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Maharashtra’s healthcare infra on the verge of collapse

State is facing a severe crunch of hospital beds, Remdesivir injections, testing kits and healthcare workers too.

Urvashi Khona

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From hospital beds to oxygen to Remdesivir injections to testing kits to healthcare workers, Maharashtra, the state worst hit by the Covid-19 second wave, is facing severe shortage, even as retailers, restaurants and theatres are reeling under the impact of harsh restrictions imposed last week by the authorities.

While decision on a lockdown is yet to be taken by Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to break the chain of infections, the health infrastructure is facing a severe load. In the backdrop of a high number of Covid-19 cases, the state is facing a severe crunch of beds, Remdesivir injections, testing kits and healthcare workers too. Shocking pictures from different parts of the state are emerging. In Osmanabad district, patients were seen sitting on chairs and getting oxygen as the district has run out of beds. Osmanabad was one of the districts flagged on Sunday for issues with its medical oxygen supply, along with Pune, Palghar, and Bhandara, by teams of experts sent by the Central government to audit some of the worst-hit states.

There are several such cases from different parts of state that have emerged where critical and serious patients’ relatives are running from pillar to post to get beds and Remdesivir injections. Working professional Siddharth Soni from Borivali lost his mother due to Covid. Soni was found positive with his mother who was a dialysis patient, and younger sister in first week of April. Siddharth had to face more than seven rejections for admission of his 50-year-old mother to find a hospital with Covid admission for dialysis patients, until he got admission at Jogeshwari’s Hindu Hruday Samrat Balasaheb Thackrey Trauma hospital where she was treated for two days and later was recommended to some other hospital. After this, she was shifted to the Shree Ganesh hospital in Borivali, but within two days, she was declared dead due to multiple organ failure. Siddharth, who’s completing his quarantine period, said with regret: “My mother would have been saved if private and government hospitals were more careful, attentive and sensitive! I say this because from searching beds, to making sure that treatment is given, to paying hefty bills during such a traumatic phase, I had to go through a lot.”

In another case from Pune, frontline worker Dr Dnyanraj Bhujbal, 41, had to run around at least four hospitals to get his 80-year-old father Dr B.D. Bhujbal admitted. Dr B.D. Bhujbal had contracted Covid-19 and needed urgent admission as his health had deteriorated. Four hospitals rejected Dr Dnyanraj, until Ratna Memorial hospital admitted his father, treated him and has now discharged him. Dr Dnyanraj said, “I can’t imagine that despite being a frontline worker and having contacts in the field, I had to undergo such a horrible experience; imagine what the common man is having to face.”

Similar stories of ordeals are being shared by hundreds on social media and WhatsApp groups, desperately seeking beds, oxygen beds and Remdesivir injections. One such person is 47-year-old Shilpa Kewat (name changed) who is still running from hospital to hospital in search of oxygen, ventilator bed and Remdesivir injections for her 58-year-old brother-in-law. Shilpa said, “We are not getting hospitals and Remdesivir; even after several alerts by the government, we are not getting and the ones that we are getting are costing double; how will we deal with this?”

Rohan Dighe (name changed) had to spend some more than Rs 10,000 for Remdesivir injections for his mother who had a bit of pneumonia. “At first, for a box of 6 injections, we had to pay Rs 3,800; after two days, we had to pay Rs 4,000 per injection from outside distributors to Rs 5,000 per injection from private hospitals where his mother was treated.”

The situation is grim in the state with respect to testing, too, due to the lack of manpower and testing units and kits. The testing capacity in several districts in the state is overwhelmed, resulting in a delay in reporting test results or delay in performing tests.

From Friday, Sanat K., a senior citizen, wanted to get tested at home in Ghatkopar, but he was told that nothing was possible till Tuesday, as at some places either kits are finished or the laboratory is overloaded.

The load on the healthcare mechanism is so severe that there is lack of healthcare workers too and thus, a handful of nurses and doctors are doing their best to help as many people as possible, but that’s just not enough with the number of Covid-19 cases just exploding.

Last week, the state government shut down restaurants, bars, gyms, theatres and non-essential stores in a blow to businesses that had barely recovered from the nationwide lockdown last year.

After closing for more than eight months, theatres in Maharashtra reopened in November despite sporadic Bollywood releases and capacity restrictions. But with the new surge in cases and the spectre of more curbs, theatre owners say they may never recover from the losses and be forced to shut down.

“It’s the final nail in the coffin,” Reuters quoted Sharad Doshi, vice-president of the Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India, as saying. “We have no choice but to perish.”

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Punjab CM declares Malerkotla state’s 23rd district, announces development projects

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Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday declared Malerkotla as the 23rd district of the state, while also announcing a slew of projects for the development of the historic city.

The Chief Minister made these announcements during the state-level celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr, held virtually in view of the pandemic. On the occasion, the Chief Minister underscored India’s secular character, which he said was manifested in the defeat of communal forces in the recent Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.

Recalling the rich history of Malerkotla, the CM said its conversion into a district, which had been a long-standing demand of the local people, would ease their hardships and enable them to resolve administrative problems more seamlessly.

Initially, said the Chief Minister, the sub-divisions of Malerkotla and Ahmedgarh, as well as the sub-tehsil of Amargarh, would be included in the newly created district. The process of bringing villages under the jurisdiction of Malerkotla district would begin later, after the conclusion of the census operations, he added. The Chief Minister directed the Deputy Commissioner Sangrur to find a suitable building to immediately start the functioning of the District Administration office. The Deputy Commissioner for the newly carved out district would be appointed soon, he said.

Announcing various development projects for Malerkotla, Capt Amarinder Singh also announced the establishment of a government college for girls and a government medical college. The medical college, in the name of Nawab Sher Mohammed Khan, would be set up soon at a cost of Rs. 500 crore, and the state has allotted 25 acres of land on Raikot Road and the first instalment of Rs. 50 crore has already been sanctioned, he added. A new bus stand will also be constructed at a cost of Rs. 10 crore, he said, adding that Malerkotla will also get a ‘Mahila Thana’ which would be exclusively managed by women.

To ensure holistic urban development, the Chief Minister also announced a sum of Rs. 6 crore for the Urban Environment Improvement Program (UEIP).

Further, to promote the cultural heritage of Malerkotla, the Chief Minister said the Punjab Government has acquired the Mubarak Manzil Palace and that he has written to His Highness the Aga Khan Foundation UK to undertake its conservation and restoration. He also recounted his memories with the then Nawab of Malerkotla and spoke about the city’s significance in Sikh history.

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CHHATTISGARH TO PAY FOR EDUCATION OF CHILDREN WHO LOST PARENTS TO COVID

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Raipur : The Chhattisgarh government has decided to pay for the education of children who have lost their parents/guardians to Covid and children from families where the earning member has died of Covid.

CMO Chhattisgarh tweeted, “Chhattisgarh government will pay for the education of children who lost their parents due to #COVID19, scholarship also to be provided under state’s Mahtari Dular Scheme. State govt will also take care of the education of children whose earning member of the family has died of Covid”.

Children orphaned due to Covid will also be provided with scholarships under the state’s Mahtari Dular Scheme.

The CMO also tweeted that such children will be given preference for admission in Swami Atmanand English Medium Schools. No fee will be charged.

As per the Health and Family Welfare Ministry of Chhattisgarh, 9,121 Covid cases were recorded on Friday out of 67,738 tests conducted. With this, the total number of cases in the state are reached 8,92,331. The state also recorded 195 deaths on Friday, wherein 92 were from Covid, while 103 patients died of co-morbidities. The Ministry also reported 12,274 total recoveries, including those discharged from home quarantine, bringing the total number recoveries to 7,61,592.

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NOT FORCING USERS TO ACCEPT PRIVACY POLICY UPDATE, WHATSAPP TELLS DELHI HC

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Messaging app WhatsApp told the Delhi High Court on Friday that it is not forcing any user to accept the 2021 update in its privacy policy as it is not mandatory. It said users will have a choice to accept the new update or choose not to, and are free to delete their WhatsApp accounts any time.

Replying to a petition challenging the privacy policy of the app, WhatsApp submitted that users were not previously given the option to opt out of its privacy policies if they wanted to use the service.

The social messaging app also said that it is not under any legal obligation to provide such opt-outs to its users and added that the law permits companies to not provide their services to users who do not consent to their terms.

The company also said that such practices are commonly practiced by online platforms across the industry whenever they update their terms. The company also said that online platforms are often less transparent by simply implying consent through continued use of their service after a certain date, rather than prominently and clearly giving users control and choice, as WhatsApp did.

The company also submitted that such interference in the privacy update policy would “cripple” the internet-based applications and websites industry.

The messaging app also said that the petitioners’ allegations regarding the alleged disparity with European users are meritless. The company maintained that the 2021 update, which applies to users in India, also applies to most of WhatsApp’s users around the world, including in the US. On the different policy for WhatsApp’s users in the “European Region”, the social messaging app submitted that it is due to different rules and obligations in the European Regio

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SPECIAL PAROLE FOR CONVICTS SERVING MORE THAN 7 YEARS IMPRISONMENT IN HARYANA

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Given the Covid crisis, Haryana has announced to give parole to convicted persons who were sentenced for more than 7 years imprisonment. It was decided at a meeting of the High Powered Committee held under the Chairmanship of Justice Rajan Gupta, Judge, Punjab and Haryana High Court and Executive Chairman, Haryana State Legal Services Authority.

As informed by the Prisons Department, Haryana, a total of 21,804 (108%) prisoners are presently lodged in 19 jails of Haryana against the authorized capacity of 20,041 (100%). Since the first meeting of the High Powered Committee, held on 24 March 2020, 2,580 convicts sentenced for more than 7 years imprisonment were released on special parole. Similarly, 2,094 (656+1438) convicts/undertrials sentenced up to 7 years or facing trial for offences which stipulate maximum imprisonment up to 7 years were released on special parole/interim bail under the orders of HPC.

Subsequently, with a decrease in Covid cases, the High Powered Committee had directed the return of the convicts released on parole in cases where they were undergoing imprisonment for more than 7 years in 9 phases. Till date 2,170 convicts have surrendered in jails under 8 phases and the 9th phase consisting of 280 convicts started from 14 May, 2021.

In pursuance of directions issued by Hon’ble Supreme Court of India on 7 May 2021 in Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) No.1 / 2020 – In RE: Contagion of Covid-19 in Prisons, and considering the emergent situation in and around due to sudden spike in Covid, the Committee has decided to release all convicts sentenced to imprisonment for more than 7 years who were released earlier on special parole under the categories prescribed by the Committee on special parole till 31 August 2021. Special parole granted to convicts who were to surrender in the 9th phase has also been extended till 3 August 2021.

However, convicts who have failed to surrender on the date fixed or are absconding or against whom new cases were registered while on special parole are not entitled to special parole. No special parole shall be applicable to those who are not covered by the categories approved by the High Powered Committee in its previous meetings.

Competent authorities have been directed to consider the concern of inmates who may not wish for release in view of their social background and the fear of becoming Covid victims and may allow them to stay in jail after taking a written declaration from them.

The Committee has also extended the parole/interim bail of 2017 convicts/undertrials who are sentenced up to 7 years/facing trial for offences which stipulate maximum imprisonment up to 7 years till 31 August 2021. State and jail authorities have been asked to consider the cases of all such convicts/undertrials for parole/interim bail as well as any other convict/undertrial covered by the categories prescribed by the High Powered Committee.

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MAHARASHTRA GOVT TAKES U-TURN ON PR AGENCY ALLOTMENT FOR AJIT PAWAR

Urvashi Khona

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After facing backlash for the Maharashtra government’s allotment of Rs 6 crore to a private PR agency for handling Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar’s social media accounts, Pawar has cancelled the notification of the appointment. He clarified that he does not need any outside PR firm and the government department will do its work.

An order issued on Wednesday by RN Musale, under-secretary at the General Administration Department for the year 2021-22, stated that an external agency was to be appointed, with a budget of Rs 5.98 crore, for handling the social media accounts of NCP leader Ajit Pawar. As per the order, this was because the Directorate General of Information and Public Relations (DGIPR) lacks the professional and technical competence to deal with social media. The PR agency which was to be appointed in consultation with the Deputy Chief Minister, Secretariat and DGIPR was also tasked to see how messages and decisions by Ajit Pawar reaches the common man.

However after severe backlash, including from the Opposition, that crores of rupees were being spent merely for advertisements amid the Covid crisis, the Deputy CM – who also holds the finance and planning portfolio – cancelled the decision.

“There is no need to appoint an external agency to handle the social media of the Deputy Chief Minister’s Office. The order in this regard should be cancelled immediately,” read his press statement with an add-on clarification that communication with citizens and the media would be maintained only through the existing public relations system.

Meanwhile, BJP MLA Ram Kadam attacked Pawar, raising the question that if this was the amount to be spent for one minister, what it would be for the others. “People have died in the pandemic due to the negligence of the Maharashtra government. On one hand, the government is saying that they don’t have enough money to purchase vaccines and on the other hand, to pat their backs on social media a team is hired for the Deputy Chief Minister at a budget of Rs 6 crore. If this budget is for one minister, what is the budget for all the ministers?” he asked.

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PLEA TO CANCEL CBSE, ICSE CLASS XII EXAMS FILED IN SUPREME COURT

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New Delhi : A plea has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking directions to the Centre, Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE) to cancel the CBSE and ICSE Class XII examinations.

CBSE, through its letter dated 14 April, had cancelled the examination for class X and postponed the examination for Class XII. CISCE, through its circulars dated 16 and 19 April, had cancelled the examination for Class X and postponed the examination for Class XII for an unspecified period. The plea asked the court to set aside these notifications issued only in respect of clauses dealing with the postponement of the Class XII examination.

The petition filed by advocate Mamta Sharma asked the court to devise an objective methodology to declare the result of Class XII within a specific time frame. The plea stated that for the innocent students of Class XII, “step-motherly, arbitrary, inhuman directions” have been issued to postpone their final examination for an unspecified duration.

“In view of the unprecedented health emergency and rising numbers of the Covid-19 cases in the country, the conduct of examination, either offline or online or blended in upcoming weeks is not possible and delay in the examination will cause irreparable loss to the students as time is the essence in taking admission in higher education courses in foreign universities,” the plea said.

It added that delay in declaration of results will ultimately hamper one semester of the aspiring students as admission cannot be confirmed until the Class XII result is declared.

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