DAILY FROM: AHMEDABAD, CHANDIGARH, DELHI, JAIPUR, KOLKATA, LUCKNOW, MUMBAI, NAGPUR, PUNE, VADODARA JOURNALISM OF COURAGE TUESDAY, MAY 25, 2021, NEW DELHI, LATE CITY, 14 PAGES TOOLKIT CONTROVERSY DEEPENS AFTER PUNJAB, DELHI TURNED DOWN PoliceatTwitter’sdoor afterBJPpostsflagged; Oppslams‘intimidation’ No from vaccine makers, states urge Centre to procure for all ‘Manipulated media’ tag: Delhi Police says action routine; Cong, Left call it bid to stifle free speech Jaishankar reaches US, meetings with officials and vaccine makers on table EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE NEW DELHI, MAY 24 AFTER GLOBAL VACCINE manufacturers told states they will dealonlywiththeUniongovernment, states are again demanding in chorus that the Centre import and distribute vaccines to all states without losing time. With increasing pressure on the Centre to vaccinate all citizens, there are expectations that External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar would be able to make progress on procurement at his likely meeting with vaccine manufacturers in the US. He left for the US on Monday and will meet senior US administration officials including US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. After Moderna conveyed to Punjab last week it won’t sell directly to states, Delhi Chief MinisterArvindKejriwalMonday said both Pfizer and Moderna havemadeitknowntoDelhithat theywillcommunicateonlywith the Union government. Separately, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan Monday asked Prime Minister JIGNASA SINHA NEW DELHI, MAY 24 Permanent Representative of India to UN T S Tirumurti tweeted photo of Foreign Minister Jaishankar arriving in US, on vaccine mission DAYS AFTER Twitter flagged some posts by ruling party leaders alleging a Congress plot to malign the Prime Minister and theCentralGovernmentas“manipulated media”, a team of Delhi Police’s Special Cell Monday — working under the Union Home Ministry — knocked on the doors of Twitter India’sDelhiandGurgaonoffices toostensiblyservethesocialmedia platform a notice. This ratchets up the controversy over tweets by BJP leaders alleging a “Congress toolkit”, which the Congress has called fake. A Delhi Police official said they had decided to issue a notice to Twitter after receiving complaints from Rohan Gupta, who heads the Congress’s social media department, and M V Rajeev Gowda, the party’s national spokesperson, over the BJP’s “toolkit” allegations. However, hours after the Delhi Police action, the Congress hitoutattheGovernmentsaying that“subjugationof freespeech”, attempts to stifle “dissenting voices” and the bid to instil fear were continuing unabated. Narendra Modi to assess statewise demand for vaccines and floataglobaltender.This,hesaid, willprecludestatesfromcompetinganddrivingvaccinepricesup. In a letter to the Prime Minister,Vijayanwrote,“Wealso reiterate the request that vaccines may be provided free to all states as it should be treated as a public good from which none should be excluded.” Several states including Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Uttarakhand, and even the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, have CONTINUED ON PAGE 2 Pfizer, Moderna order books full, India looks at long, uncertain wait KAUNAIN SHERIFF M NEW DELHI, MAY 24 ONFEBRUARY3,theexpertbody under India’s drug regulator declined to recommend emergency use authorisation for Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine; the American pharmaceutical giant subsequently withdrew its application. On April 13, as the second wave swelled and it was clear that India would fall far short of its vaccine requirements, the government made a U-turn — announcingthatitwouldnotenforce the condition of phase 2 and3clinicaltrialsinthecountry for vaccines that had been cleared by US, EU, UK, and Japanese regulators, and listed by the WHO. It’s been almost a month and a half now — but despite the liberalised regulatory framework, BUSINESS AS USUAL BY UNNY global firms like Pfizer and Moderna are yet to enter into any purchase agreement with India. BetweenFebruary3andMay 24, India has reported 1,49,017 Covid-related deaths. The shortage of vaccines has slowed or stopped vaccinations across the country — and the failure to vaccinate threatens to take away gains from the lockdowns imposed by almost all states. But it does not seem likely that India will be receiving doses from either Pfizer or Moderna any time soon. The reason: several other countries are ahead of India in line, waiting for delivery of their confirmed orders, and the two American companies, which began supplying vaccines in December 2020, are committed to delivering millions of doses to these countries through 2023. CONTINUED ON PAGE 2 THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, AHMEDABAD, MAY 24 A SLEW of proposals ranging from a ban on beef to disqualification of panchayat poll aspirants with more than two children, which form part of draft PAGE 1 ANCHOR NEW DELHI, MAY 24 PAGES 12, 7 Amid Twitter tussle, next up: deadline by govt to it, FB, to appoint officers AASHISH ARYAN NEW DELHI, MAY 24 JUST TWO days from deadline, social media platforms such as Twitter,FacebookandInstagram are yet to appoint a resident grievance officer, a chief compliance officer, and a nodal contact person as required by the government, sources have told The Indian Express. Guidelines issued in February required all significant social media intermediaries to designate executives for these roles by May 26. Social media companies that have more than 50 lakh users in India are designated ‘significant’ social media CONTINUED ON PAGE 2 Potential flashpoint SINCE January, the government has repeatedly pulled up social media companies for “double standards” in dealing with India. It is unlikely these companies will stop services in India; but they could face even greater scrutiny if friction increases. Narada: CBI goes to SC, tells HC of Bengal ‘template’, says courts’ Centre allows walk-ins for 18+ at govt ‘magnanimity’ bolsters accused The queue for a walk-in, drive-through vaccination facility in Noida, Monday. Abhinav Saha vaccine centres, admits digital divide KAUNAIN SHERIFF M NEW DELHI, MAY 24 MORE THAN three weeks after it rolled out vaccination for the 18-44 age group, where slots could be booked only through onlineappointmenton Co-WIN, the Centre on Monday enabled on-siteregistrationandappointment for this age group at government-run Covid-19 vaccination centres (CVCs). However, with several states forced to shut down vaccination sites or operate a limited number of vaccination sites due to unavailability and shortage of vaccines,theCentre’sdecisionto allow walk-ins is likely to have limited impact. So far, only vaccinations for those above 45 were allowed through walk-ins, with those in the 18-44 age group having to mandatorily register and book a slot through Co-WIN. The Centre also said vaccinations at private centres will continue to be through online appointments. “This feature [of walk-ins]willnotbeavailablefor private CVCs presently and the privateCVCs will haveto publish their vaccination schedules exclusivelywithslotsforonlineappointments,” the Union Health Ministry said in a statement. The Centre said the decision to allow onsite registration and CONTINUED ON PAGE 2 EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE KOLKATA, MAY 24 THE CALCUTTA High Court Monday took up for hearing the Narada sting case, in which four leaders of the TMC, including two Bengal ministers,have been arrested,refusingaprayerbythe CBI to put off the matter. It later adjourned the case to Wednesdayforthenexthearing. During the virtual hearing Monday, Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, representing the CBI, urged the five-judge Bench to adjourn the hearing as the agency had filed a plea before the Supreme Court. Claiming a “template” in West Bengal in corruption cases involving high functionaries, it added that successive accused had been “emboldened through time due to the magnanimity of Hon’ble courts”. However, the court decided to continue with the hearing as the CBI’s special leave petition is yet to be listed before the Supreme Court. The CBI also urged the High Court Monday to transfer the case from the lower court to itself, alleging extraordinary circumstances. In its affidavit to the High Court Bench — including Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal, and Justices Harish Tandon, I P Mukerji, Arijit Banerjee and Soumen Sen — the CBI said that of the four TMC leaders put under house arrest, only Firhad Hakim (the Transport Minister) was at his home. The rest of the accused, Subrata Mukherjee (Panchayat Minister), Madan Mitra (a former minister) and CONTINUED ON PAGE 2 regulations for Lakshadweep cleared by its Administrator, have led to turmoil in the Union Territory. Such is the outcry over AdministratorPrafulPatel’sdraft regulations — these include introductionof ananti-goondaAct in the island territory where the crime rate is very low and establishment of a development au- thority with powers to acquire land for development purposes — that even CPM and Congress leaders of Kerala, across the waters, have protested. On Monday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the Administrator’s actions posed a serious challenge to the culture and life of the people of CONTINUED ON PAGE 2 PRANAV MUKUL NEW DELHI, MAY 24 THE DIRECTORATE General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has launched an investigation into a case of 161 passengers on board a chartered SpiceJet flight flouting onboard Covid norms while attending a mid-air wedding ceremony on Sunday. “The crew of the flight has been off-rostered and the airline hasbeendirectedtolodgeacomplaint with relevant authorities againstthosenotfollowingCovidappropriate behaviour,” a senior DGCAofficialsaid,addingthatthe aviationsafetyregulatorwasconducting an inquiry into the incident“andshalltakestrictaction”. The flight, operated by SpiceJet and chartered by a Madurai businessman, took off from Madurai and landed back in the city after a two-hour “joy ride” on Sunday, with the couple and their relatives and friends on board. On Monday, videos of the wedding ceremony from within CONTINUED ON PAGE 2 The flight hovered over Meenakshi temple. ANI ‘Lack of death data prolongs pandemic... survey villages’ UMA VISHNU SUU KYI MAKES FIRST APPEARANCE AFTER THE COUP MANMADE TRAGEDY, SAYS VARAPRADA CHIEF ENGINEER 20 HELD, COPS HURT AS FISHERMEN CLASH IN GUJARAT CONTINUED ON PAGE 2 A team of the Delhi Police Special Cell at Twitter India’s Lado Sarai office in New Delhi, Monday. PTI Beef to goonda Act: Lakshadweep Wedding in the skies ends in Covid Administrator has UT in turmoil notice; probe on, crew off-rostered SHAJU PHILIP & PARIMAL DABHI INSIDE `6.00 (`8 BIHAR & RAIPUR, `12 SRINAGAR) WWW.INDIANEXPRESS.COM SINCE 1932 DEATH REGISTERS in villages; kickstarting the sample survey system to find out how many died in rural areas; getting municipalities to put out daily or weekly death numbers; and mapping hotspots. TheseareamongtheproposalsthatPrabhat Jha, epidemiologistandDirectorof theCentrefor Global Health Research in Toronto, has put on the table for the Government to consider amidthesecondCovidwavethat has spread to rural areas raising questions over India’s official death toll of over 3 lakh so far. Jha, whose Million Death Study with the Registrar General ofIndiaandtheICMRisoneofthe most authoritative studiesonmortality, spoke to The Indian Express. Excerpts: One characteristic of the second surge has been a clear gap between the official Covid death toll and those laid to rest as per Covid protocol. We found this in Delhi in April. How do you then count the dead? India has about 10 million deathsoccurringayear,of which 7 million occur in the rural areas. So you have to look at counting the dead separatelyforurban and rural India. If you want to know what was the contributionof Covidto WITH deaths,thebestway PRABHAT JHA is to actually look at DIRECTOR, CENTRE FOR how many excess GLOBAL HEALTH deathsoccurredina RESEARCH, TORONTO city versus deaths THE EXPRESS INTERVIEW overthesameperiodinprevious years. Unfortunately, these data are available but not released. Municipal corporations have weekly or daily data of how many people died; not whether theydiedof Covidornotbecause that’s very uncertain... RelyingonCovidasadiagnosis is not as reliable as relying on overall deaths... The situation is different in rural India because most deaths aren’t registered or recorded. It’s very easy to cremate or bury in thefieldsorinthevillages.That’s of particular concern because the first wave appeared to have been focused on some of the big cities with urban populations (while) the second wave seems to have spread all over India. In parts of Bihar and UP, bodies were found in the river, some buried in the sand, more in number than in previous years. People don’t test in villages out of fear or stigma, so how do you evolve a system to count the rural Covid dead? The only way to fill the gap in rural areas is for the Registrar General of India to conduct the Sample Registration System (SRS). What that does is take a random sample of villages all over the country from the Censusandsendteamseverysix months to ask who was born, who died. And if anyone has died, they complete a simple two-page form in the local language on what happened. That gives you information on whether there are increases in overall mortality or whether they are Covid-related... But unfortunately, no data has been releasedsince2014andthesystem is sitting idle when it is absolutely necessary. So if the SRS study were back up and running, we would find that we have some people who CONTINUED ON PAGE 2
Indian Express Limited is an Indian news media publishing company. It publishes several widely circulated dailies, including The Indian Express and The Financial Express in English, the Loksatta in Marathi and the Jansatta in Hindi.