Stormy start: On handling severe cyclones

Millions of people wearied by the onslaught of the coronavirus have had to contend with a furious tropical cyclone that has left a trail of death and destruction before making landfall in Gujarat. Cyclone Tauktae swelled into an extremely severe cyclonic storm, dumping enormous volumes of water all along the west coast, and caused loss of life in Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat, before weakening overland. To thousands who had to be evacuated to safe locations, this year’s pre-monsoon season presented a double jeopardy, caught as they were between a fast-spreading virus variant and an unrelenting storm. Many coastal residents would have felt a sense of déjà vu, having gone through a similar experience last year, when the severe cyclonic storm, Nisarga, barrelled landwards from the Arabian Sea, pounding Alibaug in Maharashtra as it came ashore. The cyclones in both years spared densely populated Mumbai. The twin crises have, however, strained the capacities of multiple
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Delete and control: On ICMR's dropping of plasma therapy

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has finally dropped its espousal of convalescent plasma therapy (CPT) as treatment for moderate COVID-19 in its latest guidelines. In its guidelines of April 22, CPT was already on its last legs, with the advisory recommending that it is advisable only in early moderate disease, or within seven days of symptoms. These updates flow from periodic reviews of medicines and treatment protocol by a task force of doctors and experts of the ICMR. Practising doctors are not legally bound to follow these recommendations to the T but are expected to circumscribe their treatments within the guidelines. Last year, the ICMR, in one of the definitive clinical trials in the world, demonstrated that CPT neither saved lives nor improved patient outcomes but was equivocal about it in public. This gave leeway to some States, particularly the Delhi government, which openly disavowed the ICMR’s findings, encouraging several doctors to put the onus on hapless
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Editorial

Unwarranted arrest: On sedition charges against Rahu Ramakrishna Raju

The arrest of K. Raghu Ramakrishna Raju, an MP from Andhra Pradesh, on the grave charge of sedition, is yet another instance of the misuse of the provision relating to exciting “disaffection” against the government. The police in different States have been invoking sedition, an offence defined in Section 124A IPC, against critics of the establishment and prominent dissenters. It is not surprising that Mr. Raju, a vocal detractor of A.P. Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, is sought to be prosecuted. However, his arrest is unwarranted, considering that he is being accused of only speech-based offences relating to his diatribe against his party leader and CM. It has predictably, and not without justification, invited charges of political vendetta. Even if one were to accept at face value the prosecution’s claim that his speeches stoked hatred against communities — he had referred to alleged rampant conversion activities in the State — and attracted prosecution under Section 153-A

Editorial

Avoiding breakdown: On GST council meeting

After a gap of over seven months, the GST Council will now meet on May 28, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced last Saturday. That the Council, expected to meet every quarter, has taken possibly the longest pause in its functioning does not set a good precedent. Given the acrimony that transpired in its last few meetings over how the States’ GST compensation dues for the pandemic-induced lockdown-dented 2020-21 were to be met, the long break makes Centre-State equations even more awkward. States later reluctantly agreed to the Centre’s proposal to raise ₹1.1 lakh crore of GST recompense dues through special market borrowings, after the Finance Ministry backed off from insisting that States raise these loans directly. In the intervening period, the economy almost surged back to normalcy before being hobbled again by the second wave of infections. And unlike the first wave, there is a greater onus on the States now to figure out everything from what mobility restrictions to put

Editorial

Using all options: On Covaxin licensing

As the second COVID-19 wave continues to ravage the country, it is now clear that universal and swift vaccination is the only way out to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. But with only 3% and 10.4% of the total population estimated to have taken the second and a single dose, respectively, the goal of vaccinating a substantial number of people to achieve immunity against SARS-CoV-2 and its variants, remains a tall order for India. Supply constraints in delivering the only two vaccines available to Indians so far — Covishield and Covaxin — (the Russian-developed Sputnik V vaccine has just been deployed) are one of the reasons why the pace of vaccination has fallen. Karnataka and Maharashtra have halted vaccination for the 18-44 age group to address this as well. While the manufacturers, Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech, have promised an augmentation in production capacity, the dependence on them till other vaccines, including those from abroad, are made available over the

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