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India’s Covid final trials may end in 2 months: Health Minister

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Harsh Vardhan
Harsh Vardhan

NEW DELHI: Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on Sunday said India’s own Covid-19 vaccine candidate could complete its final trials in a month or two. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and privately-held Bharat Biotech this month started third-stage trials of COVAXIN, in a process that would involve 26,000 volunteers. It is the most advanced Indian experimental vaccine. “We are in the process of developing our indigenous vaccines, in the process of completing our third-phase trials in the next one or two months,” Dr Harsh Vardhan said.

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INDIA NOT UTILISING COVID VACCINE TO FULL CAPACITY: DELHI HC

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The Delhi High Court on Thursday showed apprehensions over non-utilisation of coronavirus vaccine to its full capacity by the country, asserting that it is either being donated or sold off to foreign countries rather than being provided to Indians.

Justice Vipin Sanghi made the observations while hearing a suo motu public interest litigation (PIL) concerning vaccination of judges, court staff and lawyers on priority and for them to be treated as frontline workers so that they could receive it without limitations of their age or physical condition.

Justice Sanghi said, “If the capacity of the two vaccine manufacturers were being utilized to the full and then the restrictions were to be put, it would have been one thing. We should not have the situation where we are not even utilizing the full capacity.” His remarks came after Covishield and Covaxin vaccine manufacturers Bharat Biotech and Serum Insititute of India apprised that the capacity to vaccinate the judicial staff is available.

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World’s first ‘hybrid’ Covid vaccine freezer launched

Lokeswara Rao

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Hyderabad-headquartered Rockwell Industries, a pioneering commercial cold chain appliances manufacturer, on Thursday launched CHILLERMIL, the world’s first chiller/freezer powered by hybrid (solar and wind) renewable energy, that would be ideal for storing vaccines, lifesaving medicines, including those for Covid-19 vaccines at the desired temperature. The company also rolled out their new Covid-19 vaccine freezer series.

The Intelligently designed Rockwell’s CHILLERMILL, and WHO PQS (World Health Organisation PQS) certified the new Covid-19 Freezer Series, will be manufactured at its state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Medchal, Hyderabad. The entire system is certified by the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education & Research (NIPER) Hyderabad.

Jayesh Ranjan, Principal Secretary, Government of Telangana for the Industries & Commerce (I&C) and Information Technology (IT), formally launched the new range of Covid-19 vaccines chillers, a simple plug and play standalone unit, powered by Solar Mills, a hybrid (wind and solar) energy solution, manufactured by Wind Stream Energy Technologies ideal for remote areas where availability of electricity is not stable. The Hybrid Renewable System, comprising Savonius vertical axis wind turbines, along with a Solar Module enables, the refrigerator to run 24/7 on power stored in batteries. Solar Mills are also being used in powering critical applications of Defence forces, Railways and Telecom domain.

Commending Rockwell for its need of the hour technological innovation, and its new Covid-19 vaccine focussed Hybrid Renewable Energy driven CHILLERMILL and the WHO certified new Covid-19 Freezer series, Jayesh Ranjan said: “Governments and immunisation programmes rely on a complicated cold chain of freezers and temperature-controlled conditions and Rockwell has developed the much-needed refrigeration technology to address these challenges to preserve vaccine, healthcare products, and other deep-freezing applications.”

The company is in active discussion with leading vaccine players nationally and internationally to supply CHILLERMILL. “We expect to close in orders worth Rs 25 crore this year and hope to achieve Rs 50 crore by the end of 2022,” Ashok Gupta added.

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Congress challenges KCR, KTR to restore ITIR project

Lokeswara Rao

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AICC national spokesperson Dr Sravan Dasoju has challenged Chief Minister KCR to come up with concrete announcements on ITIR project, job notification and regularization of contract employees and said that Congress candidates will quit from contesting in MLC elections, if those announcements are made in the form of Government Orders (GO).

While addressing the media today at Gandhi Bhavan, the senior Congress leader also demanded them to quit, if they failed to accept his challenge in this regard. He also said that the challenge is also applicable to the BJP which is supposed to have given the funds for the prestigious ITIR project. Dr Sravan suspects the integrity of BJP and TRS parties which didn’t raise even a single question in Parliament in retaining the ITIR project and demanded both the parties to pursue the matter with Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to restore it or stage a protest dharna in front of his residence in Delhi to prove their honesty.

“I ask KCR and KTR to immediately make an announcement on implementing ITIR project with state funds irrespective of its estimated budget, Rs 13,000 crore or Rs 20,000 crore. They must issue a notification to fill up 1.93 lakh government jobs and initiate the process to regularize 1.20 lakh contract employees. All these announcements must be done officially in the form of Government Orders. If that happens, Congress candidates will immediately quit from the MLC elections,” Dr Sravan said. According to him, the BJP is also one of the culprits who fooled the Telangana society in ITIR project, Kazipet Coach Factory, AIIMS, etc.

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‘FREEDOM HOUSE’ DOWNGRADES INDIA FROM ‘FREE’ TO ‘PARTLY FREE’, CAUSES OUTRAGE

Many people are angry over the biased nature of the report and the fact that it did not consider Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh to be a part of India.

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India was downgraded to “partly free” for the first time since 1997 in an annual ranking of democracies by the US government-funded research group Freedom House. The report cited worsening civil rights, continuing discrimination against Muslim citizens and increased harassment of government critics under PM Narendra Modi for the slip in rankings.

The report titled “Freedom in the World 2021—Democracy under Siege”, released by the Washington-based organization, downgraded India’s status from a ‘free’ country to a ‘partly free’ country, giving it a ‘global freedom score’ of 67/100 – down from a score of 71 in 2019 and 75 in 2018—after judging it on the basis of various political rights and civil liberties.

India “appears to have abandoned its potential to serve as a global democratic leader”, said the report, adding that India’s fall “from the upper ranks of free nations could have a particularly damaging impact on global democratic standards”.

The report, however, left several Indians enraged. Many of them were angry over the biased nature of the report and the fact that it did not consider J&K and Ladakh to be a part of India. 

The report, citing “key developments” in 2020 that contributed to the ‘downgrading’ of India, mentioned that in February 2020, more than 50 people, mostly Muslims were killed in the communal violence that followed the protests related to Citizenship Amendment Act.

According to critics, the report failed to mention that the CAA didn’t aim to change the citizenship rights of Indian citizens, and was meant to help persecuted minorities from neighbouring Islamic nations to get Indian citizenship without hassle.

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India must be prepared for threats from China, Pakistan: CDS Bipin Rawat

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Listing out the challenged being faced by India, Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat on Thursday said that the country should be prepared for threats for military primary arising from China and Pakistan.

In his keynote address during a national webinar on “Transformation: Imperatives for Indian Armed Forces” organised by the College of Defence Management (CDM), Secunderabad, Rawat said that India is facing complex security and a challenging environment. “Some important steps that we need to take, include—defining the national security strategy, higher defence strategic guidance, structural reforms in higher defence and operational organisations,” he said.

The CDS said that the 20th century has seen profound changes in the character and nature of warfare due to information inclusivity and technological development. “New tools and tactics can be employed to connect rapidly to an audience like never before. Information is indeed more democratised today. India needs to take adapt its defence strategies accordingly,” he said.

“Military power as an instrument of state policy needs to transform at various levels including ground strategic i.e. political-military, strategic operation and tactical level. Main dimensions of transformation are doctrine, post structure, technology, sustenance and readiness,” he added.

CDS Rawat asserted that the Indian military faces greater challenges than any other military in the world and hence need to study transformational concepts adopted in other countries carefully to cater to the spectrum of warfare. “Since independence, the Indian military has grown from a small force with limited warfare capabilities into a large and modern fighting machine. The organisational structure for conventional wars or limited conflicts under nuclear overrank already exists, but they need to be re-modelled, re-equipped and re-oriented to conduct joint battles in digitized battlespace to have necessary flexibility for other types of operations,” he said.

“We must prepare for threats for military primary arising from China and Pakistan. In the future, China will continue to assert itself seeking to establish dominance in states surrounding India and the Indian Ocean region,” he added.

The CDS suggested that India needs to work on maritime requirements including ensuring the protection of maritime interest, safeguarding assets, supporting Indian war efforts in conjunction with other forces.

“We must effectively also leverage the opportunity provided by our Island territories which enables us to extend our reach, orchestrate our defence strategy and also provide depth to the mainland,” he said.

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Jaishankar discusses Teesta water sharing, border killings during Dhaka visit

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External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar, during his Bangladesh visit on Thursday, focused on the issues of water sharing, border killings, Covid-19 with his counterpart Dr A.K.A. Momen in Dhaka.

Speaking during a press conference, Jaishankar termed Teesta water-sharing as a big issue, saying, “We did discuss it, we have a meeting of our water resources Secretaries very soon. I’m sure they will be discussing it further. I think you all know Govt of India’s position that position has not changed.”

The Teesta river dispute is an important point of bilateral talks between India and Bangladesh, as the latter has sought a fair and equitable distribution of Teesta waters from India. They also signed an agreement in 2011 to share surface waters at the Farakka Barrage near their mutual border.

However, the proposed deal was called off after repeated objections by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The water-sharing issue was once again discussed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Dhaka in June 2015, but it remains unresolved till date.

Speaking on border killings in the backdrop of the 1971 Liberation War and decades of friendship, Jaishankar said, “Many of the deaths are fairly deep inside India. We discussed it as neighbours and friends and agreed that our objective should be ‘no crime no death border’. If we can get it right, we can address the problem effectively.”

Jaishankar also highlighted India’s Covid-19 assistance to Bangladesh by providing it with the highest number of vaccines than any other country. “This is a difficult time for all of us because of Covid. For us, it was important that we are partnering with you in your health and economic recovery. The largest number of vaccines shipped by India to any foreign country so far—9 million—has been to Bangladesh,” he said.

Regarding the future of bilateral ties between the two nations, he further said, “There is no domain where we are not working today. Our relation is 360 degrees, in every part of human activity, we are doing something. And the more we do, the more we open the new possibilities. First, fifty years are over, let’s think for the next 20 years, I would say most of all is to look at connectivity. The Bangladesh minister today shares with me something the Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said, which really impressed me. Her quote was ‘Connectivity is Productivity’.”

“If we can get our connectivity right between India and Bangladesh I can tell you that entire logistics, the geo-economics of the region will change. The Bay of Bengal will look different,” he added. The EAM also touched upon the inclusion of third countries, especially Japan in road and connectivity projects in the Bay of Bengal. “I would say to me would be the human aspect of it. People-to-people, education, health, culture. At the end of the day, the relationship between the countries is the relationship between people,” he added.

Reciprocating the feelings of Jaishankar, his Bangladeshi counterpart thanked India and said, “We have a rock-solid friend India who helped us during the Covid-19 pandemic. We got the vaccines from them and everybody is happy over it.”

Jaishankar is on a visit to Bangladesh to prepare the ground for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to Bangladesh, and hold talks with his counterpart on the progress of bilateral ties. This will be PM Modi’s first foreign trip in more than a year mainly because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

WITH ANI INPUTS

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