With the third phase trial of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin beginning in Haryana on Thursday, state Health Minister Anil Vij was administered a trial dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in a hospital in the state’s Ambala Cantonment. With this, he became the first minister to volunteer during trials.
Vij said that it is a matter of pride for India that the indigenous company has had two successful trials of the vaccine earlier and its third and final trials have started from Friday. The India-based company is preparing a Covid-19 vaccine and is testing it in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research.
The minister urged the people that there is nothing to fear. As many people as possible should come forward and become part of it. He underwent the trial to set an example for the people so that there is no doubt or fear in their minds. The third and final phase of Covaxin will be tested on 25,800 people.
Vij said that 1,000 volunteers will be registered for Covid-19 vaccine testing in Haryana. He said that a person of any age can become a part of this campaign as a volunteer. If anyone wants to be a part of the Covid vaccine trial, they can contact the PGI Rohtak through helpline no. 9416447071 or mail to snoh.covid19@gmail com.
He said that a team of doctors will periodically examine the volunteers on which the vaccine would be tested. Vij added that after the successful testing of the third and final phase, and if the government allows it, at the beginning of 2021 itself people can be vaccinated against Covid-19 so that they don’t have to live in fear.
Earlier, a team of doctors examined his health and under the supervision of doctors at PGI, Rohtak the vaccine was administered at the Civil Hospital, Ambala Cantonment. Dr O.P. Kalra, vice-chancellor, PGI Rohtak and Dr Dhruv Chaudhary, Haryana nodal officer were present with their team during the vaccine trial.
The state, meanwhile, has again shut down schools till 30 November as cases surge amid students. Over 300 school students were found positive of the virus till Thursday evening across various districts of Haryana. Majority of the students who were tested positive were asymptomatic, according to health officials. Only few were reported to have mild symptoms of cold, cough and fever. A total of 2,09,000 cases are reported in the state with 1,88,000 recovered patients and 2,113 deaths.
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FARMERS’ AGITATION OR SAVING THE MIDDLEMAN?
There are several interesting dimensions to the new agriculture laws and the Opposition. In India every producer has the freedom to sell their output to anyone. So far this was true for every category except the farmers. Under the new laws, the farmers will have the choice to sell directly or through an intermediary.
What is the farm bill about?
There are three different laws within the reforms enacted by the government. These laws will allow farmers to sell their produce to anyone. So far, they were bound to sell their produce at a local registered market. Since the farmers didn’t have the choice, they accepted any price offered by the market. Under the new laws, farmers can also sell directly to an institutional and individual buyer. Small and marginal growers can come together to form Farmer Producer Organisations (like a cooperative) and bargain collectively for better prices. Many of those who are routinely upset over farmer suicides should welcome the new laws since they will strengthen the selling power of farmers.
What are the objections?
The objections have been raised on the fears that the minimum support price for some categories of agricultural products will be removed. However, the government and the Prime Minister had declared this will not happen. The real fear is about controlling the agriculture market. With the farmers free to sell anywhere, the regional market management often controlled by regional political leaders will no longer control prices. The earnings made by the middlemen will be deeply dented under the new laws. It is very simple, if farmers sell directly to buyers, the intermediaries will lose all relevance and earnings. By removing the intermediary, farmers can earn more while consumers can pay less.
Why is MSP important
For many decades the minimum support price (MSP) offered by the government brought basic prices to some farmers to insulate them from the swing between glut and scarcity of produce. However, this is a limited tool. The government procures only wheat and rice for keeping buffer stocks.
The Commission of Agriculture Cost and Pricing has recommended MSP only for 23 commodities. These include 7 cereals (paddy, wheat, maize, sorghum, pearl millet, barley and ragi), 5 pulses (gram, tur, moong, urad, lentil), 7 oilseeds (groundnut, rapeseed-mustard, soyabean, sesame, sunflower, safflower, nigerseed), and 4 commercial crops (copra, sugarcane, cotton and raw jute). An overwhelming number of agricultural products do not get a guaranteed price.
The Opposition leaders are misleading everyone by saying that MSP is for every agri product and that it is being removed. If every product had an MSP, the fundamentals of the free market would collapse. Only 6% of the farmers get MSP benefits. These are the top few farmers. And these are the ones who are protesting about MSP the most.
Who will benefit from agitation?
The stir against the farm laws have been led by political impulses. The removal of intermediaries has slashed the earnings of an ecosystem which earned the difference between the price paid to farmers and the prices paid by end consumers. Even while accommodating for logistics cost, the intermediary made more profits than the farmer. So far, the main opposition has come from states governed by Congress, including Punjab, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. However, it is unlikely that the Congress will get significant political gains from the issues.
The writer is the author of the book, ‘India Automated’.
BEING CENTRIST IS NOT FENCE SITTING: DEORA
Democracies are not designed for hardened stances but ability to reach across the aisles, says former UPA minister and ex-MP from South Mumbai, as he talks about the role of centrist politics, Covid-19 economy and vaccines.
Should we have another lockdown?
A.I think a lockdown in every city was essential in the earlier part of the outbreak to make people aware of the protocols they need to follow, to upgrade our healthcare systems and to create quarantine facilities. So, an aggressive lockdown in the beginning was essential. But it certainly had a huge impact on the economy and livelihoods. Today I won’t agree to a European-style lockdown. In a country like ours we cannot afford another lockdown of the kind we have had. But if the government were to implement a curfew, that’s okay to restrict community transmission. As regards a blanket lockdown, I don’t think any government in India would want that.
Q. How do you see the economy picking up?
A. Fact is that the first quarter was devastating for the Indian economy. I don’t think the lockdown was planned as effectively as it should have been. There should have been more cooperation with state governments and that had a huge toll on our first quarter. I think the second quarter will also be more problematic, but it has shown signs of recovery. I do believe that the Indian economy will pick up. The fundamentals of the Indian economy remain very strong. However, there are certain sectors I don’t know if they will come back or how soon, like live entertainment, movie theatres, banquets in hotels. There are also industries which you think would be adversely affected by Covid-19 but are doing better—like real estate is showing signs of quick recovery. It’s a sector that is a driver of economic growth, it has an impact on state revenues, state governments earn thousands from stamp duties. Maybe people feel that now is a time to own a home, that’s one of the lessons from Covid. This is of course residential real estate, whereas commercial real estate has been badly hit. Overall, I do believe the economy will improve.
But I do think we need to start reimagining the economy. One interesting trend you can follow is that over a hundred years ago when we had the Spanish Flu it coincided with the end of World War I, the Spanish Flu pandemic began just as World War I was ending—it was because of troops being positioned around the world that Spanish Flu spread. It went through four phases and suddenly two years later, it disappeared. There was no vaccine. Right after the Spanish Flu you had the Roaring Twenties, a decade of high economic growth, high investment, high exuberance, the birth of jazz. Sure, it lasted only a decade and then you had the Great Depression.
But hopefully, by this time next year, most countries will have vaccinated even their younger population which is low on the priority list—I don’t know if you will have Roaring Twenties all over again but you will have some exuberance in the economy. It’s important for people to be optimistic. We will have to reimagine the economy—our commercial spaces. What a pandemic of this nature does, philosophically and existentially, it reminds policymakers and individuals as to what is a priority. For instance, in India, we never heard of healthcare being a political issue. Today the social sector in India is an important election issue. We have been politicking over Covid as to which state has better healthcare and this is a good thing. Our politics in a sense is also being reimagined.
Q. How to disburse vaccines?
A. Every country will prioritise frontline workers. Then should it be people with comorbidities, regardless of age, or should it be a blanket distribution based on age? Countries that have limited data are giving to frontline workers and second to the elderly regardless of comorbidities. But if there is a younger person, say at the age of thirty-five, with very severe diabetes, and is also a very productive asset and is working, then from an economic and healthcare point of view is it smarter to target that person than someone in their seventies and is staying at home? I don’t mean to be discriminatory towards the elderly but is that a smarter way to look at things? Should productive assets get preference than those who are not. You will find people in their 30s and 40s who have severe comorbidities. Should they get prioritised? But it will be very tough to get the data, especially in India.
Q. Do you see Joe Biden’s win as an aberration or a trend towards centrist politics?
A. It was not an accident but a carefully designed strategy by the Democrats. I think the Democrats realised America is a very polarised society, as is India too. The democrats smartly prevented extreme elements from their party to get the ticket and Biden picked Kamala Harris who is more a centre-left democrat and not a far-left democrat. They reached out to voters, who if they had a far-left ticket would have abstained. So, it was a case of how a political party actively scripted a path to victory. The far-left would have anyway voted for a Democrat, they had that vote, so they topped it off by reaching to swing voters who wouldn’t have voted for a far-left candidate.
Priyanka slams Centre on farmers’ issues, asks PM to implement ‘one nation, one behaviour’
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Friday lashed out at the Central government over the farmers’ protest and said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should implement “one nation, one behaviour”, taking a jibe his suggestion for “one nation, one election”.
“To suppress the voice of farmers- they are being drenched in water, roads are being dug up to stop them. But the government is not ready to show them and tell them where it is written that they have the legal right of MSP. The Prime Minister, who is concerned about one country, one election, should implement one nation, one behaviour,” read the Congress leader’s tweet (roughly translated from Hindi).
Farmers from Haryana and Punjab are heading to the national capital as part of the protest march against the Centre’s farm laws. Police deployed on the Delhi border in view of the farmers’ movement and all vehicles heading towards the national capital are being checked.
Farmers are protesting against the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Service Act, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
While the government said the three laws will do away with middlemen, enabling farmers to sell their produce in the commercial markets, protestors fear that this could lead to the government not buying produce at guaranteed prices, thereby disrupting their timely payments.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggested a single voters’ list for Lok Sabha, Assembly and local polls and reiterated the need for “one nation, one election” in the country.
“One nation, one election isn’t just a matter of debate, this is the need for India. Elections are held at different places every few months, the effect it has on development work is known to all. This issue needs to be studied and presiding officers can be guiding force for it,” the Prime Minister said.
BJP NOMINATES SUSHIL KUMAR MODI FOR RAJYA SABHA BYELECTION
Former Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi has been rewarded with a nomination for the Upper House by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Sushil Modi could be nominated because of a seat falling vacant owing to the death of Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan of the Lok Janshakti Party.
BJP national general secretary Arun Singh said the party’s Central Election Committee has finalised the name of Sushil Kumar Modi for the Rajya Sabha by-election in Bihar.
The last date to file nominations for the only Rajya Sabha seat in Bihar is 3 December. The election will be held on 14 December.
Bihar police arrest man for throwing onions at Nitish during election rally
A person was arrested on Friday in Bihar’s Madhubani district on charges of throwing onions at Chief Minister Nitish Kumar during the election campaign in the district.
Rajnish Keshri, the SHO of concern Harlakhi police station in Madhubani district, said that the FIR was registered on the report submitted by Block Development Officer (BDO) and SDM. The accused has been booked under IPC Sections of 188, 353 and 504 in Harlakhi police station.
The accused, Raj Nandan Yadav, a resident of Gangaur village threw onions on CM Nitish Kumar while he was addressing an election rally in Yadav native village under Harlakhi police station on 3 November. Yadav was protesting against the rise in prices of food essentials especially onions.
While Yadav was throwing onions at him, the local administration had detained him but CM Nitish Kumar asked security personnel to let him go. The district administration has initiated an inquiry into the matter and submitted a report before the district magistrate of Madhubani.
“The FIR was registered on the recommendations of district magistrate and a team led by SDM rank officer conducted the inquiry. We have arrested him from his native village and produced before district court which sent him 14 days judicial custody,” Keshri said.
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