In a shocking incident where massive fire broke out at Vijay Vallabh Hospital on Friday, took lives of 15 Covid-19 patients. The state government had ordered an inquiry into the matter. Police on Sunday, arrested the two doctors in connection with the Covid Centre fire tragedy. Two managing doctors of the hospital have been arrested after a preliminary inquiry into the matter. Police has arrested the Chief Executive Officer and the Chief Administrative Officer of the Palghar-based hospital where tragedy took place.
The hospital’s CEO, Dr Dilip Bastimal Shah (56), and CAO Dr Shailesh Dharmadev Pathak (47) were arrested and later produced before a Vasai court which remanded them in police custody for one day. The Arnala Coastal police had booked the hospital management along with medical staff of the hospital under IPC sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 304, 337, 338 (causing hurt by act so rashly or negligently as to endanger human life) and 34 (common intention).
According to the officials of Vasai-Virar crime branch, both the managing doctors were held for alleged negligence and violation of the fire safety norms. The hospital failed to get its fire audit conducted for the current year and also did not have the fire department’s No Objection Certificate (NOC), an official said.
The fire broke out on Friday in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) located on the second floor of the four-storey Vijay Vallabh Hospital at Virar in Maharashtra’s Palghar district, about 70 km from Mumbai. There were 90 patients in the hospital, 17 of them in the ICU when the fire broke out after a blast in the AC unit shortly after 3 am. It was extinguished at 5.20 am by then there were several lives lost. Maharashtra government had announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the next of kin of the patients who had died and Rs 1 lakh to the critically injured patients.
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Maritime Museology as tool for commemorating oceanic legacy
Museology is a relatively unsung element of our narrative that is critical to gain insight into the history of humankind and learn the triumphs and tragedies of a bygone era. A culture can be recorded for posterity with meticulous documentation and proper artefact preservation. Exhibits have a way of bringing history to life by telling stories on a global as well as a local scale. This includes the journey of a nation through accounts of civilisations and empires along with the narratives of various local communities. Iconic museums like Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (formerly Prince of Wales), or the CST Railway Heritage Museum and even the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets in New Delhi, Dinosaur Museum in Balasinor are a few cases in context.
The subaltern segment of museology and culture presents the tragic saga of maritime museums which ought to otherwise be an important part of our heritage and the journey of nation-building. This often gets neglected. Though the oceanic world envelops our country from three sides, it is still an aspect that is frequently overlooked. The National Maritime Museum was inaugurated on 5 April 1979, due to the efforts of the Indian Maritime Legend — late Vice Admiral M.P. Awati, Founder Chairman of Maritime History Society. This museum has had its heydays and seen longer periods of a comatose existence. The museum came alive when INS Vikrant was converted into a museum ship after its decommissioning in 1997. This museum ship was docked in Mumbai and opened to the public in 2001. The project couldn’t go on for long and was later discontinued in 2012 due to lack of sustainability in a harsh marine environment. The effort to turn INS Godavari or INS Viraat into a maritime museum could not fructify.
There are a few success stories in maritime museology in India. INS Kursura, after its decommissioning, was turned into a museum ship and is currently housed in Visakhapatnam. Being a submarine museum, it is the first of its kind in South Asia. The Southern Naval Command in Kochi has a maritime museum which houses a collection of various models of ship, weapons used by the Navy, etc. India is gearing towards the making of its first National Maritime Heritage Complex (NMHC) near the ancient port site of Lothal. It is expected to be open to the public by 2023. The location of the museum is particularly significant with Lothal being one of the earliest port cities in the world.
A maritime nation needs to commemorate its seafaring saga and coastal identity. The Indian Ocean has been a major means of communication from the earliest times when long-distance oceanic navigation between the eastern coast of Africa to the southeast part of Asia bridged by this dominating geographical entity, India, extended even beyond this region to much of Europe for many millennia. It has witnessed extensive maritime trade, naval expeditions and pilgrimages across the ocean routes. Oceanic activity in the region encouraged by the unique feature of monsoons allowed countries to have active participation in maritime trade thus creating a long history covering over five millennia, from the dawn of the Harappan civilisation. Therefore, maritime history and heritage bear testimony to our strong connections and relationships with the sea.
Maritime heritage consists of historical and archaeological evidence revealing human interaction with the ocean and other marine bodies. The subject deals with a multitude of marine and coast related activities such as shipbuilding techniques, seafaring and navigation, ports, lighthouses and coastal communities, tourism, trade and commerce, traditional maritime practices, fishing, etc. The world that we see today is a result of such maritime expeditions combined with human inquisitiveness. The maritime activities of the past and present have led to cultural migration and the resulting assimilation has created global commerce that has influenced and changed the face of cultures all around the globe. For this reason, it is imperative that we honour this maritime legacy and celebrate the accomplishments of those who came before us.
Hidden from the public eye and despite the constraints of the pandemic induced lockdown, the Maritime History Society has sustained a nautical celebration called “Samudra Sindhu” in the form of an Interim Naval Heritage Gallery at the ground floor of the Noorbhoy Building in the Fort area of Mumbai. It has acquired and taken care of over 3000 books and documents of different genres and over 2000 artefacts from decommissioned naval ships. In the past 43 years, under the guidance of our patrons, curators and visionaries, the Maritime History Society has deepened the realms of maritime history and heritage with significant and consistent efforts. A team of young interns are attempting to make a coherent catalogue of an assortment of memorabilia from decommissioned naval ships along with a few collections gathered over time.
Today as we celebrate International Museum Day, it would have been a good idea to spend the day at a museum, these experiences are sadly thwarted due to the pandemic induced lockdown. A large number of museums have chosen to go the virtual way, making their collection digital and curating virtual exhibitions on a wide array of topics. The National Museum in New Delhi, The British Museum, The Louvre, Van Gogh Museum, etc. are just a few examples of museums offering virtual tours for people to enjoy the feel of a museum from the comfort of their own homes. The virtual realm offers a huge variety of techniques to convert the physical experience of a museum into a virtual one. Following in the footsteps of these museums, Maritime History Society is coming up with a virtual experience as a digital episode of Samudra Sindhu, very soon.
To celebrate International Museum Day, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) releases a new theme each year. This year’s theme “The Future of the Museums: Recover and Reimagine” focuses on rethinking the museum of the future to meet the challenges of the present. Like everything else, the museum and heritage sector has been deeply affected by the ongoing crisis. With the restrictions on social and public places, we need to reimagine the museum spaces. There has been a considerable decrease in revenue generation, and with the budgets and funds redirected to handling the current emergency situation, many museums around the world are suffering huge losses.
Museums are uniquely equipped to narrate the rich history of civilisation through the objects that are housed within its walls. And reimagining them in this current scenario involves getting these stories and objects out of those walls and into a digital platform or a screen. This is a task, though seemingly easy, requires a lot of theoretical and practical understanding of the digital realm. But, going virtual seems to one of the best ways forward to stay educationally and culturally relevant in this time and age. Investing in and maintaining a digital infrastructure to reach out to our audiences and engaging with them virtually is very important. We at MHS are striving hard to overcome these challenges and we invite you to collaborate and support our cause of preserving maritime consciousness. We invite you to become our brand partners for the projects we undertake regularly to contribute to knowledge and awareness about Indian maritime history based on the resources available with you.
Museology has always needed support and funding by the state despite the few success stories of private initiatives. Care is needed that private efforts, otherwise a welcome support to cultural promotion, do not cause cannibalisation of existing collections or promotion of exclusive agenda of a few. There is a need to have an integrated, research-supported, well patronised, financially sustainable journey to enhance influence to provide maritime consciousness, sea-mindedness and bring better awareness of the larger public into the maritime domain. Maritime History Society, which recently commemorated 43 years of maritime existence, needs to be supported in every way. Do visit the website www.mhsindia.org and reach out with archive support and financial assistance for this national cause.
Maritime History Society is an organisation where we invite enthusiasts in the maritime domain who can contribute to the richness and diversity of Indian maritime history and heritage. In its constant endeavours, we aim to promote outreach activities through our educational programmes, Summer School Programme, Internship Programme, our in-house Library, and MHS collections. MHS provides a plethora of opportunities to experience amazing expressions of creativity and contribute to bringing forth a new breed of intellectuals and scholars driven with a maritime outlook for the advancement of the nation.
Ashwini Nawathe is the Archive and Collections Associate at MHS. Leanne Thothiyil is a Research Assistant at MHS.
ANALYSING THE PANDEMIC OF THE CENTURY
Originating from Wuhan, China, towards the end of 2019, Covid-19 appeared as a ‘Black Swan’ creating havoc across the globe. In India it mutated into ‘Grey Rhino’, causing mayhem in the form of extreme disruption and destruction.
Nicholas Taleb described ‘Black Swan’ as an improbable event and random occurrence with extreme impact. ‘Grey Rhino’, on the other hand, as per Michele Wucker, is a highly probable event that may occur after a series of warnings and visible pieces of evidence with enormous impact. Originating from Wuhan, China, towards the end of 2019, coronavirus appeared as a ‘Black Swan’ creating havoc across the globe. In India it mutated into ‘Grey Rhino’, causing mayhem in the form of extreme disruption and destruction.
It was during March last year that Covid-19 virus cases began to surface in India. Initially, the daily infection rate was barely in hundreds in comparison to Western nations where the count was in five figures, despite the advanced health care system. Given modest medical infrastructure and India is being predicted to be a potential hot spot, the Central Government declared nationwide lockdown towards late March 2020 to obviate a catastrophe. PM Modi addressed the nation frequently to sensitise the citizens about the consequences of the deadly virus.
Starting with insufficient PPE kits, N-95 masks and testing facilities, the Indian medical fraternity led the charge against coronavirus, duly complemented by ‘Non-Profit Organisations’ corporates and the public at large. Despite severe hardships, migrants’ untold suffering and millions losing their livelihood, the nation reposed implicit faith in the PM-led campaign against the pandemic. By mid-February 2021, daily infections had dropped to around ten thousand after hitting the peak of nearly a lac. Corona appeared to be on the wane, given the assurances by the top leadership including the PM and Health Minister. The economy was showing signs of recovery and the business environment looked favourable, marked by a sense of optimism. Going by the indicators, apparently, the ‘Black Swan’ phase of the pandemic had been well handled.
BLACK SWAN TO GREY RHINO: SLEEP WALK TO THE EDGE
Now there was a window of opportunity for the Central and State administrations to get the house in order and prepare earnestly for the pandemic’s second surge, evident from the experience of US and Western nations. Even the forum of scientific experts had warned the officials against a more contagious variant of the Covid-19 virus taking hold of the country. Hence, making up shortages of critical medical equipment and ramping up supply chains ought to have been taken upon the highest priority. As mass immunisation offered the best option to defeat the second wave, India was in a far better position than even the advanced nations due to its vast potential to produce vaccine doses. However, due to the Government’s reluctance to fund the capacity building of vaccine manufacturing firms, the advantage could not be leveraged.
Ironically, complacency got better of prudence, faith trumped science and fixation with the election calendar threw all the Corona protocols to the wind. Assumptions like our young demographics and BCG vaccination provided us with special immunity against virus proved to be wishful speculations. Delusion of triumph against pandemic obfuscated all signs of impending disaster. The Covid-19 second wave did not turn into Tsunami overnight. The crisis had begun to loom large on the horizon towards the end of March. It appears India almost sleepwalked into the ‘Grey Rhino’ trap.
It was only around 10 April when the daily cases crossed 150,000 that the panic button was pressed. By the end of April, daily Corona infections had breached the four lac mark. The health infrastructure in many states has been overwhelmed. The role of government machinery leaves much to be desired. With the situation having spun out of control, the nation today finds itself on the edge, many left to their own fate. It›s mid-May, the total infection stands at twenty-five million with over a quarter-million deaths. The daily cases continue to hover around 3.5 lakh, with approximately 4,000 deaths.
INDIA FIGHTS BACK
While intense fire fighting actions are on, adhocism and past assumptions are inadequate to solve the existing cataclysm. The need of the hour is adaptive leadership and strategic clarity. The toughest challenge facing the authorities is to reconcile to the fact that grievous lapses led to the current dire straits. Persistent efforts of the administration to play down the crisis and cacophony of blame game are most disheartening. Instead, what is needed is the correct diagnostic of the problems areas and formulation of actionable strategies by the experts to mitigate the crisis situations. To this end, the constitution of 12 members National Task Force (NTF) by the Supreme Court marks a step in the right direction. For effective results, the NTF should be empowered to take decisions and government officials must ensure a speedy implementation mechanism.
Currently, the most critical issues are the availability of oxygen, ICU beds and life-saving medical equipment. As for oxygen, the cruciality is not its shortage per se but the logistics constraints of the supply chains. Although the situation is now being addressed on a war footing by employing strategic air and naval assets and augmenting internal capacities, it’s going to take some time before the situation eases out. Therefore, judicious utilisation and prioritising the distribution of resources can considerably alleviate the criticality. Installing in situ oxygen plants in major hospitals must be done on the highest priority. Setting up field hospitals facilities utilising the resources of the armed forces, central agencies like DRDO, ISRO, PSUs and industry has come as a great relief at a very crucial juncture.
During the calamities, the tendency of over-centralisation just cannot work, case in point initial blunder of virus testing restricted only to government labs. Delegation, deregulation and distribution of responsibility are the key essentials to handle unforeseen contingencies. In fact, the NGOs, local bodies, ‘resident welfare associations’ (RWAs) are already making yeoman contribution by setting up Covid beds and supplying life-saving equipment. I can personally vouch for it being part of some of these initiatives. Incidentally, in China, the ‘Residential Committees’ (Juzhu Weiyuan Hui) played a pivotal role in controlling the coronavirus. One of the serious shortcomings still is the lack of real-time information regarding the availability of beds and critical medicines. Here, well organised ‘Covid Care Centre’ in each major city/town can prove to be of immense value and bolster much needed public confidence.
It is most unfortunate that bureaucratic procedural norms continue to hamper the import of critical medical equipment and speedy distribution of foreign assistance material to the states. ‘Crisis Management Teams’ composed of logistics experts must be deployed at key nodal centres to handle this issue, as each minute the lives are being lost. During such abnormal times, the leaders in public life should be visible on the ground. Ironically, most appear to be missing in action. The political parties have substantial resources at their disposal. Instead of indulging in petty squabbles, it is a great opportunity for these organisations to contribute in the hour of crisis by throwing open their facilities for the good of the fellow countrymen.
There is a need for a clear overall strategy. The topmost priority ought to be in saving precious lives and bringing down the infections rate. Besides lockdowns, strict adherence to regulations pertaining to public behaviour, prioritising allocations of resources and capacity building merit immediate attention. The medical supply chains need to be reconfigured and the expertise of multinationals like Amazon and Flipkart could be ideally exploited. Measures must be put in place in anticipation of the third wave in view of the new variant of virus and vulnerability of the under18 population. A long term strategy is needed to fix the public health system which is currently in shambles.
The vaccination programme has to move in tandem as it is the best defence against future waves. The strength of pharmaceutical companies should be leveraged to boost the production of vaccines, alongside seeking immediate IPR waiver. The current pace of daily vaccination which is barely 2 million needs to be accelerated significantly. Pricing must be standardised and Central Government should compensate the Pharma companies for subsidising the vaccines. For those ‘below the poverty line’ vaccination must be free.
As a nation, we have tremendous resilience to bounce back during adverse situations but have a poor record in anticipating these. We tend to believe in fait accompli, ignoring the science, besides avoiding introspection of lapses, thus missing out on valuable lessons. Even our strategic community is more at ease with hindsight wisdom than prognostics. History tells us, ‘If you don’t learn from history, you are bound to suffer it.’
India will win the fight against the pandemic, primarily due fortitude and forbearance of ordinary citizens- the real Victors. Nonetheless, the leadership of the day owes to the countrymen a solemn commitment; “never again will India fall victim to ‘Black Swan’ or ‘Grey Rhino’ phenomenon”.
The author is a war Veteran, former Assistant Chief Strategic; Currently Professor Geo Strategy & Management Studies, Distinguished Fellow at United Institution of India.
Not from Bihar, not our culture: State Minister on bodies floating in Ganga
Bihar Water Resources Development Minister Sanjay Kumar Jha on Monday said that the bodies found floating in the river Ganga were not from the State and added that it is ‘not our culture’. Jha’s remarks come after reports of several bodies being found floating in Ganga and its tributaries in the last few days in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Speaking to ANI, the Minister said, “Do you think this is our culture? No it’s not. It is serious matter if bodies have been found floating in river Ganga but these bodies are not from Bihar.”
“We are shocked by the way bodies have been found floating in the holy Ganga river. Ever since we have seen this news we have taken immediate steps and asked officials to take appropriate action,” said the Minister.
The Centre should probe this matter, he said and added that it is a matter of grave concern and calls for investigation.
“We have placed nets in many places in the Ganga river. I can’t say openly about which state the bodies are coming from but it’s matter of probe. Most of the bodies are found in border areas of Bihar,” said Jha.
Meanwhile, the Centre has asked Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to prevent the dumping of dead bodies in the Ganga and its tributaries, calling media reports of bodies of Covid-19 victims being dumped in the rivers “undesirable and alarming”.The Jal Shakti Ministry said that the state governments should focus on their safe disposal and dignified cremation.
On 13 May, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had issued notices to the Union Jal Shakti Ministry, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar, after receiving complaints about dead bodies floating in the Ganga.
Namami Gange has directed states to prevent dumping of dead bodies in the Ganga “and focus on their safe disposal and providing support for ensuring dignified cremation,” the Jal Shakti Ministry said at a review meeting conducted on 15-16 May.
BJP ACCUSES KEJRIWAL OF TAKING CREDIT FOR CENTRE’S SCHEMES
Saffron party threatens to launch a campaign against the Delhi government.
The BJP has accused the Kejriwal government of taking credit for the Centre’s schemes, threatening to launch a campaign against the Delhi government.
Delhi BJP state president Adesh Gupta said that on 4 May, Kejriwal announced that 72 lakh ration card holders in the city will be given free ration for May and June, but the fact is it is the Central government’s policy under which it is being done. In fact, under the National Food Security Act and the PM Gareeb Kalyan Yojna, every month 8 kg wheat and 2 kg rice is given. The Modi government is providing 37572 MT food under this Act whose monthly subsidy comes to Rs 96.95 crore and for two months, the amount is Rs 193.90 crore. Besides, under the PM Gareeb Kalyan Yojna , some 72778 MT food is provided with monthly subsidy of Rs 101.69 crore and for two months, it is Rs 203.38 crore being given by the Centre. In these two months, Delhi’s 72 lakh ration card holders are getting subsidy worth Rs 400 crore from the Modi government, he added.
Gupta said this scheme was already announced by the Centre in view of the pandemic and ration is being provided by it only; so the fact is that Kejriwal, without doing anything for the poor and labourers of Delhi, wants to take all the credit for the Centre’s schemes, he asserted.
He said the Supreme Court had to intervene in the matter of workers and others migrating out of Delhi during this period and on May 13, it directed that these people be given dry ration without any identity verification and that through some community kitchen, these daily wagers and needy be sent two time cooked food. But the state government has till date not acted on this, he said, adding this is why these labourers have lost their jobs and are not getting even one-time meal.
Thanking the Prime Minister, Leader of opposition in Delhi Assembly Ramvir Singh Bidhuri, said the the Modi government has provided over 72 lakh card holders in Delhi 8 kg wheat and 2 kg rice and is spending about Rs. 400 crore for this.
New Delhi MP Meenakshi Lekhi said that, on the one hand, the Kejriwal government claims the Centre’s policies as its own for taking credit, while on the other, people are being given adulterated ration by the state government, though Centre gives it pure ration.
South Delhi MP Ramesh Bidhuri said the Kejriwal government has yet not implemented Modi government’s one nation-one card scheme which has forced people to leave Delhi at this juncture AAP MLA Somnath Bharti told The Sunday Guardian, “This is not the time for politics, but to join hands and work together in the event of an epidemic.”
PM lauds doctors’ role, discusses vaccine plan and black fungus
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday interacted with doctors from across the country about their experiences and also to take their suggestions on fighting Covid-19, vaccination exercise and also black fungus. He spoke to doctors from various regions, including the Northeast, and Jammu and Kashmir, through video-conferencing.
The Prime Minister used the occasion to thank the medical fraternity and the paramedical staff for their exemplary fight against the deadly pandemic which has infected 2.49 crore and killed at least 274,390.
“The Prime Minister thanked the entire medical fraternity & the paramedical staff for the exemplary fight displayed by them against the extraordinary circumstances of the second wave of Covid, adding that the entire country is indebted to them,” the PMO statement read.
PM Modi also noted that the country is fighting the disease at a swift pace, including extra efforts made by MBBS students, Asha and Anganwadi workers. “He noted that be it testing, supply of medicines or set-up of new infrastructure in record time, all these are being done at a fast pace. Several challenges of oxygen production and supply are being overcome. The steps taken by the country to augment human resources, like including MBBS students in Covid treatment, and ASHAs and Anganwadi workers in rural areas, provided extra support to the health system,” the statement said, adding: “Prime Minister underlined that the strategy of starting vaccination programmes with front line warriors has paid rich dividends in the second wave.”
The meeting between PM Modi and a group of doctors took place on the day the country saw a dip in Covid-19 cases, with daily infections going below the 3 lakh mark for the first time in almost 26 days.
BLEEDING, CLOTTING EVENTS FOLLOWING VACCINATION ‘MINUSCULE’: GOVT REPORT
The number of bleeding and clotting events following a Covid vaccine jab in India is “miniscule”, a panel on National Adverse Event Following Immunisation (AEFI) told the Union Health Ministry on Monday.
The panel said it had studied 498 (of 700) “serious and severe events” and found that 26 had been reported as “potential thromboembolic events”, referring to the potentially fatal formation of a blood clot that could break loose and be carried by the blood stream to block another vessel.
The panel further said Covishield—the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine linked by some studies to clotting issues—reported fewer than 0.61 cases per million doses administered.
The National AEFI committee noted that as of April 3, 75,435,381 vaccine doses had been administered (Covishield—68,650,819 and Covaxin—6,784,562). Of these, 65,944,106 were first doses and 9,491,275 second dose.
“Since the Covid-19 vaccination drive was initiated, more than 23,000 adverse events were reported from 684 of the 753 districts of the country through CoWIN. Of these, only 700 cases i.e., 9.3 cases per million doses administered, were reported to be serious and severe nature,” the AEFI Committee report said.
According to the AEFI Committee, it has completed an in-depth case review of 498 serious and severe events, of which 26 cases have been reported to be potential thromboembolic (formation of a clot in a blood vessel that might also break loose and carried by the bloodstream to plug another vessel) events—following the administration of Covishield vaccine—with a reporting rate of 0.61 cases per million doses.
“There were no potential thromboembolic events reported following administration of Covaxin vaccine,” the statement issued by the Health Ministry said.
AEFI data in India showed that there is a very minuscule but definitive risk of thromboembolic events. The reporting rate of these events in India is around 0.61 per million doses, which is much lower than the 4 cases per million reported by the United Kingdoms’s regulator Medical and Health Regulatory Authority (MHRA). Germany has reported 10 events per million doses.
The ministry further said that thromboembolic events keep occurring in the general population as background and scientific literature suggest that this risk is almost 70 per cent less in persons of South and Southeast Asian descent in comparison to those of European descent.
The Union Health Ministry is separately issuing advisories to Healthcare Workers and Vaccine Beneficiaries to encourage people to be aware of suspected thromboembolic symptoms occurring within 20 days after receiving any Covid-19 vaccine (particularly COVISHIELD) and report preferably to the health facility where the vaccine was administered.
The symptoms are breathlessness, pain in chest, pain in limbs/pain on pressing limbs or swelling in limbs (arm or calf), multiple, pinhead size red spots or bruising of skin in an area beyond the injection site, persistent abdominal pain with or without vomiting, seizures in the absence of the previous history of seizures with or without vomiting, severe and persistent headache with or without vomiting (in the absence of the previous history of migraine or chronic headache), weakness/paralysis of limbs or any particular side or part of the body (including face), persistent vomiting without any obvious reason, blurred vision or pain in eyes or having double vision, change in mental status or having confusion or depressed level of consciousness and any other symptom or health condition which is of concern to the recipient or the family.
“Covishield continues to have a definite positive benefit-risk profile with tremendous potential to prevent infections and reduce deaths due to Covid-19 across the world and in India. Over 13.4 crore doses of Covishield vaccine have been administered as on April 27 in India,” the ministry added.
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