P rime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said that health and frontline workers would get priority in getting the Covid vaccine when it arrives. Seeking better Centre-state cooperation for a seamless vaccine distribution mechanism, PM Modi subtly showed his displeasure over the politics being played visà-vis the issue. “Our priority is to make vaccine available for all. States should put in the necessary mechanism including cold storage,” he said.
PM Modi said this while chairing a meeting with CMs of all states and UTs via video conferencing, to review the status and preparedness of Covid-19 response and management, with special emphasis on eight high focus states Haryana, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat and West Bengal.
The Prime Minister, during the interaction, made it amply clear that it is the “duty” of the nation to vaccinate frontline workers first. He also stressed that the vaccine distribution system must be transparent, to allay the fears of many Indians.
The Prime Minister also mentioned how the reaction of people to the situation of pandemic can be broken down to four stages. “The first was of fear, when people reacted in panic. The second stage saw cropping up of doubts about the virus, when several people tried to hide that they had been afflicted by it. The third stage was of acceptance, when people became more serious about the virus and displayed greater alertness. In the fourth stage, with increasing recovery rate, people have developed a false notion of security from the virus, thus leading to rise in instances of negligence. Prime Minister emphasized that it is of utmost importance to increase awareness about the seriousness of the virus in this fourth stage.”
PM Modi reassured that the government is keeping a close watch on the development of vaccines and is in contact with Indian developers and manufacturers, along with global regulators, governments of other countries, multilateral institutions and international companies. He added that it will be ensured that the vaccine for citizens will meet all necessary scientific criteria. He underlined that just like the focus in the fight against Covid has been on saving each and every life, the priority will be to ensure that the vaccine reaches everyone.
The PM said that the priority of vaccination is being decided in consultation with the states. The requirements of additional cold chain storages have also been discussed with the states. He asked the Chief Ministers to ensure regular monitoring of the State Level Steering Committee and state and district level task force to ensure better results. He forewarned that past experience tells us several myths and rumours are spread around vaccines. Rumours about side effects of the vaccine may be spread. He emphasised that such attempts need to be tackled through spreading greater awareness by taking all possible help including civil society, students of NCC, NSS and the media.
He said that it is important to increase RT-PCR tests, ensure better monitoring of patients, especially those inhome isolation, better equip health centres at village and community level and keep running awareness campaigns for safety from the virus. He said the target should be to bring down the fatality rate below 1%.
The Prime Minister also hit out at some leaders, who has recently criticised the government over the vaccine issue. “We cannot decide when the vaccine will come. It is not in our hands, it is the scientists who are dealing with the issue,” sources quoted PM Modi as saying. “Some people are playing politics over it. Nothing can stop anyone from playing politics,” he added.
Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani said: “The PM made it clear that in the first stage the vaccine will be given to the frontline health workers; in the second stage to the police personnel, sanitation workers etc, to those above 50 years of age in third stage and to those with co-morbid conditions in the fourth stage.”
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal informed the Prime Minister that Delhi saw a peak of 8,600 cases on 10 November in the third peak. Since then, cases and positivity rate are steadily decreasing. He sought the Prime Minister’s intervention to stop stubble burning in the neighbouring states. “The high severity of third wave is due to many factors. Pollution is an important factor,” Kejriwal said. The CM also sought reservation of additional 1,000 ICU beds in Central government hospitals till the third wave lasts.
Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray said he is in a constant touch with Adar Poonawalla of Serum Institute and that the state has formed a task force to ensure timely distribution of vaccine and executing the vaccination programme.
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee said on Tuesday that the state government will collaborate with the Centre in the implementation of the vaccination programme. She added that figures in her state reflected the fact that hers was a border state with patients coming in from Bangladesh and Bhutan and also from other Indian states.
Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel said that his state had already set up 630 cold chain points, with 80 more to be set up with a capacity of 85,000 litre storage. His state had also put in place 8,192 vaccinators and 27,931 spot workers for the endeavour.
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ARMY TO UNVEIL NEW DIGITAL COMBAT DRESS
The Indian Army would unveil its new digital pattern combat dress in January next year during the Army Day celebrations. “A digital pattern uniform would be unveiled during the Army Day celebrations where it would be worn by one of the contingents,” Army officials said. The Army Day parade would also see contingents wearing different combat uniforms worn by the force in the past, they said.
The decision to bring out the new combat dress for the force was taken at the recently held Army Commanders’ Conference, the officials said. These camouflage uniforms would be totally different from the existing dress and the shirts would not be required to be tucked in by troops. The new camouflage dress would include a mix of colours including earthen and olive.
‘24 nations affected by Omicron variant’
As the new strain of Covid-19 Omicron has reached several countries, World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday said there is a “toxic mix” of low vaccine coverage and very low testing—a recipe for breeding and amplifying variants.
“WHO continues to call on all countries to optimize public health and social measures and ensure that high risk and vulnerable individuals in all countries are fully vaccinated,” Tedros said at a press briefing. Tedros suggested against blanked ban on travel and said the variant can be kept in check by mandatory quarantine of international travellers.
On Thursday, the Omicron variant was reported to have reached 24 countries, including Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Press Agency said the citizen carrying the variant came from a North African country.
Amid the scare, the government made RT-PCR mandatory at Delhi airport, for all flyers coming from abroad.
Tedros said: “We are learning more all the time about omicron but there is still more to learn about its effect on transmission, severity of disease and the effectiveness of tests therapeutics and vaccines.” Tedros was keen to call on all countries to rational proportional risk reduction measures in keeping with international health regulations, this includes measures to delay or reduce the spread.
“Several WHO advisory groups have met over the last couple of days to evaluate the emerging evidence, and prioritise the studies needed to answer these questions,” he added. Amid the new variant, many countries have imposed ban on travel since the new strain was discovered at the end of last week.
‘MODI GOVT WORKS IN COOPERATIVE FEDERALISM SPIRIT’
Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat on Thursday asserted in the Rajya Sabha that the ‘Dam Safety Bill-2019’ will not encroach on the powers of the states, stating that “we (Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government) work in cooperative federalism”. Addressing the Upper House in his concluding statement for the passage of the Bill, Shekhawat said: “The Centre hasn’t any intention of taking over the power of the States as well as encroaching any of their rights.”
The Union Minister mentioned the point as it was the major concern of various Opposition parties. Shekhawat said 90 per cent of India’s dams are built on inter-state rivers. He explained that when water is released by a state then the states downstream are affected due to this. “There have been several efforts undertaken to ensure a national body on dams has been constituted since the last 40 years. The Centre is trying to ensure that the body is constituted to ensure dam safety,” Shekhawat said.
The Bill proposes the constitution of the National Committee on Dam Safety and the National Dam Safety Authority. The National Committee on Dam Safety will form policies and recommend regulations to the National Dam Safety Authority.
The National Dam Safety Authority implements the policies advised to it. It will also constitute two state bodies—State Committee on Dam Safety and State Dam Safety Authority—if the legislation is passed. The state committees’ functions are restricted at the state level and are akin to those of national committees. The Centre, can, however, amend the functions of these state committees through a notification, if and when it deems necessary.
The provisions of the Bill are proposed to be applied to all specified dams in the country which have a height of more than 15 metres, or between 10 metres to 15 metres. The Lok Sabha had passed the Bill on August 2, 2019. Mentioning that 22 MPs took part in the debate on the Bill, Shekhawat said: “The people of the country have been waiting for the Bill for the last 40 years as it ensures the security of those residing in downstream states, and that the move is to create an environment of security by Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government.” Rejecting claims of Opposition leaders that states were not approached before the Bill was moved, the Minister said that a Bill linked to dam safety was circulated to States in 2002 based on 1982 recommendations but only Bihar showed its positive approach then. The Minister made it clear that the Centre neither has any intention to encroach the powers of state on the ownership of dams, its water, electricity or operation, it only made an amendment to give power to the Centre to keep a tab on the safety procedures.
Kashmir sees highest-ever tourist footfall in 7 years
A total of 127,605 tourists visited Kashmir in November this year, which is more than all the figures in the month in the past seven years, according to the Jammu and Kashmir government officials. The officials are planning to organise various festivals for the winter season in the Union Territory.
According to the official, 6,327 tourists had visited Kashmir in November 2020 which is way lower than the current figure of nearly 127,000. Director, Tourism Kashmir, Dr G.N. Itoo said, “On the direction of the LG, we conducted some of the iconic festivals like houseboat festival, the Sufi festival in which the national level celebrities had participated and also literary festival because of which a buzz was created at the national as well as the international level. So the tourists from all over the world preferred visiting Kashmir. Almost 1,27,000 tourists have visited in November and almost 93,000 tourists have visited in October. It is the first time in the past 7 years, that tourists in such large number have turned up in October and November.”
Itoo further said that this is the result of a vigorous campaign including the roadshows in the country to promote tourism in Kashmir along with other measures to attract the tourists after the second wave of Covid-19. “The department has started a vigorous promotional campaign after the first wave of Covid-19. We have conducted almost 21 roadshows within the country. When the second wave hit the country, we vaccinated all the members of the tour and travel fraternity as a confidence-building measure,” he said.
PARAM BIR SINGH SUSPENDED WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT
The government of Maharashtra on Thursday placed former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh under suspension with immediate effect until further orders, said the State Home Department on Thursday.
During this period Singh shall be paid subsistence allowance, dearness allowance and other allowances as admissible under Rule 4 of All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969, on the production of certificate that he is not engaged in any other employment, said the Maharashtra government. The headquarter of Singh, during this period, shall be the office of the Director-General of Police, Maharashtra State, Mumbai and he shall not leave the said headquarter without obtaining the permission of the Director-General of Police, Maharashtra State, added the government.
INDIA FORESEES ‘VERY INTENSIVE’ ENGAGEMENT DURING PUTIN’S VISIT
Ahead of the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit next week, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Thursday said that India foresees a “very intensive” engagement culminating with the Summit. Putin will arrive in New Delhi on 6 December for the annual India-Russia summit. This will be the first in-person meeting of the Russian President and Prime Minister Narendra Modi after their meeting on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Brasilia in November 2019. “The visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin will take place on 6th December. He will be here for the 21st India-Russia Annual Summit. There will be a series of meetings. We foresee a very intensive engagement during the day and culminating with the Summit,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said during a weekly media briefing.
“Day will begin with Defence Minster and Russian counterpart co-chairing intergovernmental commission. External Affairs Minister will have a bilateral meeting with their Russian counterpart. It’ll be followed by an inaugural meeting of the newly instituted 2+2 dialogue mechanism at the level of Foreign & Defence Ministers,” he said.
Bagchi said that the 21st India-Russia Annual Summit will be held in the afternoon, and India looks forward to welcoming President Putin to New Delhi for this Summit. “A joint statement is proposed to be issued at the end of the Summit,” he added.
During the summit, the leaders will review the state and prospects of bilateral relations between the two nations and will discuss ways to further strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries. The last India-Russia annual summit took place in 2019 during the visit of Prime Minister Modi to Vladivostok city in Russia. The annual summit could not take place in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic situation.
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