Vaccine inequities: On need to vaccinate all above 45

The decision to open up about 20,000 private hospitals across India from March 1 — in addition to about 10,000 government sites — to vaccinate people older than 60 years and those above 45 years with comorbidities will at once increase the number of vaccination sites. Roping in the private sector to support the government programme of vaccinating about 270 million people belonging to the two high-risk priority groups can surely speed up vaccination coverage. At 13 million at the end of six weeks since the vaccination programme began, only a little over a third of health-care and frontline workers have been covered. With the average uptake per session only about 35%, beginning the second phase of the programme could increase this percentage. Even if CoWIN platform glitches and a decline in daily cases are partly responsible for low uptake, the hesitancy to available vaccines among health-care workers, who are one of the most informed and also at greater risk of infection, cannot be

Judicial blow: On Nepal Supreme Court reinstating Parliament

A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court of Nepal quite rightly overturned Prime Minister K.P. Oli’s decision to unilaterally dissolve Parliament in December 2020 and which was later approved by President Bidya Devi Bhandari. The ostensible reason for Mr. Oli’s decision, clearly without any merit, was inner party intrigue within the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP). The Court correctly observed that there was the possibility of the formation of a new government in case Mr. Oli did not enjoy the confidence of Parliament, and therefore ruled his decision unconstitutional. The NCP has since then fractured politically into two factions, one led by Mr. Oli and the other by Pushpa Kumar Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal, both former Prime Ministers who belonged to the erstwhile Nepali Maoists and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), respectively. These parties had merged into the NCP in 2018. But this fracture is not yet formalised even though the Dahal-Nepal faction has

Bail as right: On bail to Varavara Rao

In granting bail for six months to poet Varavara Rao in the Bhima Koregaon case on medical grounds, the Bombay High Court has affirmed the principle that even the stringent provisions of an anti-terrorism law are not invincible before a prisoner’s constitutional rights. Jailed under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Mr. Rao, 82, suffered from a host of ailments, and his condition was deteriorating until he was treated at the Nanavati Hospital on the intervention of the National Human Rights Commission. The court overruled the National Investigation Agency’s objection that bail should not be granted on medical grounds once an undertrial prisoner’s bail application was rejected on merits under UAPA, as long as access to treatment in a government hospital was available. The NIA had argued that in view of the statutory bar on granting bail under Section 43D(5) of the UAPA if the accusation against a person is prima facie true, any bail given on health grounds would open


Scientific disinterest: On Minister’s presence at Coronil event

The presence of Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan at a press conference to promote Coronil, an Ayurvedic pill promoted by Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurved, is objectionable on more than one count. Coronil is a concoction of common herbs known to Ayurveda. Since June, there have been attempts to deploy it into India’s COVID-19 management protocol. Dr Vardhan, alongside Cabinet colleague Nitin Gadkari, was at a press conference with Baba Ramdev and other promoters of Patanjali to announce a scientific publication describing the efficacy of Coronil in ridding volunteers, part of a clinical trial, of coronavirus. For one, Coronil is a product manufactured by a private company. Doctors — Harsh Vardhan is an ENT surgeon — are explicitly barred from promoting drugs of any sort. Though Dr Vardhan didn’t explicitly mention Coronil in his address at the function, what public functionaries are seen to be doing speaks louder than what they say. Baba Ramdev first claimed that his product was


A new peak: On spike in coronavirus cases

After a peak of nearly 98,000 fresh daily COVID-19 cases on September 16, 2020, the number of new cases reported per day in India has seen a slow but steady decline to reach below 12,000 in mid-February. But the trajectory of the curve began to reverse in the past week following a spike in cases in a few States — Maharashtra, Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. In Kerala, the daily fresh cases have in fact been slowly declining for over a week. The recent case decline in the State stands out against the trend since early January 2021. Kerala was contributing between 45% and 50% of India’s total daily cases for many weeks. But despite the drop to about 33% in the past week, there has been an increase in the daily fresh cases nationally — from a seven-day average of 11,100 cases in the second week of February to 12,900 cases in the last week. In the last three weeks, from less than 3,000 daily cases, the numbers in Maharashtra have been increasing, particularly so in the

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Level platforms: on new law in Australia

Loss of trust: On the trust vote in Puducherry

Defamation as crime: On the acquittal of Priya Ramani

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