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Manali has never been so quiet in summer season

The veterans of the tourism industry say, ‘It can’t get worse than this.’ So, will the sector, worst hit by Covid-19, see any respite in coming days?

Urvashi Singh Khimsar

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Manali sees an influx of tourists in the peak tourist season of summer which lasts about 90 days. The number of tourists exceeds the capacity of the town by about 27 times. However, in this summer of 2020 the streets of this Himalayan town are silent and devoid of any tourists. The streets of Manali’s Mall are quieter than its quietest off-season months, forming an unimaginable sight for all those who associate gloom and solitude with its dreary winter. What makes the sunny months of April, May and June even gloomier is that there is no sign of any respite from Covid-19 in the coming time.

Regardless of their optimism or pessimism, hoteliers amidst this pandemic have reached a point of surrender and have accepted it as fait accompli. For there is only so much news and speculation that one can digest before feeling a little numb. Being an independent hotelier based out of Manali, I hesitantly try to believe the veterans of the trade when they say, “It cannot get worse than this”, because as per credible reports, it is about to get much worse before getting any better. Despite knowing this only too well, I find the extended lockdown dissolving the initial anxieties that I had.

For the sake of my prudence and sanity, I have begun to periodically assess the buffer amount, I had stacked up for a rainy day. Without a single doubt, these are the very same rainy days we had saved up money for. But how many infected months will this finite sum outdo? The relief measures by the state for subsidised electricity and employee provident funds offer us some momentary respite. But there are more pressing expenses that need to be taken care of, for hotels ranging across all sizes, there are fleets of staff that need their livelihoods sustained.

 I, for one, stand among the more fortunate hoteliers who have a tinier strength to uphold through the Covid-19 jolt. The industry’s moguls brace tightly, many of whom have had to disperse a sizable chunk of their workforce due to unaffordability. This, of course, is only the tip of the iceberg that we are jointly (and inadvertently) sailing over.

Regardless of our walks of life, the refusal of the Covid-19 curve to flatten anytime soon causes dread among each of us. Even a layman can ascertain that a dwindling economy cannot provide for any purchase beyond the bare necessities, let alone the leisure of travelling.

The hospitality and civil aviation industries have been the hardest hit worldwide. However, unlike air travel, the hospitality industry isn’t as likely to regain its impetus. Hopeful analysts point towards the preferential benefit of road trips over air travel when it comes to the conveyance of leisure tourists. But only time will provide a definitive answer to whether a locked down citizen would be willing enough to risk an outstation trip to refresh their senses. What if this contradicted their very reason for remaining locked for all these months?

Ironically, the already frail medical infrastructure of Himachal Pradesh negates a tourism influx in the near future. Ours isn’t the only state administration in a Catch-22 situation between its economic reparation and medical safety. However, it survives on a narrower window of profitability than its neighbours, and doesn’t have healthcare biceps to flex. The extent to which our future parameters will offer a relaxation of borders and trade in the Himalayas, time alone will tell. And even though I cannot make this time pass any faster than it does, I occupy myself nowadays strategising how I can best ensure the safety and wellbeing of my future visitors.

 It would be myopic of me to brace for the storm and not for its passage. Hence, alongside an uphill race against mounting expenditures, I am brainstorming for the brighter days, if and when they arrive. I am making do with the existing features of my boutique property in upper Manali to facilitate the safest and Covid-proof stay that I can afford for my future guests. The absence of constricted spaces and crossventilated air conditioning hints at some prospective social distancing assets. Moreover, it is easy to envision a minimal dining distance of two metres atop the lush gardens amidst our apple orchards. An entirely in-house team of staff residents and a relatively low footfall aid the precautionary measures that I am willing to take. In all, the thorough sanitation of a 23- room small, owner-run boutique resort proves to be far more promising than that of a chock-a-blocked giant with clustered suites.

 That said, even the safest reopening plan does not come without the risk of deserted preparations. What if the Covid-19 monster continues to lurk under our ultraluxurious beds?

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For a choreographer, it is very important to be a performer first: Shabina Khan

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Having choreographed songs like Hud Hud Dabangg to Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, Shabina Khan’s songs have went on to become a rage around the country. Ahead of her latest film Radhe, in which she has choreographed the song ‘Dil De Diya’,  she joined NewsX for an exclusive conversation as part of NewsX India A-List and spoke to us, not only about her journey so far, but also the secret mantra behind her hook steps, her upcoming project ‘Radhe’, close association with Salman Khan and much more.

“I am a performer myself. For a choreographer, it is very important to be a performer yourself. You cannot just compose a song on somebody else and then create the steps. I believe that my background has been acting. I have been to a acting institute, i come from a classical acting background and I am very fond of dancing. I think, being a performer, is my key to come up with different hook steps. Hook steps are something that everyone should be able to do. They should be easy going. When your hook steps are done by none other than Salman Khan, then you know how it is. When you know you are choreographing Salman Khan, you are lucky to work with him for so many songs, it becomes your duty to come up with something that is easy to do yet fun. Anytime, anywhere- you can just do the step. That’s how I started and it started coming out so well. Till today, I get DMs and messages about songs like Prem Ratan Dhan Payo. I keep it very simple so that it becomes a part of daily routine,” she said.

Speaking about her upcoming project Radhe, Shabina shared, “In Radhe, I went a step higher. The steps are not so easy but they are unique. I thought that nowadays people are actually smart because of social media and everything, so I should go a little higher and that’s how I choreographed Radhe. It is a little difficult but people love it.”

When asked about her favourite project with Salman Khan so far, she responded, “All my songs with him have been my favourite. All the songs that I have done with him, I have taken very seriously. But, I think Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, the film as well as the song, is very close to my heart. It gave me recognition. People started knowing Shabina Khan, The Chereographer, because of that film. That film is very close to my heart because of Salman sir and Sooraj Barjatya sir. But, Radhe has taken that place now because we have really worked hard on it and so has Jacqueline. In those 8 to 10 days of rehearsal, we really worked hard. With all the forces going to Radhe, it is also really dear to me. This journey with Salman Khan has been amazing. He always had confidence in me, always displayed so much trust on me. In every song, I feel like I have to prove myself to him first and then the audience because he is the one who trusts me every time. He comes up with difficult songs for me. He has other choreographers as well but he gives really situational songs to me, which allows me to do something different. That’s how the journey has been so beautiful with him.”

Sharing a piece of advise for young choreographers who want to make it big in Bollywood, Shabina expressed, “There are so many dancers coming up everyday, because of reality shows, Instagram and so many other platforms, where they are showcasing their talent but somewhere we are losing out on the grace. We are going too much into the west. We are doing all this hardcore dancing, making faces and everything. I’m saying do that but don’t forget that we have the powerful dancing style, which is called graceful dancing style. Even the west cannot do what we do. Don’t lose out on this. Legacy of choreography,

Legacy of dancing is that we maintain the grace. If you catch that and then you do other steps also, then you are a perfect choreographer. If you tell me to do hardcore dancing with western moves, I can do that because I’m a choreographer but I will not lose grace. I will include it in those steps as well. I would like to say that please come, we have so many new chereographers coming in but don’t lose grace.”

Finally, talking about her foundation, “The Shabina Khan Foundation”, which has been helping people by distributing essentials, primarily to dancers and junior artists, she said, “I started the foundation last year during the lockdown. That phase gave me time to think about a lot of things. Charity has been a part of my family. We have been doing it every year during Ramzan month. My mother taught me to remove 2% from my payment every time and keep it aside. My siblings and me, we do this every year. We do charity from that amount. Last year, we arranged ration and other essentials during the pandemic and sent it to people with full precautions. We tried helping pregnant ladies, who didn’t have bus fare to go to Cooper hospital. It started last year and then became a part of my life. This year again, when we are in this situation, I thought let’s take it further. Let’s make it big so that we can help more people. Dancers and junior artists started sending me messages for help and the news started spreading. Till now, I was doing it all alone with my brothers and my husband. This time, we thought let’s take it forward and make it big. Then, I started this foundation, where I am going to help everyone with whatever they need.”

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US EXIT FROM AFG PUTS CPEC PROJECTS AT RISK: REPORT

Experts believe the uncertainty in Afghanistan has provided TTP with a window to attack Pakistan, including the projects of CPEC worth around USD 50 billion.

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There is a looming sense of fear in Pakistan that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan will increase instability in its neighbourhood, and add security threats in the region while putting China’s Belt and Road projects at risk, Nikkei Asia reports.

As the September 11 deadline of complete withdrawal is approaching, instability in Pakistan has steadily increased, and outlawed groups like Tehreek e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), have increased cross-border attacks in the country.

According to the analyst Fakhar Kakakhel, the US pull-back, along with a weak Afghan government will seriously destabilize the region.

“In the future, TTP will have more safe pockets in regions close to Pakistani borders,” Kakakhel told Nikkei Asia.

The report by the Japanese newspaper said that Taliban members from Afghanistan and Pakistan allegedly use the border region as a sanctuary.

Furthermore, experts believe the uncertainty in Afghanistan has provided TTP with a window to attack Pakistan, including the projects of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) worth around USD 50 billion.

As per the analysts, after the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, TTP can more easily attack targets that are key for Pakistan’s economy.

“Some (Chinese) investments are located near the traditional areas of TTP’s activities, so it makes them natural targets,” said Przemyslaw Lesinski, an Afghanistan expert at the War Studies Academy in Warsaw.

Michael Kugelman, the deputy director of the Asia Program at Wilson Center, told Nikkei that CPEC has not traditionally been a top target of TTP in Pakistan.

“But in recent months, anti-China rhetoric has [surfaced] in TTP propaganda, especially because of China’s oppression of Uyghur Muslims,” Kugelman told Nikkei.

Kugelman said that Pakistan, which has built a fence worth millions of dollars, will not get a 100 per cent deterrent against TTP cross-border attacks.

“Pakistan has genuine reasons to be concerned (of TTP),” he added.

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HOW TO TACKLE HEALTHCARE RESOURCE SHORTAGE AND EXPANSION STRATEGY

The current situation demands quick identification of areas in clinical care that health workers with varied qualifications and experience would be able to perform with hands-on training as we can’t create enough doctors in a couple of weeks, months or even years.

Suravi Sharma Kumar

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In healthcare, there is no equivalency between a doctor and someone who isn’t one, as patient safety requires doctors to step in when a complex problem or uncertainty arises over the given treatment. But considering the current shortage of doctors (and nurses and paramedics and assistants and so on) amid a pandemic that is intruding into the hinterland, optimum usage of doctors and medical staff is the immediate prudent thing that can be done to try salvaging the situation. Setting up centres that somewhat look like primary health care centres is now a must in every unit of a district to triage the cases and provide preliminary care.

The everlasting shortage of healthcare professionals has had fatal consequences for Covid-19 patients, who are now dying gasping for air despite the presence of brand new ventilators lying in district hospitals, as there aren’t trained staff to operate the machines. 

Primary care needs to be moving forth and towards small teams of healthcare workers with one supervising physician or even without one where there’s none. There are lots of things that require high skill and knowledge that only doctors can do, and there’re other things that nurses can manage and there’re still others that social workers /health coaches are adept at.

The pandemic demands acceleration of this restructuring of primary care, which has been gathering steam in recent decades. The higher prevalence of poorly controlled comorbidities in a population make the ageing population, and even the young more vulnerable to the effects of Covid-19 and most of such conditions can be controlled with a few blood tests, physical examinations, and medication adjustments. 

The current situation demands quick identification of areas in clinical care that health workers with varied qualifications and experience would be able to perform with hands-on training what otherwise doctors do; we can’t create enough doctors in a span of a couple of weeks, months or even years. Nurse practitioners (and physician assistants) who graduate after four to six yrs of education, can be permitted to do or trained/ guided to triage the sick patients as Covid/ non-Covid cases, or as mild, moderate or severely sick Covid cases. They can give initial care/advice, inform authorities of the need for oxygen or doctor consultation or transport to hospitals. This will save a lot of time of the golden hour of treatment for the patient as well as reducing a lot of confusion and crowd in hospitals. 

Hospitals in much of America are triaging Covid-19 patients because of a shortage of professionals, especially doctors trained in emergency care and anesthesiology. Another way to make available a good number of doctors for Covid care is by training doctors of other specialities (like dermatology, ophthalmology, plastic surgery, general surgeons, laparoscopic surgeons etc.) in critical care of the respiratory system in Covid patients who would be able to acquire the expertise in a small period. 

Final year UG and PG students who are yet to complete degrees and acquire experience should be left untouched in their academic pursuits to acquire their skills. It is likely to be detrimental for future generations if the current doctors-in-the-making are disturbed. Authorities can on the other hand help organise examinations at the right time so that the batches trapped in the pandemic can complete the degrees in the stipulated time without delay.

Another solution model that I believe is worth considering is developing a telemedicine web model that is closely linked to the primary care centres under a public health system. Such telemedicine units can be manned by nurse practitioner’s/ physician assistants with or without a supervising doctor present physically. The telemedicine room can be installed in the pharmacy/ chemist stores in villages /small towns equipped with the right Telemedicine kits (like digital stethoscope, thermometer, BP machines, oximeter, glucometer, audiometer etc.) in addition to a good quality video screen and audio system under good internet connectivity. Telemedicine is mostly ideal for follow-up patients or management of chronically ill patient that a doctor on the screen has already once seen/examined physically. But from our current experiences we’ve seen that Telemedicine consultations/ supervisions work as good in emergency care also where a specialist doctor can guide and direct the nurse practitioner or even a general practitioner/medical officer; and it also works in first-time consultations and even management of a critical care unit in a smaller centre from a higher distant centre.

For first time consultations, besides the working doctors, it’s possible to hire from the pool of retired doctors with their wealth of experience, or even the newly licensed doctors after some training in Covid care. The fresh doctors can even avail support from technology-enabled clinical support systems that are now available in the healthcare digital sphere.

Covid-19 has accelerated retirements of ageing doctors as many such physicians who are at higher risk of dying from Covid have reduced or stopped seeing patients; we see that most of the aged doctors tend to practice with a reduced practice load which now is further cut down in size so much so that these are literally erased off the scene. 

As we know that the PPP (Public-Private Partnership) model has worked in all other industries/sectors in our country, the authorities should implement Telemedicine solutions through a viable PPP model reaching out to nooks and corners of the country enabling the right network connectivity, availability of medicines and patient transfer facilities whenever need be,

Other smaller wellness models may also work around the telehealth units where a patient can himself or with aid from a trained health worker, can upload data from his home blood pressure monitor, oximeter, glucometer and electronic scale, and he/she gets a visit/call from the local health coach/health worker to talk about his health data and required changes to lifestyle etc., or/and, get scheduled for a teleconsultation with a medical officer or a specialist when necessary. To help with mental health issues, one can schedule a virtual visit with a mental health worker or even a psychiatrist located in a nearby city/ hospital. 

It’s common knowledge that in India health has been a completely neglected area in the public sector and the poor health infrastructure and incentives for professional/ financial growth under a pitiable GDP to the health sector is the bottleneck of our health system. I have known doctor couples joining government services and leaving the same for issues like lack of toilet facility, insecurity and disgraceful behaviour from raging attendants. These affect the female doctor more than the male doctor. Every year girls outnumber boys in securing medical seats and graduating from college, but this is only to disappear from the world of medicine or practice in a few years of practicing. 

In India, girls have been constituting more than 55% of the students joining medical colleges for years together (as per NEET UG 2020, women cornered 427943 seats compared to 343556 men). However, there is a serious shortage of female doctors in India. According to a paper (Prof Mohan Rao, 2011) titled Human Resources for Health in India, published in The Lancet (Placeholder1), only 17% of all allopathic doctors and 6% of those in rural areas are women. This is less than one female allopathic doctor per 10,000 populations in rural areas (0.5), whereas the ratio is 6.5 in urban areas. According to a paper on women in medicine (Bhadra M., 2011) published in the journal Indian Anthropologist, the gender gap increases at the post-graduation and doctoral levels–the percentage of female doctors here is around one-third of male doctors.  

Another paper on women in medicine by the psychiatry department AIIMS (Mamta Sood) in the Indian journal of gender studies, noted that medicine has been a male-dominated profession considering long demanding hours of service and inflexible work hours, and this is in addition to disproportionate wages against the demands of the services, make female doctors with young families decide against practising creating a dent in our health system. It’s time, government find out the missing lady doctors that will uncover a huge pool of qualified medical graduates ready to be trained for Covid care and critical care services in a short period.

The writer is a medical doctor (pathologist) and holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of London. The views expressed are personal.

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Three held for black marketing Remdesivir in Delhi

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NEW DELHI: Three persons have been arrested in Delhi for allegedly black marketing Remdesivir injections and six vials of the drug being used in the treatment of Covid-19 patients have also been recovered from them, the police said on Monday.

According to the Delhi police, the accused have been identified as Anshul Aggarwal, Sunil Kumar and Rahul Paul. “Kumar works as a nursing assistant at NKS Hospital in Delhi’s Gulabi Bagh area, while Paul works as a nursing assistant at Gayatri Hospital in Gaziabad,” the police informed.

The police further informed that they acted on a tip received.

“The team used a decoy to finalise the deal. Accused Anshul confirmed the availability of the vials at Rs 32,000. He was apprehended when he came to deliver the promised order. On his lead other two accused were also arrested,” the police added.

A case has been registered under the various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Epidemic Act and the Disaster Management Act.

With ANI inputs

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YOUTH BAR ASSOCIATION OF INDIA MOVES SUPREME COURT FOR DOOR-TO-DOOR VACCINATION POLICY

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The Youth Bar Association of India (YBAI) has moved the Supreme Court seeking directions for appropriate measures to be taken for the provision of door-to-door Covid-19 vaccination of all Indian citizens, particularly the elderly, differently-abled, less privileged, weaker sections, and those who are unable to register online for their vaccination.

The YBAI, a group of young and vigilant lawyers, has filed the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) before the Supreme Court, through lawyers Sanpreet Singh, Ajmani, Kuldeep Rai, Manju Jetley (Advocate for the Petitioner) and Bably Singh. “Direct the respondent to consider the necessity for providing door-to-door Covid-19 vaccination of all the citizens residing in India, particularly those who are elderly, differently-abled, less privileged, weaker sections and those who are not capable to do their online registration for approaching the vaccination centre,” the petition filed by YBAI said.

The petitioner, YBAI sought the issuance of guidelines or formulation of a Standard Operating Procedure (SoPs) to give immediate effect to the functioning of door-to-door vaccination to incapable people free of cost.

The petitioner also sought direction to the respondents to have a 24/7 toll-free portal through which the incapable and underprivileged people may register themselves and which may resolve their queries and doubt in their regional language.

“The vaccination shall continue as before in Government of India vaccination centres, provided free cost to the eligible population as defined earlier i.e. Health Care Workers (HCWs), Front line workers (FLWs) and all above 45 years of age,” the petition said.

“All vaccination (through Government of India and Other than Government of India channel) would be part of National Vaccination Programme, and mandate to follow all protocol such as being captured on CoWIN platform and all the prescribed norms. Stocks and prices per vaccination applicable in all vaccination centres will have to be reported real-time,” the plea further said.

“The second mutant of Covid-19 infection is turning more infectious and widely communicable infecting almost more than 50% of the population and chances of it reaching its peak is in the mid to end of this month of May,” the petition filed by YBAI, before the Top Court said.

“The ray of hope emerged in people when the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine was injected to frontline workers on January 16, wherein the government ensured free vaccination to front line workers and citizens above the age of 65 years which later included citizens who are above the age of 45 years,” the PIL filed by YBAI said.

The plea further stated that however with the passage of almost months hardly 30% of around 40 crores of persons above the age of 65 years have been administered with the first dose of the vaccine and roughly around 1.8% of the total population have completed the second dose.

With ANI inputs

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Odisha dispatches 516 LMO tankers to 11 states

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BHUBANESHWAR: Under the supervision of Odisha police, 516 tankers/containers carrying 9465.596 metric tonnes (MT) medical oxygen have been dispatched so far from Rourkela, Jajpur, Dhenkanal and Angul districts of Odisha to 11 states in the country facing oxygen shortage due to surging Covid-19 cases.

As per an official statement, as many as 21 tankers were dispatched from Angul with 852.642 MT, 132 from Dhenkanal with 2091.5 MT, 123 from Jajpur with 2543.192 MT and 210 from Rourkela with 3978.262 MT in the last 18 days. A total of 156 tankers with 3106.784 MT of oxygen have been sent so far to Andhra Pradesh, and 133 tankers with 2268.209 MT of oxygen to Telangana. Tamil Nadu has received 10 tankers filled with 202.04 MT of medical oxygen. Similarly, Haryana has received 76 tankers filled with 1385.422 MT of oxygen.

22 tankers with 388.68 MT of oxygen have been sent so far to Maharashtra, while 305.541 MT of oxygen filled in 20 tankers has been dispatched to Chhattisgarh. As many as 37 tankers have carried around 696.3 MT of oxygen to Uttar Pradesh and 45 tankers with 785.87 MT of oxygen have been sent to Madhya Pradesh to date.

13 tankers with 237.24 MT of oxygen have been sent so far to Delhi, 2 tankers with 58.22 MT sent to Punjab and 2 tankers with 31.29 MT sent to Bihar in the last 18 days.

More oxygen tankers from Odisha will be dispatched today.

Based on the directive of the Chief Minister, a special cell was formed under Y K Jethwa, ADG (L&O) as the Nodal Officer for coordinated action for loading and transportation of medical oxygen by Odisha to states facing deficit amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

With ANI inputs

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