief JP Nadda and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath, for campaigning. In the last municipal elections in February 2016, the TRS had won 99 seats, while the AIMIM secured 44. The BJP won four, the Congress got two and the Telugu Desam Party managed to get just one. A loss in the elections could dent the image of the TRS and bolster the Opposition to step up its campaign against the ruling party.
‘Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives’ review: Bling and the benefits of friendship in reality series - Scroll.in
Neelam Kothari, Maheep Kapoor, Seema Khan and Bhavana Pandey feature in the Netflix reality series.
Why should I watch a show about four women who dont have jobs, says Karan Johar in Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives, a reality series he has produced about four women who do have jobs. The Netflix show revolves around Neelam Kothari, Maheep Kapoor, Seema Khan and Bhavana Pandey. Their names will be familiar to consumers of Bollywood minutiae. Kothari, the 1980s star who appeared in a string of Hindi films with Govinda, now runs a jewellery design store and is married to the actor Samir Soni. Pandey, the wife of actor Chunkey Pandey and mother of upcoming talent Ananya Panday, has a pret label. Maheep Kapoor, a one-time model wedded to actor Sanjay Kapoor, also has a bauble business. Seema Khan, the spouse of director and occasional actor Sohail Khan, owns a clothing boutique. The women have known each other for a quarter of a century, they keep reminding us. The series revolves around their mutual affection and bling-laden escapades, balancing the faked candidness with candid fakery. Directed by Uttam Domale, the eight-episode series contains scripted situations that resemble fly-on-the-wall conversations and direct-to-camera interviews. The women impeccably plucked, coiffured and clad discuss career, motherhood, husbands and friendship. They pretend to bicker, compare notes on skin care and their children, and wonder about whether Meghan Markle and Prince Harry were right to secede from Buckingham Palace. In between feeding viewers the guilty pleasure moments they have signed up for, the women participate in a beach clean-up, which prompts a fleeting conversation on climate change. Why so serious? Inspired by footballer David Beckham, the women fly business class to Doha. The luxury surroundings provide a welcome escape from their own apartments and bungalows and Mumbais overall squalor (sought to be concealed by drone shots of the citys skyline). In Doha, they draw up a list of the hottest men in showbiz. A man purportedly stalks Neelam, both flattering and frightening her. A bare-chested French waiter materialises with cocktails. As vacuous as promised and irony-free as expected, the series nevertheless has a little something each for the unabashed showbiz devotee, the nepotism-obsessed troll, the scholar of popular culture and the Bollywood quiz compiler. Despite far too many episodes and a plasticky feel to the supposedly honest conversations, the show coasts along on the collective energies of its female leads. The Kothari-Kapoor-Pandey-Khan combo is utterly comfortable with each other and completely at ease being filmed. They claim that they are a lot like us, but they know that we are watching them precisely because they are nothing like us. Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives (2020). Courtesy Dharmatic Entertainment/Netflix. Karan Johar pops up every now and then to give a semblance of order and higher purpose to this Indian avatar of American celebrity reality productions. In sequences that play out like an extension of his popular talk show Koffee With Karan, the filmmaker stages chats with the four women that bring out their backgrounds and divergent personalities. Koffee With Karan taught us that there was no point in being famous, or even halfway famous, if you couldnt squeeze some money out of it. Screen gods and goddesses could sell the bits of themselves that made them appear mortal and allow fans a peek or two into their real selves without giving too much away. The Bollywood Wives, steeped in the ways of showbiz and conscious of their own legacies as well as the futures of their children, make their intentions clear. We are building our own brands here, more than one woman says. Neelam Kothari toys with the idea of a comeback. Maheep and Sanjay Kapoors daughter Shanaya, who is being groomed for a film career, gets a test-drive of sorts through her appearance in the show. In between, significant others, family members and members of the wider social circle check in for strategically placed cameos. Among the actors who have struggled in the movies but are perfectly comfortable playing versions of themselves in this format are Sanjay Kapoor and Chunkey Pandey. Arjun Kapoor, who badly needs his own reality show outing, offers Maheep Kapoors son Jahaan, also an aspiring actor, vital lessons on handling trolls. You have set yourself up for public consumption, Arjun Kapoor says. Stop taking yourself so seriously and go with the flow. The biggest cameo is by one of Bollywoods most camera-friendly movie stars. At a party thrown by Gauri Khan, Shah Rukh Khan walks in and tosses around a few typically warm and effusive anecdotes and the series stops in thrall. Khans act seems to be a retread of Zoya Akhtars movie Luck By Chance, in which he offered sound counsel to a newly minted star: never forget the friends who supported you, especially when you were a struggler. Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives is perfectly at ease with the first part of that advice. Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives (2020).
BJP will remove Pakistanis, Rohingyas with ‘surgical strike’ in Hyderabad, claims Telangana chief - Scroll.in
Bandi Sanjay Kumar said the BJP would do this after winning the mayoral post in civic elections.
Bharatiya Janata Partys Telangana unit chief Bandi Sanjay Kumar on Tuesday stirred a controversy after saying that his party would conduct a surgical strike in the Old City area of Hyderabad to push out Pakistanis and Rohingyas, reported PTI. Kumar said that he would do this after winning the mayoral post in the upcoming civic elections. During the BJPs campaign for the civic elections, Kumar claimed that TRS chief and Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao was trying to win the elections through an incorrect manner. Unsure of winning, he [Rao] has taken another person on his side. Who is he?...Owaisi. he said. Kumar cited the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen chiefs comment. Owaisi was saying yesterday...if Rohingyas are there in Hyderabad, what is Amit Shah doing? the BJP leader said. After BJP mayoral candidate wins in this election, BJP will take the responsibility to send away Rohingyas and Pakistanis by conducting a surgical strike on your old city. He also said that the elections should be held in Hyderabad after Pakistani, Afghan, and Rohingya voters are eliminated. Kumar said that those attempting to win elections through appeasement claim to be secularists, but the BJP, which he said supported the respect of the sentiments of 80% Hindus, is called communal. The Old City of Hyderabad has a largely Muslim population and is said to be an AIMIM stronghold. The BJP has repeatedly accused the party of appeasing Rohingya refugees, and of helping them acquire voter identity cards, Aadhaar in return for votes, according to The News Minute. All 150 wards of Hyderabad will vote on December 1. According to the United Nations, nearly 5,000 Rohingya refugees live in Hyderabad. The comments garnered strong criticism from the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti and the AIMIM. TRS working President KT Rama Rao asked whether Union minister G Kishan Reddy would support the reprehensible comments that were filled with hate. Everyone in Hyderabad must think about whether they want to let this happen, KT Rama Rao said, The News Minute reported. Till yesterday, he [Kumar] was asking youngsters to not bother with traffic rules. Then he called KCR a traitor and said he has terrorist links. Now I dont know why theyre acting so crazy for one election. They have said they will do a surgical strike in Hyderabad. Owaisi challenged the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government in the Centre to conduct surgical strikes on the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army which he said had occupied Indian territory. A BJP leader said if they win Baldia elections, then they will conduct surgical strikes on old city, he said, according to PTI. He [BJP leader] said they will conduct surgical strikes and flush out Pakistanis and Rohingyas. I want to ask BJP on whom you would conduct surgical strikes? These [those living in the Old City] are Indian only. Kumar, meanwhile, reacted to KT Rama Raos comments, and asserted that a surgical strike was inevitable on illegal infiltrators. This came days after BJPs Tejasvi Surya hit out at Owaisi, accusing him of speaking Pakistan founder Muhammad Ali Jinnahs language of rabid Islamism, separatism, and extremism. Surya also accused AIMIM of allowing only Rohingya Muslims, not development in Hyderabad. Surya made the remarks while campaigning in Telangana for the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation elections. Hours later on Monday, reacting to the BJP leaders remarks, Owaisi said the partys aim was to create hatred.
How should countries roll out Covid-19 vaccine? France and the UK have two different ideas - Scroll.in
For any government, it will be a challenge to allocate the vaccine fairly and efficiently.
Not long after Pfizer and BioNTech announced in a press release that their Covid-19 vaccine candidate has over 90% efficacy, British politicians began discussing an imminent roll-out before Christmas, according to health minister Matt Hancock. On the other side of the English Channel, France is also poised to roll out the vaccine, only in a different way. In the United Kingdom, the government has adopted the advice from its Joint Committee on Vaccine and Immunisation on who should get the vaccine first. In the event of the vaccine being approved, the Joint Committee on Vaccine and Immunisation has proposed a strategy of prioritising mainly according to age (starting with the oldest first), as well as health and social care workers (see table below). In France, government policy is shaped by several advisory bodies including le Conseil scientifique and le Comité analyse, recherche et expertise, which have also published draft guidelines. While there are some similarities with the UK strategy such as healthcare workers given high priority there are also substantial differences. A key difference is that the French guidelines prioritise high-risk occupations, including shop workers, school staff, transport staff such as taxi drivers, hospitality workers and abattoir staff. In the UK, the Joint Committee on Vaccine and Immunisation argues that age-based programmes are easier to deliver and so tend to have a higher vaccine uptake. Certainly, if you are going to choose a single factor, age is a very good one because your risk of dying of Covid-19 doubles roughly every five years (as the chart below shows). Laurence Roope, based on data from the Office for National Statistics. Photo credit: Author provided Beyond age, many other factors have also been found to place a person at a higher risk of death from Covid-19. Having a chronic condition, such as diabetes, is roughly equal in risk to being five to ten years older. Assessing someones likelihood of getting severe Covid, using an algorithm that accounts for several risk factors, could help to ensure that the vaccine is more precisely targeted towards those likely to most benefit in each age group. Hence there is a trade-off between the potential gains in uptake from using a simple age-based prioritisation versus greater protection of the most vulnerable from a more targeted approach. Here we can learn from evidence on the uptake of the flu vaccine, which is also targeted at older people (those over 65). Importantly, uptake is not uniform with a universal age-based programme people who are poorer are much less likely to be immunised. So a challenge with the UKs strategy will be to find ways to make it easier for disadvantaged groups to access the vaccine, or risk increasing health inequalities. This is where we come to Frances approach of targeting higher-risk occupations. During the first wave, Covid-19 deaths were particularly high among certain occupations. As the chart below shows, some occupations, such as chauffeurs and taxi drivers (which are priority occupations in the proposed French allocation system), had higher rates of death than healthcare workers. Notably, many such workers below the age of 50 are not explicitly mentioned in the UK vaccine allocation plans. Age-standardised mortality rates for Covid-19 among men aged 20-64 years, comparing London and the rest of England and Wales, between March 9 and May 25. Laurence Roope, based on data from the Office for National Statistics. Photo credit: Author provided A factor that both the French and UK committees now need to consider is that a Covid-19 vaccine is likely to be introduced during the second wave of the pandemic in which there is considerable regional variation in rates of transmission. The chart above also shows the differences in rates of death in the first wave between London and other regions. Lives could potentially be saved by targeting the initial vaccine doses to the regions with the most cases. Beyond the differences in recommendations, there are differences between the two countries in their approaches to public consultation. Unlike guidelines for other healthcare technologies, the UK prioritisation guidance has not been subject to a formal process of public consultation. In contrast, the French government is now engaged in an extensive process of public consultation to inform prioritisation. In part, this aims to avoid the low uptake of previous vaccine programmes, such as for the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. This process involves including relevant sectors of the population in the design of vaccine allocation strategies, learning what people prefer, and using this information to communicate the strategy to the public effectively. This sort of consultation takes time, but a potential advantage is that it helps governments understand what people value. It also helps further refine a prioritisation policy and communication strategies, which in turn may increase the likelihood of people supporting the vaccine allocation guidelines and thereby promoting uptake. It is clear, even from reviewing the policies of just two governments, that there are many possible Covid-19 vaccine prioritisation strategies. As a recent Covid-19 vaccine allocation framework suggests, these strategies can be evaluated against different criteria, potentially with input from the public. While it appears that we have an effective Covid-19 vaccine, it will be a far better thing if we allocate it fairly and efficiently. Laurence Roope is a Senior Researcher, Health Economics and Philip Clarke is a Professor of Health Economics at the University of Oxford. Raymond Duch is the Director of the Nuffield Centre for Experimental Social Sciences at the same institute. This article first appeared on The Conversation.
‘People do not consider Congress an alternative, no dialogue within party,’ says Kapil Sibal - Scroll.in
The Rajya Sabha MP said the process of nominating members to the Congress Working Committee should be done away with.
Close on the heels of his partys poor performance in the Bihar Assembly elections, Congress Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal in an interview on Monday conceded that people do not consider Congress an alternative. He also blamed the leadership for not recognising the matters ailing the party, despite knowing about them. If they do not recognise those answers, then the graph will continue to decline, he warned. In an interview with The Indian Express, Sibal pointed out that besides the Congress below-par performance in Bihar, where it won only 19 out of the 70 seats it contested, the party faced adverse outcomes in the bye-polls too. We lost all the bye-elections in Gujarat, he pointed out. Even in the Lok Sabha elections we had not won a single seat there. In some of the constituencies in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress candidates in the bye-elections notched up less than 2% of the votes cast. Three of our candidates in Gujarat lost their deposits. So the writing is on the wall. He expressed concerns over the fact that the Congress has not been able to emerge as an alternative in big states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh for decades now and is performing poorly even in states like Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, where the contests are not multi-cornered. In August this year, 23 Congress leaders, including Sibal, had written to party President Sonia Gandhi suggesting that there has been a steady decline of the party, as witnessed in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections, but that no honest introspection was done to analyse the reasons for these massive defeats. On being asked if any action was taken on the letter, Sibal said, There has been no dialogue and there seems to be no effort for a dialogue by the leadership. He asserted that the fact that the Congress Working Committee, the highest decision making body of the party, is a nominated one, is the reason behind the leaderships reluctance to address the matters at hand. Democratic processes must be adopted and embraced even in the constitution of the CWC, he said. You dont expect nominated members to start questioning and raise their concerns... Sibal further said that the party was aware of its problems but not willing to address them. If for six years the Congress has not introspected what hope do we have for introspection now? The Congress party itself knows all the answers. But they are not willing to recognise those answers. — Kapil Sibal He rued the absence of conversation within the party, suggesting that every organisation needs that. In the absence of a serious and I dont say introspection because that time is over in the absence of seriously recognising what the problem is, we will not be able to come up with any solution, Sibal said. On being asked if the elections for the post of party president and to the Congress Working Committee will help address the problems, Sibal said that the culture of nominations must go. Elections through nominations will not lead to the desired results, he said. Some of us put our pen to paper and said what should be done in the Congress on the road ahead. Instead of listening to us they turned their back on us. He however added that elections alone will not take care of the problems, unless Congress is able to recognise its shortcomings. Sibal elaborated that [state and general] elections have turned into a presidential contest in the recent past and that the nature of campaigning has changed because of that. ...The mainstream media is controlled by the ruling party. So we need to discover a new mechanism to reach out to the people. What is that mechanism? That needs to be thought about. — Kapil Sibal He also added that in order to produce results on ground, Congress needs to have conversation with with experienced minds, experienced hands, with people who understand the political realities of India, people who know what and how to articulate in the media. Speaking categorically on the recent Bihar elections and the bye-polls in various states, Sibal said that there has not been any message from the leadership. We are yet to hear from the Congress party their views on our recent performance in Bihar and in the bye-elections, he said. Maybe they think all is well and that it should be business as usual.
‘I concede nothing’: Donald Trump backtracks after accepting Joe Biden’s election win - Scroll.in
Meanwhile, Biden’s White House Chief of Staff pick Ron Klain warned that a delay in transition could hinder vaccine distribution efforts.
United States President Donald Trump on Sunday backtracked after acknowledging for the first time that Democrat Joe Biden had won the presidential election. He claimed again that the election was rigged. He only won in the eyes of the FAKE NEWS MEDIA, Trump tweeted. I concede NOTHING! We have a long way to go. This was a RIGGED ELECTION!. The presidents tweet was flagged by the microblogging site, like many others, alleging election fraud. He only won in the eyes of the FAKE NEWS MEDIA. I concede NOTHING! We have a long way to go. This was a RIGGED ELECTION! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 15, 2020 Trumps tweet came less than two hours after he accepted Bidens victory. He won because the Election was Rigged, Trump had tweeted. NO VOTE WATCHERS OR OBSERVERS allowed, vote tabulated by a Radical Left privately owned company, Dominion, with a bad reputation & bum equipment that couldnt even qualify for Texas (which I won by a lot!), the Fake & Silent Media, & more! He won because the Election was Rigged. NO VOTE WATCHERS OR OBSERVERS allowed, vote tabulated by a Radical Left privately owned company, Dominion, with a bad reputation & bum equipment that couldnt even qualify for Texas (which I won by a lot!), the Fake & Silent Media, & more! https://t.co/Exb3C1mAPg — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 15, 2020 Meanwhile, Bidens White House Chief of Staff pick Ron Klain urged the Trump administration to begin working on presidential transition and warned that a delay could hinder the new governments coronavirus vaccine distribution efforts, NBC reported. The General Services Administration, which is headed by a Trump appointee, has not recognised Biden as the president-elect. This has stopped him from getting access to government offices and funding, according to Reuters. Joe Biden is going to become president of the United States in the midst of an ongoing crisis, Klain told NBC. That has to be a seamless transition. He added that there was a possibility of a vaccine starting perhaps in December, January. There are people at [the Department of Health and Human Services] making plans to implement that vaccine, Klain said. Our experts need to talk to those people as soon as possible so nothing drops in this change of power. Trump has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power and filed a flurry of lawsuits in the last few days to challenge the election outcome. He has continued to claim that there was a multi-state conspiracy by the Democrats to stop him from achieving a second term. On Friday, Trump had come closest to accepting his defeat in the elections as he declared that his administration will not order a new lockdown to control the coronavirus. I will not this administration will not be doing a lockdown, Trump had said during a speech at the White House about vaccine development efforts. Hopefully whatever happens in the future who knows which administration it will be? I guess time will tell. Also read :
- Trump gave the media something to talk about every day. How will it handle a Biden presidency?
- US elections: Thousands of Americans hold rally in support of Donald Trump in Washington