CONGRESS ACCUSES KCR OF ‘UNETHICAL’ POLL PRACTICES - The Daily Guardian
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CONGRESS ACCUSES KCR OF ‘UNETHICAL’ POLL PRACTICES

Lokeswara Rao

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AICC national spokesperson Dr Sravan Dasoju has slammed Chief Minister KCR for resorting to unethical, farcical and manipulative politics through Telangana Non-Gazettted Officers (TNGOs) with an “evil intention” to win the elections at any cost in Nagarjuna Sagar. Since TNGOs are the government officers who will be assigned various polling duties during the Nagarjuna Sagar election, the senior Congress leader suspected a possible mass rigging by them in favour of the TRS party’s candidate as they are openly supporting KCR and the ruling party.

Dr Sravan found fault with KCR and questioned his morality as the Telangana CM is vehemently preparing to defeat the legendary Telangana leader, Jana Reddy, the stalwart who had convinced Sonia Gandhi for a separate Telangana and at whose house the JAC, the formidable force that led the separate Telangana movement from the front, was born. Therefore, Dr Sravan appealed to the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Telangana, Shashank Goel, to ensure a fair and free election by taking serious actions against the rule breakers who are ridiculing the Constitution by following illegal election practices.

“Shameless KCR has resorted to mass manipulation activities and even using TNGOs to campaign for the TRS candidate which is purely an unethical and unacceptable practice. The fearful Chief Minister who confirmed the victory of Jana Reddy in Nagarjuna Sagar is also going to organise a second public meeting on April 14 at Halia violating the Covid-19 regulations. He has already deployed his locust army comprising MLAs, ministers and TRS party leaders who have camped at Nagarjuna Sagar for the last 40 days to influence the voters.,” Dr Sravan said.

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Costlier Covishield jab from 1 May, many states declare free vaccination

Covishield to be sold at Rs 400 a shot to states and Rs 600 a shot to private hospitals.

Shalini Bhardwaj

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The Serum Institute of India (SII) on Wednesday fixed the prices of Covishield vaccine at Rs 400 per dose for state governments and Rs 600 per dose for private hospitals, even as many states like Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Uttar Pradesh announced free vaccinationto all above 18 years.

The Central government had said on Monday that everyone above 18 years of age will be eligible to get vaccinated against Covid-19 from 1 May.

The SII’s announcement came days after the Centre had announced its “Liberalised Pricing and Accelerated National Covid-19 Vaccination Strategy” which will become effective from 1 May, and under which vaccine manufacturers would be free to supply 50% of their monthly doses to state governments and in the open market.

Currently, the Covishield vaccine costs Rs 250 in private hospitals, which is a highly subsidised rate as the Centre has till now been directly procuring the vaccine from SII. The Centre will continue to receive Covishield doses at Rs 150 each, which means it will be cheapest to get vaccine shot from Central government hospitals or establishments.

The vaccines will still be more affordable than foreign jabs, which cost anywhere from Rs 750 to Rs 1,500 a shot, SII said.

As part of the government’s new policy, 50% of the vaccine doses will be reserved for the Centre and the rest will be divided between states and private hospitals.

“Following the Government of India directives, we are announcing the prices of the Covishield vaccine—Rs 400 per dose for state governments and Rs 600 per dose for private hospitals,” the SII said. SII further said the company will serve 50% of the total production to the Government of India’s vaccination programme, and the remaining 50% of the capacity will be for the state governments and private hospitals.

“Furthermore, owing to the complexity, and urgency of the situation it is challenging to supply it independently to each corporate entity. We would urge all corporate and private individuals to access the vaccines through the state facilitated machinery and private health systems. Post 4-5 months, the vaccines will be made available in retail and free trade,” it said.

Meanwhile, a report from Patna said the Bihar government will provide the Covid-19 vaccine free of cost to all above 18 years of age, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced on Wednesday. “The Bihar government will provide Covid-19 vaccine free of cost to all above 18 years of age in the state,” Kumar tweeted in Hindi. The Bihar government has imposed a impose night curfew in the state amid rising Covid-19 cases.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan too announced on Wednesday that those above 18 years will be given free vaccination for Covid-19. “All above 18 above will be vaccinated in Madhya Pradesh free of cost,” he said. Chouhan said that the state government will come out with guidelines concerning the decision.

Assam and Uttar Pradesh governments have also said that they will vaccinate those above 18 years free of cost.

A report from Thiruvananthapuram said the Kerala government will provide the Covid-19 vaccine free of cost to all above 18 years of age, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced on Wednesday. Addressing media in Thiruvananthapuram, he also urged the Central government to give vaccines to the states for free as they are already under financial burden due to the coronavirus pandemic. “The state governments have been asked to buy vaccines. But states are already going through a financial burden because of Covid-19. Instead of pushing states to further economic crisis, the Centre should give vaccines to the states for free,” he said. “Kerala government is not going back on its promises, we will provide Covid-19 vaccine free of cost to all above 18 years of age,” he added.

A report from Raipur said expenses to vaccinate all aged above 18 years against Covid-19 in Chhattisgarh will be borne by the state government, said state Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel on Wednesday. He requested the Central government to ensure availability of adequate number of vaccines. “Expenses, to vaccinate all aged above 18 years in Chhattisgarh, will be borne by the state government. We will take all possible steps to protect our citizens’ lives. Request central government to ensure availability of adequate number of vaccines,” Baghel tweeted.

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MAHARASHTRA IMPOSES FRESH CURBS AMID CORONAVIRUS SURGE

State logs 67,468 new Covid-19 cases, 568 deaths in the last 24 hours.

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The Maharashtra government late on Wednesday night announced a series of restrictions—titled “Break the Chain”—even as the state reported 67,468 new Covid-19 cases and 568 deaths in the last 24 hours, the state health department informed on Wednesday.

The new curbs came on a day when in a tragedy, 24 people died in a Nashik hospital due to disruptions in the oxygen supply triggered by a leak in a tanker. Nashik itself reported 6,703 cases and 29 Covid-19 deaths.

Under the new rules and restrictions announced on Wednesday night, attendance at all private and government (Centre and state) offices not directly connected to the management of the Covid-19 pandemic will be capped at 15 per cent. Attendance at weddings and marriage ceremonies has been capped at 25. These ceremonies may be conducted “only as a single event in a single hall not extending beyond 2 hours”.

Violation of this rule, the state government’s order said, would incur a fine of Rs 50,000.

Offices providing essential services should work at the “lowest required capacity”, but can have no more than 50 per cent of their workforce present at any given time. Attendance of people delivering these services should be similarly minimised but this can go up to 100 per cent, if needed.

With the cumulative positivity rate 16.36 per cent, the total cases of Covid-19 in Maharashtra have mounted to 40,27,827. Out of 2,46,14,480 samples, 40,27,827 have tested positive (16.36 per cent) for Covid-19 until today, according to the state government’s data. According to the official data, there are 6,95,747 active cases of Covid-19 in Maharashtra, while as many as 54,985 patients recovered in the last 24 hours, taking total recoveries to 32,68,449. The recovery rate in the state is 81.15 per cent.

Out of 67,468 fresh Covid-19 cases in Maharashtra, Mumbai logged 7,684 cases and 62 deaths in the last 24 hours. There are 84,743 active Covid-19 cases in the state capital. Pune remains the worst-affected city with 10,852 cases and 35 deaths. Nagpur district reported 7,229 new Covid-19 cases, 7,266 recoveries and 98 deaths in the last 24 hours and has 71,557 active cases of the infection.

Reeling under a fresh Covid-19 wave, the state government announced the fresh curbs. Private buses can run with a maximum of 50 per cent of seated capacity, with no standing travellers. Inter-city or inter-district travel by buses has also been regulated, with service operators directed to make no more than two stops in a city. Service operators violating these guidelines can be fined up to Rs 10,000, with repeated defaults leading to cancellation of license till the pandemic ends.

Use of private vehicles, excluding buses, will only be allowed for essential services or valid reasons, like medical emergencies, with driver plus 50 per cent of seating capacity. Private vehicles will not be allowed to travel inter-city or inter-district unless it is an emergency or is required for essential services. Violation of this rule will incur a fine of Rs 10,000.

Use of public transport has been limited to government (state, centre or local) personnel, all medical personnel (including doctors, paramedics and lab techs), and any person needing medical treatment or any specially-abled person and their attendant. All of these categories of people must also have a valid ID. State-run buses are also limited to 50 per cent capacity, with the no-standing rule to be enforced.

For both state-run and private buses all passengers will get hand-stamps–to be done by the bus operator–indicating a 14-day home quarantine period, and could face mandatory and random rapid antigen tests when they deboard.

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‘BEG, BORROW OR STEAL…IT’S A NATIONAL EMERGENCY’: HC TO CENTRE ON OXYGEN CRISIS

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The Delhi High Court on Wednesday said that it was the Centre’s responsibility to supply medical oxygen to all the hospitals, directing it to provide the oxygen by “whatever means”.

“Beg, borrow or steal. It is a national emergency,” a division bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said.

The bench also asked the Centre to protect the fundamental right of citizens who are seriously ill due to Covid-19 and require medical oxygen. If necessary, the court said, the Centre should divert the entire production of oxygen from industries, particularly steel and petroleum industries.

“The demand for oxygen run by Max as well as all other hospitals dealing with Covid-19 patients has gone up manifolds. The supply of oxygen from the established sources is not able to meet the said demand,” said the court.

At the end of the hearing, the Centre assured “unobstructed passage” of oxygen tankers to states.

The HC was hearing a petition filed by the management of Max Healthcare for supply of oxygen to its hospitals in Delhi. The petitioner told the court that most of the hospitals in the network are working in dangerously low levels of oxygen supply which can lead to adverse patient incident.

“You cannot say that we cannot provide this much. That cannot be an answer from the State. We cannot see people dying. Every 10 days, cases are getting doubled. The ground reality is that there is a shortage today. It is evident. It is there. We cannot shut our eyes,” the HC said.

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OXYGEN LEAK KILLS 24 IN NASHIK HOSPITAL AS FRESH COVID-19 CASES NEAR 3 LAKH

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray calls the incident ‘shocking and painful’ and orders a high-level inquiry; India records 2,023 deaths and 295,041 new infections.

Preeti Sompura

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At least 24 patients died at the government-run Dr Zakir Hussain Hospital in Maharashtra’s Nashik district, after their oxygen supply was disrupted by a leakage in the main storage tank.

Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope rushed to Nashik and said about the incident, “As per information available with us, patients who were on ventilators at the hospital in Nashik have died. The leakage was spotted at the oxygen tank which was supplying oxygen to these patients. The interrupted supply could be linked to the deaths of the patients in the hospital.”

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray called the incident “shocking and painful” and ordered a high-level inquiry into the incident and also announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the kin of the deceased.

Zakir Hussain Hospital is a dedicated Covid hospital with over 150 patients either oxygen-dependent or on ventilators. A cork in the oxygen tank had malfunctioned which led to a reduction in pressure in the oxygen pipeline which goes straight to the Covid wards. It took an hour for technicians to plug the leakage.

Heart wrenching visuals showed families trying to help the patients as they gasped for breath.

Senior BJP leader and former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis conveyed condolences and said, “Priority should be given to assist and shift patients. The truth will come out after an inquiry, but immediate steps are needed to avoid such incidents in the future.”

News of this tragedy comes amid the current surge in the demand for oxygen supplies which has been triggered by the staggering spike in cases of Covid-19 in India. On Wednesday, 2,023 deaths due to the virus and 2,95,041 new infections were recorded nationwide, worsening the oxygen crisis in the country.

Only the United States had a slightly higher one-day rise of 297,430 cases in January this year, though its tally has since fallen sharply. India’s 2,023 deaths were also its highest in the pandemic.

Hospitals in Delhi and elsewhere have warned authorities about dwindling supplies of medical oxygen. Max Healthcare, the largest private sector healthcare provider in the national capital, stated that some of its hospitals had barely two hours’ worth of oxygen left.

“For the last few days the hospital has been facing serious difficulties in procuring adequate and regular supplies of oxygen,” it said in a statement. “Presently, most of the hospitals in the network are working on dangerously low levels of oxygen supply, which can lead to a very serious adverse patient incident,” the statement added.

In Uttar Pradesh, crowds of people with empty oxygen cylinders were seen at refilling facilities as they struggled to save severely Covid-stricken relatives in hospitals.

Some people in Haryana also attempted to loot an oxygen tanker, forcing authorities to increase security. “From now, I’ve ordered police protection for all tankers,” Haryana health minister Anil Vij told news agency ANI.

Adding to the sense of alarm, the Serum Institute of India, which manufactures the AstraZeneca vaccine as Covishield, informed that it can raise its monthly output to 100 million doses from 60-70 million only by July, not the end of May, as per its previous timeline. There are concerns that this delay could slow down India’s vaccination drive, especially now that the Centre has announced that vaccines would be offered to all adults, starting May 1.

India has so far administered 13,01,19,310 doses of the Covid vaccines, which despite being the most in the world after the United States and China, is still inadequate relative to its population of 1.35 billion people.

The total cases of Covid-19 in India stands at 1,56,16,130 currently, including 21,57,538 active cases. As many as 1,32,76,039 recoveries have also been reported so far, out of which 1,67,457 were reported in the last 24 hours. The death toll stands at 1,82,553.

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Sunita Shekhawat, Niharika Shekhawat talk about their admiration for Jaipur and their brand ‘Sunita Shekhawat Jaipur’

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Sunita Shekhawat, founder of Sunita Shekhawat Jaipur and Niharika Shekhawat, creative director for Sunita Shekhawat Jaipur recently joined NewsX for an exclusive conversation as a part of NewsX India A-List. Talking about her brand Sunita Shekhawat Jaipur, Sunita said, “I think first of all lot of credit goes to the city itself, the city, Jaipur has been an inspiration for so many designers and so many best karigars since the Mughal era. Moreover, Jaipur is known as the emerald city of Asia. We have access to all the coloured stones, the best karigars and the city is so colourful. So, colours inspired me to get into designing, and then I got into manufacturing. I honestly owe a lot to Jaipur itself and hence, the name Sunita Shekhawat Jaipur.”

Niharika pitched in, “There are two ways I look into inspiration. Definitely one, is by working at the brand, and second constantly, how I push myself. For the brand definitely, my mom takes over everything and I think the regeneration is by her. Taking the Legacy forward, I have learned a lot from her and it organically became a part of my childhood. I am not a part of the whole designing product process so when something is getting created, I do observe that in stages and finally when the product or that piece is there on the table and we see it. I just really overwhelmed thinking what best I could do to create that experience with that piece and how do I take the brand forward. So, that inspiration is definitely a great piece of art because it has been created by a designer, and my mom heading it.That in itself is a superb inspiration, and definitely when people just come and be like we love what you do.”

When asked about the USP of their brand, Sunita said, “The most important thing is there are very few design houses who focus a lot on the integrity of the design. Everything is under one roof. From design, manufacturing to retail space, we don’t source anything from outside. You can literally call it a design house. So, we design from farm to market. A lot of time, it is architecture, travel gives you lots of creative ideas and as Niharika has put up, it’s art and craft. Whether it is textile, handicraft, or a piece of furniture, as a designer anything creative inspires me. Even a designer carpet inspires me. I was in Azar Baizan two years ago and those patterns are still there at the back of my mind and while I was doing some beautiful combination of Meenakari and suddenly those carpets propped in my mind and changed the pattern.”

Expressing her views on adapting to change, Sunita said, “The new digital age, I think last year we had a lot of bridal appointments on a zoom call since the brand already has a legacy, the trust value is there, people love what we made, so that was already there we gave them the liberty to decide over a zoom call so that was very convenient for all of us for the team also. That was a new way of working. I think today also Niharika had 2-3 bridal appointments & we are very happy and excited to serve them.”

All praises for her mom, Niharika Shekhawat, on a concluding note, said, “For me, my mom is a constant teacher, a mentor, a friend. I definitely learn everything that I do at work, and, personally speaking, it makes sweet mix working with your parents who are apparently your bosses too. I learned how to go gather like whatever things happen with work she is  a hardcore believer in Geeta so, we had learned one thing, i.e work hard.”

When asked from Sunita about her learnings from her daughter Niharika, Sunita responded, “Honestly, a lot of things and I think that new age that Crispness you know whether it’s in terms of communication, creating a piece of jewellery, travel, work, adapting to the new ways of working, lot of things because of Niharika. The new, the little tadka is all because of Niharika.”

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‘ActionAid provides a platform for change to the most vulnerable communities’: Sandeep Chachra

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Sandeep Chachra, Executive Director, ActionAid Association recently joined NewsX for a conversation as part of NewsX India’s special A-List series. A social anthropologist by training and a development activist who has lived and worked with Indigenous people and Dalit communities in India all his life, Sandeep Chachra is currently the Executive Director of ActionAid Association. Prior to this, Mr Chachra was the International lead for ActionAid International, just and democratic governance and economic justice theme. He has worked in several capacities in ActionAid International and other development organisations for the last two decades.

Giving us a peak into his journey in the social sector so far, Sandeep said, “I did my research and studies in social anthropology and interned at social work, and perhaps it’s my time I spent in Jharkhand with the tribal communities there as a student in school and later researches living with the Mundari tribes, or perhaps is the fact that my father is a first-generation refugee from Multan. We grew up in an environment where there were difficulties, perhaps those factors which contributed to me to commit myself to social change and justice efforts.”

Talking about his long association with the ActionAid, he highlighted, “ActionAid provides a platform for change for the most vulnerable communities, their movements and their formations. Over decades, some of which I have been part of, it makes several advances. I will take a few examples, back in early 2000 We took up the cause of homeless people. We organised homeless people and we provided support to homeless people in several cities of the country. Homelessness was then not on the national agenda, so i am working there to bring it to the national agenda to an extent. We went to the court and to the-then governments. Now. we have a national policy scheme for shelters for the homeless. So, it keeps you inspired when you see change happen not just on the ground but also in the policy framework.”

“We did our bit, so did other civil society organisations and formations. You’re right in celebrating and acknowledging their contributions over the last one year, we did our bit as well. Actually, more than about eight months in the last year after the lockdown. We did a bit to reach out for support to inform our workers more popularly we call them migrant workers, the kind of situation that all of us are in. So, we need to reach rations to them, food supplies to them, set up a community and mobile kitchens.” 

On a concluding note, Mr Sandeep Chachra spoke about Action Aid’s plan to combat the second wave of Covid-19. He said, “We are in the middle of the second peak, so we will need to go back to some of the lessons in terms of what needs to be done, particularly for workers. We’re preparing ourselves to once again provide full support and action support. This time around, the question of medicines comes, the question of encouraging people to vaccinate where they’re qualified to vaccinate comes. We are part of a national level campaign, the People’s vaccine Alliance, which is campaigning for universal free vaccination for everybody, particularly in countries where vaccines are even down reaching so it’s not as national but globally also I think a lot needs to be done.”

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