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‘China and WHO failed to act on time to curb Covid’

Utpal Kumar

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Covid
‘China and WHO failed to act on time to curb Covid’

A couple of days after US President D o n a l d Tr u m p had on Thursday said that the World Health Organization (WHO) should be “ashamed” of itself for behaving like a public relations agency for China, the world’s top health body praised China for handling the coronavirus pandemic. It even advised other countries to learn from the Chinese authorities on how they could bring Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, back to normal. The Trump administration has launched a probe into the role of the WHO on coronavirus, and has temporarily suspended the American financial assistance to it. Many countries, including Australia, Germany and Great Britain, have blamed China for the spread of Covid-19, that has killed over 2,40,000 people globally and has infected 3.4 million. Even in India, the total confirmed cases have crossed the 40,000 mark, with death toll over 1,300. Dr Swapneil Parikh, a practising doctor based in Mumbai, which is the worst corona-affected city in India, writes in The Coronavirus: What You Need to Know About the Global Pandemic (Penguin, Rs 299), one of the first books on the subject which he co-authored with Maherra Desai and Dr Rajesh Parikh, about patients in China reporting symptoms as early as 8 December 2019. “As multiple pneumonia cases surfaced, health authorities alerted the Chinese officials, but were silenced.”

One among these was Dr Li Wenliang, a 34-year-old eye specialist who noticed that the hospital he worked at was “quarantining several patients with SARS-like symptoms”. The Chinese government came down heavily on him and other citizens who “deviated from the official narrative”. It was only when the situation went out of control that the Chinese authorities chose to inform to the world on 31 December 2019 — about six weeks after the “first animal-to-human transmission”. As of today, the three coronavirus whistle-blowers in China — Chen Qiushi, Fang Bing and Li Zehua — remain missing more than tho months after exposing the dark secrets of the outbreak from Wuhan. As for Dr Li Wenliang, who tried to issue the first warning about the deadly outbreak, he died of coronavirus! What if the Chinese authorities not silenced the voices of their corona warriors? “Had the Chinese government not tried so heavy-handedly to contain in Wuhan, it just might have stayed in Wuhan,” says Dr Swapneil Parikh in an interview with The Daily Guardian. “Unfortunately for the world and much to the dismay of the Chinese Politburo, both the disease and the information they sought to suppress went viral,” he adds. But what about the WHO? What was this health body doing all this while? The WHO, on 5 January 2020, issued a statement “encouraging global travel and trade to continue with China”. By the time it finally declared a global health emergency on January 30, about 8,000 cases had been confirmed by Chinese authorities, hundreds of people had died, and corona had crossed the Chinese borders to surface in more than a dozen countries. Still, the WHO’s tone remained deferential, if not subservient. “This declaration (of a global health emergency) is not a vote of no confidence in China,” said DirectorGeneral Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “On the contrary, the WHO continues to have confidence in China’s capacity to control the outbreak.”

Dr Parikh, who is in the frontline as a volunteer in the ICU of the Infectious Disease Hospital in Mumbai, is careful not to attribute “sinister motives” but he concedes that the WHO has been slow in acting against the virus. “They advised people to travel to China when they clearly should have done otherwise. Instead of being the first, the WHO was the last to label it a pandemic,” he adds. Was the WHO cautious this time in declaring pandemic because of the accusation it had faced in the previous health crisis of pushing the cause of the major pharma companies? The doctor agrees. “That is precisely what I was alluding to (in the book). This was written a month prior to WHO declaring COVIID-19 a pandemic: ‘We can only hope that the unproven allegations against the WHO, of creating a panic, do not influence their decisionmaking process in correctly defining and responding to pandemics.’” The doctor, however, believes the worst is yet to come if the virus isn’t stopped now. “Currently, the tragic fiasco we are witnessing in the wealthiest nation in the world,” he says, reminding how “the Central African Republic has three ventilators and South Sudan has four. Venezuela has 80 ICU beds for a population of 32 million”. Dr Parikh, in his book, not just talks about Covid-19 but also the history of such pandemics, including the forgotten one over a hundred years in 1918-19 in which influenza killed more people in two years than both the World Wars in 10 years. To further emphasise the gravity of the situation, he quotes Sir William Osler: “Humanity has but three great enemies: fever, famine and war; of these by far the greatest, by far the most terrible is fever.” For him, however, bioterrorism is not a new phenomenon. “Viruses are the most political of all creatures.

Machiavellian in their machinations and Maoist in their ability to retreat only to advance again, they can bring down empires faster than human revolutions,” he says as he reminds how Hernán Cortés, with just 900 men, was able to conquer Mexico “because the smallpox virus which one of his slaves carried killed over half the Aztecs”. He adds, quoting his own book, “The West was won using viruses for bioterrorism rather than the whitewashed Hollywood accounts of the bravery of cowboys.” Now that coronavirus has spread to over 180 countries, what’s the way out? “The virus does not respect geographic borders, nor GDPs and military arsenals. As long as any one of us is unsafe, all of us are unsafe… We need to urgently attend to our poorest, especially our migrant workers, and ramp up our testing, tracing and treatment programmes,” advises Dr Parikh, who himself developed symptoms three weeks ago and was quarantined for a couple of weeks. Fortunately, he tested negative. Ask him about it, and he says matter-of-factly, “This what we signed up for years ago!”

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NHAI nod to build 80-km stretch under Greenfield Corridor, Haryana to acquire 480 hectares for project

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In a bid to strengthen transportation facilities and infrastructure the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) continues to construct and develop new highways across the country which is likely to create new opportunities for trade as well as commoners. In this series, the Union government has given nod to the construction of the Greenfield Corridor of 1600 kilometres valued at 35500 crores. It is pertinent to mention that the Greenfield Corridor will pass through the Ambala district of Haryana as a stretch of around 80 kilometres falls in Haryana. The construction of the controlled-access Greenfield Shamli-Ambala highway is to be constructed under Bharatmala Pariyojana giving another direct six-lane access between Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and further leading to Punjab. The process of acquisition of this project of the Terai belt is under process in Haryana.

Divulging the issue pertaining to this, RP Singh, a senior official of NHAI said that the government has given approval to the construction of this highway valued at around 35500 crores and 80 kilometres of the same falls in Haryana. Constructing search corridors will save new paths of development undoubtedly as well as new job opportunities for commoners. In this series, it is worth stating that a huge amount of rupees 2400 crore will be spent in two phases on this stretch falling in Haryana under this project. Besides, 480 hectares of land will be acquired and the process for the same has begun. It also came to light that this corridor aims to strengthen transportation as well as the movement of commercial activities in three states as no such corridor has been constructed either from North to East or East to North in this zone. Although there are many highways constructed while going from Delhi to Jammu, Kashmir, Punjab, and Himachal. Contrary to this no such highway does exist while going from Punjab to Uttar Pradesh or vice versa. The Greenfield corridor will have a width of 60 meters from starting and ending. Besides, it is a noticeable fact that bringing such new corridors is most likely to pave a new path for development and employment along with the promotion of tourism in the areas around the corridor. With an investment of aforesaid huge amount, the 1600 km-long highway is most likely to transform the road infrastructure and transportation of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. Besides, it will be a blend of road infrastructure of global standards along environment-friendly roads and industry-friendly approaches.

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ED TO QUIZ TMC LEADER ABHISHEK IN KOLKATA

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On Tuesday, the Supreme Court directed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to interrogate Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Abhishek Banerjee and his wife Rujira Banerjee in Kolkata instead of Delhi.

A bench of Justices UU Lalit, S Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia said the ED has to give at least 24 hours prior notice to the couple before interrogation and simultaneously a notice shall be issued to the Commissioner of Police and Chief Secretary of Kolkata. The Supreme Court in an interim order stayed Delhi High Court March 11 order by which Banerjees’ pleas against the issuance of summons by the ED were dismissed.

If the ED interrogates Abhishek Banerjee and his wife in Kolkata, the apex court has stated that it will not allow any form of state meddling or obstruction.

The Supreme Court also issued notice to the ED on Banerjees’ appeal against the High Court order and sought a response within three weeks and posted the matter for hearing on July 19. The State of West Bengal assured the Supreme Court that complete assistance shall be rendered by West Bengal to ED officials.

The apex court further said that in case there is any interference, the ED shall approach the vacation court of the Supreme Court.

The West Bengal government has assured that in case any complaint is filed against ED officials no coercive action will be initiated, noted SC in its order. The ED is conducting the investigation in a money-laundering probe, linked to an alleged coal scam in West Bengal, in which the agency had issued summons to the Banerjee couple.

Abhishek Banerjee, the nephew of TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, had told the apex court that he is ready to be probed by the ED in Kolkata.

The Banerjees have contested the ED’s summons to appear in court in connection with a money laundering investigation into a purported coal scam in West Bengal.

They have asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the summons and prevent the ED from requesting their attendance in Delhi for questioning. They argued that the ED might examine them in Kolkata and requested a stay on the High Court’s judgement.

The petitioners have requested the Supreme Court to rule on whether the ED has the authority to call people from all over India to Delhi.

With inputs from ANI.

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POSTERS SURFACE IN BASIRHAT, RESIDENTS DECLARE ACTRESS-TURNED TMC MP NUSRAT JAHAN ‘MISSING’

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When the residents of Basirhat Lok Sabha constituency woke up on Wednesday, they saw posters screaming “MP of Basirhat Missing” pasted all around, leaving them wondering whose handiwork it could be. Though, few would have disagreed with the contents of the posters. For, the Bengali actress-turned-politician has been more visible for controversies of late than for working for the people of her constituency.

The Trinamool Congress MP is rather inaccessible to the residents of her own constituency. When they try to approach MP Nusrat to relate their problems and seek redress to them, sometimes four to five times, they are turned down, say locals. The posters are an expression of popular anger and disillusionment with the MP, they say, which is only growing with time. One such poster could be seen in Champatla panchayat area of Chaylap Haroa assembly segment.

“Basirhat MP Nusrat Jahan is missing, I want to find her,” read the poster.

Sources say the posters have been put up by Trinamool Congress workers of the constituency, showing the disaffection and anger among them for which the MP has to blame none other than herself.

The local party leaders, though, would blame the opposition parties for running such slanderous poster campaign against their MP.

Humayun Reza Chowdhury, head of the Degangar Champatla Panchayat, said, “Haji Nurul Islam was the MP of Basirhat from 2009 to 2014. The grassroots activists got him elected from among the common people and all the development work in the area was done by him. But now the Trinamool MP is not available. That’s why people in the area have put out such posters.”

Apart from her absence from and inaccessibility to the people of her constituency, there some more reasons behind the growing popular dissent against her. She was not a popular choice when she was declared a candidate by TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee. Yet Nusrat Jahan was voted to become their MP in 2019 parliamentary elections. Then, Nusrat Jahan has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. She hit the headlines when she married Nikhil Jain in Turkey in June 2019. The marriage did not last and they parted ways in 2021. It turned out that Jahan had married under Turkish law and did not register her marriage under the Special Marriage Act in India and the marriage was, in fact, a live-in relationship, according to her own admission last year.

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Tension in Punjab over ‘conversion’ of Guru’s inn into mosque

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The case of converting Guru ki Sarai into a mosque in Gujjara locality in Rajpura, Punjab, has gained momentum and police force has been deployed in the tehsil premises.

On Monday, the matter was heard in front of the SDM during which people of the Muslim-Sikh community were present. People from the Hindu community were also present.

This inn was given the form of a gurdwara. The Hindu side says that earlier people of Hindu and Sikh society used to serve here. After sometime, it was converted into a mosque without anyone’s consent and permission. The Hindu organizations have also protested against this incident.

SDM Himanshu Gupta says that the police force has been deployed to ensure that law and order situation does not deteriorate. This matter has been in discussion for many days.

The Hindu side alleges that people gather here every day at the time of Namaz. Also, the sound of loudspeaker causes trouble to the common people.

During the hearing, a large number of people including Punjab Dharmacharya, head of Gau Raksha Dal, Satish Kumar had reached. As the number of people increased, the police also increased their security arrangements to prevent any untoward incident.

On the other hand, RCFAI, a Kerala-based organization, had built three more mosques in the same district in 2019. After this the intelligence agencies were alerted. According to the report of the Ministry of Home Affairs, mosques have been built in districts adjoining Punjab with terror funding.

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IGP URGES KASHMIRI PANDITS NOT TO LEAVY VALLEY, FOIL ENEMY’S PLAN

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Kashmir Inspector General of Police (IGP) Vijay Kumar on Tuesday said that killings of Kashmiri Pandits are plans to push them out of Kashmir.

Vijay Kumar, who met the protesting Kashmiri Pandits at Sheikhpora village in Budgam, and urged them not to think of leaving Kashmir as the “same was plans of militants and their masters across” that has to be foiled by all means.

“Shortcomings in security grid will be addressed very soon and at the same time we will eradicate terrorism. I assure you (Kashmiri Pandits) of every help and better and enhanced security cover in the days ahead.”

Assuring the protesters here, he said: “Everyone including police, army and even local people will have to fight against terrorism. I urge the protesters not to do anything that will make our enemy successful. To push you out of Kashmir is the plan of militants and their masters which has to be foiled you and us collectively.”

The IGP said attacking the Kashmiri Pandit community is a ploy of the terrorists to drive them out of Kashmir which “we will never allow to succeed.”

Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir Police along with security forces have arrested two terrorist associates – Zahid Ahmad Sheikh and Sahil Bashir Dar – of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in Budgam.

Incriminating materials of proscribed terror outfit LeT, explosive material and ammunition including one hand grenade, two pistol magazines and 15 AK-47 rounds have been recovered from their possession

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Centre to provide RFID tags to Amarnath pilgrims; drones to be deployed on yatra routes

Union Home minister Amit Shah reviews J-K security situation.

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In a bid to a hassle-free Amarnath Yatra, beginning June 30 after a gap of two years, the central government on Tuesday decided to provide Radio Frequency Identification Card (RFID) to all pilgrims. The pilgrims will also be insured with Rs 5 lakh.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah during a meeting with Jammu and Kashmir LG Manoj Sinha, central government secretaries and officials from the CRPF and Home Ministry in New Delhi on Tuesday.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah chaired two separate back-to-back marathon meetings, attended by all stakeholders including Jammu and Kashmir Governor Manoj Sinha, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Intelligence Bureau Chief Arvind Kumar, on preparations for the yatra.

Resuming Amarnath pilgrimage is a challenging task as Jammu and Kashmir which has witnessed several incidences of targeted killings in last few months by terrorists following which Ministry of Home Affairs asked security agencies operating in the state to enhance counter-terror operations.

Shah said: “Hassle-free journey for the pilgrims is a priority of the Narendra Modi government. All arrangements should be made which includes creation of additional electricity, water and telecom facilities.” The Home Minister also stressed for enhancement of mobile connectivity along the yatra route as he directed that earth-moving equipment should be placed at vantage points to clear the route in case of landslides.

The Home Minister asked for an adequate number of oxygen cylinders, medical beds at an altitude of more than 6,000 feet and deployment of ambulances and helicopters to deal with any emergency medical situation.

During the meeting, it was also decided to enable Wi-Fi hotspots to ensure connectivity

throughout the 39 km yatra route from Pahalgam in South Kashmir. The other route is through Baltal in central Kashmir where a pilgrim treks for nearly 15 km.

About 12,000 paramilitary personnel (120 companies) in addition to Jammu and

Kashmir Police are expected to be deployed along the two pilgrimage routes – one from Pahalgam and the other via Baltal, officials said.

Drone cameras will help the security forces to ensure protection of the pilgrims, sources said.

Top officials of the Ministries of Health, Telecom, Road Transport, Civil Aviation, IT took part in the meeting to discuss logistics for the annual pilgrimage to the cave shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva at an altitude of 3,888 metres.

Online registration for Amarnath Yatra 2022 started from April 11 and the Home Ministry has already sanctioned nearly 50 companies of CAPF for the purpose to provide security during the pilgrimage as Jammu and Kashmir is expecting nearly five lakh pilgrims visiting the Amarnath cave shrine this year.

While online registration has already begun, the pilgrimage is scheduled to be held for 43 days between June 30 and August 11.

The J&K administration had cancelled the annual Amarnath pilgrimage due to the

prevailing Covid-19 situation in 2020 and 2021 after a discussion with Amarnathji

Shrine Board members.

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