American healing: On Joe Biden inauguration

After one of the most contentious elections and presidential transitions in recent history, it was a relatively scaled-back inauguration ceremony that finally placed 46th President of the U.S. Joe Biden in the Oval Office. The devastating human and economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with deep partisan rancour and the bitter aftertaste of the Capitol building attack earlier this month, meant that Inauguration Day was less a flamboyant extravaganza than a quiet celebration of multicultural America reasserting itself. There could have been no greater symbol of that assertion than the swearing-in of Kamala Harris, his running mate of Indian and African descent, as Vice-President — the first woman ever to hold that position. Mr. Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, chose to not attend the event, making him only the fourth President to do so. Nevertheless, bipartisan goodwill was present on the dais before the Capitol building, as Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts

Privacy and surveillance: On WhatsApp user policy change

Following an exodus of its users from its messaging service, WhatsApp, to apps such as Signal and Telegram, which promise more privacy options, the Facebook-owned service might have been forced to postpone the date for users to accept its new privacy policy terms to May 15. In just days after the earlier announcement by WhatsApp, Signal has emerged as the leading app on “app-stores” as Indian users signalled their discomfort with the former’s data sharing policies. WhatsApp, with 459 million users, had emerged as the leading communications application for most Indians. What has caused patrons discomfort is WhatsApp’s ability to seamlessly share user metadata and mobile information with its parent company and social media behemoth, Facebook. Facebook Inc., which also owns Instagram, has sought to integrate the offerings from WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook, with the former acting also as a tool that secures payments for services and ads posted on the latter two applications, beyond its
Editorial

Managing the rollout: On addressing vaccine hesitancy

Nearly a fortnight after it won approval for Covaxin under ‘restricted emergency use’ conditions, Bharat Biotech has formally informed, via its website, that the vaccine is inadvisable in those with a history of allergies, fever and bleeding disorders. Those on medication or blood thinners and whose immunity has been compromised have also been told not to take the vaccine. This is along with a recommendation that the vaccine is not to be given to the pregnant or the lactating. A similar set of restrictions has been given to prospective recipients of Covishield too, the vaccine now available in greater numbers and developed by the Serum Institute of India. Ordinarily, a fact sheet as well as product insert — a note that accompanies every vial of a vaccine — is a mandatory formality. However, the context in which the two vaccines are being administered in India imbues them with magnified significance. Covaxin has been rolled out with insufficient evidence of its efficacy, or whether it

Editorial

Polls apart: On Uganda under Museveni

Yoweri Museveni, Uganda’s 76-year-old leader who has been in power since 1986, won another five-year term in the January 14 presidential election, but the contested result has pushed the country into its worst political crisis in decades. According to Uganda’s Electoral Commission, he won nearly 59% of the vote, while his main rival, Robert Kyagulanyi, a pop musician better known by his stage name Bobi Wine, secured 34%. Mr. Wine has alleged voter fraud, which the government was quick to dismiss, while putting him and several other leaders of his National Unity Platform under house arrest. The government cracking down on the opposition is not new, but this time, there were widespread reports of state repression of Mr. Wine’s movement in the run-up to the election. He was detained several times, his rallies broken up by security personnel, and the Internet shut down and social networks blocked before the election. Mr. Museveni’s government refused to accredit election monitors from the

Editorial

In bad faith: On the ongoing farmers agitation

The NIA’s decision to summon people associated with the ongoing farmers agitation as ‘witnesses’ in a sedition case is definitely out of the ordinary, even if not entirely surprising. Punjabi actor Deep Sidhu and farmers’ leader Baldev Singh Sirsa are among 40 people it has summoned in connection with a fresh case registered on December 15, 2020 against Sikhs for Justice, a U.S.-based organisation that is banned by India. Others summoned include functionaries of Khalsa Aid, a Sikh charity that provided material support to agitating farmers, and those who organised a community kitchen for them. The insinuation of the NIA in the very act of summoning them as ‘witnesses’ follows statements by BJP leaders that linked the agitation to Khalistani separatism. Law officers of the government told the Supreme Court last week that anti-national forces that had infiltrated the protests were misleading the farmers. This portrayal of critics of a government policy as either misled and ignorant or

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