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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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India will lead world in digital economy: Rajeev Chandrasekhar

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India will lead world in digital economy: Rajeev Chandrasekhar

The Union Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology and Union Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, on Thursday said India will be a significant player in the digital economy. “India has been advancing toward a new era of technology. The nation will become a major force in the digital economy within a year. All Indians share the vision of a developed India, which is reflected in the expanding digital economy of the nation.”

In an interactive session with Professor MD Nalapat and Priya Sahgal at the first Capital Dialouge, organised by The Sunday Guardian Foundation, the Union minister said, “India will play a vital role in entrepreneurship and the digital economy. 

Post-Covid, we have reimagined our ambitions, and talking about a trillion-dollar economy is a critical discussion. There has been discussion about a five-trillion-dollar economy in the past, but over the last two and a half years, the acceleration of digitalisation around the world has led to a permanent change in the global value of all products and services. We have come to a point where we are confident that India will be a significant player in the digital world.”

The digital economy has constituted about 6% to 8% of the overall economy, and the goal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to achieve a minimum of 20% of the overall GDP by 2025–2026. Apart from the incentives and schemes of the government, the momentum, and determination of young entrepreneurs play a key role in enabling a strong digital economy. 

Explaining the concept of ‘New India for Young India’, the minister, said, “The last few years have been a difficult time as the world had to deal with the pandemic. However, we have produced a very strong, surging digital economy, as well as strong innovation and startup ecosystem growth. Over 102 unicorns and 75000 startups have grown in India as a result of global-scale innovation and products and services. This gives us the confidence of a trillion-dollar digital economy.”

The journey, when 90% of mobile phones were imported to one where 97% are country-made-manufactured phones, demonstrates the success of India’s digital economy. Today, almost 55000 crores of mobile brands are exported from India. From 2014 to 2018, the digital economy has been slowly building, followed by the growth of investments. 

Similarly, the launch of 5G is a big joy as it represents ‘transformation’. Speaking about the launching of 5G, the minister said, “Indian technology is finding its place in cutting-edge technology.” Reminiscent of the days when all services were imported, India has come a long way, establishing a strong presence in the world of future 5G wireless hi-tech Indian products.

With the growth of entrepreneurship, the unemployment rate has also come down, although, the aftereffects of the pandemic cannot be negated. Hospitality, one of the major employment generators, is left with a deep scar post-pandemic. However, the rebound is taking place slowly, and around 10 lakh net new jobs are being created in the technology sector, where 54% of women are, presently, employed. The revamping of the digital ecosystem along with local economic opportunities based on districts and migratory opportunities will soon provide more employment to Indian youth. 

Highlighting upskilling and reskilling Indian youth, the minister said, “In the future, various institutions, trainers, students, and so on will come on one platform to assess and provide suggestions about local opportunities that will lead to empowerment.”

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Nobel Prize in literature goes to French writer Annie Ernaux

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Nobel Prize in literature goes to French writer Annie Ernaux

The Royal Swedish Academy on Thursday awarded the 2022 Nobel Prize in literature to French writer Annie Ernaux for the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory. 

“BREAKING NEWS: The 2022 #NobelPrize in Literature is awarded to the French author Annie Ernaux for the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory,” the official Twitter handle of The Nobel Prize said. “French writer Annie Ernaux – awarded the 2022 #NobelPrize in Literature – was born in 1940 and grew up in the small town of Yvetot in Normandy, where her parents had a combined grocery store and cafe. Her path to authorship was long and arduous,” the tweet added. 

The Nobel Prize laureate, in her writing consistently and from different angles examines a life marked by strong disparities regarding gender, language and class. She has written over 30 literary works. 

In ‘L’occupation’ (2002) Ernaux dissects the social mythology of romantic love. On the basis of notes in a diary recording her abandonment by a lover, she both confesses and attacks a self-image built on stereotypes. Writing becomes a sharp weapon for dissecting truth. 

Ernaux has said that writing is a political act, opening our eyes to social inequality. For this purpose she uses language as “a knife”, as she calls it, to tear apart the veils of imagination. 

With great courage and clinical acuity, Annie Ernaux reveals the agony of the experience of class, describing shame, humiliation, jealousy or inability to see who you are, she has achieved something admirable and enduring. 

The Nobel Prize laureate Ernaux believes in the liberating force of writing. Her work is uncompromising and written in plain language, scraped clean. 

And when she with great courage and clinical acuity reveals the agony of the experience of class, describing shame, humiliation, jealousy or inability to see who you are, she has achieved something admirable and enduring. 

Last year, Tanzanian author Abdulrazak Gurnah won the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature. Born in 1948 and growing up on the island of Zanzibar, Gurnah has published ten novels and a number of short stories. The theme of the refugee’s disruption runs throughout his work. He began writing as a 21-year-old in English exile, and although Swahili was his first language, English became his literary tool. 

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Minor allegedly gang-raped by seniors in school washroom

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Minor allegedly gang-raped by seniors in school washroom

An 11-year-old student was allegedly gang-raped by two seniors inside the washroom of a Kendriya Vidyalaya school in Delhi. The alleged incident had taken place in July but the victim approached the police on Tuesday. The matter came to the fore when it was highlighted by the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW).

The Delhi Police has registered a case was against the two teenagers on Tuesday. 

Confirming the incident, DCP (New Delhi) Amrutha Guguloth said they received a complaint and immediately registered a case under sections of sexual assault and the POCSO Act. Police said the matter is being investigated and nobody has been apprehended yet.

School officials said the incident was not reported to principal by the victim. 

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Permanent UN seat India’s top priority, says Jaishankar

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Permanent UN seat India’s top priority, says Jaishankar

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday said that a permanent seat, as well as reforms of the UN Security Council, remains India’s main priority. He asserted that India voices the interest and aspirations of a broad set of countries and added that the contemporary global issues cannot be solved by few countries only. 

Jaishankar was addressing Auckland Community business. He said, “There is a widespread acceptance that the problems of today cannot be solved by one, two or even five of the countries in the United Nations Security Council. When we look at the reforms at the United Nations Security Council, we have an interest in becoming a permanent member of the security council.” 

Currently, United Nations Security Council, also known as the Permanent Five or P5, are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States and India has been reiterating its bid for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council. 

Over the multilateral Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) grouping, External Affairs Minister Jaishankar reiterated that not joining RCEP was the “right decision.” 

During Jaishankar’s address to Auckland Community business, he noted, “When it came to the RCEP, we took a decision in 2019 not to proceed in joining the RCEP. We weigh the pros and cons. We did an evaluation and many of the critical issues were not addressed in the final outcome.” 

He continued saying, “India went back to the other 15 countries and shared some of its anxieties with them but they collectively took the view that they had gone as far as they could. So we decided that it was not in our interest.”

India joined the 15-nation ‘Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations in 2012. In 2019, 15 nations, including China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand among others, signed the free trade agreement. However, India walked out of the negotiations, citing national interests.
Jaishankar also said that the entire world is suffering from the Russia-Ukraine war and mentioned the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan as also a big issue. 

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Govt begins probe after who links deaths in gambia to india-made syrup

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Govt begins probe after who links deaths in gambia to india-made syrup

The Union government has started an investigation into four cough syrups manufactured by a Haryana-based pharmaceutical firm after the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that they could be linked to the deaths of 66 children in Gambia.

At the same time, the government on Thursday activated National Regulatory Authority, CDSCO who requested the World Health Organization (WHO) to share the report on the establishment of “causal relation to death” with the syrups manufactured by a Haryana-based company, Maiden Pharmaceutical Limited.  

This comes after the World Health Organization (WHO) issued an alert on four India-made cough and cold syrups used for paediatric groups. Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) took up an urgent investigation in this regard. WHO informed that the certificate of analysis will be made available to WHO in near future and it will be shared with the Indian Regulator which is yet to be done. The exact one-to-one causal relation of death has not yet been provided by WHO to CDSCO. 

“As a robust National Regulatory Authority, CDSCO has requested WHO to share at the earliest with CDSCO the report on the establishment of causal relation to death with the medical products in question etc.,” it added. 

CDSCO said that Maiden Pharmaceutical Limited holds manufacturing permission for the products Promethazine Oral Solution BP, Kofexnalin Baby Cough Syrup, MaKoff Baby Cough Syrup and MaGrip n Cold Syrup for “export only.” 

“From the preliminary enquiry of CDSCO, it has been made out that Maiden Pharmaceutical Limited, Sonepat, Haryana is a manufacturer licensed by the State Drug Controller for the products Promethazine Oral Solution BP, Kofexnalin Baby Cough Syrup, MaKoff Baby Cough Syrup and MaGrip n Cold Syrup under reference, and holds manufacturing permission for these products for export only. The company has manufactured and exported these products only to The Gambia,” the press release said. 

The State Drug Controller had given licenses to the said Company only for exporting these four drugs namely Promethazine Oral Solution BP, Kofexnalin Baby Cough Syrup, MaKoff Baby Cough Syrup and MaGrip n Cold Syrup. 

Further, all these 4 drugs manufactured only for exports by Maiden Pharmaceuticals Limited are not licensed for manufacture and sale in India. In effect, none of these four drugs of Maiden Pharmaceuticals is sold domestically in India, it added.
WHO on September 29 informed DCGI, the National Drug Regulator of India, that WHO is currently providing technical assistance and advice to The Gambia, where children have died. 

World Health Organization expressed that a contributing factor is suspected to be the use of medicines which may have been contaminated with Diethylene glycol or Ethylene glycol (in some of the samples it was claimed to have been confirmed by further analysis conducted by WHO), the press release added. 

CDSCO took up the matter immediately with the Haryana State Regulatory Authority, under whose jurisdiction the drug manufacturing unit of Maiden Pharmaceutical Limited, Sonepat is located. 

Further, a detailed investigation was also launched to ascertain the facts/ details in the matter in collaboration with State Drugs Controller, Haryana. 

It is a usual practice that the importing country tests these imported products on quality parameters, and satisfies itself as to the quality of the products before the importing country decides to release such products for usage in the country. As per the tentative results received by WHO, out of the 23 samples of the products under reference which were tested, 4 samples have been found to contain Diethylene Glycol/ Ethylene Glycol. 

The samples (controlled samples of the same batch manufactured by Maiden Pharmaceuticals Limited for all four drugs in question) have been taken and sent for testing to Regional Drug Testing Lab, Chandigarh by CDSCO, the results of which will guide a further course of action as well as bring clarity on the inputs received from WHO. 

More reports on page 5

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India abstains from voting in UN on rights issue in Xinjiang

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India abstains from voting in UN on rights issue in Xinjiang

India on Thursday abstained from voting on a United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution on holding a debate on the human rights situation in China’s Xinjiang. 

The draft resolution on “holding a debate on the situation of human rights in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China” was rejected in the 47-member Council after 17 members voted in favour, 19 members voted against, including China, and 11 abstentions, including India, Brazil, Mexico and Ukraine. 

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