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9.6.21 Editorials

🛑The Centre has announced a much-needed course correction in India’s vaccination policy with Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking the podium to announce that the month-old decision to leave States to procure vaccines on their own for their 18-44 population would be ending in two weeks. States were allowed to procure 25% of the vaccines manufactured and the Centre 50%, a policy that the Supreme Court termed “irrational and arbitrary”. The Court’s comments have had a salutary effect. From June 21, the Centre will be procuring 75% and States will no longer have to pay vaccine companies for the same. Vaccines will continue to be free for all those who choose to get their shot at government centres. The 25% vaccines that were allotted to private hospitals will continue too, though the service charges that they charge will be capped at ₹150. This ceiling price on vaccines in hospitals will bring predictability and be hugely beneficial to citizens. The Centre, which controlled all supply of vaccines and had negotiated prices and orders with Bharat Biotech and the Serum Institute saw itself desperately short of supply right in the middle of India’s deadly second wave. The hospital emergencies worsened the Centre’s panic and so it chose a path that no country had undertaken, of devolving the responsibility of buying vaccines to States. Health has traditionally been within the purview of States, and it stands to reason that they would invariably have to deal with the challenges that vaccination throws up. This includes vaccine hesitancy, the problem of transportation, the availability of trained personnel and the existing capacity at health-care sites. Faced with the intensity of the second wave, States demanded more vaccines and autonomy in deciding how to administer them. What resulted were frequent public spats, with the Centre blaming States for inefficiently using available stocks and yet demanding more.

Though there are substantial numbers of senior citizens yet to be vaccinated, particularly with a second dose, it is clear that the foreseeable demand will be in the sub-45 category. The Government appears more confident of getting a steady stream of supply from Bharat Biotech and the Serum Institute and, in a bold move, has ordered 30 crore doses of an untested vaccine from the Hyderabad-based Biological E. Assuming that a third wave is not in the vicinity, these changes in total could be the beginning of a smoother, more efficient vaccine roll-out. Mr. Modi’s announcement was preceded by a truculent defence of himself and his government and passing on blame to a variety of actors, including governments before 2014, for India’s very real shortcomings on vaccination. However, the path to positive change is often meandering, and surviving the pandemic and being wiser from mistakes must be the spirit in which these policy changes are adopted.

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1.Podium (N)-a platform or stage.

2.Ceiling (N)-An upper limit set on prices, wages, or expenditure. उच्चतम सीमा

3.Invariably (Adv)-in every case or on every occasion; always.

4.Throws Up (Phrasal Verb)-to produce something new or unexpected.

5.Autonomy (N)-freedom to determine one's own actions and behaviour. स्वायत्तता, स्वत्व अधिकार

6.Vicinity (N)-the area near a particular place. निकटता

7.Truculent (Adj)-having a bad state of mind or behaving in a threatening manner.

8.Shortcomings (N)-a fault or a failure to reach a particular standard. कमियों

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🛑The election of Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid as the President of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly, that begins in September for 2021-22, is a major boost for the island-nation’s international profile. The election marks the first time a Maldivian will hold the post in the UN’s history, and his margin of victory, 143 to his challenger’s 48, indicating support from nearly three fourths of all countries at the UN, is significant. Maldives also sees it as a win for the 52-member Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which are battling climate change vulnerability and other developmental challenges. In addition, in a year when events in Afghanistan will draw attention as U.S. forces begin to pullout, Mr. Shahid’s victory over his surprise opponent, former Afghanistan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul, is remarkable. For India too, that helped Maldives canvass support, the outcome is welcome, not only because of its close ties with Male but also the high regard for Mr. Shahid, a key member of the Solih government. In a break from the norm of not announcing one’s choice for an election by secret ballot, Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla had announced India’s support for the Maldives in November 2020, South Block’s explanation being that Afghanistan had not yet announced Mr. Rassoul’s candidature — which it did in January 2021. New Delhi should now ensure that the Afghan government carries no hard feelings, as some in Kabul had even hinted that India might wish to support Afghanistan as it had sacrificed its turn at the UNSC for India’s current term there. It would also be important to analyse why Kabul decided to field a candidate late in the race, and not withdraw despite it being clear that its South Asian neighbour was ahead, and did not consult India closely on the process.

The focus now shifts to his tenure and South Asian issues such as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and equitable access to vaccines. Cooperation is close and Mr. Shahid is in discussions to appoint an Indian diplomat as his chief aide. Given that the previous President of the General Assembly, from Turkey, had ruffled feathers with his remarks in Islamabad that Pakistan was “duty” bound to raise the Jammu and Kashmir dispute “more strongly” at the UN, Mr. Shahid’s tenure is expected to see a far smoother term for India, especially as the Modi government focuses on showcasing the country at the UN during India’s 75th Independence anniversary next year. Above all, it is hoped that India in the UNSC and the Maldivian President of the General Assembly will work in tandem as New Delhi pursues its goals for multilateral reform, and re-energise the dormant process of effecting change in the old power structures in the global body.

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1.Boost (N)-a source of help or encouragement leading to increase or improvement. प्रोत्साहन

2.Vulnerability (N)-easily damaged by something negative or harmful. अतिसंवेदनशीलता

3.Pullout (V)-move out or away.

4.Canvass (V)-to try to get political support or votes.

5.Ruffled Feathers (Idiom)-to cause someone to be upset.

6.In Tandem (Phrase)-together and at the same time.

7.Dormant (Adj)-temporarily inactive or inoperative. निष्क्रिय, सुस्त

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🛑RBI asks banks not to destroy CCTV recordings of demonetisation period

Press Trust of India | 08/06/2021 | 12 hours ago


The RBI on Tuesday asked banks to preserve the CCTV recordings of their branches and currency chests from November 8, 2016, to December 30, 2016, till further orders with a view to assisting the enforcement agencies to take actions against persons involved in illegal activities during the demonetisation period.

The government had demonetised the then in circulation high value currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 on November 8, 2016, with an aim to check blackmoney and curb terror funding. As part of the exercise, the government gave the opportunity to the people to exchange junked currency notes (referred as Specified Bank Notes) or deposit them in their bank accounts.

New currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 denominations were also issued after withdrawal of SBNs. Huge crowds were witnessed at bank branches across the country for exchanging or depositing the demonetised currency.

On the basis of various inputs, the investigative agencies also started probing matters relating to illegal accumulation of new currency notes.

In order to facilitate such investigations, the RBI has asked the banks not to destroy the CCTV recordings of the period of demonetisation till further orders.

"...keeping in view the investigations pending with law enforcement agencies, proceedings pending at various courts, you are advised to preserve the CCTV recordings of operations at bank branches and currency chests for the period from November 08, 2016 to December 30, 2016 in a proper way, till further orders," the RBI said in a circular to banks.

The present order is a continuation of an earlier advisory issued to the lenders in December 2016 to preserve the CCTV footage of operations at bank branches and currency chests.

Of the Rs 15.41 lakh crore worth Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in circulation on November 8, 2016, when the note ban was announced, notes worth Rs 15.31 lakh crore have been returned.

🛑I don't think kids will have serious Covid infection in future: AIIMS chief

BS Web Team | 08/06/2021 | 14 hours ago


There is no data, either global or from Indian case studies, pointed to children being more vulnerable to Covid-19, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Director said on Tuesday.


“It is a piece of misinformation that subsequent waves of the coronavirus pandemic are going to cause severe illness in children. There is no data - either from India or globally - to show that children will be seriously infected in subsequent waves,” said Dr Randeep Guleria.


Dr Guleria cited that 60 per cent to 70 per cent of the children who got infected and got admitted in hospitals during the second wave in India, had either comorbidities or low immunity; healthy children recovered with mild illness without need for hospitalisation.


Explaining why why waves occur in any pandemic. Dr Guleria said: "Waves normally occur in pandemics caused due to respiratory viruses; the 1918 Spanish Flu, H1N1 (swine) flu are examples. “The second wave of 1918 Spanish Flu was the biggest, after which there was a smaller third wave.”


Earlier in the day, VK Paul, a member for health in the Indian government’s think-tank NITI Aayog, also said there was no evidence to suggest that children will be more affected than adults in the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.


“It is uncertain that a wave would affect children specifically. Till now, children have displayed similar seroprevalence as adults, which means, they are as much affected as adults,” said Paul, a member of the prime minister’s Covid management team.


The assurances come after several experts have claimed that the third wave of the pandemic in India could seriously affect children, as already being seen in Singapore. India is yet to begin Covid-19 vaccinations for those below 18 years of age. An increasing number of cases amongst children are being seen in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, among other states and union territories.


India is conducting trials for Bharat Biotech’s Covid-19 vaccine, Covaxin amongst children aged 2-18 years. Ahmedabad-based Zydus Cadila is also conducting trials for its Covid-19 vaccine named ZyCoV-D on children aged 12-18 years.


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