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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 21, New Delhi, May 8, 2021

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, May 8, 2021

Saturday 8 May 2021

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, May 8, 2021

As days pass the pile of evidence of continuing failures and ineptitude of Government administration in the face of the second wave of covid-19, grows. First, they failed to take note of coming health emergency despite warnings by experts, and subsequently, in the face of a serious crisis created by the second wave of Covid-19 the Modi Government has cut a sorry figure and is still struggling to respond with coherence. The international, national, and regional media has been showing exhausted citizens and hospital administrations reeling under a shortage of medical oxygen, hospital beds, and failure of systems to deal with large-scale deaths.

The government that had been beating the drum about its vaccination programme against Covid-19 with much pomp and show (including the cheap trick of a photo of Mr Modi on each vaccination Certificate) doesn’t admit its big blunder on that front. The vaccination programme is faltering, vaccination centers in many states across India are shutting down due to a shortage of vaccines. But there are repeated denials by the Central Government that there is a shortage of vaccines. The Supreme Court has asked why the government cant take emergency measures like compulsory licensing under Patents Act to permit multiple pharmaceutical companies in India to make the vaccines to deal with the shortage.

Despite Government propaganda and misplaced claims by international financial institutions in the past months to present signs of economic recovery, there is a major social crisis & economic crisis underway in India. A report from Azim Premji University’s on the one year of Covid-19 ‘State of Working India 2021’ reveals that the pandemic has had a major impact on jobs, food security, health, and the education system, it has pushed some 230 million people into below poverty line levels. The latest data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy points out that between January 2021 to April 2021, unemployment has gone up to the tune of 10 million.

In face of the continuing crisis provoked by Covid19 second wave, there are growing calls for restrictions and lockdowns. Some states have already announced 2 week-long lockdowns. Once again the government has no special measures in place to deal with the economic distress of the labouring poor who have lost their sources of livelihood, who need food security and a social safety net, but there is none in place.

India was invited as a guest to a meeting of the power G7 foreign ministers meeting held in London. But the country painted itself silly when members of its delegation that had flown all the way to Britain were found COVID-19 positive. India’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Jaishankar was placed in isolation and could only interact with G7 officials on a virtual internet call while sitting in the building next door.

The crisis continues on a huge scale in India. On May 5, India officially reported 412,000 new cases of Covid-19 and 3,980 deaths, and on May 6 414,433 new cases and 3,920 deaths. We are being told the second wave will pass in a few weeks. When things settle there should be a proper national inquiry into the crisis and its mishandling. Now, the government’s top scientific adviser has also warned of an inevitable third wave of the pandemic. Will they wake now and solidly prepare for the future?. Let us hope for the best. It looks pretty doubtful given the fancy for silly ideas that many in the Modi government currently have. Here are some indicators . . .

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has just funded a clinical trial at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Rishikesh, to determine if the chanting of the Gayatri Mantra, a Hindu religious hymn, and performing Pranayama while doing Yoga, can aid the quality of recovery as well as cure COVID-19 in some patients.

A news agency has reported that the Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh has directed equipment like oximeters and thermal scanners to be kept in cow shelters

Ministry of Ayush of the Government of India is promoting AYUSH 64 a herbal formulation (which was earlier tried against malaria and failed to show benefits compared to standard treatment) for the non hospitalised Covid-19 patients. A lack of scientific temperament in the current administration means they could endanger people by creating a false sense of security while they promote this quackery!

On May 6 the day when India reported 3,920 deaths the country’s top Public sector oil majors - IOC, ONGC, GAIL, BPCL, and HPCL - committed Rs 100 crore for the redevelopment of Badrinath Dham a Hindu religious shrine in Uttarakhand State, Dharmendra Pradhan, the Minister for Petroleum & Natural Gas and Steel has announced. The government should be putting this money to good use to develop health infrastructure instead of squandering it on Temples, mosques.

Fake News, Pseudo-Science, and Mumbo jumbo won’t lead us out of the mess even though large sections of our society is hooked to it.

One thing is getting clear, the current rulers are bad for our health.

o o


Pandit Debu Chaudhuri, the sitar maestro passed away on May 1, 2021. He had been the head of the Faculty of Music at the University of Delhi from 1985-1988; was conferred the Padmabhushan and Padma Shri awards. His name will be remembered among the great sitar players like Nikhil Banerjee, Vilayat Khan, Ravi Shankar, Abdul Haleem Jaafer Khan, and Annapurna Devi.

Prof Rizwan Qaisar, the Historian associated with the Jamia Milia University in Delhi passed away on May 1, 2021.

TS Shanbhag the legendary bookseller in Bangalore, passed away on May 4, 2021.

Ajit Singh, a former Union minister and chief of ‘Rashtriya Lok Dal’ passed away while fighting Covid-19 on May 6, 2021

Professor Dhirubhai L Sheth, the eminent political scientist long associated with the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) in New Delhi passed away on May 6, 2021

Vanraj Bhatia the highly acclaimed music composer and a Padma Shri Awardee passed away on May 7, 2021. He sculpted music for much of India’s new wave cinema, for theatre in the 1970s. He will fondly be remembered by cinephiles and also by music lovers.

We pay our tributes to the above figures

May 8, 2021 – The Editors

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